A very interesting letter was posted early this morning on another thread. I don't want this letter to be missed, so I am reprinting it here. The letter discusses the data from EdSource, an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to clarify complex education issues and to promote thoughtful policy decisions about public school improvement in California. Unlike SFUSD, EdSource does not have a personal stake in the proposed K-8 feeder patterns in San Francisco, which makes the results of their research just that much more compelling.
Click here for a free pdf of the EdSource presentation “Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better (A Large-Scale Study of Middle Grades Practices and Student Outcomes). The highlights of the study’s findings can be found on slide 8. Of the 10 domains that they studied, one dominated in importance (ie, focus on outcomes); another six had strong impact (in order of decreasing importance: coherent instruction, superintendent leadership, teacher competence, principal leadership, extensive use of data, and academic interventions); and the final three were always at the bottom in terms of impact (ie, time and instruction, school environment, and the very, very LAST was student transitions).
SFUSD should address the EdSource findings in the upcoming MS community forums, because if SFUSD wants quality middle schools, then they should be spending time and money on items with the biggest impact: focus on outcomes, coherent instruction, superintendent leadership, teacher competence, principal leadership, extensive use of data, and academic interventions. SFUSD should justify why they are wasting time and money (and upsetting many parents to boot) at the bottom of the list, where independent research has proven there will be marginal gains.
Here is the letter:
I'm frustrated why it's a "done deal" when they are only getting out to the middle schools to gain feedback now?
There is a lot of discussion from SFUSD admin about all the "research" that shows how pathways really make a difference in middle school. I wish they'd show it - I'm not finding it.
After Denman's session, I spent several hours trying to find studies that show what SFUSD keeps saying is out there. All I could find is one Rand study from 2005 that touts K-8 programs - but that was along with about 9 other things that affected middle school quality.
Most recently, the EdSource report in Feb 2010: "Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better" looked specifically at California middle schools. I took a vacation day and brought my middle school Assist. Principal with me to their presentation.
They explored 10 elements, 7 of which they see as the most impactful in attaining the best academic outcomes.
At the bottom of the list that they said had no impact? Regarding K-8, 6-8, or 7-8 structures, they said: "There might be other reasons to do these, but in gaining better academic outcomes, there was no effect."
So it's the bottom of the list, not the top 7, that is what SFUSD is starting with to explore middle school quality.
Why aren't we using this study as the guide for exploration? As a middle school parent of two, it certainly makes sense to me. Check it out. Click here.