Below is the text from the Executive Summary from this report. The complete report can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.
An Evaluation of
Community-based School Environmental Education
2006 Cross-Site Report
Antioch New England Institute
Appalachian Mountain Club,
Boston Nature Center/MassAudubon,
Bradford Conservation Commission, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative,
the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC)
& Program Evaluation and Educational Research
(PEER) Associates, Inc.
June 29, 2007
Executive Summary For the Full Report
Project CO-SEED’s primary purpose is to help schools and communities work together to develop community- and place-based approaches to education while simultaneously strengthening the community and helping the environment. This 2006 CO-SEED Cross-Site Evaluation Report presents research portraits of four sites completing their wrap up year of CO-SEED. The portraits are preceded by cross-site reflections on the CO-SEED Logic Model. Appendices include all survey and interview instruments as well as summary tables of all data from survey responses from 207 educators/staff and 795 students.
The main points from the cross-site reflections include:
· On the whole, the CO-SEED Logic Model is an exceedingly accurate representation of what actually happens at CO-SEED sites.
· Several important outcomes for which ample evaluation data exists go beyond the claims articulated in the original CO-SEED Logic Model. These include place-based education practices and values becoming embedded in the school culture, as well as increased educator engagement, professional growth, and collaboration.
· Some of the broader scale community changes described as outcomes in the CO-SEED Logic Model are not well substantiated by evaluation data collected to date.
The main themes reported in the narrative portrait for the Bradford, VT site are:
· The composting project has been very successful, expanding school-wide, and connecting to the community in multiple ways.
· Use of the nearby Low-St. John Forest for learning has become a popular and well-integrated part of the school curriculum.
· Several other projects have added to a strong sense of connection between the school and the community.
· The pre-existing culture of the town requires a special kind of effort to build long lasting partnerships.
· The on-site CO-SEED Coordinator (both the role and the individual person) was and will be central to the success of place-based education in Bradford.
· Bradford is teetering on the edge, but has not yet fully crossed a “tipping point” toward the long term sustainability of place-based education.
· Institutionalizing funding for the Coordinator position, clarifying the role of place-based education in the school mission, and considering setting up structures for common planning time for grade level teams are all key next steps.
For the Haley Elementary site in Roslindale, MA, the portrait depicts how a project like CO-SEED, a willing and ready school community, and a skillful school leader can amplify each other to achieve a shared vision under challenging conditions. The main themes are:
· The schoolyard and other local natural areas have become extremely popular places for teaching and learning, and have inspired increased parent involvement.
· Science has been enthusiastically embraced by most teachers and students, especially in connection with the annual “science spectacular” symposium.
· New outdoor and science teaching norms have combined with existing strengths around student discipline, innovative literacy education, and a strong partnership with the Boston Nature Center to create a very strong, coherent school culture.
· In sum, over the last decade the Haley school has transformed from an under-subscribed school in chaos and lacking focus into a vibrant, highly sought, model environmental school.
· The leadership of Jean Dorcus as principal was a critical factor in Haley’s success. Her style is characterized by listening, calmness, and action.
· The next few years will provide a critical test of the sustainability of the Haley’s place-based education culture. Most people are cautious but confidently hopeful that the good work will continue and even grow.
· Recommendations emphasize institutionalization of what has worked well, continuation of longitudinal evaluation, and suggestions for transferring lessons to other schools.
The research portrait of the Young Achievers Math and Science Pilot School in Jamaica Plain, MA presents a story of how CO-SEED was used to further a pre-existing and passionately strong vision of high quality, place-based, social justice-oriented education in an urban school setting. The main themes are:
· Place-based education practices have brought focus to, and become established norms in, the school culture. Projects such as the Kindergarten Young Naturalists, the Boston Neighborhoods unit in grades two and three, or middle school studies of sustainability and globalization (including developing school wide recycling and gardening programs) are typical of the many projects that use local resources for learning and promote educator engagement and growth.
· The institutionalization of place-based, experiential learning curricula has begun to occur and is likely to be a key part of CO-SEED’s legacy.
· Teachers find place-based, experiential projects to be extremely engaging for their students, who then respond by generating high quality work.
· Despite recent, predicted, positive trends in standardized test scores in 5th and 8th grade science, most typical or standardized assessments of student academic achievement do not appear to be particularly sensitive to measuring the rich place-based learning that students experience.
· The role of “community teachers” embodies both the boldness of the Young Achievers vision and the difficulties (e.g. role clarity) that can naturally occur when experimenting with innovative staffing structures and approaches.
· Recommendations emphasize further institutionalization of what has worked well, and suggestions for transferring lessons to other schools.
· An overall theme that both encompasses and constitutes each of the themes mentioned above is that strong place-based education is almost certain to continue well beyond CO-SEED’s formal tenure.
· The CO-SEED model remained coherent across all sites while also flexibly adapting to unique local conditions;
· The next step for the long term growth and development of CO-SEED may be to decide whether to assume a “franchise” or a “mom and pop” model.
The fourth and final research presented in this report tells of the ways that CO-SEED has contributed to the possibility of a major transformation at the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury, MA. The main themes are:
· Projects that promote student leadership and initiative have been particularly successful.
· Reaching out to and establishing active dialogue with the surrounding community, including parents, has been an important and growing source of strength and energy for positive change. This dynamic was exemplified during a Vision to Action Forum entitled “Dearborn Reborn CommUnity Weekend.”
· Place-based education practices do not appear to have been systematically incorporated into the culture of the teaching staff.
· Evidence of student behavior change and community improvement are showing up sooner and stronger than changes in educator practice. It often occurs in the reverse sequence at other CO-SEED sites.
· The Dearborn is in the midst of serious dialogue about future direction, identity, and core structure of the school. CO-SEED’s presence is supporting that conversation in multiple, important ways. The ultimate outcome of these discussions remains to be seen. The task is daunting, but hopes are high.
· Recommendations in the epilogue focus on building on successes with students and community, and setting realistic expectations for the next phase of change.