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Schools Encouraged To Use 'Effective Schools' Research

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A coalition of school and community groups in New Hampshire has launched a pilot program to encourage the use of "effective schools'' research statewide.

The program, which got under way in 10 schools last week, is aimed at improving student achievement by enabling schools to assess their own needs and priorities and implement changes of their own design, officials said.

"The way to make real change in schools is to do it at the local building level,'' said Elenore Freedman, director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Effective Schools, which is coordinating the project.

"There is not one model'' for school improvement, said John T. MacDonald, the state's commissioner of education. "There will be many, many models.''

Under the project, which is being funded by a $181,600 grant from the governor's office and $75,000 from the New Hampshire Charitable Trust, the schools will select teams of parents, teachers, and administrators, who will be responsible for developing and implementing school-improvement plans.

The teams will first construct profiles of their schools, based on 32 effective-schools indicators, such as school climate, leadership, community involvement, and curriculum.

Together with a facilitator from the state alliance, the teams--which will receive training in effective-schools research--will then choose priorities for their first-year "action plans.''

Officials said they expect each local team to develop a plan based on its school's own needs and goals. However, they added, the priorities must reflect the goals of the effective-schools movement.

Teams will not have complete freedom to choose areas they want to improve, Ms. Freedman noted. "They cannot put new swings on the playground,'' she said.

At the end of the first year, the teams will assess their schools' progress and devise plans for the next year, she added, noting that "our goal is that at the end of the third year, the school will have a built-in capacity to conduct the renewal process on its own.''

Although the alliance will provide technical assistance to help the teams launch their plans, state officials said they did not intend to provide cash bonuses or to relax regulations for participating schools.

But, Mr. MacDonald added, the support of the participating organizations makes it unlikely that state or local rules will pose an impediment to the school-improvement efforts.

"We see that as the most remote kind of thing that can occur,'' he said. "With this structure, we can work out problems before they present themselves as problems.''--R.R.

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