Student Performance: Improving Low-Performing Schools

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Identifying low-performing schools has received a lot of attention since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Previously, student performance problems were undetectable because test scores were received in aggregate (Meeting the challenge, 1998). In 1997, North Carolina for the first time received student assessment data by school; making it apparent which schools were succeeding and which were not. The federal education legislation No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 further increased a state’s awareness of high- and low-performing schools when it required annual assessments in grades 3 through 8. This increased assessment of student progress yielded an assortment of student data providing politicians, business leaders, and educational …show more content…
Duke (2006) described eleven characteristics of what researchers know work for improving low-performing schools. They are student assistance, professional collaboration, data-driven decision making, leadership that sets the tone for improvement, organizational structure designed to support student achievement, staff development in reform efforts, alignment between instruction, curriculum and assessments, quality and regular assessments, high expectations, parent involvement, and priority scheduling (Duke, 2006). However, there are gaps in the knowledge base of school improvement. Duke (2006) provided six topics where more research is needed; what leads to school decline, the nature of teamwork, the varied effectiveness of specific interventions, detecting midcourse corrections and they’re effects, the impact of unanticipated consequences, and specific personnel issues. The chasm of unknown knowledge between these gaps and known characteristics of school reform lead Duke (2004) to describe school improvement as a road map as opposed to a recipe. In a recipe, following prescribed steps achieves a desired result; in contrast, a road map provides a starting point, end point, and a choice of routes to move in between, hopefully providing information of terrain and obstacles along the way (Duke, 2004). As the metaphor suggested, there are multiple directions a school may take to initiate school improvement. Herman et al. (2008) published a practice guide describing four theories for school improvement through the What Works Clearinghouse. Those theories are changing school leadership to signal the need for dramatic change within the school, maintain a consistent focus on improving instruction, make visible improvements early in the school turnaround process, and build a committed staff (Herman et al.,

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