11 SES 11 B, Students Development and Challenges
This paper explores school development processes in ten schools in difficult circumstances in a large city in Germany. All the schools took part in a school turnaround project initiated as a public-private partnership between the school authority of this city and the Foundation. In particular, the paper focuses on identifying positive changes in the participating schools over a five-year period which is the lifetime of the project as well as development models. Based on this, the paper discusses interventions and conditions for school improvement and challenges with respect to applying the intended impact logic underlying prevailing school turnaround approaches in the German context. .
The paper draws on several lines of literature. First, it builds on research on school effectiveness, which since the 1970’s has focused on the influence of various school related factors on student academic outcomes. During the last decade increasing attention has been paid towards schools which in the English speaking context are defined as “ineffective”, “in decline”, “failing” or “low” – or “underperforming” (cf.), and “schools in challenging circumstances”, which also includes a focus on the school context in terms of low SES, high degree of migration etc., which often appear in combination with dysfunctional characteristics of the school organisation (e.g. Baumert, Stanat & Watermann, 2006; Murphy & Meyers, 2008). Second, the paper builds on research on school improvement and change with a particular focus on “School Turnaround”, which can be seen as an educational policy initiative aiming to change and improve the performance of those schools. A key finding is that the improvement initiatives have to be differentiated and adapted to the needs and challenges of the individual schools (e.g. Reynolds et al, 1996). With regard to the selection of strategies, different concerns have to be addressed, such as decisions on the number and size of prioritized areas, where to set the focus, the use of data, and assessments related to the capacity of the school to change as well as the degree of external support needed. Different models for “School Turnaround” have been tried out in the US and in England. While some models include radical approaches such as school closure and retention of staff, others concentrate on professional development (e.g. courses, peer-teaching, coaching) focusing on improving the quality of teaching and school management, establishing cooperation or even initiating school fusion between a “failing” school and a school characterised as “successful”, and improving the coordination between the school and the local authorities. The last type of model is more evident in the German speaking context (Racherbäumer et al., 2013).
Methods and analytical techniques This five-year project draws on a mixed methods and longitudinal design which includes semi-structured interviews with actors in the participating schools and the school governing system as well as actors involved in improvement initiatives and the support of the schools, and project stakeholders. Moreover, three surveys are conducted among teachers and school leaders every 18 months, three during the project and the last one after the end of the project. For the quantitative analysis presented in this paper we examined changes in results on different scales over time (between measurement points) as measured by Cohen’s d. Pro measurement point we looked at the partial correlation network with lasso between different scales to identify stable correlation patterns. Moreover, we analyzed differences in the correlation patterns between different scales over time. Data from the three rounds of interviews were also analysed to identify changes as they were perceived by key actors in the schools. The qualitative analysis focuses on creating meanings and structures of organizational realities seen from multiple perspectives in the school system (Connelly et al, 1999). Finally, we compared the findings from the quantitative and qualitative analysis to further understand the broader patterns identified especially at the beginning and at the end of the project. Data sources Data sources include survey data collected among teachers and school leaders in the project schools in year 1, 3 and 5. Altogether, 251 teachers, school leaders and support staff (response rate: 48 percent) took part in the first year, 230 took part in the third year (response rate: 48 percent), and 248 participated in the last survey (response rate: 44 percent). Moreover, data from three rounds of interviews are analysed, conducted in year 1, 3, and 5. Each round comprised 90-100 interviews with school leaders, teachers, support staff, students and parents in the project schools. In addition, the logs of the coaches for the schools are analysed to document interventions and the ongoing development processes in the schools.
Through the comparisons of the quantitative and qualitative data we identified positive changes with respect to intensified cooperation among staff and between the school and external partners. Moreover, the staff experienced increased work satisfaction and less strain and schools had less lessons cancelled. In general, a well-functioning and strategic school leadership is a main key and important condition for change and improvement. In all schools, except one, there has been a change of principals, either right before start of the project or during the second and third project year. The overall findings that show that it is highly problematic for schools to do a “turnaround” on their own. Sustainable change and improvement require systematic work and support from authorities as well as external partners and there is a need for a differentiated approach to measure progress. Based on the findings, the paper discusses models of school development related to the intended impact logic underlying many approaches to school turnaround.
Baumert, J., Stanat, P. & Watermann, R. (2006): Herkunftsbedingte Disparitäten im Bildungswesen. Vertiefende Analysen im Rahmen von PISA 2000. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Connelly, F.M., Clandinin, D.J. & Applebaum, S.D. (Eds) (1999): Shaping a Professional Identity: stories of educational practice. London: Teachers College Press. Eisenhart, M. (2000) Boundaries and Selves in the Making of ‘Science’, Research in Science Education, 30(1), 43-55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02461652 Murphy & Meyers, (2008): Turning Around Failing Schools: Leadership Lessons From the Organizational Sciences. Thousands Oak, California: Corwin Press. Racherbäumer, K./Funke, C./Ackeren, I. van/Clausen, M. (2013): Datennutzung und Schulleitungshandeln an Schulen in weniger begünstigter Lage. Empirische Befunde zu ausgewählten Aspekten der Qualitätsentwicklung. In: Die Deutsche Schule 13, Beiheft 12, S. 226-254. Münster: Waxmann. Reynolds, D., Bollen, R., Creemers, B., Hopkins, D., Stoll, L. & Lagerwej, N. (1996): Making Good Schools: Linking School Effectiveness and Improvement. London: Routledge/ Falmer.
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