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Case Studies of 5 High-Performing, High-Poverty Charter Schools

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Title: Case Studies of 5 High-Performing, High-Poverty Charter Schools


1
Case Studies of 5 High-Performing, High-Poverty
Charter Schools
  • Presented by
  • Katherine Merseth, Kristy Cooper, Mara Tieken,
  • John Roberts, Jon Valant, Chris Wynne
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education

2
Presentation Overview
  • Research Purpose Methodology
  • 5 Case Studies
  • Cross-Case Analysis
  • Questions Answers

3
Research Study Purposes
  • To distinguish common and differing elements in
    high-performing charter schools serving students
    at educational risk
  • To inform policy-makers, charter school
    authorizers, and educators about best practices
    in five high-performing charter schools in
    Massachusetts

4
Selection of 5 Case Study Sites
  • Criteria set by the Massachusetts Charter School
    Dissemination Replication Project
  • Schools located in high poverty districts
  • Schools with renewed charters
  • Schools that made AYP in 2006
  • Schools outperforming sending districts on MCAS

5
Research Questions
  • What particular organizational, pedagogical,
    human resource and leadership factors do
    teachers, administrators, parents, and
    charter-authorizing authorities identify at each
    school as instrumental to their success? How are
    these descriptions similar or different across
    schools?
  • What practices are observed at these schools that
    might contribute to success? How are these
    practices common or divergent across sites?

6
Research Methodology
  • Initial literature review to generate protocols
    for interviews, focus groups, and observations.
  • Over 70 interviews with teachers, administrators,
    and specialists at the 5 schools.
  • Parent focus group at each school.
  • Over 40 days of observation in the schools.
  • Analysis of school reports and documents.

7
Data Analysis
  • Interviews and Focus Groups
  • Sorted data into 10 categorical codes using NVivo
  • Further fractured data into sub-categories
  • Examined data for emergent themes and revisited
    literature on effective schooling
  • Observations
  • Used observation protocol data to determine daily
    operations
  • Again, revisited literature on effective schooling

8
The 5 Case Studies
9
THE MATCH CHARTER PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLBoston,
Massachusetts
  • An Independent Charter School
  • Founded in 2000220 Students in Grades 9-12
  • 62 African American
  • 30 Hispanic
  • 4 White
  • 2 Asian
  • 2 Multi-race non-Hispanic
  • 11 Special Education
  • 70 Low Income
  • 4 Year Graduation Rate 60
  • 2005-2006 Drop Out Rate 3.2

Data as of October 1, 2007 at http//profiles.do
e.mass.edu/home.asp?modesoso2026-13ot12o202
5viewall
10
Shaping School Culture
  • TUTOR So the culture of the school is to
    foster learning. And the Code of Conduct is a way
    to promote the school culture, but also the
    learning itself is a way to promote the culture,
    and they feed into each other and we dontwe
    dont take it lightly.
  • Code of conduct consistently understood
  • Code of conduct consistently implemented
  • A shaping force for decision-making
  • It sits at the heart of the school's culture,
  • and says that not every student will fit.

11
The MATCH Corps
  • ADMINISTRATOR First, theyre academic coaches
    A lot of it is content, but a lot of its just
    making sure that our kids dont give up. And
    theyre the ones who have the relationships with
    the parents and the kids. And, they build the
    feeling of the schoolbecause theyre big in
    number and they need to be trained well,
    interpreting the culture and the code of
    conduct.
  • 45 MATCH Corps tutors
  • Serve same four to five students
  • for an entire academic year
  • Live on the schools third floor
  • Partially funded by an AmeriCorps grant

12
Increasing Time on Task
  • ADMINISTRATOR Our philosophy is we have a
    greater school culture that allows each teacher
    the maximum opportunity for them to use that time
    well. Our culture allows 56 minutes of learning
    to really be 56 minutes but its not like we
    have unique amazing ideas of how to teach math.
    We dont have an overarching philosophy of How
    to actually teach, How to actually instruct.
    Its more of making sure that there is no time
    wasted. And how to use that time is up to you.
  • Code of Conduct
  • MATCH Corps
  • Required lesson structure/sense of urgency
  • Good instruction is the degree to which
  • students are on task
  • Leadership seen as protectors of culture, not
  • as instructional leaders

