From effectiveness to excellence: Reforming the urban elementary school

Sharyn Lowe Goodman, Fordham University


This study examined the continual school improvement process in an effective urban elementary school en route to achieving excellence. The research design for the study was a qualitative case study. Data included analyses of documents, physical artifacts, interviews, and observations. The findings of the study related to the growth process of improvement, transferring improvement into habitual behavior, and moving forward to the next improvement challenge of the Harris Elementary School. Over a period of 10 years, the vision for students as learners expanded to include staff and parents. Once students started demonstrating significant academic improvements, the supervisors began to view teachers more as learners and leaders. The top-down leadership shifted and became more inclusive. Yet the principal at the top of the traditional management hierarchy, and assistant principals exercised critical influence on the arrangements which guided school participants in their daily work. The curriculum in all subjects was organized into behavioral learning objectives. Monitoring the instructional program and curriculum implementation was a critical component of the supervisor's responsibilities. The administrators' role in striving for excellence emphasized high expectations for students and teachers. A problem solving mechanism, promoting the exchange of opinions and ideas related to learning, was established. A representative group of teachers participated in advancing the school improvement process. The principal reserved the right to make a final decision if group consensus could not be reached. Teachers willingly accepted leadership roles and provided staff development. Regularly scheduled planning time for teacher collaboration efforts was arranged as needed. Teachers valued opportunities to collaborate with colleagues to further their professional development and accepted the time barrier as their challenge to surmount. At the Harris School, staff and administrative stability had been the norm for the past 10 years, making the routinization of excellence possible in developmental stages. The Harris staff confirmed the importance of basic skills learning as well as the more expansive view of excellence, promoting a love for learning, critical thinking, and problem solving skills for its community of learners.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Goodman, Sharyn Lowe, "From effectiveness to excellence: Reforming the urban elementary school" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511219.