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Research Questions

  1. To what extent do teachers and principals agree with the statement "I am familiar with most of the major points of our SIP"?
  2. To what extent do teachers and principals agree with the statement "The SIP has led to changes in my teachers' [my] teaching practices"?
  3. To what extent do teachers and principals agree with the statement "The SIP will help make us a better school over the next five years"?

School Improvement Plans (SIPs) have been a central feature of American school reform for over two decades. These organizing documents detail educators' goals for improving educational practice and student outcomes and initiatives for achieving those goals. For SIPs to lead to school improvement, educators must be aware of the details of their school's SIP and accept its stated goals and reform efforts. However, organizational focus and cohesion in working toward common, schoolwide goals do not necessarily exist within schools. In fact, research in some states and districts has found that educators' perspectives on the effectiveness of SIPs can vary by their position in the school. Researchers used the RAND Corporation's web-based American Educator Panels to ask a nationally representative sample of educators about their awareness of their school's SIP and their attitudes toward the effectiveness of SIPs in changing instruction and school quality. Researchers then examined how those responses vary by position (teacher or principal). A majority of educators are aware of their school's SIPs, but principals express more optimism in its ability to improve the school. Knowledge of the SIP is also positively correlated with a teacher's view that the SIP can promote school improvement. Though only a minority of teachers are unfamiliar with SIPs, our results suggest that this unfamiliarity may be one impediment to SIP effectiveness.

Key Findings

SIPs are well-known as a concept, but teachers and principals diverge in their views on their ability to improve the school

  • SIPs are common, and the majority of teachers (75 percent) and principals (99 percent) are familiar with their major points.
  • Principals are more likely than teachers to believe that SIPs change teaching practices (67 percent versus 44 percent) and that SIPs improve schools in a five-year period (81 percent versus 62 percent).
  • If teachers are familiar with the major points of their SIPs, they are over 40 percentage points more likely to say that the SIP has changed teaching practices and that the SIP will improve their schools.

Recommendations

  • More research needs to be done to understand why a substantial number of educators doubt the efficacy of their SIPs.
  • For SIPs to be effective in organizing and coordinating school improvement efforts, school leaders must ensure that teachers are aware of the SIP, work with teachers to ensure broad agreement on the SIP's contents, ensure the proper mechanisms are in place to carry out the work described in the SIP.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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