Archives

2011

Vol 6, No 8 (2011): Outdoor play and learning: Policy and practice

This study describes national school district policy and practice regarding elementary school children's outdoor learning and play. District representatives from 173 randomly selected school districts completed questionnaires describing policy and practice related to recess, outdoor play, outdoor curricular studies, playground materials, ADA accessibility, and administrative support. Quantitative analyses indicate that although the largest proportion of school districts overall reported maintaining the same amount of outdoor activity time, more school districts reported decreasing time spent outdoors than school districts that reported increasing children's time outside. There were no significant differences in variables across the three different-sized school districts. These data are congruent with other findings indicating that decreasing children's outdoor time is a national trend. Data suggest administrators’ greater support for outdoor play and learning than previously identified. These findings are discussed as an opening dialogue between administration and teachers to plan for children’s quality outdoor experiences.

Vol 6, No 7 (2011): Policy in the Way of Practice: How Assessment Legislation Is Affecting Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction in Ohio

In a national context of standards and high-stakes testing, concerns are emerging about challenges to the already tenuous position of the citizenship mission in the social studies curriculum. In this qualitative study, the authors administered a survey to social studies teachers in Ohio and conducted follow-up interviews focusing on the present purposes of social studies and the ways in which standards and testing are affecting instructional practice. The findings reveal a perception of standards as being of high quality, yet ultimately undermined through changes in scope and se-quence, narrowing of the curriculum, and a paucity of time to enact them. In addition, respondents indicated that high-stakes testing has become the primary curricular focus, which impacts instructional strategy decision making and frustrates citizenship education.

Vol 6, No 6 (2011): Gubernatorial Rhetoric and the Purpose of Education in the United States

For decades, scholars have debated the purpose of U.S. education, but too often ignored how power brokers outside of the educational arena define education or the consequences of those definitions. This study examines how one of the most prominent categories of U.S. leaders, state governors, defines education and discusses the policy implications. We examine gubernatorial rhetoric—that is, public speeches—about education, collected from State of the State speeches from 2001 to 2008. In all, one purpose gains overwhelmingly more attention—economic efficiency. As long as governors and the general public, seen enthymematically through gubernatorial rhetoric, define education in economic terms, other purposes will likely remain marginalized, leading to education policies designed disproportionately to advance economic ends.

Vol 6, No 5 (2011): Countering school bullying: An analysis of policy content in Ontario and Saskatchewan

The incidence of extreme school violence as a direct consequence of bullying among peers, exacerbated by vast media attention, has caused educational institutions worldwide to put bullying intervention and prevention strategies into operation. This study focused on an overview of two provincewide antibullying incentives in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan, and an analysis of the quality of their respective antibullying policies. An itemized list of beneficial practices for bullying intervention and prevention originated from Smith, Smith, Osborn and Samara (2008)’s scoring scheme. The scoring scheme was adapted to the current study by linking research-based program elements that have been found to be effective in reducing school bullying to a content analysis of both provincial frameworks. The final scoring scheme comprised a total of 39 criterions, divided into five categories: Defining Bullying Behaviors, Establishing a Positive School Climate, Disseminating, Monitoring and Reviewing Policy, Reporting and Responding to Bullying, and Involving the Broader Community. Results showed that policies contained a total average of 60% of the criterions in Ontario, and 59% in Saskatchewan. The conclusion of this study observes from policy lenses key essentials of bullying intervention and prevention initiatives in elementary and secondary educational settings. Recommendations are proposed to bridge the gap between areas that have received extensive attention and areas that have received less treatment in bullying intervention and prevention endeavors, using the content of Ontario and Saskatchewan policies as a basis for discussion.

Vol 6, No 4 (2011): Information and Communication Technologies in International Education: A Canadian Policy Analysis

The rhetoric surrounding the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in international education speaks of providing education access for all. However, an examination of actual policies reveals an emphasis not on creating an educated population, but on improving economic opportunities using discourses such as globalization, knowledge economy, and knowledge society. This emphasis creates an imbalance in opportunities for using ICTs in education and presents challenges for international educators. This paper discusses the Canadian International Development Agency’s report, CIDA’s Strategy on Knowledge for Development through Information and Communication Technologies, as an example of how rhetoric does not always meet reality. The paper concludes with four simple recommendations for good ICT practice in developing contexts.

