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

Student Outcomes

The great variation among the schools in our sample makes it difficult to neatly present the evidence that they shared with us about program outcomes. In this section, we examine the "hard" data that we have--facts, figures, and analyses that school officials gave us in response to questions about student outcomes. We do not, however, believe that this tells the whole story. We therefore complete the chapter with a final section that offers evidence of another sort about the impacts of these schools and programs on their students.

The 14 schools in the sample cover the full range of K-12 education. Obviously, indicators of student success differ for elementary, middle, and high schools. Even among the schools serving students of similar ages or grades, contexts differ significantly in terms of program goals, the aims of school improvement plans, accountability procedures, testing requirements, and so on. Here, we organize and discuss documented indicators of student success by level of schooling, presenting the evidence that each school cited on its own terms.

High Schools

Six of the 14 schools and programs that we visited serve students in the traditional high school age range. Three of these (Chinquapin, Girard College, Piney Woods Country Life School) are private, residential, and very traditional in terms of curriculum and instruction. The remaining three (Beaver Island, ConCurrent Options, Metro) are publicly-funded alternatives or supplements to traditional high school. The goals of these two groups of schools are obviously quite different, as are the indicators by which they judge their own success.

The private, residential schools are avowedly college preparatory programs. Their primary measures of success, therefore, are related to college admissions and, by any reasonable standard, they are extraordinarily successful:

                                 Percent of Graduates            School                Admitted to College             Chinquapin                 100            Girard College              90            Piney Woods                 95 

These figures are not attached to any particular year. Rather, they are averages over time. In general, nearly all of the graduates of these institutions go on to postsecondary education. The few who don't have made other deliberate decisions about post-high school plans. Nobody leaves without some personal goal in mind.

As administrators and teachers at all three of these schools are well aware, college admission is only a first and quite tentative step beyond the sheltered world of high school that their students have experienced. Nationally, rates of persistence in college for students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds are low (Carter and Wilson, 1994) for reasons that are often discussed and much disputed. One concern for these schools is whether or not they have prepared their graduates well enough to meet the demands of college-level work.

The guides that Chinquapin, Girard, and Piney Woods use to estimate high school achievement levels are the SAT and the ACT tests. Nearly all Chinquapin and Girard seniors take the SAT. On average, Chinquapin students--who are primarily Hispanic and African-American--score about 100 points higher than seniors nationally and in Texas; in some years, they have done even better. School officials at Girard report that, on average, students score about 50 points above the national average combined verbal and mathematics score, which was 899 in 1992 (NCES, 1993). Piney Woods students' ACT scores are, on average, several points lower than those for all students nationally or in the state of Mississippi. In most years, however, they are higher than the average for all African-American students nationally, which the school considers a more valid reference point.

All three of these private residential schools routinely place their top students in selective higher education institutions. Because of their long traditions of educating disadvantaged students, they are well-known to colleges and universities as sources of well-prepared minority freshmen. Smith College, for example, regularly recruits applicants at Chinquapin. Other institutions that have recently enrolled Chinquapin graduates include Northwestern, Wellesley, and Stanford. In 1992, Girard College sent its top three graduates to Yale, Duke, and Johns Hopkins. Graduates of Piney Woods most typically attend colleges in the south.

Although they are small in comparison with many public high schools, the senior classes at Girard and Piney Woods are large enough that the schools have not pursued comprehensive follow-up on all graduates. Piney Woods was, for the first time, in the process of developing a survey for this purpose at the time of our visit. Girard did not have actual data on college persistence to share, but school officials were aware that too many of their graduates failed to complete college for two primary reasons: money and the impersonality of college campuses in comparison with Girard.

With graduating classes of only 10 or so students, Chinquapin has been able to track graduates' progress more carefully. The school makes a point of staying in touch with as many graduates as possible and provides scholarship assistance to some. The numbers show that most former Chinquapin students do graduate from college, taking--on average--five years to do so. The school had recently hired one of its graduates, educated to the Masters level, as a teacher.

