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Grade-span Configuration and School-to-School Transitions Pauline F. Anderson, Ed.D. Vernon Township School District Special Work Session Presentation.

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Presentation on theme: "Grade-span Configuration and School-to-School Transitions Pauline F. Anderson, Ed.D. Vernon Township School District Special Work Session Presentation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Grade-span Configuration and School-to-School Transitions Pauline F. Anderson, Ed.D. Vernon Township School District Special Work Session Presentation May 21, 2012

2 Action Research Study All students in the Ed.D. program at the College of Saint Elizabeth were required to focus on some aspect of the school district which might be interesting to research. All students in the Ed.D. program at the College of Saint Elizabeth were required to focus on some aspect of the school district which might be interesting to research. Exploratory research within the Vernon Township School District purported that the current grade-span configuration of the district was a cause of concern for some of its stakeholders. Exploratory research within the Vernon Township School District purported that the current grade-span configuration of the district was a cause of concern for some of its stakeholders.

3 Vernon Township School District Walnut Ridge Primary Walnut Ridge Primary – preschool - grade 1 Cedar Mountain Primary or Rolling Hills Primary Cedar Mountain Primary or Rolling Hills Primary – grades Lounsberry Middle Lounsberry Middle – grades 5 and 6 Glen Meadow Middle Glen Meadow Middle – grades 7 and 8 Vernon Township High School Vernon Township High School – grades … our students make 5 school-to-school transitions.

4 Purpose of Study To determine the effects of the present grade- span configuration and subsequent school-to- school transitions on: students’ sense of belonging continuity of curriculum and instruction student academic achievement

5 Grade-span configuration – the number and range of grade levels that a school comprises; VTSD has a narrow grade-span configuration Grade-span configuration – the number and range of grade levels that a school comprises; VTSD has a narrow grade-span configuration School size – School size – the ratio of students per grade to the number of grades offered as defined by Howley, Strange and Bickel (2000); as a result of our grade-span configuration, our schools are considered large School-to-school transition – School-to-school transition – the movement from one school to another as a result of the promotion to the next grade level which is located in another school Student turnover – Student turnover – the number of students transferring from one school to another.; often 50% of students Operational Definitions

6 Research Questions 1. How do the grade-span configuration and subsequent school-to-school transitions affect the sense of belonging for the students of the Vernon Township School District? 2.How does the grade-span configuration affect the continuity of curriculum and instruction in the Vernon Township School District? 3.How do the grade-span configuration and subsequent school-to-school transitions affect academic achievement for the students of the Vernon Township School District?

7 Triangulation Matrix Research QuestionData Source #1 Data Source #2 Data Source #3 Data Source # How do the grade-span configuration and subsequent school-to-school transitions affect the sense of belonging for the students of the Vernon Township School District? Faculty survey Interviews with the guidance counselors Parent/Guardian survey Interviews with ninth grade students How does the grade-span configuration affect continuity of curriculum and instruction in the Vernon Township School District? Faculty survey Interviews with the principals Focus group with curriculum directors and supervisors How do the grade-span configuration and subsequent school-to-school transitions affect academic achievement for the students of the Vernon Township School District? Faculty survey Interview with the principals Focus group with curriculum directors and supervisors Review of DRAs, NJ ASK test results, and End-of-the- Year Math Assessments.

8 Findings There were nine findings from this study: There were nine findings from this study: –FiveSense of Belonging –Five findings related to Sense of Belonging –TwoContinuity of Curriculum and Instruction –Two findings related to Continuity of Curriculum and Instruction –TwoStudent Academic Achievement –Two findings related to Student Academic Achievement

9 Findings One through Five Students are safe, happy and comfortable in our schools and feel like they belong when they participate in extracurricular activities. Students are safe, happy and comfortable in our schools and feel like they belong when they participate in extracurricular activities. Staff members are perceived to be friendly, but many students may not feel especially close to the staff. Staff members are perceived to be friendly, but many students may not feel especially close to the staff. Parents and guardians believed that they and their children are prepared for transitions, but that it still takes some time to adjust following each school-to-school transition; faculty members report spending a lot of time helping students adjust to their new schools Parents and guardians believed that they and their children are prepared for transitions, but that it still takes some time to adjust following each school-to-school transition; faculty members report spending a lot of time helping students adjust to their new schools Many stakeholders expressed the desire to have more grades in each school and disliked the district’s narrow grade-span configuration Many stakeholders expressed the desire to have more grades in each school and disliked the district’s narrow grade-span configuration Parents/guardians and faculty members expressed concerns about fifth graders attending middle school. Parents/guardians and faculty members expressed concerns about fifth graders attending middle school.

