FINDING WHAT WORKS: ACTION RESEARCH AS NEEDS ASSESSMENT IN AN URBAN MIDDLE SCHOOL Ms. Cheryl Nelson, Principal Ms. Maria Garcia, Assistant Principal Mr. Keith L. Harrell, Teacher Leader Dr. Patricia Grimsley, Professional Partner NORLAND MIDDLE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT’S URBAN PRINCIPAL INITIATIVE June 2006
Abstract Utilizing data from three neighboring middle schools, the team from Norland Middle School used action research as a needs analysis to determine why our students are not performing as well as students in neighboring schools with similar demographics. The results will be used to determine the focus of the plan of action for the 2006-2007 school year. Student and teacher surveys, as well as, administrator interviews were conducted to assist in the investigative process.
Introduction/Background • Students at Norland Middle School are performing at lower achievement levels than students at schools with similar demographics. Based on our research, we believe this anomaly is caused by limited exposure to rich and varied academic and cultural stimuli coupled with low expectations and a lack of instructional rigor.
Introduction/Background Continued The assessment data of Henry Perry, William Dandy, and Parkway Middle Schools in Broward County and North Dade Middle in Miami-Dade County were reviewed because the demographics of these schools are similar to Norland Middle School. All four schools performed at levels above Norland Middle School in FCAT reading, writing and mathematics in 2005.
Research Question • What factors contribute to higher achievement levels of students at schools of similar demographics as Norland Middle School? • Secondary Question • Will implementation of specific organizational strategies that are used with success at comparable middle schools, help Norland Middle School students to perform at higher levels?
Literature Review • As Norland Middle School attempts to improve performance levels of students so that they may perform at levels equal to or above middle schools with similar demographics, several factors were revealed in the literature: • 1. Teacher leaders are effective in improving teaching and learning. In those schools where students demonstrated high achievement levels above state norms on reading and mathematics, despite high poverty rates and highly mobile student populations, the powerful contributions of teacher leaders tends to make the difference in building school resilience. Patterson and Patterson (2004) • 2. Instructional emphasis must be placed on African –American males to see that they overcome barriers to achievement that are often associated with this population. Tatum (2006) posits that issues such as self definition and positive life outcomes must be considered as part of the remedy for ailing achievement.
Literature Review Continued • 3. Regular use of diagnostic and formal assessments is crucial in increasing achievement. Well designed classroom assessment and grading practices provide specific, personalized and timely information needed to guide teaching and learning. • 4. In a professional learning community, every teacher believes that every student can learn and that it is every teacher’s responsibility to ensure that this happens. (Dufour, 2004) Three factors are important: • Ensure that students learn. • Promote a culture of collaboration. • Focus on results. • Attention to the literature can guide Norland Middle School in meeting its goal of improving student performance.
Interview Questions The team interviewed the Administrative teams of William Dandy, Parkway, and Henry Perry Middle Schools in Broward County. These schools were selected because the demographics were similar to Norland. Surveys Student Surveys, teacher surveys, principal surveys of the three selected schools. The team compared the 2005 Florida Comprehensive Test (FCAT) Data Collection Qualitative Data Quantitative Data
Findings • Based on the Student Surveys, we have determined that one difference between Norland Middle School and other middle schools that are higher performing is a lack of parental support and student accountability: • Parents do not hold teachers responsible for the quality of instruction. • Parents do not hold students responsible for the quality of academic performance. • Parents are reactive, rather than proactive (do not join the PTSA).
Conclusions/RecommendationsImplications • Based on the findings, the Action Research Team recommends the following: • A systematic analysis of data to determine instructional focus • A more concentrated and structured effort to build the Parent/Teacher/Student Association • A Parent Outreach program that will address the needs of middle school students, i.e., social, emotional, and academic growth • Maintain the integrity of the implementation of the eight-step CIM • Increase students’ belief in their ability to achieve at higher levels • Monitor personalized differentiated instruction
Conclusions/RecommendationsImplications • Provide experiences and field opportunities for students to develop their cultural literacy. • Utilize strategies proven successful at other schools, such as mandatory tutoring, systematic study of data, quality community relationships, a challenging curriculum, strong faculty commitment to student achievement, and strong parental support.
Conclusions/Recommendations/ Implications • Norland Middle School will engage in a second cycle of action research to follow up on strategies that have emerged from the data analysis as those proven to be successful at other schools.