There seems to be little doubt that these three residential schools for disadvantaged students have high success rates with the students that they retain through all four years of high school. It is also true that they are selective to begin with and are empowered to dismiss students who violate codes of conduct. By their own admission, they do not attempt to deal with potential students who have demonstrated serious behavioral or emotional problems. They are also looking for students with academic promise. Once students are admitted, however, the schools do everything in their power to help them succeed. Their efforts go well beyond academic instruction in classrooms, as we shall see in the final section of this chapter.

In contrast to the private high schools, the three publicly-funded high school programs in our sample explicitly serve the adolescents most at-risk of not graduating. As one might expect, their challenges are greater and their success rates more modest. In their local contexts, however, they make a tremendous difference--in two cases, to a large number of students.

The primary academic goal of the Beaver Island Lighthouse School, ConCurrent Options, and Metro High School is credit accrual leading to a high school diploma. These schools do care about what students are learning, but the bottom line is passing courses at the minimum level at which full credit can be assigned. Beaver Island and ConCurrent Options do not themselves award diplomas. Rather, they provide supplementary academic services to help credit-deficient students re-establish themselves on a diploma (or equivalent) track. Metro is a full-service alternative school that does award standard school district diplomas but allows students a longer time to get there than regular high schools. All three programs have indicators showing that they are succeeding at what they do:

      School           Indicators of Academic Success             Beaver Island    30 percent of participants re-enroll in regular school                       10 percent of participants pass the GED       ConCurrent       1992-93: 115,000 credits earned          Options      Average, annualized dropout rate in 32 participating                        schools:  5.2 percent       Metro            Of 51 graduates (1991):  45 percent employed; 32 percent                        enrolled in further education or training; 4 percent in the military;                        20 percent other or unknown 

Over the long term, Beaver Island and ConCurrent Options do not have hard data showing numbers of students served who have actually completed high school. The large number of credits earned through ConCurrent Options, cited above, is not an unduplicated count in terms of participating individuals. The annualized dropout rate for participating high schools is lower than for New York City high schools overall.

Metro High School, on the other hand, is scrupulous about keeping track of student status, both before and after graduation. At the end of each school year, the school takes a census of students' plans for the following fall. On average, 50-60 percent of the school's approximately 600 students return to Metro, while another 10-15 percent continue to pursue a diploma or GED elsewhere. The school's rolls generally continue to carry a certain number (10 percent or so) of students who are inactive but not yet considered real dropouts. The dropout rate for the school is calculated to be about 5 percent annually.

As a restructuring school, Metro has been particularly concerned in recent years with the adequacy of students' communications skills. It administers two diagnostic tests to students annually: Degrees of Reading Power and a district writing proficiency test that other students take only in 11th grade. In general, test results show that students are struggling. However, the school's emphasis on writing-across-the-curriculum has produced a positive upward trend, with the proportion of students scoring average or above on the writing proficiency test climbing from 18 percent to 40 percent over a three-year period.

To some readers of this report, the "hard" data available for evaluating the success of Beaver Island and ConCurrent Options may seem inadequate. These two programs would argue that they are providing essential academic support services for students who otherwise would likely leave school in frustration, and that alone is reason enough for their existence. The implementation of ConCurrent Options has actually had a positive effect on academic standards in some participating schools. State- required course accreditation committees that had long languished in many schools were revived to review Options courses and now actively scrutinize regular courses as well.

Middle Schools

Our sample of sites includes five middle schools: AMY, Chiron, Nativity Mission, Nativity Preparatory, and Timilty. In addition, the three private residential schools, discussed above as high schools, also serve a middle or junior high school age group. We incorporate discussion of them, as appropriate, in this section as well.

