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1. School Eﬀectiveness And School Eﬀectiveness Research
In the most general sense ‘school eﬀectiveness’ refers to the level of goal attainment of a school. Although average achievement scores in core subjects, established at the end of a ﬁxed program are the most probable ‘school eﬀects,’ alternative criteria like the responsiveness of the school to the community and the satisfaction of the teachers may also be considered.
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Assessment of school eﬀects occurs in various types of applied contexts like the evaluation of school improvement programs or comparing schools for accountability purposes, by governments, municipalities, or individual schools.
School eﬀectiveness research attempts to deal with the causal aspects inherent in the eﬀectiveness concept by means of scientiﬁc methods. Not only are assessment of school eﬀects considered, but particularly the attribution of diﬀerences in school eﬀects to malleable conditions. Usually, school eﬀects are assessed in a comparative way, e.g., by comparing average achievement scores between schools. In order to determine the ‘net’ eﬀect of malleable conditions, like the use of diﬀerent teaching methods or a particular form of school management, achievement measures have to be adjusted for intake diﬀerences between schools. For this purpose student background characteristics like socioeconomic status, general scholastic aptitudes, or initial achievement in a subject are used as control variables. This type of statistical adjustment in research studies has an applied parallel in the strive for ‘fair comparisons’ between schools, known under the label of ‘value-added.’
2. Strands Of Educational Eﬀectiveness Research
School eﬀectiveness research has developed as a gradual integration of several research traditions. The roots of current ‘state-of-the-art’ school eﬀectiveness research are sketched by brieﬂy referring to each of these research traditions.
The elementary design of school eﬀectiveness research is the association of hypothetical eﬀectiveness-enhancing conditions of schooling and output measures, mostly student achievement. A basic model from systems theory, where the school is seen as a black box, within which processes or ‘throughput’ take place to transform inputs into outputs. The inclusion of an environmental or context dimension completes this model (see Fig. 1). The major task of school eﬀectiveness research is to reveal the impact of relevant input characteristics on output and to ‘break open’ the black box in order to show which process or throughput factors ‘work,’ next to the impact of contextual conditions. Within the school it is helpful to distinguish a school and a classroom level and, accordingly, school organizational and instructional processes.
Research tradition in educational eﬀectiveness varies according to the emphasis that is put on the various antecedent conditions of educational outputs. These traditions also have a disciplinary basis. The common denominator of the ﬁve areas of eﬀectiveness research that will be distinguished is that in each case the elementary design of associating outputs or outcomes of schooling with antecedent conditions (inputs, processes, or contextual) applies.
The following research areas or research traditions can be distinguished:
(a) Research on equality of opportunities in education and the signiﬁcance of the school in this.
(b) Economic studies on education production functions.
(c) The evaluation of compensatory programs.
(d) Studies of unusually eﬀective schools.
(e) Studies on the eﬀectiveness of teachers, classes, and instructional procedures.
For a further discussion of each of these research traditions the reader is referred to Scheerens (1999). A schematic characterization of research orientation and disciplinary background is given in Table 1.
3. Integrated School Eﬀectiveness Research
In recent school eﬀectiveness studies these various approaches to educational eﬀectiveness have become integrated. Integration was manifested in the conceptual modeling and the choice of variables. At the technical level multilevel analysis has contributed signiﬁcantly to this development. In contributions to the conceptual modeling of school eﬀectiveness, schools became depicted as a set of ‘nested layers’ (Purkey and Smith 1983), where the central assumption was that higher organizational levels facilitated eﬀectiveness enhancing conditions at lower levels (Scheerens and Creemers 1989). In this way, a synthesis between production functions, instructional eﬀectiveness, and school eﬀectiveness became possible by including the key variables from each tradition, each at the appropriate ‘layer’ or level of school functioning (the school environment, the level of school organization and management, the classroom level, and the level of the individual student). Conceptual models that were developed according to this integrative perspective are those by Scheerens (1990), Creemers (1994), and Stringﬁeld and Slavin (1992). The Scheerens model is shown in Fig. 2.