Vol 6, No 3 (2011): Research Courses in Education Leadership Programs: Relevance in an Era of Accountability

Master’s degree research course offerings of 72 university education leadership programs were examined to explore how relevant the courses were to the inquiry needs of practicing school leaders. Research course titles and descriptions were analyzed using content analysis. Findings revealed considerable variation in research course requirements, course titles, and course descriptions. Analysis of course descriptions indicated minimal emphasis on the research skills required for school improvement. Results also suggested a lack of consensus on the importance of developing research skills for school leaders across university education leadership programs. Implications for education leadership preparation programs are discussed with an emphasis on the need for further studies on the research skills required by practicing school leaders.

Vol 6, No 2 (2011): System Transfer, Education, and Development in Mozambique

In this study the author used conceptual historical method to assess the phenomenon of system transfer and the association between education and development in Mozambique. The assessment was administered through critical analysis of documents pertaining to the Salazar (1924-1966), Machel (1975-1986), and Chissano (1986-2005) administrations. The findings were that (a) the colonial government created economic and educational systems for colonizing Mozambique, whereas the Machel and Chissano administrations adapted foreign systems of government and education (i.e., Socialism, Soviet, Democracy, Portuguese, etc.), to their particular context without altering the inherent theoretical basis of the systems transferred; (b) the Machel and Chissano administrations, implicitly or explicitly, perceived the relationship between education and development as circular causality rather than a unidirectional linear causality, while the Salazar administration perceived it as unidirectional linear causality; and (c) while the Machel and Chissano administrations focused on primary education, literacy campaigns, and education of women and girls, they differed in the reasons for such focus.

Vol 6, No 1 (2011): School Audits and School Improvement: Exploring the Variance Point Concept in Kentucky's... Schools

As a diagnostic intervention (Bowles, Churchill, Effrat, & McDermott, 2002) for schools failing to meet school improvement goals, Ken-tucky used a scholastic audit process based on nine standards and 88 associated indicators called the Standards and Indicators for School Improvement (SISI). Schools are rated on a scale of 1–4 on each indicator, with a score of 3 considered as fully functional (Kentucky De-partment of Education [KDE], 2002). As part of enacting the legislation, KDE was required to also audit a random sample of schools that did meet school improvement goals; thereby identifying practices present in improving schools that are not present in those failing to improve. These practices were referred to as variance points, and were reported to school leaders annually. Variance points have differed from year to year, and the methodology used by KDE was unclear. Moreover, variance points were reported for all schools without differentiating based upon the level of school (elementary, middle, or high). In this study, we established a transparent methodology for variance point determination that differentiates between elementary, middle, and high schools.

2010

Vol 5, No 12 (2010): Teachers’ Pastoral Role in Response to the Needs of Orphaned Learners

This article discusses a study that explored the way teachers perceive and describe their roles in responding to the needs of orphaned learners. The participants in the study comprised three secondary and two primary school teachers. The data on the teachers’ experiences were collected through semi-structured interviews, and the findings revealed that, although some of the teachers attempted to fulfill some of the orphaned learners’ needs, most were unable to cope with the combined roles of teaching and learning and care giving. The study identified a lack of material, social, and emotional support for grieving learners. The findings indicate that there is a need for teacher development in terms of preparing teachers to provide pastoral care for orphaned learners. For the teachers’ efforts to be more fruitful, there is also an urgent need for supportive school leadership. In addition, the study highlights the need for counsellors and social workers to be appointed to work in collaboration with the teachers in providing for the needs of the learners.

Vol 5, No 11 (2010): Saudi National Assessment of Educational Progress (SNAEP)

To provide a universal basic education, Saudi Arabia initially employed a rapid quantitative educational strategy, later developing a qualitative focus to improve standards of education delivery and quality of student outcomes. Despite generous resources provided for education, however, there is no national assessment system to provide statistical evidence on students’ learning outcomes. Educators are querying the curricula and quality of delivery for Saudi education, especially following low student performances on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003 and 2007. There is a growing demand for national assessment standards for all key subject areas to monitor students’ learning progress. This study acknowledges extant research on this important topic and offers a strategy of national assessment to guide educational reform.

