AREAS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH ON CRITERIA RELATED TO INSTRUCTIONAL AND SCHOOL-LEvEL PRACTICES: Additional research is needed on the effects of STEM teacher professional development on student achievement and on which elements of school culture contribute to STEM learning, particularly in schools serving low-income and minority students who are underrepresented in the STEM majors and careers.
Longitudinal data from public elementary schools in Chicago bolster these and other findings from the considerable body of research on structuring schools to promote high-quality teaching and learning.78 In a study of 200 low-performing elementary schools in Chicago, no schools with a poor learning climate and weak professional community substantially improved math or reading scores. Roughly half of schools with a well-aligned curriculum and a strong professional community among teachers substantially improved math and reading achievement.79 These gains are notable because they were made in high-poverty schools located in severely disadvantaged communities.
The elementary schools that improved student learning in mathematics and reading shared five common elements:80
1. School leadership as the driver for change. Principals must be strategic, focused on instruction, and inclusive of others in the leadership work.
2. Professional capacity or the quality of the faculty and staff recruited to the school, their base beliefs and values about change, the quality of ongoing professional development, and the capacity of a staff to work together.
3. Parent-community ties that involve active outreach to make school a welcoming place for parents, engage them in supporting their children’s academic success, and strengthen connections to other local institutions.
4. Student-centered learning climate. Such a climate is safe, welcoming, stimulating and nurturing environment focused on learning for all students.
5. Instructional guidance that is focused on the organization of the curriculum, the nature of academic demand or challenges it poses, and the tools teachers have to advance learning (such as instructional materials).
The strength of these supports varied within and across elementary schools in Chicago: some schools were strong along all dimensions, and some were stronger in some dimensions than in others. Although not all of these supports need to be strong for schools to succeed, schools that were weak on all of these dimensions showed no gains in achievement.81