26 SES 08 A, Leadership and School Development in Diverse, Underperforming Contexts: Evidence-based policies, values and practices in the U.S., Sweden, Germany and Australia
In this paper, we present a U.S. school development project for persistently underperforming, under-resourced Arizona and South Carolina schools developed amidst recent U.S. policy trends toward evidenced-based practice, research funding restrictions (U.S. Department of Education), and changing demographics. Many U.S. research funding sources now require the use of prior school improvement models that produced “strong evidence” of improved outcomes and school development, all of which is currently subject of debate in the literature (e.g. Biesta, 2010; Slavin, 2008). Following a discussion of the evidence-based policies and debates, the paper presents a school development project aimed at building leadership capacity for continuous school development in over 80 persistently underperforming Arizona and South Carolina schools. Specifically, the paper presents an expansion of the Arizona Institute for Leadership Development and Research (AZiLDR) school development model in South Carolina. The South Carolina version was modeled after the AZiLDR approach to leadership, education and school development as well as its delivery system (Cohen & Hill, 2002; Wenglinsky, 2000; Garet et al., 2001) with institutes providing background information and opportunities to reflect on the assets of rural communities and culture as well as culturally responsive practices. In addition to features of the Arizona model, the South Carolina version featured place-based education that responded to rural educators and children’s needs in six poverty-stricken counties in South Carolina. Leadership capacity was defined in ways that are consistent with traditional humanistic values of education (Dewey, 1916), more recent perspectives on culturally responsive practices (Scanlan & Lopez, 2015), perspectives from prior leadership studies (e.g. Leithwood, 1994; Shields, 2010) and evidence-based practice. The paper concludes with the project evaluation results from a survey, semi-structured participants’ interviews, and an analysis of participants’ project artifacts. Results from Arizona and South Carolina were promising and point toward implications for research, practice, and preparation. Based upon a power analysis, our long-term goal is to serve 50 school sites, 50 principals, 300 teachers and 6,000 students across South Carolina. Returning to the debates on evidence-based interventions and the funding sources (e.g. U.S.D.O.E. and IES), we recognize the challenges for a large-scale implementation. At the same time, we accept the challenge as we see the need for school development projects that provide data on “what works” and that will work for an increasingly culturally diverse population of students who must realize the unfulfilled promise of the democratic prospect (Dewey, 1916).
Biesta, G.J.J. (2010). Why ‘What Works’ still won’t work: From evidence-based education to value-based education. Studies in philosophy and education, 29(491–503). Cohen, D.K., Hill, H.C. & Kennedy, M. (2002). The benefit to professional development. American Educator, 26(2), 22-25. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press. Garet, A., Porter, A., Desimone, L., Birman, B., & Yoon, K. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 915-945. Scanlan, M., & Lopez, F. A. (2015). Leadership for culturally and linguistically responsive schools. New York, NY: Routledge. Slavin, R. E. (2008). Perspectives on evidence-based research in education—What works? Issues in synthesizing educational program evaluations. Educational researcher, 37(1), 5-14. Wenglinsky, H. (2000). How teaching matters: Bringing the classroom back into discussions of teacher quality. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
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