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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
May 10, 2004
Volume 39, Number 15

Characteristics of highly effective schools revealed
COE's Kitchen presents national findings

By Greg Johnston

A team of UNM researchers has determined that students from low-income communities can excel in mathematics when teaching and learning are a top priority for schools. The research, led by Rick Kitchen, assistant professor at the College of Education, examined the characteristics that distinguished nine high achieving schools nationwide, serving low-income communities.

Kitchen is interviewed at KANW FM radio about his study on high achieving schools.
Kitchen presented his findings in April to the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, in Philadelphia. Kitchen told the Philadelphia Inquirer that setting the bar high was a key to success for students. “Kids like being at these schools” he said. “They told us, ‘The teachers made me work. I know I have a future.’”

The High Achieving Schools Initiative, funded by the Hewlett Packard Corporation, offers new information that may help schools meet the challenges of the No Child Left Behind act. First-hand accounts from teachers, administrators and students are included in the study of nine highly effective public secondary schools.

The UNM research team is aware that huge discrepancies exist in test scores between schools that serve low-income and upper middle class neighborhoods. Research has consistently shown that students from more affluent neighborhoods have greater access to a high quality education.

During the 2002-2003 school year, the UNM team visited each school twice. Researchers observed classrooms, interviewed math teachers and students and provided surveys.

“What readily became apparent is that teaching and learning are truly priorities at these schools,” Kitchen said. “When you consider typical schools, putting teaching and learning first represents a real change to the school culture.”

Kitchen and his team identified seven characteristics of highly effective schools:

•  Teaching and learning are prioritized to support high academic expectations for student learning
•  Supplemental support is provided for student learning
•  Strong and well-defined sense of purpose among mathematics faculty
•  Faculty collaborate and support each other
•  An explicit focus on test preparation
•  Teaching resources are widely available
•  Teachers have regular access to professional development opportunities

Kitchen believes that changing the culture of schools depends on educational leadership. In the high achieving schools, administrative support went beyond rhetoric. Components for success included investments in teaching materials, professional development courses and tutors for students. Kitchen said equally important are shared preparation periods, more hours of instruction and shelter from bureaucratic procedures.

Sylvia Celedón-Pattichis, COE assistant professor, and Julie DePree, associate professor, UNM-Valencia, are also members of the team. In the report, Celedón-Pattichis wrote a case study of the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem, N.Y. The final report of the High Achieving Schools Initiative can be found at www.unm.edu/~jbrink/HASchools/.