Institutionally, the middle grades form the bridge between elementary school and high school. Developmentally, they are charged with shepherding the transition from childhood to adolescence. Academically, they must ease students from the pattern of one teacher and a relatively wholistic curriculum in the early grades to the typically discipline-based courses and multiple instructors in high school. The middle schools in our sample all approach these challenges differently, but all except Chiron ultimately measure their success by a single indicator: high school placement:

      School                High School Placement       AMY                   Magnet schools: 90 percent                            Selective magnets:  60-75 percent       Nativity Mission      Private, parochial, or selective public high schools:  97                            percent over a two-year period       Nativity Preparatory  Private and parochial high schools:  91 percent       Timilty               Growth in proportion of graduates admitted to selective public                            "exam" schools:  from 22 percent in 1986-87 to 73 percent in                            1992-93 

Chiron graduates do have some choices at the high school level but, at the time of our data collection, the school had not yet developed a systematic way of following up on the next stage of its students' education.

By the measures outlined above, it seems clear that these four middle schools are very highly regarded by the next level of schooling within their local contexts (and sometimes beyond, since a small number of students from the Nativity schools are admitted to selective boarding schools on scholarships). Why are these schools' students so attractive to elite high schools? School officials typically cited standardized test scores, including patterns of improvement that reflect well on the effectiveness of their own programs (note that Chiron and Chinquapin are also included in the information presented below):

     School           Test Score Indicators       AMY              84 percent of students at or above grade level in math and reading,                       1992-93 (no growth data available)       Chinquapin       On average, students register a 2-year gain on the Iowa Test of Basic                       Skills after their first year at the school       Chiron           3-year growth pattern on California Achievement Test for 1993 8th                       graders:                       Reading Comprehension increased from 45th percentile to 65th                       percentile                       Math Concepts increased from 41st percentile to 69th percentile       Nativity Mission 3-year growth pattern on Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, Total                       Battery, for classes of 1990, 1991, and 1992:                       1990:  from grade level equivalent of 3.3 in 5th grade to 9.7 in 8th                       grade                       1991:  from grade level equivalent of 4.7 in 5th grade to 9.2 in 8th                       grade                       1992:  from grade level equivalent of 4.7 in 6th grade to 8.7 in 8th                       grade       Nativity Prep    No test data available at time of data collection       Timilty          3-year growth pattern in proportion of students passing state basic                       skills test:                       Reading:  from 77 percent in 1986-87 to 90 percent in 1988-89 (last                       year of test) 

We cannot, of course, attribute these impressive growth patterns directly to the schools' innovations in the uses of time for teaching and learning. Many, many variables contribute to the overall impact that the schools have on their students. Nevertheless, we selected these sites because of time-related factors, not because of any foreknowledge of student outcomes. Their unique combinations of amount of educational time and how that time is used quite probably are significant factors in their equations for success.

Elementary Schools

In terms of evidence that time-related reforms may have an impact on student outcomes, the three elementary school sites in our sample are the weakest link in the argument. While there is always room for improvement, Wheeler Elementary in Louisville was already posting decent student test scores before its experiment with restructuring began. Philosophically, its reform efforts have moved the school away from placing much reliance on standardized tests as indicators of student success and toward alternative approaches to assessment and reporting progress. (At the time of data collection, the new statewide Kentucky assessment system, KIRIS, had not yet been implemented, and the school has been unresponsive to our requests for updated information.) Basically, we do not know whether the school's efforts with multi-age groupings, enrichment activities, and interdisciplinary, thematic curriculum have produced the kinds of outcomes that teachers hoped for.

Hollibrook Elementary in the Houston area also represents a comprehensive restructuring experiment, modeled on Levin's Accelerated Schools Program. School administrators and teachers hoped that the combination of more challenging curriculum, varied instructional approaches, enrichment activities, school-level decisionmaking, and increased parent involvement would, among other things, produce improvement in chronically low student achievement, as measured by required state tests. However, early data showing that 5th graders experienced sharp growth in achievement levels, particularly in reading and language arts, has not been replicated more recently. Further, the school and grade-level data that are available are confounded by changing state policies on whether students enrolled in ESL or bilingual programs must take the state tests: sometimes they are in and sometimes they are out, causing considerable fluctuation in results at a school like Hollibrook where 88 percent of students are of Hispanic origin and many speak only Spanish when they first enroll.

