Improving School Effectiveness

Improving School Effectiveness

Improving School Effectiveness

Improving School Effectiveness


• What have we learned after three decades of research into school effectiveness?

• What are the messages for policy-makers, for schools, for classroom teachers, for parents and their children?

• What can we say with confidence about how schools improve?

• What do we want from our schools in the future and how can we achieve it?

This book sets out to answer these questions, reviewing findings from seminal international work and from a major study conducted recently in Scotland, the Improving School Effectiveness Project. It builds up a fascinating picture of what effectiveness is, how it can be measured, and what it means for teachers, parents and pupils. It provides key quantitative data that shows just how schools can and do make a difference (but that their effects tend to be more powerful at different stages in a child's school career, and with differing effects for girls and boys, and for different school subjects). From in-depth work with twenty-four 'case study' schools we are also given much rich qualitative evidence about, for instance, the links between attitudes and attainment within a school, about the ethos of a school and its capacity for change, about the significance of a school development plan in bringing about changes, and about the role and impact of 'critical friends' in pursuing improvement in schools.

Improving School Effectiveness is an important book for everyone who is interested in valuing the effectiveness of and securing improvement in schools: for teachers, heads, inspectors, policy-makers, and students and scholars of school effectiveness and improvement.


School effectiveness is an issue that has occupied researchers and policy makers for three decades. No country facing the demands of the twenty-first century can afford to be indifferent to the questions it raises. All countries of the world are concerned to make their schools more effective, to enhance quality and raise standards of achievement. Yet despite an international library of studies we are still unable to say with confidence how ineffective schools become effective, or indeed to agree on what would constitute an effective school for the third millennium.

In this book we try to address these issues, refracted through the lens of a study in one country between 1995 and 1997. The Improving School Effectiveness project (ISEP) took place in Scotland, but its themes were international. However unique the context and history of one country, the issues it addressed had familiar resonances in countries of the Pacific Rim, the Americas, Africa and Europe. The ISEP team, from the University of Strathclyde and London's Institute of Education, brought to the Scottish study experience of work in all those disparate cultures and were able to test the Scottish experience against other systems, other ways of doing things.

This did not lead us to simple or universal solutions. Rather it sharpened our awareness of culture and history as key factors in understanding schools. There was, however, a common determinant which cut across all cultures - the interrelationship of the three sets of players who make schools work teachers, pupils and parents. It is with these relationships that the story of school effects began and it is with 'the power of three' as Peter Coleman (1998) describes it, that the story of improvement will continue to be told.

The Improving School Effectiveness project was in many respects a classical effectiveness study, applying statistical techniques to a large sample of schools and studying the 'outliers' - those adding most and least values in terms of pupils' achievements and attitudes. In other respects it was, however, quite . . .

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