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Dissertation Findings

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BC: Could not have done it without you | Thank you!!!!! What a swell committee

FC: Presentation of Dissertation Findings Sushma Sztorc using mixbook 4\7\09

1: Introduction The study examines my leadership practices in promoting an academic focus while addressing the social emotional needs of students at-risk of school failure in an alternative school ALTERNATIVE? *Alternative education is part of public education and has been supported by state legislatures for more than a century, (Reimer and Cash, 2003). *Alternative schools are non-traditional, outside of the mainstream *Typically they serve a special population, with and without disabilities, potential drop outs, violent individuals ,with the focus of keeping them in school to earn a HS diploma, (Kortke, 1999). *The NY State Alternative Education Association (NYSAEA) states approximately 100,000 students are served in alternative settings, primarily due to behavioral issues, (2006).

2: Definition of Alternative Education *There is no single accepted definition of alternative education, a typology therefore will be useful in understanding these pograms *Widely accepted is the typology by Raywid (1999) *Type I programs are innovative, full time, multi-year, divergent from standard school organization: magnet and charter schools, after hours, atypical settings, individual attention, students choose to attend *Type II segregated with disruptive students, students are sent there, placement is short term,last chance schools, in-school suspension *Type III therapuetic settings for students with social emotional problems, offer counseling, academic remediation, students can choose not to attend. *Laudan (2003), Lehr and Lange (2003), Fitzsimmons et al. (2006), all state that most alternative programs are a combination of the above three. The commonalities of schools: they are non-traditional for students at-risk of school failure.

3: Who Attends Alternative Schools? *Foley and Pang (2006) report that the highest reasons for referral were social behavioral issues (30%), truancy, expulsion and suspension (24%,22%). Prior research confirms that students not receiving special education services are referred to alternative programs due to behavioral concerns, Kliemer et al. (2001), Mattison, Cooper and Glasshoert (2002), Epstein and Ryser (2003), Reid, Gonzales, Trout, Epstein and Nordness (2004). * Students receiving special education services are also placed in alternative education programs. Nelson et al. (2004) report that behaviors like aggression and delinquency were related to a lack of achademic achievement in all content areas. Other researchers confirm these findings, Wells (1990), Skiba and Peterson (2003), Lane, Gresham, Bocain (2004). * Findings in the literature show that presenting behaviors of regular and special needs students placed in alternative settings appear to be similar.

4: Separation of Alternative from Mainstream Schooling *Oakes (1985): segregation places all but the most able students at a disadvantage, yet policy across school boards in the U.S. is to separate alienated youth. * Laws and publications advocate to educate not expel. *In 1974, the PL94-142 and in 1997 the Reauthorization of IDEA advocate that students with disabilities have equal access to education, and therefore can be placed in alternative settings. *Publication of A Nation At-Risk (1983), A Nation Prepared in (1986) and No Child Left Behind Act (2001) all demand better and higher exit outcomes for our secondary public schools. * In the State of N.Y. since 2005, all students with and without disabilities, even those attending alternative schools must pass 5 Regents exams and achieve the higher Regents standards in various content areas to achieve a New York State Regents high school diploma. * Alternative programs are here to stay.

5: The New York state Alternative Education Association has adopted the following indicators of best practices. *The concern is the social, personal and emotional skills, not just the academics. *The above skill areas need to be addressed through the curriculum. *Training that includes personalized planning and instruction for transition from high school. | The New York State Education Department has outlined outcomes for students' expectations to be met. *Students should attain high academic standards as outlined by the New York State Education Dept. *Student achievement levels will reflect these Regents standards. *All students will exit high school with a Regents diploma. Clearly there is a tension between the two expectations.

6: Engagement and the At-Risk Student *Raywid (1998) reports that if the purpose is changing the school, then programs provide innovative curriculum and instructional stategies that make system wide changes. If the purpose is to change the student, the approach is punitive or therapeutic. The first best benefits the student at-risk of failure. *Raywid (2001) also states the importance of real engagement, which depends on providing authentic, active learning environments for students. *Her findings have been substantiated by other researchers like Newmann, Bryk and Nagaoka (2001), Jordan (2006) and Akey (2006). *Implications for teaching at-risk students are clear. Schools must engage students in meaningful work using active teaching/learning strategies.

