Independent Activity #2:

Characterizing the Extent of Unification of a School District

Objectives

O.T.6.3

Teachers collaborate effectively with other teachers, administrators, and school and district staff. (Ohio Standards Board)

CEC.I.7.1

Beginning special education professionals use the theory and elements of effective collaboration. (Council for Exceptional Children)

CEC.I.7.2

Beginning special education professionals serve as a collaborative resource to colleagues. (Council for Exceptional Children)

CEC.I.7.3

Beginning special education professionals use collaboration to promote the well-being of individuals with exceptionalities across a wide range of settings and collaborators. (Council for Exceptional Children)

Procedures

  1. Read the materials below: (a) the brief quote, (b) the list of characteristics of a unified school district, and (c) one or more of the articles on the reading list.
  2. Next develop a set of open-ended interview questions that you can use in an interview with a teacher, principal, or superintendent who is currently employed in a school district. The purpose of the interview is to find out how unified the school district actually is based on the degree to which and the ways in which it matches the criteria on the list below.
  3. Conduct the interview with a teacher, principal, or superintendent who is currently employed in a school district. Make an audio recording of the interview and then listen to the audio tape several times so that you are very familiar with what the interviewee said.
  4. Then, using the information from the interview, develop a grid to show how well the school district with which you are familiar matches up with the characteristics on the list below. Illustrate your determinations about the school districts’ practices with quotes from the interview.
  5. Finally, write a one-page essay describing how the district might use Teacher-based Teams (in conjunction with other teams at the building and district levels) and other effective school practices to move from its current level of unification to a higher level of unification.

Brief Quote

A functional system goes beyond integration to unification. Consider one-room schoolhouses…. As the school and then the district got larger and identified more problems — each with separate and often isolated solutions — we built funding sources, structures, and empires specifically for each of these at-risk populations. At risk became economically disadvantaged, special education, English language learners, migrant, homeless, neglected, and so on. In doing so, we often isolated the children categorized by these labels and neglected to understand that the central issues for each of these populations were more similar than dissimilar. Consequently, we built special funding, special teachers, special curricula, special tests, and special strategies, invariably in isolation of the central purpose of schooling — effective teaching and learning. (Barr, 2012, p. 1)

List of Criteria Characterizing a Unified School District

  • A unified school system places the learning of all of its members as its most significant value.
  • A unified school system recognizes that it needs to improve.
  • A unified school system has a small number of improvement goals.
  • A unified school system has a small number of improvement strategies.
  • A unified school system shares information about its improvement goals with all stakeholders (e.g., teachers, parents, community members).
  • A unified school system uses data to identify needs and keep track of progress.
  • A unified school system expects teachers to base instructional decisions on relevant data.
  • A unified school system uses inclusive practices to ensure that students with a variety of needs benefit from engagement with the general education curriculum
  • A unified school system organizes teachers and leaders into functional teams that use data to make wise instructional decisions.
  • A unified school system works actively to promote inclusive attitudes among all stakeholders.
  • A unified school system investigates ways in which its practices might be exclusionary or discriminatory.
  • A unified school system puts a stop to practices that are exclusionary or discriminatory.
  • A unified school system values the contributions of all of its members.
  • A unified school system treats all of its members as learners.

Reading List

Huberman, M., Navo, M., & Parrish, T. (2012). Effective practices in high performing districts serving students in special education. Journal of Special Education Leadership, 25(2), 59-71.

Leithwood, K. (2010). Characteristics of school districts that are exceptionally effective in closing the achievement gap. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 9(3), 245-291.

Trujillo, T. (2013). The reincarnation of the effective schools research: Rethinking the literature on district effectiveness. Journal of Educational Administration, 51(4), 426-452. doi:10.1108/09578231311325640

Grading Rubric

Performance

Target

Acceptable

Unacceptable

Understanding of key concepts.

The interview questions, grid, and brief essay show clear understanding of four key concepts: collaboration, data teams, focused goals, and inclusion.

The interview questions, grid, and brief essay show clear understanding of at least two of the four key concepts.

The interview questions, grid, and brief essay show limited or superficial understanding of four key concepts: collaboration, data teams, focused goals, and inclusion.

Development of relevant interview questions.

All of the interview questions are open-ended in ways that are likely to elicit detailed responses from interviewees.

Most of the interview questions are open-ended and are likely to elicit detailed responses from interviewees.

Fewer than half of the questions are sufficiently open-ended and are unlikely to elicit detailed responses from interviewees.

Careful development of
an analytic grid.

The grid is detailed and draws attention to the districts’ performance with respect to at least 75% of the important criteria of district unification; it includes highly relevant illustrative quotes.

The grid is detailed and draws attention to at least 50% of the important criteria of district unification; it includes some relevant illustrative quotes.

The grid does not support a clear assessment of the districts’ progress toward unification because the information it presents is not sufficiently detailed and is rarely illustrated with relevant quotes.

Development of useful recommendations.

The essay is precise in aligning recommendations for the use of data teams at various levels of the system (grade level or department, building, district) with the district’s specific areas of need with respect to improved unification.

The essay includes at least three relevant recommendations for the use of data teams at various levels of the system (grade level or department, building, district).

The essay reveals limited understanding of how data teams might assist a district in becoming more unified.

Ohio's Data Team Process: Teacher-based Teams (TBTs) in Action

© 2015 School of Education and Health Sciences Grant Center, University of Dayton