Finally, there is the case of Moton and Lockett Elementary Schools in New Orleans--40 more school days per year with little effort to determine how the extra time might be employed to produce improved student outcomes. One of the schools showed a consistent improvement in the proportion of students scoring above the national average in reading on the California Achievement Test and a more or less parallel decline in the proportion scoring below the 25th percentile. However, results for math at this school and in both skill areas at the other school fluctuated, producing no discernible patterns of improvement that might have been used to defend continuation of the experiment on academic grounds. Ironically, some of the added time was actually allocated to test preparation activities.

While they could not point to achievement data as proof, the elementary schools all noted other indicators of positive change which they attributed to time-related and other innovations. Teachers at Wheeler spoke of improved attendance, decreases in disciplinary referrals, increased student motivation, and increased parental involvement. At Hollibrook, student mobility has decreased as the school's self-image has improved. Teachers observed growth in students' self- confidence and self-esteem and improved attitudes toward learning. Moton and Lockett staff cited similar kinds of outcomes: a drop in suspensions, higher attendance, higher self-esteem. An attempt to measure growth in self-esteem with an instrument actually pointed to a decline over the life of the experiment.

On balance, then, most of the high schools and middle schools in our study have marshalled "hard" evidence that their academic programs--which, as we have discussed, are variable in terms of their innovativeness--produce results; the elementary schools have not. Where does this leave us? We cannot say, "The additional 1.5 hours per day of classroom instruction at Timilty makes the difference," because that example is counterbalanced by Chiron where students lose some instructional time by moving among learning sites. In fact, with this sample, any attempt to argue that one classroom-based strategy looks more promising than another fails because so many permutations of quantity and quality of time are represented. We therefore challenged ourselves to find another factor that linked sites that were indisputably successful. We concluded that, in addition to academics, these schools emphasize another kind of curriculum that has a strong effect on students' attitudes and efforts in the classroom. We discuss this "other" curriculum next.

The Fourth and Fifth "R's": Responsibility and Respect

The successes that many of our schools have had and the ways in which they measure them suggested to us that there are deeper lessons being learned by students than the information they give back on tests or the excellent work that they accumulate in their portfolios. They are lessons about values, responsibility, and respect, and they are delivered in many ways.

The greatest contribution of extended hours, days, or weeks in school may well be the increased opportunities for caring adults to reinforce these deeper lessons. The evidence from this study has convinced us that research-based, innovative, challenging curriculum and instruction-- however much of it there is--cannot alone turn back the alleged tide of mediocrity, particularly for students who are at risk of school failure. In the schools that we found to be the most impressive, there is a bedrock of high personal standards and an almost spiritual dimension to the commitment of the adults to ensuring that students reach them. We detected this phenomenon most strongly in the residential and Jesuit schools, but it was certainly discernible in some of the other schools as well. In this last section of the chapter, we discuss the strategies that sites used to develop and sustain a tone that breeds student success.

Residential and Jesuit Schools

Administrators at the residential schools explained that, when people are living and working together 24-hours per day, the issue of what will be tolerated and what will not is fundamental. As one school director put it, "If we can just get them to assume responsibility for themselves and their actions, that will be a big step in the right direction." Behavior codes at these schools require that students treat faculty and one another with respect and take responsibility for their own learning. Certain behaviors are strictly forbidden, and sanctions are enforced, including temporary or permanent expulsion.