Exemplary cases of integrative, multilevel school eﬀectiveness studies are those by Brandsma (1993), Sammons et al. (1995), and Grisay (1996).
In Table 2 (cited from Scheerens and Bosker 1997) the results of three meta-analyses and a re-analysis of an international data set have been summarized and compared to results of more ‘qualitative’ review of the research evidence. The qualitative review was based on studies by Purkey and Smith (1983), Levine and Lezotte (1990), Scheerens (1992), and Sammons et al. (1995). The results concerning resource input variables are based on the re-analysis of Hanushek’s (1979) summary of results of production function studies that was carried out by Hedges et al. (1994). As stated before this re-analysis was criticized, particularly the unexpectedly large eﬀect of per pupil expenditure.
The results on ‘aspects of structured teaching’ are taken from meta-analyses conducted by Fraser et al. (1987). The international analysis was based on the IEA Reading Literacy Study and carried out by Bosker (Scheerens and Bosker 1997, Chap. 7). The meta-analysis on school organizational factors, as well as the instructional conditions ‘opportunity to learn,’ ‘time on task,’ ‘homework,’ and ‘monitoring at classroom level,’ were carried out by Witziers and Bosker and published in Scheerens and Bosker (1997, Chap. 6). The number of studies that were used for these meta-analyses varied per variable, ranging from 14 to 38 studies in primary and lower secondary schools.
The results in this summary of reviews and meta- analyses indicate that resource-input factors on average have a negligible eﬀect, school factors have a small eﬀect, while instructional variables have an average to large eﬀect. The conclusion concerning resource-input factors should probably be modiﬁed and somewhat ‘nuanced,’ given the results of more recent studies referred to in the above, e.g., the results of recent studies concerning class-size reduction.
There is an interesting diﬀerence between the relatively small eﬀect size for the school level variables reported in the meta-analysis and the degree of certainty and consensus on the relevance of these factors in the more qualitative research reviews.
It should be noted that the three blocks of variables depend on types of studies using diﬀerent research methods. Education production function studies depend on statistics and administrative data from schools or higher administrative units, such as districts or states. School eﬀectiveness studies focusing at school level factors are generally carried out as ﬁeld studies and surveys, whereas studies on instructional eﬀectiveness are generally based on experimental designs.
4. Foundational And Fundamental School Eﬀectiveness Studies
Foundational school eﬀectiveness studies refer to basic questions about the scope of the concept of school eﬀectiveness. Can a school be called eﬀective on the basis of achievement results measured only at the end of a period of schooling, or should such a school be expected to have high performance at all grade levels? Can school eﬀectiveness be assessed by examining results in just one or two school subjects, or should all subject matter areas of the curriculum be taken into account? Also, shouldn’t one restrict the qualiﬁcation of a school being eﬀective to consistently high performance over a longer period of time, rather than a ‘one shot’ assessment at just one point in time?
Fortunately all of these questions are amenable to empirical research. These type of studies that are associated with the consistency of school eﬀects over grade-levels, teachers, subject-matter areas, and time have been referred to as ‘foundational studies’ (Scheerens 1993) because they are aimed at resolving issues that bear upon the scope and ‘integrity’ of the concept of school eﬀectiveness.
A recent review of such foundational studies is given in Scheerens and Bosker (1997, Chap. 3). Their results concerning primary schools are presented in Table 3. Consistency is expressed in terms of the correlation between two diﬀerent rank orderings of schools. Results are based on arithmetic and language achievement.
The results summarized in Table 3 indicate that there is a reasonable consistency across cohorts and subjects, while the consistency across grades is only average. Results measured at the secondary level likewise show reasonably high stability coeﬃcients (consistency across cohorts), and somewhat lower coeﬃcients for stability across subjects (e.g., in a French study (Grisay 1996), coeﬃcients based on value-added results were 0.42 for French language and 0.27 for mathematics). The average consistency be- tween subjects at the secondary level was somewhat lower than in the case of primary schools (r about 0.50). This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that, at the secondary level, diﬀerent teachers usually teach diﬀerent subjects, so that inconsistency is partly due to variation between teachers.
The few studies in which factor analysis was used to examine the size of a stable school factor relative to year speciﬁc and subject speciﬁc eﬀects have shown results varying from a school factor explaining 70 percent of the subject and cohort speciﬁc (gross) school eﬀects, to 25 percent.
The picture that emerges from these studies on the stability and consistency of school eﬀects is far from being indiﬀerentially favorable with respect to the unidimensionality of the school eﬀects concept.
Consistency is fair, when eﬀects at the end of a period of schooling are examined over a relatively short time interval. When grade-level and subject matter area is brought into the picture, consistency coeﬃcients tend to be lower, particularly when diﬀerent teachers teach diﬀerent grades or subjects. School eﬀects are generally seen as teacher eﬀects, especially at the secondary school level
The message from these ‘foundational studies’ is that one should be careful not to overgeneralize the results of school eﬀectiveness studies when only results in one or two subject matter areas at one point in time are measured. Another implication is that hypothetical antecedent conditions of eﬀects are not only to be sought at the school organizational level, but also at the level of teaching and the teaching and learning process.
Fundamental school eﬀectiveness studies are theory and model-driven studies. Bosker and Scheerens (1994) presented alternative causal speciﬁcations of the conceptual multilevel models referred to in an earlier section. These models attempt to grasp the nature of the relationships between e.g., schools and classroom conditions. For example, whether such relationships are additive, interactive, reciprocal, or form a causal chain.
Other studies that have attempted to formalize these types of relationships are by Hofman (1995) and Creemers and Reezigt (1996). In general, it appeared to be diﬃcult to establish the better ‘ﬁt’ of one of the alternative model speciﬁcations. More complex models, based on the axioms of microeconomic theory, have been tested by de Vos (1998), making use of simulation techniques.
So far, these studies are too few to draw general conclusions about the substantive outcomes; continuation of this line of study is quite interesting, however, also from a methodological point of view.
From a substantive point of view educational eﬀectiveness studies have indicated the relatively small eﬀects of these conditions in developed countries, where provisions are at a uniformly relatively high level. At the same time the estimates of the impact of innate abilities and socioeconomic background characteristics—also when evaluated as contextual eﬀects—seem to grow, as studies become more methodologically reﬁned. Given the generally larger variation in both conditions and outcomes of schooling in developing countries—and the sometimes appallingly low levels of both—there is both societal and scientiﬁc relevance in studying school eﬀectiveness in these settings.
5. The Future Of School Eﬀectiveness Research
From this research paper it could be concluded that school eﬀectiveness research could be deﬁned in a broad and a narrow sense. In the broadest sense one could refer to all types of studies which relate school and classroom conditions to achievement outcomes, preferably after taking into account the eﬀects of relevant student background variables. In a narrower sense, state-of-the-art integrative school eﬀectiveness studies and foundational and fundamental studies could be seen as the core.
Following the broader deﬁnition the future of school eﬀectiveness studies is guaranteed, particularly in the sense of ‘applied’ studies, like cohort studies, large-scale eﬀect studies carried out for accountability purposes, monitoring studies, and assessment studies.
State-of-the-art, fundamental and foundational school eﬀectiveness studies are a much more vulnerable species. One of the major diﬃculties is the organizational complexity and costs of the ‘state-of-the-art types’ of study. Given the shortage of these kind of studies the more fundamental and foundational types of studies are likely to be dependent on the quality of data-sets that have been acquired for ‘applied purposes.’
Therefore the best guarantee for continued fundamental school eﬀectiveness research lies in the enhanced research technical quality of applied studies. One example consists of quasi-experimental evaluation of carefully designed school improvement projects. Another important development is the use of IRT (Item Response Theory) modeling and ‘absolute’ standards in assessment programs. If school eﬀects can be deﬁned in terms of distance or closeness in average achievement to a national or even inter- national standard, some of the interpretation weak- nesses of comparative standards belong to the past.
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