Vol 5, No 10 (2010): Pass the Crayons: Leadership, Art Production, and Communities of Practice

The results of an arts-based leadership (Kelehear, 2006, 2008) practice at a rural middle school in South Carolina are examined. The school principal and art teacher led a day-long staff development and followed up individually to assist teachers to create art as metaphor for individual growth plans as well as school improvement plans. Specifically, the arts-based initiative sought to invite professional conversations that focused on: 1) personal reflections, 2) multiple perspectives, and 3) art making. Findings suggest that when the art teacher and principal work in collaboration, there is real value in an arts-based leadership practice. Also, when led by the art teacher, teacher reflections suggested that as the principal worked alongside the teachers, they felt valued and supported and viewed the principal as authentic and trusting. Additionally, out of the engendered trust, the teachers were emboldened to consider innovative, arts-based approaches to their teaching. Finally, there was evidence that the art teacher was highly effective in introducing innovative leadership practices as teachers. This study is one of several implementation studies emerging from earlier research on arts-based leadership.

Vol 5, No 9 (2010): The Role of Isolation in Predicting New Principals’ Burnout

Professional isolation has hampered the quality of the work experience for employees in and outside public education for decades. This study explores the role that perceived isolation plays in predicting the quality of the work experience among new principals. The analysis tests whether isolation serves as a mediator in the relationship between factors that are known to affect the quality of work life of principals (social support, role stress, and participation in a structured coaching relationship) and three dimensions of burnout. Regression analysis supports the framework that places isola-tion as a mediator in predicting physical and emotional burnout, but it does not support this role for cognitive burn-out.

Vol 5, No 8 (2010): A Mandatory Uniform Policy in Urban Schools: Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2003-04

The main purpose of the study is to examine the relationships between a mandatory school uniform policy and students’ problem behaviors. The study is based on the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) 2003–04 data. Analyzing data from 421 urban schools, the study found that schools adopting a mandatory uniform policy are negatively associated with number of students’ problem behaviors while the level of schools’ safety initiatives are constant. In addition, the study revealed parental involvement at the elementary school level and teacher training and community efforts at the high school level as negative predictors of students’ problem behaviors.

Vol 5, No 7 (2010): Parental Participation and School Based Management in Nicaragua: An SES Analysis of Differentiated Parent Participation

In Latin America, school-based management and decentralization have emerged as an important tool of education policy. The presumed benefits of school-based management designs depend, in large part, on broad parental participation in the programs that governments create to devolve decision making related to schooling. However, few studies examine the circumstances under which parents actually participate in newly established decentralized educa- tion programs. This article sheds partial light on these conditions by employing a socioeconomic status (SES) perspec- tive to examine school-based management reform in Nicaragua. Using data derived from five newly autonomous schools, the study compares parents’ self-reported levels of income, education, and community crime rates with their propensity to participate in newly formed school councils. Results give partial support to an SES hypothesis by reveal- ing that parents who live in communities where violence is endemic participate less in the school councils. Findings support the argument that for decentralized education programs to be successful on equity issues, policy planners must attend to these socio-structural circumstances by providing commensurate support mechanisms that encourage mar- ginal households and communities to participate in the new program.

Vol 5, No 6 (2010): Teachers, policymakers and project learning: The questionable use of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ policy instruments...

Following the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region developed wide-ranging curriculum reforms, including project learning. A recent survey has indicated that more than 80 percent of Hong Kong’s primary and secondary schools have adopted project learning as a curriculum task. Such an outcome is hard to reconcile both with the culture of Hong Kong schools and the generally bleak picture that pervades the literature on educational change. In seeking an explanation for this apparent success we focus attention on the policy instruments used by government agencies to facilitate the process of implementation. The paper is located in a theoretical framework with its origins in recent policy theory that to date has not been applied to educational contexts. Our analysis revealed that teachers were caught in a pincer movement that involved voluntary activities promoting project learning and coercive measures that monitored and evaluated successful implementation. Teachers’ views of these policy instruments differed markedly from those of policymakers. This confluence of mixed approaches, while apparently successful, is also shown to be problematic.

