Improving School Performance

Briefs and Reports

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Boosting North Carolina School Turnaround Efforts (2016)
This story details SECC's involvement in supporting North Carolina school turnaround efforts.
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College- and Career-Readiness Standards and Assessment Resource List (Winter 2015–16) (2016)
This biannual update provides a list of resources that focus on college- and career-readiness standards and assessment. It includes materials from the federal content centers, comprehensive centers, and regional educational laboratories, as well as other organizations with expertise in education policy, research, and technical assistance.
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SECC Information Request: Best Practices for Alternative Charter School Programs and Charter School Programs (2016)
A state served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center requested information regarding research on best practices related to successful alternative charter school programs and virtual charter school programs.
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College- and Career-Readiness Standards and Assessment Resource List (2015)

This biannual update provides a list of resources that focus on college- and career-readiness standards and assessment. It includes materials from the federal content centers, comprehensive centers, and regional educational laboratories, as well as other organizations with expertise in education policy, research, and technical assistance.

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SECC Information Request: Descriptions of State-Developed Alternative Intervention Models for School Improvement Grants in Colorado, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas (2015)

This report describes state-developed alternative intervention models for schools receiving SIG funds in five states.

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SECC Information Request: Policies, Programs, and Practices States Use to Differentiate Levels of Intervention and Support for High-Need Schools (2015)

This report describes various states¹ differentiated levels of intervention and support for high-need schools.

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SECC Information Request: Approaches for Improving High School Graduation Rates of Students with Disabilities in CA, FL, NC, and TX (2014)
A number of states are implementing strategies for improving high school graduation rates of students with disabilities. This report takes a closer look at such efforts in the states of California, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas.
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SECC Information Request: Approaches for Improving High School Graduation Rates of Students with Disabilities in DE, KY, MD, and TN (2014)
Efforts to improve graduation rates for students with disabilities in four states are explored as well as any potential impacts on student achievement.
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SECC Information Request: Grading Practices for Student Report Cards (2014)
Grading practices for student report cards vary in many states and are often established at the local and district levels. Policies and practices in various states regarding the use of conduct, punctuality, and/or effort grades on student report cards are examined.
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SECC Information Request: Implementation of Mastery-Based Learning (2014)
A number states have implemented mastery-based learning, which allows students to demonstrate a deep understanding of content to earn course credit without having to complete seat time. This report explores policies and approaches in states that have implemented such programs.
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SECC Information Request: Focus School Strategies, Practices, and Achievement (2014)

The report details strategies and practices undertaken in a number of states to improve achievement in their Focus Schools.

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SECC Information Request: Policies and Practices for Identifying and Supporting Underrepresented Students in Gifted Education Programs (2014)
The report provides information on underrepresented students in gifted and talented education programs. It includes a summary of information regarding policies and practices for 30 states.
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SECC Information Request: State Use of Professional Learning Communities (2014)
A state department of education served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center at SEDL requested information regarding state use of schoolwide, large-scale professional learning communities.
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SECC Information Request: Support and Strategies for Enriching Achievement of Native American Students (2014)

This report discusses educational support and strategies for Native American students.

