School & District Management

‘Consumer Guide’ Aimed At Reform Programs

By Lynn Olson — December 06, 2000 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Schools that want to raise student achievement often confront a dizzying array of reform models to choose from. Now, they’re going to get some help.

A blue-ribbon panel was scheduled to release guidelines this week to aid consumers in deciding which improvement designs and consultants would be right for their schools and which are most likely to yield results.

For More Information

The “Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of National Design Based Assistance Providers,” are available online from New American Schools, or by calling NAS at (703) 908-9500.

The “Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of National Design-Based Assistance Providers” come at an opportune time. In 1997, Congress funded the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program to help high-poverty schools adopt research-based designs that are intended to transform a whole school, rather than address piecemeal elements of it

Since then, some 1,800 schools have taken advantange of the $220 million federal program to help select from dozens of existing designs or come up with new ones. The results, observers say, are hundreds of comprehensive school designs of widely varying quality and replicability.

The guidelines are meant to help schools and districts evaluate how well a particular program and its providers meet their needs and objectives. They were drafted over a six-month period by a group of 17 prominent education and business leaders at the request of New American Schools, an Arlington, Va.- based nonprofit corporation that supports the creation and dissemination of whole-school designs. The panel’s members include the heads of national organizations representing teachers, principals, school boards, superintendents, governors, and major employers.(“Blue-Ribbon Panel To Set Standards for Reform Models,” Feb. 9, 2000.)

“We’re at a point in time where we need this kind of substance and clarity about a process to identify what works and to separate it out from others,” said Mary Anne Schmitt, the president of NAS. “On the supply side, we have this influx of a lot of new designs and providers, and a lot of them are good, but a lot of them aren’t or don’t have a real track record yet.”

Nas also announced plans to work with others to create an independent, nonprofit organization—known as the Education Quality Institute—which could rate the quality of whole-school designs and other educational intervention strategies on an ongoing basis. NAS has committed $100,000 of the $200,000 needed for an initial, three-month planning grant, she said.

‘Fairly Demanding’ Bar

To create the guidelines, the panel worked with NAS and the Houston-based American Productivity & Quality Center, a nonprofit consulting firm, to solicit suggestions from individuals with experience in whole-school designs and quality-assurance programs. They also gathered advice from policymakers, educators, administrators, parents, and other interested citizens.

Although the guidelines are “fairly demanding,” said Vincent L. Ferrandino, the executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and a member of the commission, “we wanted to be certain that we didn’t simply eliminate some of the smaller, less well- financed providers in the process.”

Vincent L. Ferandino

“We didn’t make them so difficult that only the better-financed, more established providers could meet them,” he said, “because we do feel there’s a need for some diversity, some greater choice for the schools, as these providers come forward.”

The guidelines are broken into three categories: the performance of the design, or whether it can demonstrate results; the quality of the assistance provided, such as professional development and curriculum materials; and the capacity of the design-based assistance organization, including its financial viability.

The resulting 31-page document operates almost like a checklist. By asking providers for evidence of the 33 indicators listed, and using an accompanying “tool kit,” schools can determine which providers best meet their needs. The tool kit is especially geared toward schools that are just beginning to consider comprehensive school change initiatives. It outlines the steps a school should undertake before selecting a design, as well as potential pitfalls to consider.

Both the guidelines and the tool kit can also be used to improve the implementation of already-adopted designs, or by the providers themselves to improve their services.

For example, a high-quality design should be able to demonstrate increases in student achievement for all subgroups, three to five years after the program is started. Evidence also should show that the design has been replicated in a variety of schools with positive results.

A school should request a detailed contract that specifies the roles and responsibilities of the design-based assistance provider, the school, and the district; the costs of implementation; specific timelines, milestones, and performance targets for each key design element at each phase of implementation; and remedies for breach of contract. In addition, the school should look for a design that makes available third-party evaluations or reviews of the design’s research.

“Any tool that helps schools make better decisions and helps them understand what it takes to make the change happen— what the support structures need to be, and what the financial obligations are for things like professional development and materials—is good because decisions should be made by design, not by who is most persuasive at the door,” said Mikki Terry, the deputy executive director for program development at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development in Alexandria, Va.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2000 edition of Education Week as ‘Consumer Guide’ Aimed At Reform Programs

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion I Invited My Students to Be the Principal for a Day. Here’s What I Learned
When I felt myself slipping into a springtime slump, this simple activity reminded me of my “why” as an educator.
S. Kambar Khoshaba
4 min read
052024 OPINION Khoshaba PRINCIPAL end the year with positivity
E+/Getty + Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management The Complicated Fight Over Four-Day School Weeks
Missouri lawmakers want to encourage large districts to maintain five-day weeks—even as four-day weeks grow more popular.
7 min read
Calendar 4 day week
iStock/Getty
School & District Management From Our Research Center Principal Salaries: The Gap Between Expectation and Reality
Exclusive survey data indicate a gap between the expectations and the realities of principal pay.
4 min read
A Black woman is standing on a ladder and looking into the distance with binoculars, in the background is an ascending arrow.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Schools Successfully Fighting Chronic Absenteeism Have This in Common
A White House summit homed in on chronic absenteeism and strategies to reduce it.
6 min read
An empty elementary school classroom is seen on Aug. 17, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York. Nationwide, students have been absent at record rates since schools reopened after COVID-forced closures. More than a quarter of students missed at least 10% of the 2021-22 school year.
An empty elementary school classroom is seen on Aug. 17, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York. A White House summit on May 15, 2024, brought attention to elevated chronic absenteeism and strategies districts have used to fight it.
Brittainy Newman/AP