Vol 5, No 5 (2010): Schools of Excellence AND Equity? Using Equity Audits as a Tool to Expose a Flawed System of Recognition

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how equity audits can be used as a tool to expose disparate achievement in schools that, on the surface and to the public, appear quite similar. To that end, the researcher probed beyond surface-level performance composite scores into deeper, more hidden data associated with state-recognized “Honor Schools of Excellence.” How is “excellence” defined and operationalized in these schools? Are these schools “excellent” for all students? Can a school really be classified by the state as “excellent” and yet still have significant “gaps” and disparities? If so, is the state’s formula used to identify exemplary schools too simple, dogmatic, and institutionally flawed? Through the use of equity audits, quantitative data were collected to scan for systemic patterns of equity and inequity across multiple domains of student learning and activities within 24 elementary schools. The intent was to document and distinguish between schools that are promoting and supporting both academic excellence and systemic equity (small gap schools; SGS) and schools that are not (large gap schools; LGS). Results reveal that although demographic, teacher quality, and programmatic audits all indicated a fair amount of equity between SGS and LGS, the achievement audit between both types of schools indicated great disparities. By controlling for or eliminating some of the external variables and internal factors often cited for the achievement gaps between white middle-class children and children of color or children from low-income families, the findings from this study raise more questions than answers. Results do indicate that equity audits are a practical, easy-to-apply tool that educators can use to identify inequalities objectively.

Vol 5, No 4 (2010): An Analysis of How the Gender and Race of School Principals Influence Their Perception of Multicultural Education

The purpose of this study was to investigate secondary school principals’ perceptions of multicultural education in a rural southeastern state. The researchers wanted to ascertain whether or not the race or gender of school principals have a role in how those principals view multicultural education in theory (its theoretical value). For the purpose of this study, multicultural education in theory was defined as the belief that multicultural education is for all students, elevates students’ self-esteem, is embedded in cultural pluralism, and recognizes the social, political, and economic community and societal constructs on students of color (Fernandez, 1996). Three hundred and two secondary school principals were surveyed in a designated southeastern state. A significant difference was discovered with regard to the gender of the school principals and their perceptions of the theoretical value of multicultural education.

Vol 5, No 3 (2010): Improving Student Achievement: Can Ninth Grade Academies Make A Difference?

This study focused on student achievement in ninth grade schools or academies compared to ninth grade students enrolled in traditional high schools. Student achievement was measured by standardized test scores. Other variables tested were gender and ethnicity. All students used in this study were enrolled in the ninth grade during the 2005-2006 school year at one of six schools selected for this research. Participants were enrolled in Algebra I and/or Biology I course(s) and therefore took the standardized Subject Area Test in these disciplines. Data indicated students enrolled in ninth grade academies scored significantly higher then ninth graders enrolled in traditional high schools on both the Algebra I and Biology test. Further analysis of data revealed significant differences based on ethnicity in achievement of Biology I students in the ninth grade academies when compared to the Biology I students in the traditional high schools. The African American students in the ninth grade academies had a higher mean score on the Biology I SAPT than Caucasian and African American students enrolled in the traditional high schools. Additionally, the Caucasian students in the ninth grade academies scored only .03 higher than the mean score of African American students in the ninth grade academies.

Vol 5, No 2 (2010): Teachers as Partners in the Prevention of Childhood Obesity

This paper presents a community-school-higher education partnership approach to the prevention of childhood obesity. Public elementary school personnel, primarily teachers, participated in the design and delivery of a curriculum targeting primary caregivers of 8-9-year-old children. Theoretical framework and methodological approaches guided the development of a cognitive behavioral lifestyle intervention targeting childhood obesity prevention in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. commonwealth. This project demonstrated that in populations with health disparities, teachers can be a valuable and accessible resource for identifying key health issues of concern to communities and a vital partner in the development of parent and child interventions. Teachers also benefited by gaining knowledge and skills to facilitate student and parent learning as well as impact on personal and familial health. Successful community-school-higher education partnerships require consideration of local culture and community needs and resources. Moreover, within any community-school–higher education partnership it is essential that a time-sensitive and culturally appropriate feedback loop be designed to ensure that programs are responsive to the needs and resources of all stakeholders, and that leaders and policymakers are highly engaged so they can make informed policy decisions.

