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Scaling up School Restructuring in Multicultural, Multilingual Contexts: Early Observations from Sunland County


Two of the most rapidly developing fields in educational research are diversity education (e.g., Tharp & Gallimore, 1988) and school restructuring/school reform (e.g., Murphy & Hallinger, 1993; Newmann & Wehlage, 1995; Tyack & Cuban, 1995). Unfortunately, the intersection of the two fields is virtually uncultivated. None of the nationally disseminated school restructuring models was developed specifically for multilingual, multicultural contexts. With the exception of Éxito para Todos, the Spanish version of Success For All (Slavin, Madden, & Wasik, 1996), there is virtually no research on the effectiveness of the programs in achieving implementation, let alone improvements in student achievement, in multilingual, multicultural contexts. In the first study of its kind, three broad policy questions will be addressed through the study "Scaling Up School Restructuring in Multicultural, Multilingual Contexts." They include the following:

1. How effective are current generation school restructuring proposals in improving the achievement of students in schools serving large numbers of language minority students in a multicultural context?

2. Are some of the current school restructuring models better suited to multilingual, multicultural contexts than others? Can the various reforms be successfully modified to provide high quality educational services to all students in diverse multicultural, multilingual contexts?

3. What actions at the federal, state, school district, subdistrict, and school levels increase (or decrease) the probability of obtaining full benefits from any or all of the restructuring models when the models are being implemented in multicultural, multilingual contexts?

This paper presents early observations of 13 culturally and linguistically diverse schools in Sunland County. 1 Each school is in the process of implementing an externally developed school restructuring design. Sunland County Public Schools provides education to students from a very richly diverse set of cultures and language groups. Sunland County has one of the largest second language populations of any district in the country, with Spanish and Haitian Creole being the most common of over 100 languages and dialects. In this paper, data from the 1st of 4 years of field work will be reported regarding early insights into the classroom, school, and district conditions and actions that are facilitating or hindering implementation of the various school reforms. Over the years 1998-2001, additional reports will be produced on issues related to institutionalization of the reforms at each school site and on the effects of the reforms on the academic progress of various groups of students at the schools.

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