Although school improvement is influenced by a host of factors, evidence from our work suggests that the AIM Center inquiry cycles significantly contribute to reducing achievement gaps and to effective dropout prevention. These accomplishments were initially acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education when Spring Woods High School, in Houston, Texas, received the 1998–1999 National Award for Model Professional Development, and they were used as examples in broadly disseminated publications such as Implementing Schoolwide Programs—An Idea Book on Planning (U.S. Department of Education, 1998).
According to the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, at Spring Woods High School—over an eight-year period of time—scores on the Texas Assessment of Academic Progress increased dramatically among all student groups (22.2% to 77.3% in math, 23.1% to 86.1% in reading, 10.9% to 85.2% in writing; Hassel, 1999). School and district surveys also indicated consistent improvement in student behavior, motivation, and attitude toward school.
More recently, this work has contributed to academic achievement at Rainier View Elementary School. At Rainier View, the student population consisted of 96% children of color, 77% of whom lived in poverty, as defined by their participation in the federal free and reduced lunch program. With the Motivational Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching as the shared instructional language, teachers used the professional learning practices described in this book to strengthen cross-curricular instructional skills. Rainier View teachers also learned about and implemented a balanced literacy approach to reading and writing instruction and an inquiry approach to mathematics and science instruction.
Rainier View made significant academic and cultural gains over the years of its school reform work. Academic achievement increased over a two-year period by 35% in reading, 43% in writing, and 18% in math, as measured by the fourth-grade state assessment (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, n.d.). (Fourth grade was the grade level measured consistently throughout the years of the school’s reform work.) It is significant to note that academic achievement improved in all measured content areas. In addition, Rainier View’s school climate improved, with teachers tasking responsibility for increasing their own instructional knowledge and supporting others in doing the same, as measured by the district’s staff survey (Thompson, 2010).
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