Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

From Start Up to High Performing Network: The Evolving Case of the Highland Schools
by Malone, Matthew R., Ed.D., The George Washington University, 2020, 228; 27735126
Abstract (Summary)

Turning around chronically under-performing schools remains a formidable challenge in U.S. education. Recent policies have created incentives for states and districts to attempt new strategies to improve outcomes for students in these schools, and increasingly, charter schools and other education networks are taking on this work. The most successful are networks of schools that have established robust systems of instruction that address two critical problems in U.S. education that have stymied past efforts: weak instructional capacity and the lack of coherent educational goals. But there are currently not enough of these organizations already established to address the needs of schools across the country. Therefore, new or existing organizations will have to develop this capacity. This dissertation illuminates the evolution of the strategy of an organization of schools operating in a turnaround environment to develop the capacity to support instruction and continuous improvement to improve outcomes for students.

This longitudinal qualitative case study examines two distinct approaches to turnaround the Highland Schools network attempted to implement over the course of the study. The first approach was rooted in practitioner-level discretion in curriculum and instructional strategy decisions. Discretion in practice resulted in extreme variation and ultimately isolation for teachers and leaders. Poor results led leaders to shift to a second approach that was centered on a commitment to shared instructional practices and common tools to improve teaching and learning. Professional isolation and variation of performance began to be managed by a shared curriculum and instructional design coupled with a central office capable of supporting teaching and learning within and across schools. Developing consistency and high levels of instructional and leadership practice proved to be an ongoing effort with both successes and setbacks and required substantial investments in organizational capacity. Yet given the challenges of school turnaround in the U.S. education environment, a network-based approach featuring robust supports for teaching and learning may be necessary to improve student outcomes in multiple schools. Turnaround policies and practitioners operating in turnaround should consider the time, resources, and organizational effort required to build and sustain a robust network that supports teaching and learning at scale.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Glazer, Joshua L.
Commitee: Clayton, Jennifer K., Massell, Diane
School: The George Washington University
Department: Educational Administration & Policy Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education Policy, Educational leadership
Keywords: Charter schools, Epistemic community, School improvement, School networks, Turnaround
Publication Number: 27735126
ISBN: 9781392455975
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