13
BOSTON COLLEGIATE CHARTER SCHOOLDorchester,
Massachusetts
  • Founded in 1998412 Students in Grades 5-12
  • 64 White
  • 27 African-American
  • 6 Hispanic
  • 2 Asian
  • 1 Multi-race non-Hispanic
  • 17 Special Education
  • 42 Low Income
  • 4-Year Graduation Rate (2007) 93
  • 2005-2006 Dropout Rate 0

Data as of October 3, 2007 at http//profiles.do
e.mass.edu/home.asp?modeoviewallmcasyear2007
ot12o2003
14
A Clear, Strong Mission That Unites and Motivates
  • to prepare each student for college
  • TEACHER The mission? Whoever you talk to in
    the building, they all know what theyre here
    for. And theyre all quite passionate about it.
  • College reminders, expectations, and
    requirements
  • Bringing college to students taking students
    to college
  • College Readiness Committee

15
Hiring, Developing, and Retaining Outstanding
Teachers
  • ADMINISTRATOR What makes us successful? Its
    teachers, teachers, teachers.
  • ADMINISTRATOR If were just turning people
    over who are young and leave as soon as they get
    married and have kids, then thats not the school
    I want this to be We dont want to be cycling
    through teachers every three years. There is
    something lost in the school culture, in the
    quality of the curriculum, when you are
    constantly bringing in new teachers and losing
    old.
  • Recruitment hiring
  • great people, not great teachers
  • Development
  • constant feedback personalized PD
  • Retention dismissal
  • Teacher Retention Committee

16
Balancing High Expectations with a Warm,
Supportive School Atmosphere
  • TEACHER When Im teaching, Im teaching.
    But when Im not, Im a person you can interact
    with almost like you interact with a peer I
    dont feel like I need to maintain a distance all
    the time. I feel like I can negate the distance
    any time I want.
  • A time for work a time for play
  • Merits demerits, incentives disincentives
  • More time on task

17
COMMUNITY DAY CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLLawrence,
Massachusetts
  • An Independent Charter School
  • Founded in 1995330 Students in Grades K-8
  • 87 Hispanic
  • 9 White
  • 2 African-American
  • 1 Asian
  • 1 Multi-race
  • 18 Special Education 64 Low Income
  • 80 First Language not English

Data as of October 3, 2007 at http//profiles.do
e.mass.edu/home.asp?modeoviewallmcasyear2007
ot12o1989
18
Culture of Intimacy
  • PARENT Im in the school, I know whats going
    on. Its so small that when youre around for a
    little while and you see the same faces, you tend
    to know people and say, Hi. Its just small.
    Its intimate, its intimate.
  • Relationships with Parents
  • Consistent home/school communication
  • Parents welcome at school
  • Relationships among Staff
  • Co-teaching model
  • Expectation of collaboration
  • Administrators in classrooms
  • Relationships with Students
  • Low student-to-teacher ratio
  • Time to know students personally

19
Attention to the Individual Child
  • TEACHER My own philosophy, and the schools, is
    its definitely about the individual child.
    Although you want them to meet those standards,
    you have to figure out How am I going to get his
    student to that place, understanding this
    concept? Because my class is so unique, each
    student, I cannot do the same thing for ever
    student. I have to twist it, I have to turn it, I
    have to figure out How am I going to reach this
    one? and How am I going to reach that one?
    Because theyre just not going to all get there
    the same way.
  • Opportunities for individual attention
  • morning routine, lunchtime, transitions
  • Co-teaching model and use of instructional
    groups
  • Focus on a students academic weaknesses
  • Attention to a students background

20
Intensive Use of Data
  • ADMINISTRATOR One of the things that is
    integral to our entire operation is goal
    setting and measuring whether were getting to
    those goals. We look at the MCAS high stakes
    exam, gives us a wealth of data. We have
    translated much of that assessment data and
    results into classroom practice. We analyze how
    individual students are doing, how groups of
    students are doing, what the test is telling us
    about whether were being effective, where those
    skills need more support, or where we need to
    teach them in a different way.
  • The Blue Binders
  • Individual MCAS Goals
  • Breakdown of MCAS Materials
  • Class-wide Action Plans
  • Data from Benchmark Assessments
  • Instructional groupings
  • Personal Education Goals (PEGs)

