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Dr. Margaret Patton, Dissertation, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Dissertation Committee

Dr. Margaret Patton, Dissertation, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Dissertation Committee

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Dr. Margaret Patton, Dissertation, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Dissertation Committee
Dr. Margaret Patton, Dissertation, Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Dissertation Committee

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In each good-to great company, technology was not considered a primary

factor to gain great performance. Instead specific technologies were used to

enhance the transformation process from good to great (Collins, 2001).

Technology was not listed as a major indicator in any of the research studies

included in this review. When mentioned, it was used as a tool to assist with

alleviating paperwork and as a student resource.

The Prichard Report (2005) surprisingly noted that the eight high-

performing schools in their study did not perform well on the use of technology.

The findings further suggested that technology may not have been a necessary

component of attaining success. Effective use of technology may enhance what

successful schools were already doing, but it was not a crucial ingredient

(Kannapel & Clements, 2005).


Table 1 Synopsis of Literature

Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Disciplined People –

Level 5 Leadership

Williams (2003) – Closing the

Achievement Gap

Effective principals

designed strategic

improvement plans and

distributed decisions.

Williams (2005) California

Elementary Schools

Principal leadership focus

on effective

management of school

improvement process;

District leadership,

accountability, and


Harris, James, Gunraj, Clarke

& Harris (2006) – OCTET



leadership; distributed

decision making; caring

for the well-being of

students and staff; and

Professional autonomy

(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Leithwood and Jantzi (2000)

– Distributed Leadership

Leaders demonstrated an

indirect but powerful


Bell (2001) - HP2 Schools

“Moral leadership” at both

campus and district

level – adult actions

major role in shaping

student’s lives.

Kannapel & Clements (2005)

- Prichard Committee of

Academic Excellence

All principals had


approaches to decision

making, absence of big

ego, and a focus on

student academic


(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Teddlie & Springfield (1993) –

Louisiana School

Effectiveness Study, Schools

Make a Difference

Principals were motivating,

had high expectations

for student

achievement, visited

classes frequently, and

provided increased

instructional time.

Ansell (2004) – Schools in

challenging circumstances

“Turnaround leaders”;

strong intrapersonal and

interpersonal skills;

conducted needs

assessment then

corrective strategies;

and articulated clear

expectations for


(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Waits, et al., (2006) –

Arizona’s Beat the Odd Study

Principals were not flashy

superstars; focused on

things that improved

schools; and kept

pushing ahead no

matter the roadblocks.

An embedded teacher

leadership program was

used to assist with on-

going improvement.

Barr & Parrett (2007) - Kids

Left Behind

Effective leadership was

the anchor for each of

the other essential

elements in the pattern

of improvement.

Disciplined People –

First Who Then What

Principal autonomy in

hiring staff.

Bell (2001) HP2 Schools

Teddlie & Springfield (1993) –

Louisiana School


(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Harris (2006) – Best practices

of Award winning principals

Savvy principals employed

secretaries, custodians,

food service, and other

staff who embraced the

overall mission of the


Principals hired wisely;

used an interview team,

and didn’t second guess

a gut instinct. Kept

looking until satisfied.

Harris, James, Gunraj, Clarke

& Harris (2006) – OCTET


Leaders used financial

resources for


development especially

teacher leadership.

(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Wilson & Corbett (2001) –

Philadelphia Schools

Teacher’s “no excuse”

attitude separated

successful classrooms

from others.

Elmore (2004)

Cultural change happened

by modeling the new

values and behaviors.

Thernstrom & Thernstrom


KIPP Academy used

budgetary creativeness

to pay its teachers 20%

more than teachers in

other schools.

Barr & Parrett (2007) - Kids

Left Behind

The school’s culture either

caused a new teacher

to remain on the

campus or leave the

school and/or career.

(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Reeves (2007) – Mead Valley


Professional accountability

was expected.

Effective instructional

leadership and

professional excellence

were rewarded while

ineffective teachers

were eliminated.

Disciplined Thought –

Confront the Brutal


Hilliard, Perry & Steele (2003) Excellent performance

was the goal.