Vol 5, No 1 (2010): The Importance of Change: Changes at a Teacher Education College in Israel—Declared and Perceived Aspects

This study examines changes at a large teacher education college in Israel and considers how teacher educators perceive these changes. The research tools include protocols documenting formal meetings of college decision makers, questionnaires distributed among the college teaching faculty, analyzed quantitatively, and in-depth narrative interviews with twenty faculty members, analyzed for qualitative content. Results point to two aspects of change: the declared aspect of the college decision makers and the perceived aspect of the teacher educators who implement decision makers' policy. The findings indicate that the two aspects do not entirely coincide, though they overlap on some parameters, especially those related to the teaching environment and to the well-being of teacher educators.

2009

Vol 4, No 11 (2009): Melting Pot Influences on Secondary English Curriculum Policy

This article explores how racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity are addressed in secondary English curriculum policy in Massachusetts, U.S.A. Data are analyzed through theories of the sociology of knowledge and the myth of the United States melting pot. Analysis revealed that curriculum policy privileged Eurocentric literature and the English language and adhered to a melting pot ideology. The article considers how the international educational policy movement toward post-standardization may afford greater responsiveness to diversity.

Vol 4, No 10 (2009): The kinds of knowledge principals use: Implications for training

Information about how school principals operate pertains mainly to the actions of principals. However, the kinds of knowledge that the principalship demands have not been isolated as clearly, more often than not being conflated with actions. As principals’ duties become more complex, it becomes more important to ground specific practices in robust knowledge of relevant theoretical principles. One aspect of the principal’s job where this is particularly germane is the resolution of unfamiliar, complex, unstructured challenges. This paper presents findings from research into how principals think when dealing with problematic situations, in particular the types of knowledge they use. Four broad categories of knowledge were identified and, within those, twelve specific types. The research lends credence to the oral report or think-aloud method for making thinking processes available for analysis, and the findings indicate how the content of preparation programs may be adjusted to better qualify principals for the contemporary demands of their work. A prime recommendation is the inclusion of opportunities for the development of tacit knowledge.

Vol 4, No 9 (2009): Impacts of School Organizational Restructuring Into a Collaborative Setting...

This case study tells the story of an elementary school staff on the west coast of Canada that decided to address their perceived problem of teacher isolation by transforming the internal organization of their school into a collaborative environment designed to foster collegial practices among themselves. The main guiding question of this study was: can a collaborative organizational structure facilitate and sustain a level of collegiality in which people feel safe from attack, where difficult questions are addressed, and where the status quo can be safely challenged? In this study, the transformation of organizational structure of the school elicited and molded, to an extent, the professional behaviours of members of the staff into professional collegial patterns of interactions. However, we have found that educators seemed to have made individual choices to maintain a certain degree of isolation, of privacy, shielding themselves from reflective inquiry and criticism.

Vol 4, No 8 (2009): Recruiting New Teachers to Urban School Districts: What Incentives Will Work?

Many urban districts in the United States have difficulty attracting and retaining quality teachers, yet they are often the most in need of them. In response, U.S. states and districts are experimenting with financial incentives to attract and retain high-quality teachers in high-need, low-achieving, or hard-to-staff urban schools. However, relatively little is known about how effective financial incentives are to recruit new teachers to high-need urban schools. This research explores factors that are important to the job choices of teachers in training. Focus groups were held with students at three universities, and a policy-capturing study was done using 64 job scenarios representing various levels of pay and working conditions. Focus group results suggested that: a) many pre-service teachers, even relatively late in their preparation, are not committed to a particular district and are willing to consider many possibilities, including high need schools; b) although pay and benefits were attractive to the students, loan forgiveness and subsidies for further education were also attractive; and c) small increments of additional salary did not appear as important or attractive as other job characteristics. The policy-capturing study showed that working conditions factors, especially principal support, had more influence on simulated job choice than pay level, implying that money might be better spent to attract, retain, or train better principals than to provide higher beginning salaries to teachers in schools with high-poverty or a high proportion of students of color.

Vol 4, No 7 (2009): Salary and Ranking and Teacher Turnover: A Statewide Study

This study examined three years of data obtained from the Academic Excellence Indicator System of the State of Texas regarding teacher turnover rate and teacher salary. Across all public school districts, teacher salary was consistently negatively related to teacher turnover; that is, where salary was lower, turnover rate was higher When data were regrouped by highest- and poorest-paying school districts, teacher turnover rate was found to be twice as high in the poorest-paying school districts. Implications of these findings and suggestions for further research are discussed.

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