10 Findings Supported by Literature School-to-school transitions can disrupt the social structure of a school (Howley, 2002). School-to-school transitions can disrupt the social structure of a school (Howley, 2002). A sense of belonging is related to school size and grade-span configuration (E. Anderman, 2002). A sense of belonging is related to school size and grade-span configuration (E. Anderman, 2002). Students achieve more where they are well- known by their teachers (Wasley, 2002). Students achieve more where they are well- known by their teachers (Wasley, 2002). Transitions have a profound impact on students academically, socially and psychologically (Akos, 2006). Transitions have a profound impact on students academically, socially and psychologically (Akos, 2006).

11 Findings Supported by Literature Assisting students following a school-to-school transition may impede upon instructional time (Sanders et al., 1994). Assisting students following a school-to-school transition may impede upon instructional time (Sanders et al., 1994). Following each transition, students must adapt to their new school culture, which can be very stressful (Turner, 2007). Following each transition, students must adapt to their new school culture, which can be very stressful (Turner, 2007). Wider grade spans provide more stability for students (Wren, 2003). Wider grade spans provide more stability for students (Wren, 2003).

12 Findings Six and Seven The faculty members reported that they were more familiar with the curriculum of the grade before the one they teach as compared to the curriculum of the next grade level. The faculty members reported that they were more familiar with the curriculum of the grade before the one they teach as compared to the curriculum of the next grade level. The faculty members were split in their perceptions about curriculum continuity, but recognize that there are factors such as inadequate time for articulation regarding curriculum, instructional strategies and individual student needs which may be impacting curriculum continuity. The faculty members were split in their perceptions about curriculum continuity, but recognize that there are factors such as inadequate time for articulation regarding curriculum, instructional strategies and individual student needs which may be impacting curriculum continuity.

13 Findings Supported by Literature A better understanding of the curriculum and requirements of both the sending and receiving schools positively impacts student achievement (D. MacIver, 1990; Mizelle & Irvin, 2000). A better understanding of the curriculum and requirements of both the sending and receiving schools positively impacts student achievement (D. MacIver, 1990; Mizelle & Irvin, 2000). Familiarity with the knowledge students are bringing to the new grade level can better determine the starting place for instruction (Masters, 2005a). Familiarity with the knowledge students are bringing to the new grade level can better determine the starting place for instruction (Masters, 2005a). Collaboration and articulation is important just prior to and following students’ school to school transitions (Sink, Edwards, & Weir, 2007). Collaboration and articulation is important just prior to and following students’ school to school transitions (Sink, Edwards, & Weir, 2007).

14 Findings Supported by Literature Sharing information about curriculum content improves the continuity of students’ learning and sharing an understanding of how students learn creates a better alignment of teaching practices between schools (Catholic Education Office of Melbourne Student Wellbeing Unit, 2010). Sharing information about curriculum content improves the continuity of students’ learning and sharing an understanding of how students learn creates a better alignment of teaching practices between schools (Catholic Education Office of Melbourne Student Wellbeing Unit, 2010). Districts often discard a year’s worth of information about a child following each transition and a child must start all over again (Marshak, 2003). Districts often discard a year’s worth of information about a child following each transition and a child must start all over again (Marshak, 2003). Curriculum continuity is created when the standards are analyzed, the curriculum is shared and assessments are aligned (Bogard & Takanishi, 2005). Curriculum continuity is created when the standards are analyzed, the curriculum is shared and assessments are aligned (Bogard & Takanishi, 2005).

15 Finding Eight There is a measurable negative impact on student academic achievement following each school-to- school transition for students in the Vernon Township School District. *The NJ ASK handout coincides with this slide.

