OVER 25 YEARS AGO a federal paper was written to discuss the effectiveness of American education. The paper was funded by the U.S. Office of Education and written by James Coleman, a prominent education researcher. Effective Schools Research emerged in response to this controversial paper.

Concluding that public schools didn't make a significant difference, Coleman's report credited the student's family background as the main reason for student success in school. His findings proposed that children from poor families and homes, lacking the prime conditions or values to support education, could not learn, regardless of what the school did.

Ronald Edmonds, then Director of the Center for Urban Studies at Harvard University, responded vigorously. Edmonds, and others, refused to accept Coleman's report as conclusive, although they acknowledged that family background does indeed make a difference. They set out to find schools where kids from low income families were highly successful, and thereby prove that schools can and do make a difference.

Edmonds, and other researchers, looked at achievement data from schools in several major cities -- schools where student populations were comprised of those from poverty backgrounds. Nationwide, they found schools where poor children were learning. Though these findings contradicted Coleman's conclusion, they (Edmonds, Brookover, Lezotte plus other school effectiveness researchers) were left without an answer as to why certain schools made a difference and others did not.

To answer this puzzling question, successful schools were compared with similar schools, in like neighborhoods, where children were not learning, or learning at a low level. Characteristics describing both types of schools were observed and documented. The basic conclusion of this comparative research was (is):

  • Public schools can and do make a difference, even those comprised of students from poverty backgrounds.
  • Children from poverty backgrounds can learn at high levels as a result of public schools.
  • There are unique characteristics and processes common to schools where all children are learning, regardless of family background. Because these characteristics, found in schools where all students learn, are correlated with student success -- they are called "correlates". This body of correlated information began what is now refered to as Effective Schools Research.
  • Replication research conducted in recent years reaffirms these findings and the fact that these correlates describe schools where children are learning and do not describe schools where children are learning at a much lower level.. This replication research has been conducted in all types of schools: suburban, rural, urban; high schools, middle schools, elementary schools; high socio-economic communities, middle class communities, and low socio-economic communities.




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