21
ROXBURY PREPARATORY CHARTER PUBLIC
SCHOOLRoxbury, Massachusetts
  • An Independent Charter School,
  • Founded in 1999198 Students in Grades 6-8
  • 61.1 African American
  • 32.8 Hispanic
  • 1.5 Native American
  • 4.5 Multi-race non-Hispanic
  • 11.6 Special Education
  • 69.7 Low Income

Data as of October 1, 2007 at http//profiles.do
e.mass.edu/home.asp?modesoso2026-13ot12o202
5viewall
22
August Planning Time
  • TEACHER The whole idea behind the curriculum is
    that you plan it early, before the school year
    starts, and that you plan it all the way through
    so that when you come to planning a particular
    lesson for a particular day, you already have a
    sense as to what you are going to do.
  • Teachers begins the year with long term
    curricular plans
  • Curriculum Alignment Templates help ensure full
  • coverage of the Massachusetts Learning
    Standards.
  • Curricula go beyond what the Massachusetts
    Learning Standards explicitly
  • prescribe
  • (e.g. curricular themes pertaining to social
    justice)

23
Daily Lesson Plans
  • TEACHER Its an event. Something is going to
    happen. How that happens depends on the
    teachers style, the material . . . but
    conceptually I think teachers think of their
    lessons as events, as opportunities, and I think
    that makes them prepare down to the smallest
    detail.
  • Lesson plans are very detailed,
  • often budgeted to the last minute
  • Basic lesson structure
  • Do Now, Mini-lesson, Guided practice,
  • Independent work
  • Guided practice often involves
  • pair or group work
  • Teaches distribute weekly syllabi
  • that include each lessons Aim assignment

24
Inquiry Groups
  • During weekly teacher-facilitated Inquiry
    Group meetings, teachers analyze student work and
    reflect on best practices to promote dialogue
    about teacher efficacy, evidence of student
    learning, and achievement of goals.
  • ELA social studies teachers comprise literacy
    group
  • Math science teachers comprise numeracy
    group
  • Groups meet most Friday afternoons after students
    dismiss
  • Currently, groups follow Results Meeting format
  • One teacher presents a student skill for
    improvement
  • Group brainstorms ideas
  • Teacher select ideas to freely discuss in more
    detail

25
ACADEMY OF THE PACIFIC RIMHyde Park,
Massachusetts
Founded in 1997472 Students in Grades 5-12
57 African-American 23 White 16 Hispanic 3
Asian 1 Multi-race non-Hispanic 13 Special
Education 51 Low Income 4-Year Graduation
Rate (2007) 90.3 2005-2006 Dropout Rate
0.7
Data as of October 1, 2007 at http//profiles.do
e.mass.edu/home.asp?modeoviewallmcasyear2007
ot12o1969
26
Supporting Student Development Over Time
ADMINISTRATOR I feel really intentional about
what we require our younger students to do, and
when we take some of that support away, we give
freedom. So youll see the gradual building of
structured independence in our program, and as we
discuss it, its very purposeful.
  • Vertical Scaffolding of Curriculum
  • Home-Grown Character Development Program
    KG-PRIDE
  • Increased Student Independence
  • Decreased Rigidity in Discipline Policies
  • Student Leadership

27
Professional Responsibility Among Adults
ADMINISTRATOR I think weve done a good job
when a student is not performing, of looking at
all angles of the problem - trying to have
meetings, trying to give that student extra
support, potentially referring them for testing.
Were never quite satisfied because we get to
know the students so well and we care so much
about them.
  • STRUCTURAL FACTORS
  • Advisories
  • Learning Specialists
  • Teacher-Designed Curriculum
  • INDIVIDUAL CHARACTERISTICS
  • Personal Orientations Toward Work
  • Clear Expectations During Hiring

28
Internal Accountability
  • TEACHER Ive never been observed more by
    a principal at any other school that Ive worked
    at. At other schools, it was maybe a few times a
    year. Here, its at least once a month, or more,
    that the principal is in there observing and
    giving you pointers and giving you feedback on
    what really went well, what can be improved.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY TO ADMINISTRATION
  • Weekly Lesson Plans
  • Informal Formal Observations
  • Bi-Annual Evaluations
  • ACCOUNTABILITY TO PEERS
  • Peer Observations
  • Grade-Level Department-Level Planning
  • Faculty Work Rooms

