ERIC Number: EJ872385
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jan-6
Reference Count: N/A
Focus on Instruction Turns around Chicago Schools: Network Gets Results in 5 Schools in Chicago without "Drastic" Steps
Aarons, Dakarai I.
Education Week, v29 n16 p1, 14-15 Jan 2010
Talk of "turning around" troubled schools has become synonymous with firing educators, but a nonprofit organization in Chicago with a successful track record takes a different approach. In 2006, Strategic Learning Initiatives (SLI) signed a contract with the Chicago public schools to help 10 schools serving grades K-8. More than 95 percent of their students were from low-income families. Over a decade, the schools had seen new principals, new teachers, new curricula, and professional-development initiatives. Despite the changes, nine were on a list to be restructured or closed. What Strategic Learning did with the struggling schools was "not rocket science." But it worked. The approach the group took offers some lessons as states and districts confront the need to turn around the nation's lowest-performing schools. The results that SLI has achieved, and that American Institutes for Research (AIR) has validated, are very impressive and suggest that well before decisions are made to reconstitute schools under the mandates of (the federal No Child Left Behind Act), school districts would be wise to consider far less drastic, but clearly powerful, interventions such as the Focused Instruction Process. The "Focused Instruction Process" has four main components: (1) shared leadership; (2) targeted professional development; (3) continuous improvement; and (4) parent engagement. It uses an eight-step process designed to make sure that students master skills by providing focused lessons, formative assessments, reteaching after assessing where each student stands, and a reassessment to measure student progress. Facilitators have been trained in each school to monitor the fidelity of the process and continue it. Teachers and administrators are expected and encouraged to make changes in the implementation in a way that makes sense for their individual schools. Schools have reorganized the day to allow time both for daily mini-lessons on the skill of the week and for "success time," where teachers use differentiated instruction to help students make up or enrich their knowledge of previous skills. Each school also has a leadership team, made up of teachers from each grade level, that meets regularly with administrators. Each week, students learn about a new skill from a list of 13 that are tied to the state test students take each spring. Those skills include understanding the main idea, characterization, interpreting instructions, drawing conclusions, and summarization.
Descriptors: Educational Change, Nonprofit Organizations, Low Income Groups, Disadvantaged Schools, Effective Schools Research, Educational Improvement, Improvement Programs, Contracts
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001