16 Findings Supported by Literature Students achieve lower test scores on standardized tests following each school-to-school transition, and it may take two to three years to get the scores up to the level achieved before the transition (Malaspina & Rimm-Kaufman, 2008). Students achieve lower test scores on standardized tests following each school-to-school transition, and it may take two to three years to get the scores up to the level achieved before the transition (Malaspina & Rimm-Kaufman, 2008). The stressors involved in each school-to-school transition are so critical that they may neutralize or diminish the achievement gains from the previous school setting (Wren, 2003). The stressors involved in each school-to-school transition are so critical that they may neutralize or diminish the achievement gains from the previous school setting (Wren, 2003). Although students highlight social and emotional concerns, academic fears may prove to be more serious and long-lasting (Akos & Galassi, 2004). Although students highlight social and emotional concerns, academic fears may prove to be more serious and long-lasting (Akos & Galassi, 2004).

17 Finding Nine Although the majority of faculty members responded that students leave their classrooms ready for the next grade level, they did not have the same conviction when responding that students arrive to their classrooms ready for that grade level.

18 Findings Supported by Literature It may not be the grade-span configuration itself, but the school-to-school transitions that may diminish student academic performance (Hooper, 2002; Howley, 2002a; Renchler, 2000; Weiss & Bearman, 2007). It may not be the grade-span configuration itself, but the school-to-school transitions that may diminish student academic performance (Hooper, 2002; Howley, 2002a; Renchler, 2000; Weiss & Bearman, 2007). Accountability for students’ academic performance may be impacted by the narrow grade-span configuration Accountability for students’ academic performance may be impacted by the narrow grade-span configuration (Tucker & Andrada, 1997). The loss of self-esteem following each transition may create the underlying cause of the academic decline shown by students and the increased risk of dropping out of school (Alspaugh, 1998a; Alspaugh & Harting, 1995; Seidman et al., 1994). The loss of self-esteem following each transition may create the underlying cause of the academic decline shown by students and the increased risk of dropping out of school (Alspaugh, 1998a; Alspaugh & Harting, 1995; Seidman et al., 1994).

19 “Plan to be better tomorrow than today, but don’t plan to be finished.” ~Carol Ann Tomlinson

20 Researchers also found that… Although no particular sequence of grade-spans can guarantee student success, school-to-school transitions have proven to negatively impact student academic progress Although no particular sequence of grade-spans can guarantee student success, school-to-school transitions have proven to negatively impact student academic progress (Mertens & Anfara, n.d.). Successful students develop a sense of identification with the school; this is difficult when students transition frequently (Finn, 1989). Successful students develop a sense of identification with the school; this is difficult when students transition frequently (Finn, 1989). The lack of communication between grade levels is intensified if grade levels are located in different buildings (English, 2000). The lack of communication between grade levels is intensified if grade levels are located in different buildings (English, 2000).

21 Recommendation The present grade-span configuration of the school district should be analyzed to determine if there is a wider grade-span configuration which would better accommodate the current student population, lessen school-to-school transitions for students, and increase students’ academic achievement.

22 Research supports for this recommendation: Transitions appear to be more damaging for students if they occur more than once (Linnenbrink, 2010). Transitions appear to be more damaging for students if they occur more than once (Linnenbrink, 2010). Two transitions are referred to as “double jeopardy” (Alspaugh, 1998). Two transitions are referred to as “double jeopardy” (Alspaugh, 1998). Our students make 5 transitions! Schools should be configured to minimize school-to- school transitions (Schwartz, Stiefel, Rubenstein, & Zabel, 2009). Schools should be configured to minimize school-to- school transitions (Schwartz, Stiefel, Rubenstein, & Zabel, 2009). “As the grade span increases, so does academic achievement. The more level that a school services the better students perform. The more transitions a student makes, the worse the student performs…” (Wren, 2003). “As the grade span increases, so does academic achievement. The more level that a school services the better students perform. The more transitions a student makes, the worse the student performs…” (Wren, 2003).

23 “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” ~ Alan Cohen

24 In conclusion… “What ultimately matters… to educators, policy makers, business persons, and the general public is how much students learn.” (Coladarci & Hancock, 2002)


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