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SECC Information Request: Support for School Improvement Grant School Districts and Schools (2014)
This is a report about support for School Improvement Grant school districts and schools. 
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SECC Information Request: Sustaining Statewide School Improvement Initiatives (2014)
This report discusses strategies and practices for sustaining statewide school improvement initiatives.
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SEDL Insights, Vol. 2, No. 3: Implementing Effective Professional Learning Communities (2014)
“Professional learning communities,” the name given to teachers’ collaborative professional learning—or PLCs, as they are often called—has become so overused that we often don’t think about the term’s meaning. Only when teachers reflect on their instructional practice, consider the impact instruction has on students, and implement insights gained from a meeting to improve their teaching performance, can this process be called a professional learning community. This issue of SEDL Insights explores ways that education leaders can guide their staff in the implementation of effective PLCs.
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Identifying Competencies and Actions of Effective Turnaround Principals: Southeast Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, January 2013 (2013)
Research over the past 30 years has found that effective principals can significantly improve various components of student achievement and learning. In addition, there are few examples of improving student achievement that were not led by an effective principal. Research has also identified the need for the change to be systemic or comprehensive in the school turnaround process to ensure sustainability. Along with a systemic improvement process, Duke (2006), identifies 10 “essential” school components for the turnaround principal’s focus and action as keys to sustained success for the benefit of all students. This briefing paper addresses the essential competencies and actions of the turnaround principal.
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SECC Information Request: Best Practices in Increasing Learning Time in School Improvement Grant High Schools (2013)
A state department of education (SDE) served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) at SEDL requested information on best practices in increasing learning time in School Improvement Grant (SIG) high schools.
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SECC Information Request: Closing Consistently Low-Performing Charter Schools (2013)
A state department of education (SDE) served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) at SEDL requested information to address low performance of public charter schools.
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SECC Information Request: Common Core State Standards Implementation in Race to the Top States (2013)
A state department of education (SDE) served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) at SEDL requested information on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation for English language arts and mathematics in states that have received Race to the Top (RTT) grants.
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SEDL Insights, Vol. 1, No. 2: Managing the Implementation of School Improvement Efforts (2013)
For a school improvement initiative to succeed, education leaders must do more than adopt a new program and train staff. This issue of SEDL Insights explores steps that leaders can take to ensure the successful implementation of a new program or practice.
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Rapid Response: Compensation Strategies to Address Teacher Shortages (2012)
This resource was produced in response to a request from a state department of education (SDE) served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) at SEDL that requested information regarding teacher shortages, specifically merit pay, compensation strategies, and other actions taken or under consideration by SDEs to address this issue.
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SECC Information Request: Behavioral and School Climate Initiatives to Support High School Students (2012)
A state department of education (SDE) that is served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) requested information on support for high school students, with a focus on whole-school reform, primarily behavioral and school climate initiatives.
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Teacher Preparation Programs: Research and Promising Practices: Texas Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, Number 11 (2012)

The literature on teacher preparation programs in the United States is extensive. However, there is limited scientifically based research on what kind of program produces effective teachers; rather, the literature consists mostly of calls for change in teacher preparation programs. Almost all experts agree that major changes are needed in these programs, with the emphasis being to produce teachers who are effective in enhancing student learning.

This paper reports evidence-based research and offers suggestions based on studies that include theoretical work, qualitative analysis, statistical analysis, and randomized experience that could provide strong causal evidence of the effects of teacher preparation on student learning.

