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Appendix: Study Design

Muhammad, Anthony Solution Tree Press ePub

APPENDIX

Study Design

The foundation of the Transforming School Culture framework is a result of the study identified in this appendix. The insights provided in the second edition are intended to provide an updated context for the findings of the original study to ensure that they continue to be relevant for years to come.

Sample

This study was conducted by collecting data from thirty-four public schools in the United States scattered across four regions—East, Midwest, South, and West. (See table A.1 on pages 158–159.) The study included eleven elementary schools, fourteen middle schools, and nine high schools. These schools ranged in student enrollment from small (200–400) to medium (401–1,000) to large (1,001-plus). Student socioeconomic status spanned poor (over 50 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunch) to moderate (10–49 percent) to affluent (9 percent or less). Student racial population ranged from diverse (more than two racial groups of 25 percent or more) to moderate (three or more racial groups of 10 percent or more) to homogeneous (one racial group comprising more than 90 percent of student population).

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Chapter 5: The Victim Mindset

Anthony Muhammad Solution Tree Press ePub

No one can make you feel inferior
without your consent
.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

If equality is to become a reality, the onus cannot lie on the shoulders of one group. Dan Lortie (1975) writes that “it is illogical to expect a group of people who have personally benefited from a system to become the catalyst for changing the system” (p. 74). I do not begrudge communities and school systems that strive for excellence for their students, but I believe that they are responsible for supporting policies and creating an atmosphere that protects their superior ranking to the detriment of other communities, schools, and students. So, what is the responsibility of the oppressed?

In a seminal 1951 work, Eric Hoffer, award-winning moral and social philosopher, sums up the dilemma of the oppressed perfectly:

Discontent by itself does not invariably create a desire for change. Other factors have to be present before discontent turns into dissatisfaction. One of these is a sense of power. Those who are awed by their surroundings do not think of change, no matter how miserable their condition. When our mode of life is so precarious as to make it patent that we cannot control the circumstances of our existence, we tend to stick to the proven and the familiar. (p. 7)

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5 The Survivors

Muhammad, Anthony Solution Tree Press ePub

CHAPTER 5

The Survivors

During the course of this study, a small but important group of teachers emerged. This group was not large in number, and in most cases, leaders responded appropriately to their needs. I call this group the Survivors. A Survivor is an educator who has completely given up on practicing effective instruction and has focused his or her energy on a new mission: survival until the end of the school year—and in some cases, the end of the school day. The Survivors made up less than 2 percent of the educators observed in this study, but if gone unchecked, they can have an absolutely devastating impact on their students’ chances of receiving a quality education.

A comprehensive study conducted at the University of Tennessee shows that students assigned to ineffective teachers continue to show the effects of such teachers even when those students are subsequently assigned to very effective teachers (Sanders & Rivers, 1996). The residual effects of both very effective and ineffective teachers are measurable two years later, regardless of the teachers’ effectiveness in later grades. The same study also finds that students who have three effective teachers or three ineffective teachers in a row have vastly different achievement levels. Because of differences in teacher effectiveness, students whose achievement levels were similar in mathematics at the beginning of third grade scored 50 percentile points apart on fifth-grade achievement tests just three years later. Poor and ineffective instruction can completely undermine the school’s fundamental mission. This is why leaders must remove teachers who have become burnt-out or depressed from the classroom and address their issues. It is what is best for the student as well as the teacher.

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1 From Status Quo to True Reform

Muhammad, Anthony Solution Tree Press ePub

CHAPTER 1

From Status Quo to True Reform

For more than a century, educators, scholars, politicians, and citizens have debated the purpose of our public school system and how best to reform it. Ironically, our public school system has undergone sweeping changes, yet it has remained largely the same, and there is still a lack of clear consensus about what is needed to ensure that all our schools perform at high levels and all our students achieve success.

Education has traditionally been viewed as the best route for social mobility, but for some young people, this route is not accessible. In fact, an abundance of data on the costs of this failure of our education system shows the system is absolutely broken. This is especially true for students from certain demographic groups who have been traditionally underserved by our school system.

Persistent gaps between white and black citizens in critical areas like income, health, and education have been important issues at the center of debates about equity for a long time. A report from the Pew Research Center (2016) finds that these gaps are as large as ever. Specifically:

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Appendix: Study Design

Anthony Muhammad Solution Tree Press ePub

This study was conducted by collecting data from 34 public schools in the United States scattered across four regions (see the table on page 123). Those regions were East, Midwest, South, and West. The sample included 11 elementary schools, 14 middle schools, and 9 high schools. These schools ranged in student enrollment from small (200–400), medium (401–1,000), and large (1,001+). Student socioeconomic status spanned poor (50%+ students receiving free and reduced lunch), moderate (10%–49%), and affluent (9% or less). Student racial population ranged from diverse (more than two racial groups of 25% or more), moderate (three or more racial groups of 10% or more), and homogeneous (one racial group more than 90% of student population).

This study was an ethnography, and data was collected using three methods. The data was collected over a 3-year period from 2004–2007. Informal observations of classrooms in session during regular school hours, staff meetings, teacher team meetings, and other formal and informal gatherings of staff members were used to collect observational data. Formal interviews were conducted with each building principal and a randomly chosen group of teachers at each school. Each interviewee was asked the same questions, and his or her answers were tape-recorded. A document review was done at each site. These documents included student grade reports, student and staff attendance reports, and standardized test results. The names of staff members and students were kept confidential on all reports provided by building and district administration.

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