Below is the Executive Summary text. The complete report can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.
PEEC Cross Program 2004-05 Informal Progress Report
PEEC members representing The Upper Valley Community Foundation, the Forest For Every Classroom program, the CO-SEED program, and the Sustainable Schools Project
Michael Duffin, Amy Powers, and PEER Associates, Inc.
September 11, 2005
The purpose of this report is to informally update members of the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC) on the progress made on the 2004-05 cross-program evaluation agenda. The report presents sections on Extending the Tipping Point Findings, and Benefits of Collaboration, followed by a brief Implications for Practice section.
Extending the Tipping Point Findings
In the 2003-04 PEEC evaluation cycle, a school-level “tipping point” hypothesis emerged from analysis of survey data. Our data suggested that place-based education programs that work systematically with a whole school community for multiple years may end up impacting the school culture. During the 2004-05 evaluation cycle, we explored four areas in more detail:
We interviewed 15 educators at the CO-SEED site at the Beebe School in Malden, MA. We asked them to critically assess PEEC’s 2003-04 survey findings that suggested that CO-SEED may be influencing school culture. We specifically and rigorously probed for alternative interpretations. An overwhelming amount of this interview data was clearly supportive of the assertion that CO-SEED contributes to major changes in school culture. This triangulation of survey and interview data lends substantial strength to the tipping point hypothesis. Further, interviewees at the Beebe School suggested seven different factors that have contributed to the strong school culture at that site:
· PEEC program personnel that are skillful and available;
· Facilitated, common planning time for educator teams;
· A school-wide environmental and health science theme;
· Strong administrative support;
· Healthy competition among teachers to do and display good work;
· Parental involvement; and
· Repetition of themes/projects on a multi-year cycle.
Review of school culture literature
A tightly targeted review of research on school culture revealed several themes that are generally consistent with PEEC findings. Culture is central to both school and business success, including some associations with academic achievement, but is only one part of the big picture of school change. Coherence of culture at a school is important, and it operates at deep, affective levels on behavior and attitude. In general, school culture literature aligns with and supports the program logic driving PEEC programs.
Focus group interview with PEEC program staff
A two-hour focus group on the topic of school culture tipping points took place during a semi-annual PEEC meeting in June 2005, and served both as an opportunity for exchange of ideas among collaborative members, and data collection for the evaluation team. The main ideas generated during the focus group session fell into four themes:
· Positive shifts in school culture
· Factors necessary for positive shifts
· Challenges to influencing school culture shifts
· Implications for PEEC professional development models
Continued refinement of quantitative survey data analysis strategies
Two important findings emerged from a close look at the limited number of additional surveys that were added to the aggregate data set in 2004-05:
1) Claims based on PEEC survey data are likely to become more compelling after further “factor” analysis of the natural groupings of item-level responses; and
2) PEEC programs appear to be inspiring participants to pursue additional place-based education training.
Benefits of Collaboration
In the 2003-04 PEEC Cross-Program Report, we identified our clear sense that PEEC as a whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. This year’s work further strengthened our belief in this regard. A PEEC Long Term Research Agenda document was drafted and serves as an ambitious and compelling road map for continuing PEEC’s work. All survey instruments are now available on-line through the PEEC web site, including direct access to selected survey results for some program staff. Graduate research students generated high quality, professional work, enabling more flexibility and higher productivity across the collaborative. The PEEC web site continues to be highly functional, serving to more efficiently organize and disseminate both the work of PEEC and other related research efforts. The 2003-04
PEEC Cross-Program Report was synthesized into a more concise and technical journal article format, and submitted for peer review.
Implications for practice
Three main implications for practice are presented in this report:
1) Secure resources to pursue the Long Term Research Agenda;
2) Increase the priority of dissemination of findings;
3) Continue to investigate school culture.