29
Cross-Case Analysis
30
Our Common Themes Most Track with Prior
Research A Few Dont
  • Effective Schools Literature
  • Carter (2000) Edmonds, et al. (1979) Kayes
    Maranto (2006)
  • Lee Ready (2007) Lightfoot (1983) Purkey
    Smith (1986)
  • Charter School Literature
  • Filby (2005) Hill Lake (2006) Lake (2007)
    National Charter School Research Center (2007)
    Toll (2007) Zimmer Buddin (2007)
  • High-Performing Non-Profit Organization
    Literature
  • Applegate (2006) Drucket (1990) Grant
    Crutchfield (2007)
  • Kaplan Leonard (2005) Porter (1985,
    2007) Tushman OReilley (2007) Wyman (2003)

31
All these schools are
  • Small
  • Mature
  • Nimble
  • Filled with adults who believe in the purpose and
    mission of the school
  • Schools of choice and, thus, supported by parents

32
All of these schools have
  • Narrow clearly articulated missions
  • Extensive coherence about purpose and goals of
    the organization
  • Purposeful structures and systems designed to
    achieve the mission
  • Deeply committed staff
  • Waiting lists of students and families
  • Challenges

33
In varying ways, these schools work to balance
tensions between
  • Prescribing tight structures for learning and
    fostering independent learners
  • Compensating for what students dont have and
    honoring what the students do have
  • Holding high non-negotiable expectations
    (uniformity) and accommodating individual needs
    (diversity)
  • Demanding extraordinary effort from staff and
    battling teacher burn out

34
Instruction
People Relationships
Systems Structures
Mission Culture
35
Mission and Culture
  • Clarity The missions are clear and consistent
    within each school
  • Resources Human, financial, temporal tightly
    aligned to mission
  • Values and Assumptions are foundational
  • 1) High Expectations
  • 2) Continuous Improvement
  • 3) Personal Relationships

36
School-Wide Systems and Structures
  • All five schools operate using strategic
    school-wide systems and structures that have been
    purposefully developed to serve the mission
  • Organizations are nimble and sometimes re-adjust
    systems while keeping the mission the same

37
Attitude of Continuous ImprovementBut Always
in Service of Mission
  • How can we do this better? Mission doesnt
    change but practices can
  • Heavy data use. Frequent, timely, targeted,
    aligned data analysis to make changes for
    improvement
  • Accepting of standards, exploring college demands

38
Human Resources
  • Enormous work loads are expected need to get the
    right people
  • Churn and burn in some schools others worry
    about retention
  • Leaders either home-grown or havent changed in
    over 13 years
  • Some leaders are protectors of culture and less
    instructional leaders
  • Parents feel like partners constant
    communication at all levels

39
Hiring, Training and Retention Variation Across
Schools
  • All consider hiring important
  • Some look for good people to develop into good
    teachers
  • One school offers incentives and has a Teacher
    Retention Committee
  • New staff inculcated into culture through summer
    meetings
  • Some formal mentoring

40
Professional Development
  • Some PD is in-house - stressing collaboration,
    common lesson planning
  • Others encouraged to go outside
  • Most curricula locally written
  • Formal observations and evaluations vary across
    schools

41
The Power of Relationships
  • Staff responsibility - peer accountability
  • Teacher-student relationships
  • MATCH Corps student relationships
  • Parental buy-in and involvement

42
Leadership
  • Leadership tasks vary across schools
  • Varying involvement in classrooms
  • Mid-level school or building heads
  • Some schools split management and instructional
    roles
  • Some more shared than others
  • Not always the charismatic leader

43
Instruction Performance and Attainment
  • All score exceptionally well (usually 100
    proficiency) on state MCAS exams. Some have high
    proportion of students at Advanced or Proficient
    levels
  • Quality of Instruction varies within and across
    schools

44
Learning the Code
  • Taking college to students and students to
    college
  • Language - cum laude Greek System
  • Role models - MATCH Corps
  • College banners

45
Attainment
  • Attainment is best defined as the ability to
    achieve status within an established social
    hierarchy according to the codes and structures
    of that system.
  • The three high schools starting to push beyond
    goal of high stakes tests proficiency to college
    entrance and success

46
Average 2006 SAT Scores for the High Schools
47
Balancing Fundamental Tensions Schools Vary
  • Degree of agency given to learner
  • High non-negotiable expectations
  • Hire or develop good teachers?
  • Value continuous improvement for students and for
    the organization How can you/we do better?
  • What is a reasonable target? MCAS or something
    else?

48
Questions?
49
Thank you.
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