7: Significance of this study *Few studies have been conducted that answer the question "what constitutes a quality alternative program?" * Also unanswered is whether an alternative school will have greater success if its focus is on addressing risk behaviors or academics. What comes first? Or, how can schools address both, is unchartered territory. * Clearly practitioners need information if we are to be successful in meeting the complex needs of students in alternative programs. I need to examine my leadearship practices in meeting expectations of standards based Regents requirements and higher academic standards, together with addressing the social emotional needs of students in an alternative school. * Answers will fill the gaps in the existing literature and help practitioners as this study uses action research to examine leadership practices needed to address both academic and social emotional needs of at-risk students.

8: My Action Research!!! A Journey.........

9: Methodology - Action Research (AR) Various researchers have shaped action research. *Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) is credited as being the father. *Chris Argyris in the 70's and early 80's proposed that data leads to action, problem solving and improvement. *Donal Schon (1987) contributed to how professional reflection on action and in action improves practice. *Argyris and Schon (1991) confirms the use of AR as it allows for interventions and actions within a context. *Stevenson (1998) points out that knowledge therefore is constantly being constructed and reconstructed by the user. *AR is an examination of one's own practices by engaging in cycles of planning, action, observing, reflecting and planning. *A critical charecteristic is that practitioners are involved in the systemstic study of one's own practices.

10: The focus of this study is to examine my leadership practices, therefore AR was the logical choice. Parcipitants: The primary participant is me as principal of this school. In addition 8 teachers and 2 counselors directly participated. They are perceived as leaders and as such have these roles. They work closely with faculty and have readily available information. The purpose is to generate information from their observations and perspectives that allows me to reflect on my actions and informs my next actions. Data Collection: As a participatory observer, I collected information. Anonymous written surveys after each action cycle were gathered from the 10 participants. Minutes from various meetings: team, content, and faculty were utilized. Information from informal discussions with teachers, field notes and my reflective journal was used to inform my actions. A diagram of action cycle follows: www.ucd.ie/.../problem research.html

11: I have chosen the process of AR as described by Kemmis and McTaggart (1988). First step: Thematic concern and reconnaissance, or as Stevenson (forthcoming) calls it-Getting Started. Next: Plan the action, then collect data, observe, reflect on this data and plan again......

12: Getting Started Thematic Concern and Reconnaissance * The first step in AR is an initial analysis of the situation under study in light of the thematic concern or research question. This has been termed the reconnaissance and is the basis for developing the next action cycle. Information was collected through surveys, document analysis, and minutes of meetings to clarify the concern in the following areas. *1) History of school: set up as a therapuetic program for students with an emotional disturbance, a Type III (Raywid 1998). Focus continued to be therapuetic, when Niagara Academy was built in 1991. I became principal in 1994. Relationships with staff were rife with tension, mis-trust and lack of respect. We spent the next few years building a culture of communication and collaboration with systems to support these like daily team meetings and norms, between 1996-2001. The focus primarily continued to be therapuetic for students as we (the staff) were working on our culture.

13: *2) My role as a staff developer: the focus slowly shifted to academics beginning in 2000. With the change to Regents level outcomes, I brought in professionals to in-service us on the standards. I set the agendas for what and how we were going to learn. I taught teachers instructional strategies for engaging our students. We learned about curriculum mapping, to align curriculum to NY State standards. I was directly involved in teaching the staff. Collected data reflects: My role was perceived as positive and supportive in promoting the academic focus, but teachers stated that they too would like input into forming our goals and agendas. Curriculum Mapping was an issue not yet addressed. Teachers were clear that while they had learned a lot in the area of academic content and teaching strategies this information had not been captured. Given this information, the action planned was to Diary Map what was being taught to gather evidence of the academic content and how it was delivered in classrooms.

14: Thematic Concern and Reconnaissance To clarify my concern, I gathered information on what activities I had involved the faculty in towards the academic goal. Initial practices involved providing in-services on the N.Y. State standards and teachers participated in regional curriculum committees. Then, I took on a more direct role in teaching the faculty instructional strategies and used Danielson's framework for professional practices to improve teaching. Two areas of concern emerged: a lack of a common instructional framework for teaching both the alternative and special education students and my leadership practices in that I was setting the academic agenda without teacher input. Information was collected in these areas of concern. The data gathered confirmed these concerns. Based on this, the first action cycle was planned. This study has 11 action cycles. The academic agenda focused on Curriculum Mapping and 21st century skills and tools. My leadership evolved into shared leadership practices.

