Survey Confirms Rapid Spread of 'Effective Schools'

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Washington--More than half of the nation's school districts have begun or are planning to implement programs based on "effective schools" research, according to a new survey by the General Accounting Office.

The findings offer the first official confirmation of the rapid spread of the effective-schools movement, which is based on a set of principles gathered through the study of schools where low-income and minority children were succeeding at levels equal to or greater than their more advantaged peers.

Only 17 percent of the school districts that reported having effective schools programs had them in place before the start of the 1984-85 school year, the survey found.

During the 1987-1988 school year, when the survey was taken, 41 percent of all districts responding reported having effective-schools programs in place and 17 percent were planning to implement such a program within the next two years. Forty-two percent indicated they had no plans to start such a program.

The survey results were contained in a briefing report, "Effective Schools Programs: Their Extent and Characteristics," prepared by the gao for Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

"We had no idea prior to this report of the extent to which effective-schools research was being implemented in schools around the country," said John Smith, a committee aide.

"Of course, some of these school districts only have pieces of the effective-schools model," he said. "Others are what I would call classical in terms of the models they have adopted."

Mr. Smith is also a co-author of a second report, "Improving Education: School Districts Implementing the Effective Schools Model," which was released by the committee's majority staff this month.

The committee's paper examines the process used to start effective schools programs in nine districts and one county office of education.

The Hawkins-Stafford Act

The districts profiled were chosen because they reflected the legislative definition of an effective-schools program included in the Hawkins-Stafford School Improvement Act of 1988.

The act defines effective-schools programs as those that exhibit the following characteristics: strong and effective administrative and instructional leadership that creates consensus on instructional goals; an emphasis on the acquisition of basic and higher-order thinking skills; a safe and orderly school environment; an expectation that virtually all chil4dren can learn under appropriate conditions; and continuous assessment of students and programs to evaluate the effects of instruction.

Mr. Hawkins has emerged as one of the nation's most forceful proponents of effective-school programs because he believes, Mr. Smith said, that "for some schools and some school districts, this works."

The Hawkins-Stafford Act marked the first time that effective-school principles were included in a federal law. The act makes effective-schools programs an explicit option that districts can fund with either Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 aid. It also requires states to spend 20 percent of their portion of Chapter 2 funds for such programs.

Both new studies are intended as guides for policymakers and school officials who want to begin effective-schools programs, Mr. Smith said.

The committee's report notes that much of the research on effective schools is based on schools where teachers and principals attempted to raise the academic performance of students through what was an essentially "bottom-up" process.

"The committee's focus on school districts offers an opportunity to explore how the research can be applied through a 'top-down' process, from district central offices or county offices to individual schools," the report says.

Neither report offers an objective evaluation of the recent wave of effective-schools activity, because much of it is too new to have produced substantial results, Mr. Smith said.

The committee's surveys asked school officials to provide indicators of success for their programs, but the report notes that the responses were "particularly uneven."

"Nevertheless," it states, "officials of many of the districts ... assert that their projects have indeed improved educational outcomes."

Many Programs Incomplete

The gao report looked only at the characteristics of existing programs, and determined that many of the approximately 6,500 school districts with effective-schools programs do not include components that the research indicates are desirable.

Only 27 percent of the nation's school districts, for example, have programs that include both written plans for improving school effectiveness and school-level teams on which teachers and administrators work together to plan and monitor their programs.

And only about 13 percent of school districts break down their student-achievement data by socioeconomic status or ethnicity, the survey found.

The breakdown of test scores, attendance and dropout rates, and other data is considered a key component of effective-schools programs because it allows school officials and the public to determine whether improvement efforts are having the desired impact on disadvantaged populations.

Copies of the gao report, "Effective Schools Programs: Their Extent and Characteristics," are available from the General Accounting Office, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20877.

Copies of the Education and Labor Committee's report, "Improving Education: School Districts Implementing the Effective Schools Model," are available from the Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Vol. 09, Issue 04

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >