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The Quest for Equity and Excellence in Education: A Study of Whole School Reform in New Jersey Special Needs Districts

Title of Document: The Quest for Equity and Excellence in Education: A Study on Whole School Reform in New Jersey Special Needs Districts

In accordance with the Supreme Court's May, 1998 Abbott v. Burke ruling, the Abbott Districts began to implement the New Jersey Whole School Reform Initiative of systemic school reform. Subsequently, in 1999, Seton Hall University's Center for Urban Leadership, Renewal and Research, housed in the Department of Educational Administration and Supervision, conducted a research study to examine the implementation issues of the first year of the New Jersey Whole School Reform Initiative that were faced by the Abbott District schools. The study design used a research methodology of a system-wide perspective surveying, at the time of the study, all 28 Abbott Districts.


The Quest for Equity and Excellence in Education:
A Study of Whole School Reform in New Jersey Special Needs Districts

Authors
Elaine M. Walker, Ph.D
Dan Gutmore, Ph.D

with Assistance from
Mary Kildow

January 2000


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Section I. Introduction

Introduction
Research Questions
Research Methodology
Profile of the Abbott Districts
Organization of Study

Section II. Historical Overview of School Reform in the Abbott or Special Needs Districts

Introduction
Legislative History
Elements of the Court Ordered Remedial Measures
Conclusion

Section III. Abbott Districts’ Philosophical Embracement of the Abbott IV and V Measures

Introduction
Findings- General Remedies
Findings- Elementary Remedies
Findings- Secondary Remedies
Prior Reform Efforts in the Abbott Districts
Conclusion

Section IV. Building Civic Support for Reform in the Abbott Districts

Introduction
Findings - Quality of Civic Support for Prior Reform in the Abbott Districts
Findings - Knowledge about and Support for Abbott Reform
Findings - Impact of Civic Support on Districts’
Embracement of Abbott Remedies
Conclusion

Section V. Implementation, Diffusion and Innovation

Introduction
Findings - Model Adoption
Findings – Compliance with Requirements
Findings – School Management Teams
Findings – Resource Constraints and Problems
Encountered During the First Six Months into the Reform
Findings- Implementation Difficulties Experienced
During the First Six Months
Conclusion

Section VI. The New Jersey Department of Education’s Role in the School Reform Process

Introduction
Findings – Timeliness of Requests, Clarity and Feedback
Findings – Perception of Support Provided by State Department of Education
Findings – School Review and Improvement Teams
Conclusion

Section VII Districts’ Identification of Areas of Assistance Needed to Effectively Implement Abbott

Districts Perceptions of Critical Factors Impeding Reform

Section VIII Conclusion

References

Appendices (PDF )


List of tables

Table 1.1: Key Demographic Data on Abbott Districts

Table 2.1: Abbott Remedies

Table 3.1: Rank Ordering of Abbott Remedies’ Importance for District-Wide Systemic Improvement

Table 3.2: Rank Ordering of Abbott Remedies’ Importance to Improvement of Elementary Schooling

Table 3.3: Rank Ordering of Abbott Secondary Remedies Importance for Secondary Schooling Improvement

Table 3.4: Types of Reform Implemented in Districts Prior toAbbott IV and V

Table 3.5: Degree of Compatibility Between Guidelines for Implementation and Districts’ Prior Reform Activities

Table 4.1: Quality of Support Received from Key Support Groups Around Prior Reforms

Table 4.2: Level of Civic Group Knowledge About Abbott Reform

Table 4.3: Level of Support Received for Abbott Reforms and Implementation from Key Civic Groups

Table 4.4: Correlates of Civic Support for Abbott

Table 4.5: Correlation between Support for Abbott Remedies and Selected Factors

Table 5.1: Perceived Adequacy of Training Provided by Model Developers

Table 5.2A: Status of School Related Positions Associated with Abbott at End of First Year

Table 5.2B: Status of Needs Assessment

Table 5.3: Level of Training Received by School Management Teams with Respect to Team Functioning and Abbott Requirements

Table 5.4: Level of Severity of Resource Constraints Experienced by Abbott Districts During the First Year of Implementation

Table 5.5: Relationship Between Resource Constraints

Table 5.6: Problems and their Perceived Difficulty During the First Six Months of Implementation

Table 5.7: Association between Problems Experienced during the First Six Months of Implementation

Table 6.1: Timeliness of NJDOE Requests to Districts for Information

Table 6.2: Districts’ Perceptions on Ease of Knowing What is Required for Submission

Table 6.3: Ease of Obtaining Clarification from the NJDOE

Table 6.4: Districts’ Ratings of Helpfulness of NJDOE Communications Directives

Table 6.5: Districts’ Evaluation of Support Provided by NJDOE

Table 6.6: Districts’ Evaluation of Support Provided by the School Review and Improvement Teams

Figure 5.1: School Management Teams: Perceived Level of Training

Figure 6.1: Timeliness of State Feedback


Acknowledgments

This study could not have been completed without the invaluable contribution of several individuals. First, we wish to thank the Superintendents and their staff for the insights which they have provided on the unfolding of this important reform effort in their respective districts. Second, we extend gratitude to Jody Baker, the graduate assistant on this project for her untiring efforts during the data collection phase of the study. Third, we are deeply indebted to Dr. Robert Hallissey, Director of Grants and Research Services and the University Research Council for the research grant, which allowed us to successfully bring the study to fruition. Finally, we are appreciative of the commitment shown by Dr. Mel Shay, Dean of the College of Education and Human Services, and Dr. Charles Mitchel, Chair of the Department of Educational Administration and Supervision to the cause of Urban Education, here in the state.

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