Strong Positive Effect on Visited School
The Rhode Island Department of Education decided against conducting a definitive study of the effects of a Practice-Based Inquiry visit on school improvement.
Extensive documentation does exist that shows that the SALT visit is an unusually positive intervention that pushes a school to perform better. There is no evidence that the SALT visit had either a neutral or negative effect. Documentation of its positive impact includes:
The Value of Rhode Island's SALT School Visit: A Study of The Perceptions of SALT Visit Team Members.
Salt 360 Feedback and Evaluation Study: Phase One: Report to RIDE and SALT Leadership sums up a dozen different feedback studies on the SALT visit that considered the effects of the visit on Rhode Island schools.
These two reports, as well as more recent observations, support the conclusions from the nine years of SALT visits:
- Schools, by and large, found the visit and the report of the visit very helpful.
- The report provided each school with a new perspective of its work and gave principals and teachers a much clearer understanding of what they needed to do to improve learning.
- Schools that received "bad" reports often responded over two years with a dramatic and successful effort that improved the school's teaching and learning as measured by state test results.
One of the most dramatic examples of improvement of school performance changes in Rhode Island was when Oakland Beach Elementary School in Warwick went from being categorized as "low-performing" in 2002, to "moderate" in 2003, and to "high-performing" in 2004. The school's reform was front page news and the state Commissioner went to the school for a public celebration of its success.
Julia Steiny, then the education columnist for the states major newspaper, The Providence Journal, went to the school and wrote the following:
[The school credits the SALT visit as the stimulus for its big jump in] the school's performance on the state's standardized tests â€¦ A SALT visiting committee not only analyzed the school's unfortunate data, but schmushed their faces in it. Some teachers left. That was five years ago. â€¦
[In explaining the improvement for Special Education students] Jennifer Moskol, a special education resource teacher, says, "The SALT visit pushed us into making the inclusion model real, whereas it had been half-hearted a lot of the time."
â€¦ With the teachers so turned on to teaching, the kids began changing. Friend says, "You began to see the difference as the kids moved through the grade levels. Two years ago, a lot of kids were coming to us working below grade level. And now they're all pretty much coming on level."
Almost 50 percent of the students are eligible for subsidized lunch, so managing to keep students on grade level is no small feat.
Not once did the teachers express worry about repeating their performance in the future. Instead they enthused about honing their craft and getting more comfortable with the newer initiatives. They weren't overconfident, just intrigued by the challenges ahead.
Good work, Oakland Beach.
The Department of Education, in recognition of the persuasive power of the SALT Visit expanded the work of the SALT visit chairs to include a series of work sessions at each visited to help them incorporate the team's findings into their official school plans.
Both the visited schools and the Chicago School Alliance found the PBI visit team reports exceptionally useful to the visited school. One of the principals of a visited school kept the report in his suit jacket pocker for easy reference as he went about his day.
In 2005, the visited schools made their reports the central focus of their summer planning, and spoke often about the value of the report in their planning. In fall, 2006, so many schools wanted visits that the Alliance decided the only fair way to select the ones that would be visited next would be to select them by lottery.
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