The student handbook of one residential school includes several pages of rules that, give or take a bit, are typical of the residential schools in this study. A sampling of these rules gives a flavor of the standards that living/learning communities set and live by:

This set of rules--which is for older teenagers--makes very clear what kinds of infractions are nonnegotiable and will have severe consequences. In each school year, a small number of students are inevitably asked to leave the residential schools and, while most of the schools have procedures for reinstatement, that option is generally not available until a new term or a new year.

The residential schools (and indeed, many public schools) must directly state the behaviors that will result in dismissal to protect themselves. Those rules, however, are not the ones that are emphasized on a day-to-day basis. Rather, the expectations captured in the third and fourth bullets of the above list are the guiding principles for behavior at all of the residential schools (and the two Jesuit schools as well): personal responsibility and respect for others. These principles are pervasively and consistently reinforced by all adults, in all of a school's venues, during all waking hours. As one teacher explained: "In public schools, kids are going back to their home environments at the end of every day. Then they bring their out-of-school behavior to the school. At Piney Woods Country Life School, during out-of-school activities--whether it be working on the farm or in the library, participating in sporting events, or eating meals--the same high standards of behavior are expected."

Certain conventions for instilling responsibility and respect are common to all of the residential schools that we visited. There is a heavy emphasis on homework and the development of study skills; excuses are not accepted. The schools offer a variety of extracurricular and athletic activities in which students are expected to participate. Moreover, at the residential schools, students help the school run by assisting with the preparation of meals and cleaning buildings and grounds. At Beaver Island Lighthouse School in the middle of Lake Michigan, school buildings will go unheated unless the assigned students feed the school's wood-burning heating system regularly. Piney Woods is largely self-sustaining, with acres of garden, animals raised for slaughter, a dry-cleaning establishment, campus stores, a security office, a health service, and so on. Student jobs are available in all of these areas of community life. In addition to assigned chores, seniors at Girard College are also required to perform community service, some of which is on-campus with younger students and some of which is off-campus.

The consistency of the messages about responsibility and respect make their mark with students at the residential schools. Virtually all of the students interviewed were able to articulate their school's values and compare them with schools they had previously attended. We also had the sense that students--particularly the older ones--had accepted and internalized the lessons. That is not to say, however, that there are not rebellions, mischief, fights, and questioning of the rules on these campuses. Beaver Island, which deals with a volatile mix of students, convenes a community meeting daily where both procedural matters and interpersonal difficulties are discussed. Chinquapin has a Student Leadership Committee that reviews cases of minor rule-breaking and assigns appropriate punishments for infractions such as skipping the morning jog. These kinds of structures are designed to reinforce the idea that the good of the community depends on the responsible behavior of all its members.

The unrelenting "lessons" about personal responsibility and respect for others at the residential schools are particularly important in the innately rebellious years of early adolescence. However, as students mature and demonstrate their internalization of the school's values, there is opportunity to offer them both freedoms and increased levels of responsibility that signal adult appreciation of progress made. Girard College, for example, issues off-campus privileges. Chinquapin puts residence hall monitoring responsibilities in the hands of older students. At Piney Woods, there is less inclination to recognize the emerging maturity of juniors and seniors with a relaxation of the rules. Several students commented on this, observing that if school officials really believed in and trusted students, they would give them more opportunities to exercise their good judgment independently.

Public Schools

The public schools--particularly the middle and high schools--have also established an ethos of high expectations and structured discipline, although their methods are somewhat different. In general, the public schools in this study (with the exception of the one public residential school) do not have authority to mete out some of the consequences for rule violation that help the residential schools maintain discipline (e.g., Saturday work assignments, expulsion), nor can they rely on the religious guidance used in some of the private schools to help establish a culture of discipline, commitment, responsibility, and respect. They emphasize the school's commitment to educate each individual student, offering support services and a sense of caring, and emphasizing that each individual--adults and students alike--has responsibility for the welfare of the school community. Examples of the strategies they use include the following:

Most schools in the United States, whether public or private, would likely articulate the development of personal responsibility and respect for others as key goals of their programs. Not all of them, however, pursue these goals as assiduously and consistently as most of the schools that we visited for this study. Internalization of these two values was viewed as more than half the battle to putting students on the track to success. Once students recognized that (1) they could control their actions, including working hard and (2) they could not shift the blame for failure to outside forces, then they were able to negotiate the academic part of a school's program rather easily. Of course, not all students accept the lessons about responsibility and respect without a struggle. In fact, it is sometimes quite remarkable how much psychological energy that might be used for learning goes into bucking the system--particularly in early adolescence.

