Common Principles for Uncommon Schools

Horace Volume 12 | 1996 | Issue 3

Documenting Whole-School Change in Essential Schools: Offers new ideas about what data schools should collect and how they can use it to evaluate their programs and create more meaningful ways to record student progress and hold themselves accountable to their constituencies. Download PDF

Common Measures: Collecting the Basic Data

To document their progress, many schools routinely collect statistics on the following “common measures” (compiled by Harvard University doctoral candidate Molly Schen). When Essential schools join in doing so, they make possible useful comparisons to larger databases.  Who are we? – Number of students – Percentage of students of different races and ethnicities – Percentage of students eligible for free

Documenting Whole-School Change in Essential Schools

What actually changes in Essential schools? Reporting and reflecting on the answers can supply long-term data to guide new decisions. But to be helpful, such information must reveal the interrelated aspects of change, and provide many lenses through which to look for evidence of success. If they just asked the right questions, students in the Research and Development class at

In California, Portfolios of Whole-School Progress

California asks all schools involved in its School Restructuring Initiative to continually document their progress toward four key goals: developing habits of inquiry through examining student work; impacting the whole school in that process; addressing the learning needs of every student; and engaging the district in their effort. Schools do this all year long (for several years), compiling a School

Measuring the Strength of a Professional Community

Recent highly regarded studies from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research have pointed to how strongly the presence of “professional community” affects authentic student achievement. In a professional community, researchers posited, teachers pursue a clear shared purpose for all students’ learning, engage in collaborative work to achieve that purpose, and take collective responsibility for student learning. Coalition researcher Peggy MacMullen

More Information and Readings on Documenting School Change

From the Coalition of Essential Schools (510-433-1451) David Allen, “The Tuning Protocol: A Process for Reflection.” David Allen and Joseph McDonald, “Keeping Student Performance Central: The New York Assessment Collection.” Kathleen Cushman, “What Research Suggests about Essential School Ideas.” Horace Vol. 11, No. 3, March 1995. Peggy MacMullen, “Taking Stock: The Impact of Reform.” David Niguidula, “The Digital Portfolio: A

Some Ways to Document Change in Schools

– Data describing common and uncommon measures – Surveys of teachers, students, administrators, and community – Classroom observations using commonly held rubrics for authentic teaching and learning – Public exhibitions of student work – Compilations of student work to illustrate different performance levels – School portfolios – School quality review teams – “Tuning protocols” examining student work – Curriculum materials

Tips for Presenting Your School to the Public

1. Show value added. A one-shot look at any measurement-whether test scores, student work, or college admissions rates-necessarily misrepresents your program. To give a more accurate picture, always describe the point your school is working from, and progress you have made toward a particular goal or standard. 2. Juxtapose all test score data with other relevant data. Wherever possible, “triangulate”

Uncommon Measures: A Different Kind of Data

Researcher Molly Schen has been working with the Coalition to develop new indicators with which schools might document progress toward implementing Essential School ideas. What follows are some suggestions for these “uncommon measures”: Who are we? – Percentage of students from single-parent homes – Percentage of “latch- key” children – Extent of student and family mobility – Demographic history and

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.