Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago

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In 1988, the Chicago public school system decentralized, granting parents and communities significant resources and authority to reform their schools in dramatic ways. To track the effects of this bold experiment, the authors of Organizing Schools for Improvement collected a wealth of data on elementary schools in Chicago. Over a seven-year period they identified one hundred elementary schools that had substantially improved-and one hundred that had not. What did the successful schools do to accelerate student learning?

The authors of this illuminating book identify a comprehensive set of practices and conditions that were key factors for improvement, including school leadership, the professional capacity of the faculty and staff, and a student-centered learning climate. In addition, they analyze the impact of social dynamics, including crime, critically examining the inextricable link between schools and their communities. Putting their data onto a more human scale, they also chronicle the stories of two neighboring schools with very different trajectories. The lessons gleaned from this groundbreaking study will be invaluable for anyone involved with urban education.

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Editorial Reviews

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Organizing Schools for Improvement has some pretty convincing conclusions on what characteristics separate successful schools from unsuccessful ones. The book offers important advice for people involved in any school, regardless of location or student background.

— Alan Borsuk

Teachers College Record
"Striking in its attention to the influence of community and educator participation in school reform, and sobering in its assessment of some of the neighborhoods where reform was most difficult to attain, the book Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago is an essential read. . . . Bryk et al. provide a rigorous and compelling empirical study of the possibility for school reform and the degrees of compromise, particularly in contexts where extreme poverty and racial and ethnic isolation prevail."
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel - Alan Borsuk
"Organizing Schools for Improvement has some pretty convincing conclusions on what characteristics separate successful schools from unsuccessful ones. The book offers important advice for people involved in any school, regardless of location or student background."
Charles M. Payne
“Let us hope this book redirects our attention to what really matters in urban education. Beneath the numbers, there is a fundamentally optimistic view of the potential of urban schools. The authors give us every reason to believe that understanding the organizational and cultural dynamics of schools can help us make them better, much better. If we attend to this work as we should, it can be a game-changer.”
Ellen Guiney
“This book will advance everyone’s thinking about key ideas in school improvement. I was excited by the authors’ willingness to go beyond descriptive facts to find out what specifically distinguishes two different student bodies with similar demographics. What is so important about this book is that it figures out and describes in various ways the vital role social capital plays both inside and outside school.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226078007
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 164,458
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony S. Bryk is president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and was founding senior director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), University of Chicago. Penny Bender Sebring is founding codirector of CCSR, the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago. Elaine Allensworth is director for statistical analysis at CCSR. Stuart Luppescu is chief psychometrician at CCSR. John Q. Easton is Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Spencer Foundation and former executive director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Prologue: A Tale of Two Schools l

Introduction: A Rare Opportunity to Learn about School Improvement 12

1 Developing appropriate outcome indicators 29

2 A framework of essential supports 42

3 Testing the framework of the essential supports 79

4 Probing deeper: organizational mechanisms 97

5 Trust, size, and stability: key enablers 137

6 The influences of community context 158

Summary and Conclusions 197

Appendix A Socioeconomic Status Factor 223

Appendix B A Value-Added Indicator: A School's Academic Productivity Profile 225

Appendix C Overview of the Fourteen Indicators for the Five Essential Supports 231

Appendix D Probability Experiment to Evaluate Results Presented in Figure 3.3 242

Appendix E Interview Questions from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods 245

Appendix F Coefficients from Analyses of Leadership in Chapter 4 246

Appendix G Value-Added Replication Results for 1997 through 2005 250

Appendix H Efforts of the Consortium on Chicago School Research to Build More Productive Ties between Research, Practice, and Policy to Improve Practice 252

Notes 257

References 285

Index 297

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