Campus Improvement Plan Quality for 6th-8th Grade Texas Middle Schools Rated Overall-F in 2019



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Background: Schools throughout the United States must develop improvement plans annually mandated by legislation and by policy. While plans typically have common elements, existing research about improvement plan quality suggested that plans developed in response to underperformance often lacked authenticity and impact. Purpose: This study focused on the quality of improvement plans developed by a subset of 6th-8th grade Texas middle schools that were rated Overall-F in 2019. The purposes were to determine the quality of plans based on their required elements and to propose opportunities to move plans from compliance to positive change for underperforming schools. There were three research questions addressed by this study. Research Question 1: In 2019, how did Overall accountability ratings vary among Texas school types (Elementary, Elementary/Secondary, Middle School, and High School) and by geographic region defined by the Education Service Center? Research Question 2: In 2019, to what extent were demographic factors and campus attributes, such as economically disadvantaged and English learner rates, campus mobility rates, school attendance rates, average per-pupil instructional spending amounts related to accountability ratings of 6th-8th grade middle schools rated Overall-F in Texas? Research Question 3: Prior to and since receiving an Overall-F rating in 2019, what was the quality of the Campus Improvement Plans in 6th-8th grade middle schools in Texas? Method: The sample for the first research question was all Texas schools evaluated in 2019 by the state's accountability system. Research question two narrowed the focus to only Grade 6-8 middle schools rated Overall-F in 2019. Research question three addressed the quality of plans developed by a subset of the campuses rated Overall-F based on the plan availability. The study was descriptive in nature. Results: The distribution of overall accountability ratings in 2019 varied across the twenty Education Service Centers (ESCs) and by organization type. At least 70% of 6th-8th grade middle schools rated F had a campus attendance rate below the state average in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Similarly, at least 70% of these middle schools had mobility rates higher than the state averages for the same two years. More than 50% of these 6th-8th grade campuses had lower per-pupil instructional spending averages than the state averages in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Twenty-eight Campus Improvement Plans were reviewed from six ESCs across the state representing 13 campuses. Generally, evidence of a mission and vision, triangulation of data beyond the state assessment and accountability ratings, consistent evidence of stakeholder participation in plan development, and the documentation or prioritization of problem statements that connected the data to the actions were lacking. Conclusion: Findings about the improvement plans developed by underperforming 6th-8th grade middle schools in Texas suggested that plan authors need support attending to the required elements of plan development, including but not limited to, data analysis as a source for finding and naming deficiencies and their potential root causes, defining a mission and vision aligned with the documented goals, and finding evidence-based strategies to meet the campus’s unique needs. Increasing the level of support, buy-in, and oversight by state and regional agencies may also be a part of the formula to improve the required plans. In the interim, locally developed tools may be required to meet the minimum mandates described in policy and the literature. Keywords: accountability, attendance, chronic absenteeism, mobility, satisficing



Accountability, Satisficing