Drat and alas. The holiday vacation has obstructed the flow of the conversation here and has, to continue the tortured metaphor, dammed my ability to speak to interviews yet completed.

But to maintain some form of momentum let me give you a coming attraction of what may be emerging from School X ‘s first interviews and allow me to also reinforce the premise of High Involvement I spoke briefly to in the previous post.

School X’s team did interview some teachers. This school was cited for deficits in English Language Arts among its Students With Disabilities and its African American population. What may turn out to be very interesting is that the teachers’ alarm about African American students’ performance appeared to be about these students’ academic self-concept and their own perception of belonging.

I hope I am not premature here, but they did report that they felt that African American students did not on whole to aspire to be in the accelerated or advanced classes because they didn’t want to be the only students of color in the class! If this is true, this saddens me for their own sake and suggests that the team simply MUST recommend some serious action research about African American students’ perception of their roles in this school. More as it emerges.

Speaking of action research transitions this post to the next item of High Involvement. The High Involvement Model posits that a group cannot be effective unless it knows it power / authority; has mastered a set of operational and interpersonal competencies; has the data it needs to make effective decisions; knows how to make goals based on their knowledge competencies and on the data they have reviewed; can distribute leadership responsibilities among and to the appropriate stakeholders; can find or has the resources it needs; and can attribute extrinsic and / or extrinsic rewards to their efforts.

Action research speaks to all of these variables but particularly to the second and third factors; knowledge and information. All too often, as mentioned in the last post, groups make snap decisions with faulty or surface data. Perhaps even more troubling, school improvement groups may actually have all the data they need but lack the analytical skills of root cause analysis, futuring, goal setting and strategic / shared planning design to systemically design sustained and long term solutions.

Action research is one answer to this. Not the only one, but a good one. In the case of School X it really is important that they design a way to find out what their African American students may be feeling and / or thinking so that they can peel back their own onion to identify ways to strengthen what might at minimum be a problem in how these children perceive their ability to achieve.