Research on effective schools and school practices has clearly demonstrated that schools/school systems can become more effective. The literature defines effectiveness as having high achievement among all student groups, high student and staff attendance, high employee and student satisfaction, and high public confidence in schools. Effective schools/school districts also "add value" to the performance levels of students: the level of student performance increases uniformly the longer students are in school. Effectiveness levels are those levels which are achieved by the top 20 percent of the student population in a given category of student population demographics. In statistical terms, effectiveness levels are those levels achieved at one standard deviation above the mean of the population. They are, therefore, rigorous levels of achievement. Effectiveness is strongly associated with specific conditions of schooling. These conditions are commonly called "the correlates of effectiveness":
Schools and school systems which are effective practice the behaviors associated with the correlates of effectiveness. The behaviors are understood, supported, practiced, and are observable. Such behaviors can be established through effective school training programs which are readily available from a variety of sources. These behaviors are generally under the control of adults. It should be clearly understood that conditions for effectiveness are the results of decisions made by adults in the community. An Audit of Educational Effectiveness examines the degree to which a school district meets the levels of effectiveness.
Each school district is examined against student and staff populations with similar demographics nationwide which are currently achieving effectiveness levels and which have firmly established the correlates of effectiveness. An educational effectiveness audit includes:
The audit also consists of other activities to obtain effectiveness information, including
An effectiveness audit can be conducted for a single school, for a cluster of schools, or for an entire school district. The larger the number of students involved, the more accurate is the audit. This audit has been conducted for the Fort Worth Independent School District, Fort Worth, Texas. It was conducted to ascertain the degree to which the schools meet effectiveness levels. As such, it is an examination of the entire system as a whole. It is not an examination of individual teachers or individual administrators.
SchoolMatch maintains databases on each of the nation's public school systems and over 14,000 accredited private schools. A multiple regression analysis technique was applied to the SchoolMatch databases to identify other student populations in the United States similar to students enrolled in the Fort Worth Independent School District. The study compares student populations rather than school systems in order to provide more fair, accurate and comprehensive cohort comparisons.
In order to arrive at the most meaningful effectiveness levels for the Fort Worth Independent School District, members of the audit team searched the entire student population of the United States for similar student populations. Included in the aggregate student population data are some of the following school systems which approximate the size of the Fort Worth Independent School District and share some of its demographic characteristics:
This list is not intended to be exhaustive, nor is it to be used for comparative purposes. Its inclusion here is meant only to give readers of this report a sample of the types of student populations analyzed. Data obtained from documents (Appendix A) are examined against information obtained through interviews. Reliability is established through professional judgments. Validity of effective school practices has been established by the combined efforts of researchers who have adequately documented that school practices associated with effective school correlates produce beneficial results for school systems. These research data are readily available.
One purpose of an educational effectiveness audit is to identify areas of school system operation or system results which can and should be improved. The audit serves as a basis for school system improvement and for the allocation of resources. The audit makes recommendations and provides possible methods for achieving school system improvements. The audit will assist the system to:
Information related to various levels of achievement is provided in Appendix B. It should be understood that researchers differ widely on the meaning and use of test data. Regardless of the position taken, however, most agree that test data (or student performance assessments) do indicate the degree to which schools/school systems are effective. This is especially true when longitudinal test data are available and utilized. On occasion, cross-sectional data may be utilized for extremely large school districts.
There are four levels of achievement in effectiveness auditing: basic, normative, effectiveness and absolute. Basic levels are the minimum which will be accepted. Normative levels are levels achieved by the average of the group. Effectiveness levels are levels achieved by the top 20-25 percent of a mean-matched group of schools or school systems. Such levels are at one standard deviation above the average. Absolute levels are those achieved by the top schools or school systems in the distribution of mean-matched schools or school systems. For instance, the achievement of 100 percent average daily attendance would be the achievement of an absolute level.
The first step in conducting an audit is to analyze school system policies and practices. The next section of this report delineates the results of this analysis.
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