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The Use of Student Perceptual Data as a Measure of Teaching Effectiveness: Texas Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, Number 8 (2012)
States are carefully reviewing their teacher evaluation systems to make them more meaningful and comprehensive by including multiple measures. This paper looks at one of those multiple measures—the use of student perceptual data to inform a performance-based teacher evaluation.
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Transforming Low-Performing Rural Schools: Texas Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, Number 10 (2012)
This brief examines how rural districts and schools can integrate the unique attributes and resources found in rural communities into improvement efforts to promote the transformation of low-performing schools.
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Beyond Adoption—Implementing Rigorous College- and Career-Readiness Standards: Southeast Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, December 2011 (2011)
This briefing paper provides details on the meaning of college- and career-readiness standards, effective implementation of these standards, next steps in the implementation process, and progress being made by state departments of education in the Southeast toward this crucial goal.
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Class Time and Student Learning: Texas Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, Number 6 (2011)
This brief examines the complex issue of the impact of class time lengths on student achievement, with a focus on the school year, school day, and how classroom time is spent.
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Southeast Comprehensive Center eBulletin, Volume 5, Number 3: Improving School Readiness and Success for Children (2011)
In this edition of the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) eBulletin we highlight school readiness, how early experiences matter, the role of preschool in supporting
readiness, and state and local efforts to implement recommendations from the National Governors Association (NGA).
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Alternative High Schools in Rural Areas: Texas Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, Number 3 (2010)
This brief addresses the question: What research or promising practices should an individual district or a cooperative among several districts consider with regard to the establishment of an alternative high school in a rural area?
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Support Student Transition From Middle to High School: Texas Comprehensive Center Briefing Paper, Number 1 (2010)
This brief was developed by SEDL's Texas Comprehensive Center to answer the question, "What strategies can be implemented to aid students and their parents in the transition from eighth grade into high school?" The transition from eighth grade to high school results in a higher drop-out rate and more grade retentions than any other grade. However, when districts and schools develop and implement a sound transition program, the outcomes for ninth graders are improved.
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Rapid Response: School Restructuring (2009)
This resource was developed in response to a request from a state departments of education in the Southeast Comprehensive Center’s region that had started the process of working on a takeover plan and wanted to compile research from other states in the area of school and district takeover. The requestor was interested in the development of a white paper on this process thus far in other states, to provide possible direction for its state.
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Rapid Response: Web-Based State Longitudinal Data Systems (2009)
This resource was produced in response to a request from a state department of education (SDE) served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC). The SDE requested information on Web-based state data systems that can generate customized reports for stakeholders for analyzing student and school performance. The SDE also would like to identify any states that have Web-based data systems that guide school improvement planning through the retrieval of school data; multiyear, disaggregated student assessment data; and suggested resources for addressing areas in need of improvement. The requester is particularly interested in obtaining access to view other data systems, such as those in the states of Massachusetts and Iowa.
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Rapid Response: Career And Technical Education (2008)
This resource was developed in response to a request: "A state department of education (SDE) served by the Southeast Comprehensive Center has requested that the SECC identify successful U.S. high schools that focus more on technical rather than traditional academic subjects. Also, the SDE would like information on the following: 1. Do these schools require Carnegie units? How are technical courses coded if Carnegie units are awarded? 2. How is credit given for technical job-training classes? 3. What types of terminal degrees are offered at these schools?
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Rapid Response: Educating Overage Students (2008)
This resource was produced in response to a request: "A state department of education would like information on how states are educating overage students who may be at least two grades behind and are at risk of dropping out of high school. In particular, some districts want to enroll students with their age group, in an alternative setting, or in a vocational program."
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Rapid Response: Project-based Learning (2008)
This resource was produced in response to a request: "How are states across the nation using project-based learning (PBL)? Has PBL been implemented in elementary, middle, and high schools? If so, when was it implemented, and what results have schools and districts experienced?" In response to this request, the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) queried several state departments of education as well as the REL Southeast at the SERVE Center, the National High School Center, and the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) to obtain information on the use of PBL in schools nationwide.
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Rapid Response: Response to Intervention Practices (2008)
SEDL's Southeast Comprehensive Center developed this resource in response to a request from a state department of education for the following information about Response to Intervention practices: For Tiers II and III, what does the research indicate about pupil/teacher ratios for optimal or maximum small group instruction? Do small group size numbers change with grade levels? What does the research indicate about intervention effectiveness beyond implementation fidelity—group size, minutes per day, and days per week?
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Rapid Response: State Policies for Parental Notification of Response to Intervention Processes (2008)
