Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago

January, 2010
Authors: 
Anthony S. Bryk, Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Stuart Luppescu, John Q. Easton

This book by current and former researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) provides a detailed analysis of why students in 100 public elementary schools in Chicago were able to improve substantially in reading and math over a seven year period and students in another 100 schools were not. Using massive longitudinal evidence, the study yields a comprehensive set of school practices and school and community conditions that promote improvement, noting that the absence of these spells stagnation. 

To read the press release on Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago please click Download Now.

Download Appendix: Survey Measures, Factors, Composite Variables, and Items Used in Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago

Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago

Symposium on January 14, 2010

To send a request to the authors, please send an email to organizingschools@ccsr.uchicago.edu


About the Book

This book by researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) provides a detailed analysis of why students in 100 public elementary schools in Chicago were able to improve substantially in reading and math over a seven year period and students in another 100 schools were not. Using massive longitudinal evidence, the study yields a comprehensive set of school practices and school and community conditions that promote improvement, noting that the absence of these spells stagnation.

These five essential supports are: school leadership, professional capacity, parent-community ties, student-centered learning climate, and instructional guidance. In contrast to many current reform efforts that seek to spur progress through one or two of these elements, this book shows that substantial school improvement requires building the social organization within schools and orchestrating initiatives across multiple domains.

Moving beyond the schoolhouse, the authors analyze community context to discover the ways internal practices of improving schools are inexorably entwined with the social resources of local neighborhoods. They raise troublesome questions about our society’s capacity to improve schooling in its most neglected communities. For schools in these communities, the task of improvement is much more formidable than most have acknowledged to date.

These findings are particularly timely as school districts nationwide launch a new round of efforts to turn around their most troubled schools. Urban education professionals and policy makers alike will learn valuable knowledge from this pioneering undertaking in Chicago.

Education Next has ranked Organizing Schools for Improvement 8th in a poll of the best educational policy books of the last decade.


Media Coverage of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago

Why Collaboration is Vital to Creating Effective Schools

Washington Post, 5/2/13

In the News

Catalyst Notebook, 2/9/11

The Best Books of the Past Decade According to Ed Next Readers

Education Next, 1/5/11

The Most Important Research on Urban School Reform in the Past Decade?

Educational Researcher (December 2010, vol. 30, no. 9 pp. 665-667)

Review of Organizing Schools for Improvement

Teachers College Record, 8/30/10

Beyond the Beltway with Bruce DuMont

(radio version) WBEZ-FM, 5/9/10

Organizing Schools for Improvement

Phi Delta Kappan (April 2010, vol. 91, no. 7, pp. 23-30)

Book learning

The University of Chicago Magazine, 4/1/10

Book shares Chicago recipe for good schools

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/30/10

Scholars identify 5 keys to urban school success

Education Week, 1/25/10

CPS Closures: Will it really improve the school system?

WBEZ Eight Forty-Eight, 1/20/10

Landmark University study points to five essential supports for school reform

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Schools Committee, 1/16/10

'Silver bullet' approach to school reform isn't effective, study says

Medill Reports, 1/14/10


About the Authors

Anthony S. Bryk is president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and was founding senior director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, University of Chicago.

Penny Bender Sebring is founding co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago.

Elaine Allensworth is director for statistical analysis of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago.

Stuart Luppescu is chief psychometrician at the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago.

John Q. Easton is director of the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, and former executive director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago.

Download Appendix


Praise for Organizing Schools for Improvement

"Let us hope this book redirects our attention to what really matters in urban education. Beneath the numbers, there is a fundamentally optimistic view of the potential of urban schools. The authors give us every reason to believe that understanding the organizational and cultural dynamics of schools can help us make them better, much better. If we attend to this work as we should, it can be a game-changer."

–Charles M. Payne, & Youngs, Frank P. Hixon Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago

"This book will advance everyone’s thinking about key ideas in school improvement. I was excited by the authors’ willingness to go beyond descriptive facts to find out what specifically distinguishes two different student bodies with similar demographics. What is so important about this book is that it figures out and describes in various ways the vital role social capital plays both inside and outside school."

–Ellen Guiney, Director at the Boston Plan for Excellence

"Success with urban schools and urban students is a national imperative. The research presented by Bryk et al. provides a potential path to addressing it...the expertise of the researchers and the depth and breadth of their data are inarguable."

–Scheurich, Goddard, Skrla, McKenzie, & Youngs, Educational Researcher

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