This qualitative analysis of teachers’ experiences of school-level data routines is part of a larger, comparative case study, “Developing Human Capital Within Schools,” conducted by the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. Within one city, we interviewed 142 teachers and administrators in six high-poverty schools (traditional, charter, and turnaround), all of which had achieved the highest ranking in the state’s accountability system. Here, we analyze how teachers and administrators used student learning data to inform and direct instruction. In all six schools, teachers regularly and collaboratively gathered, analyzed and responded to a range of types of data, including common interim assessments, samples of student work, teacher-administered reading assessments, responses to questions on exit slips, teacher-made quizzes, unit tests, performance assessments, homework completion records and disciplinary records such as demerits and detentions. Importantly, the data practices in these school extended well beyond efforts to simply raise state test scores despite the significant pressure these schools experienced for improving their results. Teachers used data routines in conjunction with curriculum planning and other professional activities to collaboratively build their knowledge of what they were teaching, how to teach it, how to assess students’ progress and what to do when students were not reaching standards.
This qualitative analysis of peer observation practices is part of a larger, comparative case study, “Developing Human Capital Within Schools,” conducted by the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. Within one city, we interviewed 142 teachers and administrators in six high-poverty schools (traditional, charter, and turnaround), all of which had achieved the highest rating in the state’s accountability system. Here, we analyze how teachers and administrators experienced and assessed peer observation practices. At the time of this study, all six schools (three charter and three district) had achieved the highest level in the state accountability rating system, having demonstrated significant growth or high levels of achievement on the rigorous state standardized test. All schools were implementing a range of peer observation processes. Although traditional norms of privacy (Little, 1990) among teachers in American schools often discourage them from visiting colleagues’ classes, many teachers in these schools welcomed opportunities to observe others’ teaching, and in some cases to be observed. However, the extent to which the schools had developed their systems for peer observation varied, which was evident in their different programs’ purpose, procedures, support for teachers in implementing the processes, and the degree to which peer observation was integrated with other professional learning. Notably, across all six schools, teachers and administrators viewed peer observation as having great potential and hoped to continue this practice or in some cases reinstate it in the future. Across schools, the strategic use of video technology helped several schools address implementation challenges.
In "Counting on colleagues: New teachers encounter the professional cultures of their schools" by S. M. Kardos, S. M. Johnson, H. G. Peske, D. Kauffman, & E. Liu (Educational Administration Quarterly, April 2001), we use new entrants’ accounts to characterize three types of professional cultures or subcultures within schools: veteran-oriented cultures, novice-oriented cultures, and integrated cultures. In veteran-oriented cultures, new teachers described norms of professional interaction determined, in large part, by the veterans, with little attention to the particular needs of beginning teachers. Such schools, or sub-units within schools, typically had a high proportion of senior teachers who worked independently and whose patterns of professional practice were well established. There were few meaningful structural mechanisms in place to orient, induct, and provide ongoing support for new teachers. In contrast, novice-oriented professional cultures typically existed in schools with high proportions of new recruits. Professional interactions in these settings were ongoing and intense, although generally uninformed by the expertise and wisdom of veteran teachers. Thus, new teachers received little professional guidance about how to teach. However, in integrated professional cultures, new teachers described being provided with sustained support and having frequent exchanges with colleagues across experience levels. In these cultures, there were no separate camps of veterans and novices. Expert teachers mentored and collaborated with their novice colleagues and often found that they, themselves, benefited from the exchange. Principals proved to be important in developing and maintaining integrated professional cultures. Teachers in schools with such cultures said that the principals were present and responsive, focused teachers’ efforts on improving teaching and learning, and used the teaching schedule and meeting times to promote peer observations, collaboration and teamwork among teachers. These principals were particularly attentive to the needs of new teachers. In contrast, principals in veteran-oriented and novice-oriented cultures were said to be preoccupied with bureaucratic responsibilities or fund-raising, and rarely observed teachers at work. They focused attention on discipline and paperwork rather than instruction, and seldom created opportunities for novice and veteran teachers to collaborate.