SEDL's Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) developed this resource in response to a request: "Do other states in the southeastern region have written policies regarding Response to Intervention and how do those states inform parents of the process?" In response, the SECC queried several state departments of education to obtain the requested information.
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Rapid Response: Strategies for Improving Achievement in High-Needs Schools (2008)
This resource was produced in response to a request: "Are there states that have had success in improving achievement at high-needs schools? What strategies have been successful?" In response to this request, the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) queried numerous organizations by e-mail and telephone. The SECC also used several Web search engines to obtain information on strategies for improving achievement in high-needs schools. The results are provided along with references and resources that may provide additional information on this topic.
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The Professional Teaching and Learning Cycle: Introduction (2008)
The professional teaching and learning cycle (PTLC) is a professional development process in which teachers collaboratively plan and implement lessons aligned to state standards. PTLC is a critical component of the Working Systemically approach that directly impacts classroom instruction and student learning.
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Getting Smart About Teacher Pay: (Insights on Education Policy, Practice, and Research, Number 19) (2006)
SEDL examined teacher salaries in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas to determine whether teacher pay is related to teacher qualifications, school characteristics, and student achievement. This issue of Insights presents results from that research and provides guidance for policymakers on paying teachers to support new accountability goals.
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Teacher Resources and Student Achievement in High-Need Schools (2006)
With the growing federal, state, and local policy emphasis on teacher quality and student achievement, the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) investigated teacher resources and their relationship to student achievement in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The purpose of this study was to provide policymakers with information about the relationship between teacher salary, experience, and education, and the relationship between these teacher resources and student achievement, particularly in high-need schools.
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Enhancing Data Use and Quality to Shape Education Policy: (Insights on Education Policy, Practice, and Research, Number 18) (2005)
In this issue of Insights, SEDL investigated state education data in four states to determine whether research can be conducted to find answers to education resource and student performance policy questions. This issue highlights study findings that policymakers will find informative in efforts to meet standards and data effectively.
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Investigation of Education Databases in Four States to Support Policy Research on Resource Allocation (2005)
In this report, SEDL researchers investigate data collected and managed by state education agencies to determine whether new research can be conducted to support policy questions about education resources and student performance.
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A Best-Fit Approach to Effective Teacher Policy: (Insights on Education Policy, Practice, and Research, Number 17) (2004)
In this issue of Insights, SEDL invited Jennifer King Rice, Ph.D. to share her best-fit decision making approach to improving teacher resources. This issue describes her model and provides guidance on its use.
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School Finance Adequacy: The State Role: (Insights on Education Policy, Practice, and Research, Number 16) (2004)
Perhaps the most visible school finance issue today is adequacy. Defined as the provision of adequate resources to enable all children to meet a stateÕs proficiency standards, school finance adequacy is being addressed in some way in almost every state, especially since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has upped the ante with its Adequate Yearly Progress provisions. At the same time, most states and districts are facing reduced revenue growth and tighter budgets. State governments in particular feel this pinch because in recent years they have assumed increased fiscal responsibility for funding education. In this issue, we discuss how adequacy can be determined and the challenges it presents to policymakers.
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Progress Report to Districts and Schools: SEDL's Working Systemically Model (2003)
A report of the findings based on analyses of more than 260 interviews with teachers, administrators, parents, and other staff and field notes of SEDL coordinators who worked with the districts.
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Co-Developers: Partners in a Study of Professional Learning Communities: Issues About Change, Volume 8, Number 2 (2000)
This publication reports one aspect of a national study focusing on the concept and development of Co-Developers in the Creating Communities of Continuous Inquiry and Improvement (CCCII) project at Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL).
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Comprehensive School Improvement: Addressing the Challenges: Issues About Change, Volume 9, Number 1 (2000)
This publication, coupled with current nationwide interest in encouraging schools to adopt comprehensive reform strategies or programs, urgently communicates the need for school improvement.
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Launching Professional Learning Communities: Beginning Actions: Issues About Change, Volume 8, Number 1 (2000)
This briefing paper identifies themes that describe actions taken at schools to develop professional learning communities.
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Multiple Mirrors: Reflections on the Creation of Professional Learning Communities (2000)
This publication is a collection of stories written by the co-developers who worked with SEDL in assisting schools to create professional learning communities in a sample of schools.
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Year One and Year Two: What Do You Do in Comprehensive School Improvement?: Issues About Change, Volume 9, Number 2 (2000)
This briefing paper discusses the experiences of SEDL staff as they worked with partner schools during the first and second year of implementing a school improvement plan.
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Assessing a School Staff as a Community of Professional Learners: Issues About Change, Volume 7, Number 1 (1999)
This paper discusses how to use an instrument to assess how well a school staff functions as a team and works collegially so that students might become more successful learners.
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Principals and Teachers: Continuous Learners: Issues About Change, Volume 7, Number 2 (1999)
