Improving School Improvement
In opening this volume, you might be thinking:
Is another book on school improvement really needed?
Clearly our answer is yes. Our analyses of prevailing school improvement legislation, planning, and literature indicates fundamental deficiencies, especially with respect to enhancing equity of opportunity and closing the achievement gap.
Here is what our work uniquely brings to policy and planning tables:
(1) An expanded framework for school improvement – We highlight that moving from a two- to a three-component policy and practice framework is essential for closing the opportunity and achievement gaps. (That is, expanding from focusing primarily on instruction and management/government concerns by establishing a third primary component to improve how schools address barriers to learning and teaching.)
(2) An emphasis on integrating a deep understanding of motivation – We underscore that concerns about engagement, management of behavior, school climate, equity of opportunity, and student outcomes require an up-to-date grasp of motivation and especially intrinsic motivation.
(3) Clarification of the nature and scope of personalized teaching – We define personalization as the process of matching learner motivation and capabilities and stress that it is the learner's perception that determines whether the match is a good one.
(4) A reframing of remediation and special education – We formulate these processes as personalized special assistance that is applied in and out of classrooms and practiced in a sequential and hierarchical manner.
(5) A prototype for transforming student and learning supports – We provide a framework for a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system designed to address barriers to learning and teaching and re-engage disconnected students and families.
(6) A reworking of the leadership structure for whole school improvement --
We outline how the operational infrastructure can and must be realigned in keeping with a three component school improvement framework.
(7) A systemic approach to enhancing school-community collaboration – We delineate a leadership role for schools in outreaching to communities in order to work on shared concerns through a formal collaborative operational infrastructure that enables weaving together resources to advance the work.
(8) An expanded framework for school accountability – We reframe school accountability to ensure a balanced approach that accounts for a shift to a three component school improvement policy.
(9) Guidance for substantive, scalable, and sustainable systemic changes –
We frame mechanisms and discuss lessons learned related to facilitating fundamental systemic changes and replicating and sustaining them across a district.
The frameworks and practices presented are based on our many years of work in schools and from efforts to enhance school-community collaboration. We incorporate insights from various theories and the large body of relevant research and from lessons learned and shared by many school leaders and staff who strive everyday to do their best for children.
Our emphasis on new directions in no way is meant to demean current efforts. We know that the demands placed on those working in schools go well beyond what anyone should be asked to do. Given the current working conditions in many schools, our intent is to help make the hard work generate better results. To this end, we highlight new directions and systemic pathways for improving school outcomes.
Some of what we propose is difficult to accomplish. Hopefully, the fact that there are schools, districts, and state agencies already trailblazing the way will engender a sense of hope and encouragement to those committed to innovation.
It will be obvious that our work owes much to many. We are especially grateful to those who are pioneering major systemic changes across the country. These leaders and so many in the field have generously offered their insights and wisdom. And, of course, we are indebted to hundreds of scholars whose research and writing is a shared treasure. As always, we take this opportunity to thank Perry Nelson and the host of graduate and undergraduate students at UCLA who contribute so much to our work each day, and to the many young people and their families who continue to teach us all.
Respectfully submitted for your consideration,
Howard Adelman & Linda Taylor