EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS - the California Center for Effective Schools: The Oxnard School District Partnership

By Chrispeels, Janet H. | Phi Delta Kappan, January 2002 | Go to article overview

EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS - the California Center for Effective Schools: The Oxnard School District Partnership


Chrispeels, Janet H., Phi Delta Kappan


The Effective Schools Process began in Oxnard only a little more than a year ago, and three to five years of strenuous work will probably be required before the full benefits for students become apparent. But important changes have already taken place, as Ms. Chrispeels points out.

IN THE LATE 1970s Ron Edmonds, one of the pioneers of research on effective schools, asserted that "all children can learn the intended curriculum" and that what prevents us from reaching this goal is lack of political will.1 Charles Teddlie and Sam Stringfield, in their longitudinal study of Louisiana schools, found that to become effective requires the mustering of political will as well as new knowledge and skills.2 Outside help and support are often needed to build the political will for change and to enable a district to gain insights into its existing practices and cultural traditions.

In the past 20 years we have learned much about what makes schools effective,3 but translating research into action remains a daunting task. The California Center for Effective Schools, which is housed at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is part of the National Alliance for Effective Schools, is helping schools to become more effective by building on the firm foundation laid by national and international effective schools research of the last two decades.4

From my early work with the Effective Schools Process in the 1980s,5 I learned the critical importance of working simultaneously at the district, school, grade (or department), and classroom levels. Without support from the top and system coherence, individual school change efforts can be quickly undermined.

The Partnership with the Oxnard School District (K-8)

In this article, I tell the beginning of the story of how the Effective Schools Process works by focusing on our center's partnership with the Oxnard (California) School District (K-8). In 1999 the district adopted a strategic plan for school improvement, which included reaching out for assistance to such local resources as community colleges and universities. In the spring of 2000, the Oxnard School District and the University of California, Santa Barbara, formed a partnership to implement the Effective Schools Process as one way to help the district achieve the goals of its newly adopted strategic plan. The overarching purpose of our partnership is to increase the number of students who meet the California K-8 curriculum content standards and are prepared for college-prep classes in high school. The work has involved all organizational levels: the board of education and administrative staff, the union, school principals, school leadership teams, and classroom teachers.

The Oxnard School District (K-8) is a rapidly growing district of 15 elementary schools, three intermediate schools, and one alternative school. It enrolls a total of 16,000 students. Two-thirds of the students are from low-income families, and 52% of the district's Spanish-speaking students need ESL (English as a second language) instruction. The four-track year-round schools are filled to capacity (700 to 1,100 students each). The district spends $5,900 per pupil, which is about average for the state. On the SAT 9 (Stanford Achievement Test), Oxnard students received among the lowest scores in the region, making the district an important test case for the Effective Schools Process.

The Effective Schools Process

Taking stock. The Effective Schools Process begins with a district profile. Reviewing current district demographic, organizational, and achievement data as well as information about existing instructional or intervention programs is a logical place to begin. Multiple measures of student achievement, including norm-referenced test data and data from other district assessments, are collected and prepared for analysis by teachers and administrators. Effective Schools surveys are administered to teachers, support staff members, parents, and students in order to determine their perceptions regarding the presence of the Effective Schools correlates (e. …

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