This paper discusses how three principals have increased staff capacity by developing professional development relationships with their staffs and encouraged their participation in the decision-making process.
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Issues About Change, Vol. 6, No. 2: Creating a Professional Learning Community: Cottonwood Creek School (1998)
This briefing paper discusses strategies and approaches a school staff can use to develop a collegial organization, as illustrated by the real-life example of Cottonwood Creek High School.
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Professional Learning Communities: What Are They and Why Are They Important?: Issues About Change, Volume 6, Number 1 (1997)
This lucid review of the research on professional learning communities defines five important attributes of professional learning communities and identifies the outcomes they deliver to staff and students.
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Confronting and Managing Culture in a Changing Environment: Issues About Change, Volume 5, Number 4 (1995)
This paper explains how a visionary superintendent restructured a junior high school into a middle school in a largely Hispanic New Mexico small town.
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Inclusion: The Pros & Cons: Issues About Change, Volume 4, Number 3 (1995)
This paper provides a balanced look at the issues arising from current policies toward inclusion and maps out considerations school and district leaders should keep in mind when setting special education policies.
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Issues About Change, Vol. 5, No. 2: Safe Schools: Lessons From the Sites (1995)
This briefing paper introduces important elements of effective safe school programs and describes specific safe school programs undertaken at a Texas high school, a New Mexico middle school, and a Louisiana elementary school.
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Leading Change from the Classroom: Teachers as Leaders: Issues About Change, Volume 4, Number 4 (1995)
This paper discusses what teacher leadership is, why it is important, and what we know about the working lives of teacher-leaders.
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Maryetta School: The Center of a Rural Community: Issues About Change, Volume 5, Number 1 (1995)
This paper six key leadership strategies that led to academic improvements and high parental involvement at an award-winning, rural Oklahoma school where 82 percent of the students are American Indians.
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Students: How They View Learning and Their Schools: Issues About Change, Volume 5, Number 3 (1995)
This concise summary of SEDL case studies reveals how students define successful learning, how students perceive classroom relationships, what motivates students to succeed in school, how students see teachers' actions as helpful to learning, and how students wish their teachers would act.
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Changing Mental Frameworks: One High School's Success Through a Triad Partnership: Issues About Change, Vol. 3, No. 2 (1994)
This briefing paper details how staff, students, and parents changed the culture of a Texas high school, raised expectations, and improved working relationships and student performance.
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Schools as Learning Communities: Issues About Change, Volume 4, Number 1 (1994)
This publication describes how four principals transformed an urban elementary school in New Orleans into a learning community, with the help of parents, students, and faculty.
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Staff Development and Change Process: Cut from the Same Cloth: Issues About Change, Volume 4, Number 2 (1994)
This informative document spells out the firm relationship between effective staff development and successful change programs. It covers six success strategies that can help ensure your staff development program will serve as a potent motivator of school change initiatives.
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Total Quality: A Missing Piece for Educational Improvement: Issues About Change, Volume 3, Number 3 (1994)
This paper summarizes the Quality experiences of three educational organizations: an instructional services division, a school district, and a primary school. It also presents a lucid introduction to the Quality program while correlating its principles to school improvement strategies such as site-based decision-making.
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Superintendents of Small Districts and School Improvement: Planning, Providing Resources, and Professional Development: Issues About Change, Volume 3, Number 1 (1993)
This paper details how the superintendents of rural and small school districts planned for and provided resources and staff development—and how they used these improvements to implement successful school change.
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Will our Phones Go Dead? The Changing Role of the Central Office: Issues About Change, Volume 2, Number 4 (1993)
This paper proposes new roles for central office staff, illustrated with examples from three school districts. It explains site-based management, lists nine metaphors used to describe the new administrator's functions, and describes three school districts undergoing transformation from central control to site-based management.
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Creating a Context for Change: Issues About Change, Volume 2, Number 2 (1992)
This publication describes 17 indicators of a school context that supports change and provides advice from educators who have successfully implemented improvements.
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New Alliance of Superintendents and Principals: Applying the Research to Site-Based Decision-Making: Issues About Change, Volume 2, Number 1 (1992)
This review presents three roles that effective school superintendents play, and presents three strategies that effective superintendents use to improve teaching.
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Principal's Role in the Instructional Process: Implications for At-Risk Students: Issues About Change, Volume 1, Number 3 (1991)
This paper focuses on the interactions and six behaviors of principals and teachers who work to change and improve schools for children at risk.
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Site-Based Decision-Making: Its Potential for Enhancing Learned Outcomes: Issues About Change, Volume 1, Number 4 (1991)
This paper defines site-based decision-making, looks at new roles developed when site-based decision-making takes place, and explains how site-based decision-making is linked to learner outcomes.
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Realizing School Improvement through Understanding the Change Process: Issues About Change, Volume 1, Number 1 (1990)
This paper focuses on two important questions that you need to answer when implementing successful school change: What exactly is the innovation? What happens to the educators who implement new programs and ideas in their schools and classrooms?