Last Thursday, the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools (a research center led by Vanderbilt's Peabody College with partners at UNC-Chapel Hill, Florida State, Wisconsin-Madison, Georgia State, and the Educational Development Center, funded by a five-year, $13.6 million federal grant, which aims to identify and then explore ways to scale up, characteristics of effective high schools) released a new report examining the differences between high-and low-performing high schools in Broward County, Florida.
As only one small piece of the puzzle, we shouldn't get carried away with the findings. But I was struck with what was -- and was not -- included in their list of differences between the schools. Below is the Executive Summary's list of differences:We identified one major theme that cut across all ten components: personalization for academic and social learning. In the area of personalization, our findings show that the higher value-added (VA) schools made deliberate efforts through systematic structures to promote strong relationships between adults and students as well as to personalize the learning experience of students. In addition, the higher VA schools maintained strong and reliable disciplinary systems that, in turn, engendered feelings of caring and, implicitly, trust among both students and teachers. Leaders at the higher VA schools talked explicitly about looking for student engagement in classroom walkthroughs as well as in their interactions with students. Teachers at the higher VA schools were more likely to discuss instructional activities that drew on students’ experiences and interests. The higher VA schools also encouraged stronger linkages with parents (p. 5).
Included: "soft" factors like trust and relationships.
Not included: virtually everything currently discussed in ed policy circles (school choice, teacher evaluations, merit pay, data-driven decision-making, etc.)
And some, like closing schools, firing teachers, rating teachers based on test scores and student surveys, parent triggers, etc. actively work against creating schools built around strong, trusting relationships.