Waits, et al. (2006) – Arizona


Focus was on needs of

individual child; looked

at achievement per

classroom, per teacher,

and per student.

Embedded an assessment


(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Reeves (2007) – Mead Valley

Elementary School

Culture of commitment

existed where each

member of the school

community questions,

challenges, and

encourages all


Williams (2005) – California

Elementary Schools

Prioritize student


implement a coherent,


Curriculum and

Instructional program.

Oberman (2005) - California

High Schools (Springboard


Use consistent curriculum

and frequent diagnostic


Bell (2001)

Culture of collegiality and

shared decision making

were apparent.

(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Barr & Parrett (2007)

Districts targeted low-

performing schools,

particularly in reading;


Aligned, monitored, and

managed the


Reyes, Scribner, & Paredes-

Scribner (1999) – High

Performing Hispanic Schools

Schools embedded

mathematical skills; and

Connections were made

between subjects and

between school and life.

Disciplined Thought –

Hedgehog Concept

Trimble (2002)

Schools established built-

in criteria for making


(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Reeves (2006) – Revisit


Successful school

improvement inversely

related to “prettiness” of

the plan.

Bell (2001) – HP2 Schools

Williams (2003) ASCD

Closing Achievement Gaps

Reduced barriers and


Hillard (2003) – Project

SEED, Dallas, TX

Students took a stance

with self confidence.

Teachers discovered

rationale behind

answer, not


Students motivated by

high level content.

(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Waits (2006) – Arizona’s Beat

the Odds Study

Blaming external,

demographic, or

economic factors were

not part of the culture.

Barr & Parrett (2007)

Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis


Assessment was used for


Disciplined Action –

Culture of Discipline

Waits (2006) Arizona’s Beat

the Odds Study

Schools were results

oriented; and

Opted for proven

programs that teachers


(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Reeves (2003) – 90/90/90


Schools focused on

academic achievement;

Clear curriculum choices;

Frequent assessment;

collaborative scoring of

student work; multiple

opportunities for student

improvement; and

Emphasized nonfiction


Picucci (2004) Charles A.

Dana Center

Middle school concept

(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Barr & Parrett (2007) Kids

Left Behind

Schools engaged parents

and communities as


Created a culture of data

and assessment


Built and sustained

instructional capacity;

Reorganized, time, space,

and transitions; and

Engage students as early

as possible.

(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Reeves (2007) – Mead Valley


Bell (2001)

Henderson & Milstein (2003)

Schools insisted on a

culture of dedication

and consistency among


Created achievement

targets; and

Recognition ceremonies.

Wilson & Corbett (2001)


Schools displayed strong

relationships between

teachers and students.

Williams (2003)

Small classes/small


(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Harris, James, Gunraj,

Clarke, & Harris (2006) –


Schools built personal

student capacity; and

Interpersonal and

organizational capacity

(flexible open


Haycock (2001), McGee

(2004), Goodwin (2000)

Schools provided more

instructional time for

students in need.

Laboratory Network Project


Schools listened to the

perspective of the


(table continues)


Good to GreatTM



Findings – High Performing
ECM Schools

Gibson (2002) – Being Real

Effective teachers:

Provided descriptive and

heart-felt compliments;

Utilized instructional time

wisely while giving

students individual


Confronted students about



Employed flexible

teaching techniques;

Built sincere and candid

relationship with

students and parents;


Communicated care and

concern to students.


Output Results

Collins (2001) selected each of the good-to-great companies in his study

based on their consistent output results over time: “fifteen-year cumulative stock

returns at or below the general stock market, punctuated by a transition point,

then cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next 15 years”

(p. 6). This measure was used to eliminate companies that may have had a

lucky streak for a period of time. The criteria used exemplified the sustained

results of these 11 companies which made them enduring great companies.

Collins (2001) described the output of each of the companies as delivering

superior performance relative to its mission; making a distinctive impact on the

communities it touches; and achieving lasting endurance beyond any leader,

idea or setback.

What was thoroughly and resoundingly clear throughout the research was

that economically-challenged minority schools face a complex undertaking when

faced with school improvement. What was clear was that despite the

overwhelming circumstances, sustainable school improvement and positive

student outcomes were possible (Barr & Parrett, 2007).

The overarching priority in most of the studies included in this literary

synthesis focused on improved instruction. In Barr and Parrett’s (2007)

examination of high-performing, high-poverty schools, they found several key

output results in the schools that demonstrated the effective components of

sustained school improvement. Research shows that when a school continues


to improve it normally exhibits effective district and school leadership; an

engaged school community; high expectations; a focus on low-performing

students especially in reading; an aligned and monitored curriculum; a culture of

data and assessment; sustained instructional capacity; and effective use of time,

space, and transitions (Barr & Parrett, 2007). Barr and Parrett (2007) noted

common output results from successful ECM schools: high levels of proficiency

among students; continued gains in achievement; and widespread effective

practices and policies.

Waits et al. (2006) described successful output results in terms of student

achievement at critical points in a student’s academic career. In her Arizona

study, achievement was measured by the Stanford 9 results in third-grade

reading and eighth-grade math. These particular junctures of learning were

used based on research that showed a strong correlation between a student’s

third grade reading capability and his/her future success. Similarly, studies

showed a correlation between eighth grade math scores and success in science

and engineering careers. She measured success as schools that showed

consistent strong performance and or schools that showed steady improvement

in performance over time.

Sustaining high performance in ECM schools does not look that different

from any other high-performing schools, no matter the ethnic makeup or socio-

economic status. According to Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002), professional

learning communities were essential to long-term school improvement.


Common characteristics found in schools with sustained school improvement

included: values embedded in the school culture; staff pursuit of measurable

performance goals; shared decision-making; administrators who pose questions

to further the collaborative culture; teachers who function as a team; parents and

community resources used to strengthen the school and student learning; on-

going action research; and a systematic gathering and analysis of data. Much of

the research on high-performing, high-poverty schools reflected these findings.

Many schools in Texas have proven that a combination of several or all of

these factors yield high-performing economically-challenged minority schools. In

Texas’ terminology, the combination of these factors would yield campuses with

recognized and exemplary accountability ratings. In other words, high-

performing economically-challenged minority schools have at least 75% of their

student population meeting standards on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge

and Skills; at least 70% of the special needs students meeting standards on the

State Developed Alternative Assessment II; and less than a 0.7% dropout rate.

Figure 2 demonstrates the process of one or more of the input factors

playing a role in producing certain qualitative and quantitative output results in

high performing economically-challenged minority schools (Texas Education

Agency, Accountability Manual, 2006).


Figure 2. Factors Influencing Greatness in ECM Schools - Literature Review

and Texas Requirements for High Performance.


Many of the factors that influenced greatness in economically-challenged

minority schools were consistent across the board no matter the grade level or

ethnicity. Some of the common expressions that appeared in the research on

high-performing, high-poverty schools and the Good to GreatTM


included: leadership, autonomy, responsibility, consistency, endurance,

commitment, no excuses, and collaboration.

Similar to the climate of Good to GreatTM

companies, in many of the

cases of high-performing ECM schools, teachers were given a great deal of

autonomy. They believed in taking risks as long as the greatest consistency of

effective practices and student achievement were attained. The high performing

Output Results in
Texas Accountability Rating Terminology


TAKS (Met Standard)












Social Studies



SDAA II All Subjects



Completion Rate I



Annual Dropout Rate 0.7%


Input Factors

Disciplined People

Collaborative leadership
Purpose-driven Staff

Disciplined Thought

Address Student Need
Clear vision
Curriculum Focus
High Expectations/No
Streamlined Activities

Discipline Action

Assessment for
Distributed Accountability
Learning Communities

Output Results

High levels of
proficiency among

gains in

Effective and
enduring practices
and policies are


economically-challenged/minority school’s communities were willing to commit

time and energy because there was a culture of learning and getting better at

something that has critical importance in the lives of people. “Failure may be the

initial motivator, but it is increased competence that leads us to do more and

more.” (Fullan, 2006, p. 58)

Another factor that became abundantly clear in turnaround, break-

through, beat-the-odd, HP2, and other high performing economically challenged

minority schools was their ability to stay the course no matter the excruciating

circumstances. Staying the course meant that there was a “no excuse” attitude

that resonated in the learning community and careful attention was paid to

increasing leadership capacity among stakeholders and deepening the focus

and direction of the school (Bell, 2001; Chenoweth, 2007; Waits, 2006).

