What Indicators Might an Essential School Follow?

The Illinois Alliance of Essential Schools compiled these categories to help member schools keep track of their progress toward putting Essential School ideas into practice. If schools agree on common ways to measure progress in these areas, the Alliance suggests, they can provide a consistent gauge of the nature and type of progress in individual schools and across the state. Clearly, such documentation takes time; most schools choose to document one category at a time over a period of several years.

I. School Structure and Climate

– Presence of a schoolwide decision-making group
– Level of teacher involvement in decision-making
– Level of student involvement in decision-making
– Level of parental and community involvement in school activities
– Level of school administrator’s understanding of, involvement in, and commitment to the restructuring process
– Level of the teachers union’s understanding of, involvement in, and commitment to the restructuring process
– Level of the business community’s understanding of, involve ment in, and commitment to the restructuring process
– Amount, kind, & quality of staff development opportunities

II. Classroom Instructional Activities
– Classroom observation (formal, informal, walk-throughs)
– presence of flexible room arrangements – display of student work
– levels of student participation
– levels of student-student interaction
– students working together
– students talking, questioning, discussing
– levels of authentic learning (see Newmann et al. 1995)
– number of higher-order questions by teachers
– level of student-initiated responses
– ratio of teacher talk to student talk
– ratio of heterogeneous to homogeneous groups

III. Curricular Activities
– Curriculum mapping
– presence of specific, high-order student outcomes for all grade levels and content areas
– appropriateness of texts and supplementary materials
– connection of assessment procedures to desired outcomes
– connection of assessment procedures to texts and materials
– Connection between desired outcomes, assessment tools, curricular materials, and instructional strategies (curricular linkage)
– Organizational and structural aspects of curriculum
– number of interdisciplinary units
– number of all-school projects
– frequency and nature of team-teaching
– frequency and nature of common planning time
– extent of adaptation of school scheduling to curriculum and instructional efforts
– teacher-pupil ratios

IV. Student Assessment
– Development of a list of ideal graduate requirements
– approval/adoption of the list by the school board
– approval/adoption of the list by the community
– Alternative assessment
– presence of alternative assessment activities
– authenticity of levels of alternative assessment activities
– presence of appropriate assessment rubrics
– presence of multiple judges in performance and alternative assessment (tests of reliability)
– presence of student involvement in alternative assessment
– presence of accumulated performance assessment documentation (end-of-year portfolios; cross-year portfolios)
– progress toward graduation by exhibition
– ratio of paper-and-pencil tests to performances and exhibitions
– Standardized assessment
– state exams in reading, writing, math, and science
– locally or nationally developed standardized tests
– External assessments
– number of medals, honors, etc. awarded in academic competitions
– number and types of scholarships awarded
– number of students passing outside accreditation tests (union entrance, military placement)

V. Equitable Access to Curriculum AND Instruction
– Presence of mainstreamed or included special needs students
– Level of de-tracking activity (honors classes, college-bound programs, career tracks, etc.)
– Presence of all-school, inclusive activities (school-wide projects, all-student seminars)
– Presence of high-order outcomes for all students

VI. Affective Changes in Staff and Students
– School-wide levels of decency and trust
– Degree of openness to change
– Visible school pride
– Degree of student and staff involvement in school activities
– Level of student involvement in community service
– Levels of student self esteem
– Levels and degree of teacher efficacy

VII. Student Demographics
– Retention rates
– Graduation rates
– Attendance figures
– Punctuality
– Discipline referrals and suspension (in school and out)
– Student applications for school enrollment
– Percentage of students with minimum competency on basic skills