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Friday, February 15, 2013

Reflections on Action Research

My greatest insight is that action research never stops for an administrator who wishes to improve his/her own practice. I learned that action inquiry does not have a start and completion date, but is an area an administrator must make time to do. It is a continuous and ongoing process. As one wondering concludes, it spurs new questions.
I learned that collaborating and sharing my ideas is key in action research. While viewing and commenting on research with my colleagues through our blogs, there are multiple perspectives on the research and considering the viewpoint of others will strengthen my research and provide different perspectives validity to the research.  Lamar cohort, Lori Ramsey, comments on my blog,
We have to keep parents informed on the child's academic performance. Their support of retention or passing is vital. Also, comparing the data of the retained group to the group that was passed on will help show whether or not your tools for deciding on retention are a good predictor. And finally, teachers have to pay close attention to the performance of the children that were retained otherwise it is a waste to hold the child back.” (Ramsey, 2013)
Lori Ramsey’s comment on my blog reiterates the need to back up our stances on our action research and work with parents so the parents, as stakeholders, understand our reasoning.
A theme throughout the course has been the administrators must exemplify learning.   “Principals, like teachers, need and treasure collegiality and peer support.  Yet, perhaps even more than teachers, principals live in a world of isolation…” (Barth, 1990)  I can be a part of Professional Learning Communities to accomplishing this goal.  I will need the support of a working group of administrators, whether in a monthly meeting forum or through online collaboration.   Teachers’ and other administrators’ action inquiry can be transferred to my own practice by using the five quality indicators to assess their action research (Dana, 2009).  As my colleagues work through their action research, I can reflect upon their inquiries to make informed decisions in my educational practice.
As I become an administrator, I must be a “Head Learner” as referred to throughout the Dana text.  I can also work with teachers within Professional Learning Communities utilizing Nominal Group Technique (Harris, 2009, pg.96) to provide support for strategies that work well within our school and problem solve and build consensus.   As a part of this collaboration, I want to inspire action research within my own school and among my own peer group of future administrators.
To add support to action research, I will lead by sharing my own research when it is finished by using some of the techniques for oral presentations and write-ups discussed in Chapter 5 of the Dana text. I enjoyed the planning process of the research and I am anxious to dive into the research element of the inquiry. I am interested in sharing this process with teachers and think it may be a fulfilling way of professional development.  I could begin by coaching others through the action research process to help others inquire about their own wonderings. As teachers begin their own research inquiries, the benefits will multiply and the wheels of educational improvement will turn.

Barth, R. S., & Guest, L. S. (1990). Improving schools from within: teachers, parents, and principals can make the difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Dana, N. F. (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge: the principal as action researcher. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press, a Joint Publication with the American Association of School Administrators.
Harris, S., Edmonson, S., & Combs, J. P. (2010). Examining the Work: Sustaining Improvement. Examining what we do to improve our schools: 8 steps from analysis to action (pp. 91-103). Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.  
Ramsey, Lori.  (2013, February 10) Re:  CARE about Action Research [Web log comment].  Retrieved from CARE about Action Research.html

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ready for Action

While meeting with my site supervisor in her office this week, we both felt confident in the draft plan and it was approved as written.  However, she gave me free access to add other interesting sub-questions if I see data that is relevant to late-start students.  We also discussed crunching the data at a later time for low students who were recommended for retention but not retained.  This would become a much longer project so it is not included in the scope of this action research since we may not be able to find accurate records for retention recommendations during the last decade.  Since I had already edited the plan to include interviews or surveys, both of us feel confident that the data can be accessed and stakeholders involved can be interviewed or surveyed.  Interviewing all the stakeholders is not necessary to acquire numerous viewpoints on retention for both the parent and student perspective.  My site supervisor had just returned from a meeting concerning the state’s grading system for all schools in Oklahoma so we discussed how retention may affect our state testing score and our report card grade given by the state.

CARE about Action Research

Examining What We Do to Improve Our Schools Sandra Harris, Stacey Edmonson, Julie Combs

Tool 8.1 CARE Model: Planning Tool
Identify Concerns that must change (look to the future)
(Assign points to concerns from 1 to 3 in the order of the most important issues to consider.)
1. Improved performance so students enter Grade 3 on academic grade level.
2. Improve performance of bottom 25% of students on state testing
3. Improve academic performance overall on report card to support performance on grade level state testing

Identify Affirmations that must be sustained (look to the present)
(Assign points to affirmations from 1 to 3 in the order of the most important issues to consider.)
1. Faculty and staff willing to improve daily protocols and give feedback    
2. Administrative support and feedback
3. Strong community /parent base who supports learning and will be positive and negative viewpoints.