Chenoweth (2007) summarized what was being done differently in high

achieving ECM schools. The list of activities that were found can be arranged

nicely within this study’s framework including disciplined people, disciplined

thought, and disciplined action. Chenoweth reiterated the findings of all the

previous studies that were included in this literature review. In a nutshell, high

achieving ECM schools resembled the following description:

• They taught their students. They did not teach to the state tests.

• They had high expectations for their students. They knew what the

stakes were.

• They embraced and used all the data they could get their hands on.


They used data to focus on individual students, not just groups of


• They constantly reexamined what they did. They embraced


• They made decisions on what was good for kids, not what was good for


• They used school time wisely. They leveraged as many resources from

the community as possible.

• They expanded the time students-particularly struggling students- had in


• They did not spend a lot of time disciplining students, in the sense of

punishing them. They established an atmosphere of respect. They

liked kids.

• They made sure that the kids who struggled the most had the best


• Principals were a constant presence. Although the principals were

important leaders, they were not the only leaders.

• They paid careful attention to the quality of the teaching staff. They

provided teachers with the time to meet to plan the work collaboratively.

They provided teachers time to observe each other. They thought

seriously about professional development. They assumed that they had

to train new teachers more or less from scratch and carefully


acculturated all newly hired teachers. They had high-quality, dedicated,

and competent office and building staff who felt themselves part of the

educational mission of the school.

• They were nice places to work (Chenoweth, 2007, pp. 216-226).

Although the numbers were few, there was enough consistency among

the disciplined people, thought, and actions of high performing-high

economically-challenged minority schools to make a considerable impact on

public school children performance (Chenoweth, 2007).

In order for a school to be effective it appeared necessary to have a

principal who was an instructional leader; teachers with high expectations for

themselves and their students; and students who spend all instructional time on

task and engaged in creating learning. The literature suggested the need for a

continual cycle of data being used to further instruction and student learning

(Barr & Parrett, 2007).





After implementing performance accountability programs, nationwide, the

gap between economically-challenged populations of students and their more

affluent counterparts continue to exist. Academic scores of minority groups fall

well below white students. Texas was one of the states that led implementing

accountability standards in their schools. These efforts did lead to increased

knowledge by all groups, but the gap between racial groups did not decrease

(Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003).

Despite overwhelming obstacles, several schools with a large population

of economically-challenged minority (ECM) students have achieved academic

excellence (Barr & Parrett, 2007). These schools have made remarkable

transitions to becoming great. Through interviews with five individuals

(administrators and teachers) on each of 12 ECM campuses: seven high

performing and five acceptable performing, the researcher explored all

exceptions to the pattern of low income/low performance. There were enough

schools that defied the trend to prove that the background of the student body

does not have to determine achievement results (Kannapel & Clements, 2005).

The purpose of this study was to explore the distinguishing factors that

exist among successful ECM schools compared to similar


acceptable performing schools. Three high performing ECM school feeder

groups were compared to two school feeder groups that remained acceptable

over time.

This study used the characteristics consistent with the research on high-

performing, high poverty schools and the inspiration and method gleaned from

Jim Collins (2001), author of the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies

Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. An in-depth exploration of three ECM feeder

pattern groups that were outperforming schools with a similar demographic

makeup was conducted. These three feeder groups consisted of two

elementary, one sixth, one fifth-sixth, and three seventh-eighth grade schools.

Just as Collins did in his study on successful corporations, the high performing

feeder groups in this study were compared to two similar school feeder groups

that had acceptable performance. All schools had a high population of

economically-challenged minority students.

The in-depth descriptive study focused on a thorough description of the

five before mentioned feeder groups. Two qualitative research questions, using

a private face-to-face interview with five individual from each of the 12 campuses

including administrators and teachers, were explored to gain a deep

understanding of the actions and behaviors that occurred in economically-

challenged minority schools that either led to superior or acceptable



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