The particular strength of the residential schools and the extended day Jesuit schools seemed to lie in structures and supports that helped students move past their resistance: tutoring, mentoring, group discussions to resolve problems, peer-mediated discipline, required study halls, and so on. These are essentially in loco parentis functions that the institutions assume because their students spend relatively little time at home. Some of the public schools, such as Timilty and Metro, invest time and resources in creating partnerships with parents to achieve the same ends. If parents and the school agree on goals for students and support each other, students cannot play off one against the other. This kind of pact functions quite routinely in schools serving middle class students. For schools serving large numbers of educationally at-risk students--including most of the public schools in our sample, parent-school relationships to support student learning must be deliberately created.

Concluding Observations About Time and Student Learning

A key research question for this study has been whether or not altering the time for teaching and learning has demonstrable impacts on students. The evidence presented in this chapter suggests that, for most of the sites that we studied, the answer is yes. However, the evidence also makes it clear that there is no single, time-related reform that we can point to and say, "Aha! This is the answer." Instead, we have an array of strategies and combinations of strategies that have worked in particular local contexts and may work in others. The most important lessons learned are the following:

Simply adding more classroom time to the school year or day is a weak reform strategy. This finding is a little worrisome since requiring more time in the classroom is an easy route for policymakers to take if they become convinced that time is a fundamental issue in educational improvement. Anyone tempted by this route should pay careful attention to the New Orleans experiment with a Japanese-length school year in two schools. This experiment might have worked if the district had invested in a planning and development stage prior to full implementation and if there had been clear and mutually understood goals for how the time should be used. These two conditions were met at Timilty Middle School in Boston when it added daily school time that adds up to the equivalent of 36 more days per year. Outcomes for the Boston children improved dramatically; outcomes for the New Orleans children remained poor. The Boston experiment is thriving; the New Orleans experiment is dead.

More academic time is not necessarily needed if there is flexibility to reconfigure existing time in ways that make more sense to students and teachers. This lesson is at the heart of what many innovative magnet programs (such as AMY and Chiron) and restructuring schools (such as Hollibrook) have done to distinguish their practice from that of more conventional schools. Flexibility in the use of time is a key corollary of site-based decision making. To the extent that devolution of decision making authority to the school level represents a trend, we can also expect to see a growing number of schools where the traditional school day and week are chunked up differently.

Extending noninstructional time at school has important impacts on students. In the hours before or after the regular school day ends, a number of the schools in our study provided their students with structure, enrichment, adult role models, and emphatic lessons about personal responsibility, responsibility to the school community, and respect for others. Ultimately, this additional time has an impact on academic learning as well. Homework gets done. Tutoring is often available. Eventually, students internalize the lesson that their education is in their own hands.

Flexibility of educational time is an especially important characteristic for schools that serve high school students at risk of school failure. When students drop out of school, it is often because the rigidities of traditional school time are a poor fit with situations and responsibilities in other parts of their lives. As course failures and incompletions pile up or credit accrual is slowed by the need for remediation or English language instruction, many students become discouraged. Schools and programs that teach when students are available to be taught and acknowledge variation in the pace at which students learn are important supplements to the mainstream education system.
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[Alternative Uses of Time and Student Learning - Curriculum and Instruction: Strategies to Improve the Quality of learning Time]  [Table of Contents]  [Resources Required to Alter The Uses of Time for Learning]