SMART Recommendations that must be implemented:
(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely)
(Assign points to recommendations from 1 to 3 in the order of the most important recommendations to implement.)
1. Conference with parents of under performing students about action research data at parent/teacher conferences each semester.
2. Compare academic performance of groups retained versus not retained at benchmark dates every year.
3. Teachers give retained students specific goals every 4½ weeks to catch up on previous skills.

EVALUATE – Specifically and Often
(Identify the best ways to evaluate the implemented recommendations.)
1. For the retained student, monitor progress quarterly through benchmark tests.
2.  Quarterly, rate the confidence level the teacher has that the student will be able to meet testing goals by using scales.
3.  Quarterly, rate student confidence level based on classroom performance on goals and benchmark tests.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Action Research Project-Retention and T1

Action Research Project
Stacy Williams
Academic Progress from Retention and Transitional 1st Programs

Setting the Foundation
During meetings with site mentors and teachers the issue of whether Transitional 1st or traditional retention leads to improved academic performance in the long term was a concern.  The focus of this research is to gain insight on the effectiveness of both retention and a Transitional 1st program at an early age such as Kindergarten through 2nd grade. The focus of this action research revolves around this question: What is the relationship between students who were part of a Transitional-First Grade (T1) class or retained in elementary and their success at the end of middle school or in high school?  

Analyzing Data

I will use data from permanent grade cards, class rankings, and surveys as well as internet searches on the topic of retention and Transitional 1st.  Teachers, administration, and parents want evidence to weigh when deciding if T1 is a proper place for their students, the program to continue, and/or if an extra year produces a better long term achievement result.

From initial literature review, findings include that an extra academic year does not provide increased achievement compared to a student’s pier group at matriculation from high school.  However, increases in achievement were noted in the short term.  While initial qualitative data from teachers in our school includes a positive outlook, the goal of this study is to see if the quantitative data or research matches the qualitative data. This information from parents and students will be an additional valued source.

Developing Deeper Understanding

To better understand the viewpoints of the key stakeholders, surveys are planned to find out their thoughts and opinions of the results of retention or Transitional 1st and the effects it has had on their performance as a student or their child’s performance if they are a parent. Do parents and students think the extra year provided maturity that was necessary to maintain focus on class or was the academic year a  “catch-up” that was needed to stay on track. The survey results will help me gain a clearer picture of parent and student views and how performance in school was affected.

Engaging in Self-Reflection

As I acquire and prepare data I may find variables in the data that may affect the results of my research. I may have to revise my plan or add other methods of gathering data.  I plan to continue to collaborate and discuss the progress of the research with my site administrator, other administrators, and teachers.  I expect other questions to arise as I research and analyze data.  How does being older in the class affect other areas in the school environment such as athletics or other extra-curricular activities? Does late entry have the same results?

Exploring Programmatic Patterns

Throughout the research process, I will discuss my findings with my site supervisor to solicit her opinions concerning the positives and negatives of the research.  I will seek her collaboration and guidance if improvements to the research and if any modifications of the research are necessary. By communicating the progress, it will help ensure my action research plan stays on track and is effectively completed. 

Determining Direction

The purpose of this study is to determine if an extra year by retention or a Transitional 1st leads to greater student achievement at the end of middle school and high school.  The main goal of this study is greater student achievement and to determine the perception of retention and Transitional 1st programs.  When students fall behind in achievement, their overall perception of themselves and their ability for success is at risk. The research gathered from the state test score data, class rankings, surveys, and internet literature research will be compared.   Through collaboration with administration and teachers we will determine if any fine-tuning is needed to provide the desired information. The timeline is five months to collect data, analyze, and share it.  Plan progress will be closely monitored and any part of the plan can be revised and improved based on these observations.

Taking Action for School Improvement

Collaboration with administrators and teachers will help me stay focused to complete the action research study.  The Harris et al. text, Tool 7.1 Action Planning Template, p. 85 will be used to guide the implementation of the research project.  As the data is collected, I will format it into charts, graphs, and summarize the finding into a final paper.

Sustain Improvement

A summary report will be created outlining the results of the action research project and will be shared with administrators and school staff.  Any result, whether positive or negative, will be shared so the results can influence and/or encourage the decisions of individual students’ retention or Transitional 1st program needs.  This decision may result in justification for the reinstatement of the Transitional 1st program and Title 1 funds being allocated toward this program. On the contrary, if there is not strong support, allocation of funds may be directed toward tutoring programs.