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 11

Case Study Research Area #2A:
Design and Implementation of the Reform at the Middle Grades

School Restructuring

CHARACTERISTIC GRAHAM AND
PARKS
HANSHAW HORACE MANN WIGGS
School Climate The school climate is best captured by the students' eagerness to learn and their exhibition of exuberant and joyful attitudes toward life. There was a schoolwide emphasis on validation of cultural diversity and individual empowerment. The schoolwide promotion of "life skills" was also evident in the school climate. The school climate was one in which cultural diversity was valued and there were high expectations for all students. The school climate was one in which the bicultural backgrounds of the students and staff were embraced. Decorated with student artwork, the school had a strong sense of community and collegiality.
LeadershipAt the school for 20 years and with a deep understanding of teaching 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. Within the house structure, faculty took on more of a leadership role. 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. Faculty played a very powerful leadership role. The school's founding principal led the school with her vision of a middle school.
Use of Time They used block scheduling (a two hour social studies and language arts block, and a two hour math and science block). After-school support for students transitioning to mainstream classes was provided. They used block scheduling for their integrated core courses (math/science and language arts/social studies). Within each family, teachers had 45 minutes of common planning time daily. They extended the day for transitioning students with after-school tutoring. There are two blocks (one hour and 45 minutes) for academic classes each day. Each academic class meets every other day. Within each family, teachers have 45 minutes of common planning time daily; two days per week, family teachers have two contiguous common preps. After-school programs are offered. Teachers have daily common planning time for team meetings. Teachers also have an individual period that they can use for prep or for conferences with parents and/or students. After-school tutoring is offered.
Student Grouping LEP students were placed into designated bilingual classes which span two to four grade levels. As students were deemed ready, they were partially, and then fully, transitioned into mainstream classes. Mainstream classes had designated ability levels. All classes were untracked but LEP students were placed into core classes according to their English language fluency and home language. Within classes, teachers used heterogeneous grouping strategies. All classes were untracked, with student populations ranging from resource to gifted. Within that context, Spanish-speaking LEP students and non-Spanish speaking LEP students were clustered into designated families. Within classes, teachers used heterogeneous grouping strategies. LEP students were placed according to English language ability (three levels) and age-appropriate grade level. As students were deemed ready, they were partially, and then fully, transitioned into mainstream classes. Mainstream classes had designated ability levels.
Integrated Services A Student Support Team took a case approach to referred students; individual and group counseling services were provided by the mediation specialist and the Haitian social worker; referrals were made, if necessary, to community organizations with who relationships had been established. The comprehensive Family Resource Centerfunded by a California Healthy Start grant and operating through cooperative agreements with local service providersoffered health (medical, mental, dental) and social services to the families of the students attending the school. Horace Mann has recently hired a Social Services Coordinator to conduct a needs assessment. In addition, she offered group "rap" sessions, established relationships with local social service agencies and referred students, and she researched integrated services models in place at other schools. She was paid with funds from the schools' restructuring demonstration grant (SB 1274). The school nurse was pro-active in meeting students' needs; she established linkages with community medical and dental care providers. She also helped meet the needs of extremely poor families who lacked the resources for adequate food and clothing.

Teachers played the role of counselor with the students in their Advisory classes and referred students in need of additional services.

Parental Involvement There was a bilingual parent coordinator/liaison to facilitate communication, but there was not a significant amount of Haitian parent involvement, as there was for other parent groups. The school provided services to parents via the Family Resource Center, ESL classes that were taught by an adult education instructor, and parenting seminars. Parents were able to share their ideas re: school improvement and other decisions by participating in school meetings. Child care was provided at all school meetings. Parent actively participated in school governance via the Parent and Community Councils, but parents of LEP students tended to be less involved. All home-school communication was trilingual. There was a Spanish bilingual home liaison, as well as bilingual front office staff. Parents played a role through parent organization, but parents of LEP students did not seem to be involved in schoolwide activities. Teachers were able to establish relationships with LEP students' parents via the LAMP family structure.

Table 11, continued

CHARACTERISTIC GRAHAM AND
PARKS
HANSHAW HORACE MANN WIGGS
Governance Structure Parents and teachers shared in decision-making via committees. House leaders and department chairs made up the faculty governance. Teachers had broad decision-making responsibility, including adopting the school budget. Many governance decisions were made within the family structure; schoolwide decisions were made by the Staff and Curriculum Development Committee (faculty) and the Community Council (parents, teachers, and students). These committees made decisions about the spending of grant money and other supplemental funding, general governance, and staff development activities. This was the first year as an official site-based school; school governance decisions were made by the Campus Improvement Committee; decisions affected a range of school activities.
Organization of Teaching In the bilingual program, the 5th-8th grade class was team taught. Teachers worked as teams within the house structure. Core teachers had adjoining classes which facilitated collaboration. Within each house, teachers had 45 minutes of common planning time daily. Teachers coordinated curricula and activities within the family structure. Teachers had one to two common prep periods each day. Teachers coordinated curricula and activities within their families. Daily common prep time was used for family meetings.
Staff Development There was considerable internal professional development activities for faculty on educational concepts; opportunities for professional development were also provided by the district. Professional development primarily occurred with Kovalik Associates. Engaged in a long-term partnership, teachers attended annual summer institutes and periodic in-services and worked intensively with a Kovalik coach. The focus of the professional development activities was to help teachers develop year-long curricular themes, implement a "life-skills" curriculum, and create a school climate conducive to maximum student learning. Professional development activities were selected by the faculty Staff and Curriculum Development Committee in response to schoolwide needs. Funding for much of the professional development activities and teacher release time was provided by the school's Restructuring Grant (SB 1274). The professional development focus was on math across the curriculum and alternative assessment. In previous years, it had been on writing across the curriculum, bicultural awareness, and language acquisition. Teachers participated in professional development activities through the Texas Mentor School Network. Teachers also engaged in activities through the district and the University of Texas at El Paso, as well as at the site-level. Most of the focus was on implementing the various elements of the "middle school model." Other professional development related to the use of instructional technology and strengthening the mathematics curriculum.

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[Table 10 Case Study Research Area #1B: The Context for Reform Factors Affecting Implementation at the Middle Grades] [Table of Contents] [Table 12 Case Study Research Area #2B: Design and Implementation of the Reform at the Middle Grades Curriculum and Instruction]