Dissertation

Creating a Coherent System: Key Learnings from a School Reform in Persuit of Equity and Excellence

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2016), presently, the majority of children in our nation’s schools are students of color. With poverty rates rising among public school children, and America continuing its demographic shift to a majority-minority population, the task of scaling up and better supporting the practices and interventions that effectively close gaps and promote positive achievement outcomes is more urgent than ever. The purpose of the study was to describe the journey of a high needs elementary school, leadership, staff, and parents, a School Improvement Grant (SIG) awardee, engaged in transforming into a learning organization focused on continuous improvement in pursuit of equity and excellence for all students. This case study used a theoretical framework, the Coherence Framework: Focusing Direction, Cultivating Collaborative Cultures, Deepening Learning, and Securing Accountability, to identify the challenges and successes within school reform. Three themes emerged as key learnings in the school improvement process by the district, school leadership, and staff, which were: Professional Development, Collaboration, and Dedicated Time to Grow Educators. Five themes emerged as successes and/or breakthroughs in transforming into a learning organization focused on continuous improvement, which were: Leadership, Setting Direction, Building Capacity, Teaching and Learning, and Safe, Positive, and Supportive Environment. Three themes emerged as barriers and/or challenges in transforming into a learning organization focused on continuous improvement, which were: Mindset, Ineffective Practices, and Nonexistent District-Site Partnership. Significant and/or representative examples are provided for each theme. The significance of this study is that the findings have the power to influence whole system change in education for students of color in low performing schools. Practitioners in the education field may find the study useful if they are interested in improving educational opportunities for students of color.

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