This month’s book review is Turning High Poverty Schools into High Performing Schools by William H. Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge. I selected this title to highlight based on the summer Teacher Center poverty simulation in August and work I recently completed within districts this summer. The state of our national, state and local economy and the impact on children is of heightened concern. First the good news: schools with high rates of poverty can and do demonstrate high levels of student achievement. However- this is not accomplished without a whole system (district, school) approach. It is the system approach that sets this resource apart from other resources.
The text is organized into three parts. The first part provides the background for informed reflection, conversations and a call to action. In the second section, specific examples of what leaders in high poverty, high performing schools have done to build leadership capacity, create a positive learning environment and improve learning outcomes. Furthermore this section is focused on first what needs to be stopped and then what to start or improve upon. This section also includes tools for schools to examine practices as well as, tools to guide action planning. The third section stresses the interactive nature of components of systems. It is the lack of working with an interactive systems wide approach that often limits schools (and students) from reaching their potential.
The authors synthesized research and included case studies to develop their framework. Basically for all students learning to high standards requires the interaction, leverage and dynamics of three parts: Spheres of Influence (community, family, district, schools, classroom) with School Culture (caring, relationships, high expectations and support, commitment to equity, professional accountability for learning, courage and will to take action) along with Actions (focus on learning, leadership capacity and healthy, safe, supportive learning environments). In laying the foundation for their structure it becomes apparent that research about what needs to be done is well established. This is an issue of “knowing and doing” gap for school systems or a “skill and will” issue.
The heart of the book is chapters 5-10 where the three action components of: building leadership capacity; fostering a healthy, safe and supportive learning environment; and focusing on student, professional and system learning are detailed. For each of these actions a chapter first focuses on what to eliminate followed by a chapter of what to add or build upon. Included in each chapter are tools and templates to guide a needs analysis leading to an action plan.
I would like to hear how school teams have utilized the tools from this text. Please drop me a quick note!
Director Support and Technical Assistance
ISS, OCM BOCES