A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

School Reform and Student Diversity - September 1995

Table 10

Case Study Research Area #1B: The Context for Reform
Factors Affecting Implementation at the Middle Grades

Time in Operation The school evolved under the direction of the long-standing principal. The school opened in 1991 as a "restructured" school with houses. The school was reconstituted in 1984 after a court-ordered consent decree; restructuring into families, etc. began in 1990. The school opened in the fall of 1987. It was the first middle school in the district and among the first in the state. The school opened as a "restructured" school with families.
Impetus for Reform
The school was designed to respond to the communitythe school was created to engage students in ways that are relevant to their reality. Chronic low performance led to court-ordered consent decree reconstitution. A former principal led the subsequent restructuring effort. The founding principal's vision initiated the implementation of the first middle school.
Role of District The Haitian Creole bilingual program was placed at Graham and Parks as part of the district's desegregation plan. The district has supported the development of the bilingual program by recruiting qualified staff and providing professional development. The district selected the principal to open the school and supported developing the school around the middle school model. The district also supported primary language instruction (i.e., hiring bilingual teachers, using primary language textbooks) and an additional period of instruction for LEP students. The district consent decree allowed the school to be reconstituted, to draw students from all over the city, and to receive supplemental funds. The reconstitution permitted the new principal to hand-pick the staff. The district supported the implemntation of the middle school concept and developed a districtwide program for middle grade LEP students. The district provided supplemental resources to reduce class sizee with the LEP stduent program.
Principal Leadership At the school for 20 years and with a deep understanding of teahing and learning, the principal was the driving force behind the vision of the school. The principal was critical to development of school program. He spent a year planning the school program and recruiting school faculty; much of the time was spent getting input from parents and others in the community. The principals who led the reconstitution and restructuring were very strong leaders. Since then, there has been a lot of turnover (three principals in the four years), resulting in inconsistent leadership. The school's first principal led the school with her vision of a middle school.
Staff Role in Reform Program staff were fully supportive of reform effort. The staff were hand-picked by the principal and embraced the vision of a restructured school and an inclusive decision-making process with increased accountability. Teachers were originally hired because they shared the principal's vision of high expectations and increased accountability. The school is currently governed by faculty committee. Teachers embraced the family structure and worked to increase parent involvement. Through their involvement in school governamce, teachers affected a broad range of decisions.
School Climate There was a positive school climate but the Haitian-Creole students were stressed from war and immigration. There was an emphasis on respect for cultural diversity and on empowering individuals. The climate of the school was one in which cultural diversity was valued and there were high expectations for all students. The school climate valued student diversity and respect for culture and traditions.
Community Involvement The school took advantage of the community's rich educational resources by establishing partnerships that helped shape implementation of the reforms. The community provided significant input before the school opened and community members remained involved in school operations. The community's involvement in implementing the reforms was limited. Community members were involved in schoolwide activities, but not in reform implementation. The local university, however, significantly affected the design and implementation of reforms.

Table 10, continued

Staff Qualifications Teachers of LEP students were all orally fluent in Creole. Some were biliterate and some were Haitian.
Many teachers had Language Development Specialistor Bilingual and content area credentials. Almost half of the teachers in the school were bilingual; many either had a Language Development Specialist credential or were in the process of getting it. There were Spanish- and Cantonese- speaking paraprofessionals. Teachers were trained in ESL and sheltered English strategies. Teachers level of fluency in Spanish varied. Science and math teachers held secondary content area certificates in addition to ESL certificates.
Administrator Background The principal had been at the school for 19 years. The principal's previous experiences were primarily in alternative school settings. The prinicpal had been the vice principal since the school's reconstitution. The vice principal was a former bilingual teacher. The principal had been a teacher and vice principal.
State Policies A state school reform bill required site-based management with elected representatives of teachers and parents. The state framework for education in the middle grades served as a basis of the school's design. The school's curriculum was largely driven by the state curriculum frameworks. Teachers participated in state-run, subject-specific professional development institutes (i.e., Math and Writing Projects). The school received a state Restructuring Demonstration Grant which supported the implementation of reforms. The school was affected by the statewide movement toward site-based management and the implemntation of the middle school concept. Wiggs is also impacted by Texas' new accountability system that increases site-level autonomy and hold schools accountable for student performance on TAAS, the statewide assessment.
Federal Policies Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Chapter 1
Desegregation Policies The school is affected by the districtwide school choice system that came out of the district's desegregation plan. No impact. A 1984 court-ordered consent decree led to the districtwide open enrollment policy and the reconstitution of Horace Mann school. The consent decree mandates that no one ethnic group can constitute more than 40% of a school population. No impact.
External Partner(s) The school's relationship with TERC (a non-profit firm with federal NSF funding) was critical to the design and implementation of their science program. The school engaged in other partnerships with local business and universities as well. The school was involved in an intensive partnership with Susan Kovalik & Associates (a paid consultant). The partnership had a profound impact on the school's instruction and curriculum. The school's partnership with San Francisco Project 2061 significantly contributed to the schoolwide development and implementation of a curriculum model that focuses on enhancing science literacy. Involvement with the Project also led to a schoolwide increase in the use of authentic assessment tools. The school is also part of university-run consortia that focus on curriculum and assessment development and implementation. Wiggs' partnership with UTEP's School of Education supported the integration of technology across the curriculum at the school.


[Table 9 Case Study Research Area #1A: The Context for Reform Demographic Conditions at the Middle Grades] [Table of Contents] [Table 11 Case Study Research Area #2A: Design and Implementation of the Reform at the Middle Grades School Restructuring]