15: Action Cycle II Preparation for and meeting with content team facilitators: Preparing was not to set an agenda, but instead to remind me not to take the lead role, suspend assumptions on where to take mapping and how to support it. This needed to come from the facilitators, if my two concerns were to be addressed; academics and leadership. Meeting: Initially silence, then teachers asking for direction. I posed the question "how can we make mapping more meaningful and relevant?" Discussions follow: diary maps were not relevant, there was a need for support and collaboration, and a common instructional core map, but one that includes information from diary maps. Core maps can be a resource put together with consenses from all. Our language needs changing: "backbone", "assemble" instead of "framework". Team facilitators decided to lead this action of developing the core maps with me introducing the concept at a faculty meeting. Observation of my role: contributing member, encouraging teacher leaders, support, and share role of leading.

16: Action Cycle VI Preparing & Suporting the "shock & awe" We were exposed to 21st century skills and tools available on the web 2.0-by an expert and actions were planned with the action team to promote both the academic focus and leadership. This is where the two areas began to blur. One is dependent on the other. Three components to this cycle were; 1. Survey from teachers at the end of the conference to gauge ease with information, 2. Specify tool to learn and 3. Set up a NING for resourses. The conference day was a success, urgency was established to teach 21st century skills and use tools available on web 2.0. Teachers were excited to learn knowing supports were in place provided through the leadership of the action team. All teachers learned Blogging, wrote their own blogs in the safety of their own teams, and the NING was used by teachers to chat, share ideas and post resourses. Clear emergence of learning together and my hesitancy with the web 2.0 tools allowed me to share the leadership role with others.

17: Maintaining the focus on social-emotional and behavioral issues. Information was collected as a participatory observer and from surveys. The school has collaborative structures set up to address the behavioral issues of students. Teachers use daily team meetings,behavior change plans ,school wide expectations for behaviors, while allowing for team and individual teacher/student needs. Culture of trust, consistency and collaboration makes behavior management the work of the entire school community. Action Cycles IX -XI Core Maps in each content were developed, 21st century skills and tools were being learned in teams, student work was shared at faculty meetings, and resouces were added on the NING by content areas. Connections between the two were made by finding a common platform. The content and 21st century skills demanded higher order thinking. A framewok, BAM -Building Academic Mastery brought the two teams, action and content, together to promote academics with their leadership but with my support.

18: Lessons Learned Action Research and Me: *I learned from the methodology itself as it calls for clarifying concerns, then action. *Suspending assumptions: I used to assume based on my observations or feeling, did not gather data, nor was involved in systematic inquiry of my own leadership. *Self reflective nature of action research, forced introspection. This in turn led to what I call "sit on it", do nothing, restrain from action, became reflective not reactive. *Evaluate data honestly-ugly truths about self or situation: all practices profoundly impacted who I am as a leader. Continue to practice these "new" insights. From Self to Shared: Prided myself on being an instructional leader in promoting an academic focus, but it was solely me, with no teacher input. Now I am in transition, from a collaborative leader who might create dependency to a capacity building principal (Lambert, 2003). Building teacher leadership meant me changing - collect information, ask, share goals and tasks - dance between me and teachers (Mitchell & Sackney 2000).

19: Changing Roles in a Culture of Collaboration: Teachers do not work in isolation, because of structures of daily team meetings, weekly faculty meetings, oppurtunities to share professional practices and knowledge. My role is one of providing support, providing resources, and encouraging autonomy (Reitzug,1994) that fosters the growth of academics and behavior management systems. My changing role is being the "leader of instructional leaders" (Hallinger, 2003) and also promoting reflective practices that help teachers make connections, e.g. a common platform between content and action teams (BAM). My role is one of coodination within the school instead of control (Leithwood, 2000). Supporting and building teacher leadership now is my leadership . Finally: We move ahead with confidence in posing a problem, getting started, planning and evaluating an action towards meeting the academic and social, emotional needs of our at-risk students, with existing structures and shared leadership.

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