Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Administrator and Teachers' Perceptions of School Success in a Publicly Funded Catholic School in Ontario, Canada

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Administrator and Teachers' Perceptions of School Success in a Publicly Funded Catholic School in Ontario, Canada

Article excerpt

Over the past decade, public school systems in Canada and other parts of the developed world have increasingly interpreted school success in terms of student achievement on provincial and state standardized tests. In the United States, for example, legislation such as No Child Left Behind supports narrowly defined standards-based education reform, where school success is understood as the ability to move students to grade-level proficiency in math and English language arts (ELA) as measured by standardized tests. State accountability systems are considered high stakes because not only do they determine a student's progress toward graduation, but they also dictate the programs in which students can participate and the federal funding that comes to the school. As an example, consider the state of Florida.

In the 14 years since Florida instituted the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in 1998, the number of tests conducted yearly has increased from approximately seven to approximately 28 assessments (Central Florida School Board Coalition, 2012). Students' ability to achieve proficiency on these tests is now required to receive a high school diploma. In 2002, the adequate yearly progress (AYP) measure from the federal No Child Left Behind regulation was incorporated into the school success equation. Not meeting AYP for certain subgroups of students triggers a variety of prescriptive state- and federally mandated interventions. Schools considered Title 1--where 40% or more of students come from low-income families--that show no academic improvement within a two-year period are placed on choice school improvement status. In these situations, schools are required to develop an improvement plan and provide students with the option to transfer to a different school. Part of the Title I funds must be allocated for professional development for teachers and staff (Manwaring, 2010). Schools that do not improve on the AYP for five years are given five rather extreme choices, which include chartering, reconstitution, contracting, state takeover, or any other major governance restructuring (Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, 2008). FCAT tests are not just high stakes for students and schools; they also have monetary consequences for teachers. Student success on these tests reflects almost half of a teacher's evaluation, which in turn can affect their salary and professional standing (Central Florida School Board Coalition, 2012; Education Pre-K-12 Committee, 2011).

Many educators and researchers do not share the belief that school success can be measured by quantifiable test results alone. Some scholars (Drysdale, Goode & Gurr, 2009; Johnson, 2007; Moller, Vedoy, Presthus, & Skedsmo, 2009; Riahani, 2008) see school success as much more than achievement on standardized tests. Some alternative definitions of school success include students acquiring particular skill sets and knowledge required for successful entry into the workforce (Huddleston & Oh, 2004; Ontario Education Act, 1990); contributing to global competitiveness (Boman, 2006; Lingard & Ozga, 2007; O'Sullivan, 1999); supporting individual growth through child-centred pedagogical approaches and curriculum (Vadeboncoeur, 1997); changing current social inequities and challenging the status quo (Roth, 2006); producing democratic citizens (Dewey, 1916; Gutmann, 1999; Rolheiser & Glickman, 1995) and supporting students' spiritual growth in creating a healthy relationship with their God or deity (Arthur, 1995; Morris 1997). These definitions of success speak to the many purposes of education. Acknowledging that some purposes of education may be contradictory while others are complementary, schools and school systems often find themselves pursuing more than one purpose, but one will typically be predominant (Cranston, Mulford, Keating, & Reid, 2010). Asking questions about what is meant by school success is important, since the ways in which educators and administrators define school success tends to guide their practice, and may have implications for current and future policy initiatives. …

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