We are pleased to share a recent success of one of our star schools, Sparks Middle School in Industry, CA was identified as “Beating the Odds” by a new report from WestEd.
A growing body of research suggests that school climate may be an important variable in explaining why some schools are more successful than others. This report, written by WestEd’s Adam Voight, Gregory Austin, and Thomas Hanson, contributes to this research by exploring the climate of a handful of secondary schools with extraordinary success compared to that of other schools, including those that consistently underperform.
School success is often defined in absolute terms, such as average standardized test scores. But such criteria are known to be strongly correlated with the socioeconomic characteristics of a school’s student body. And the fact that a largely affluent student body is linked to school success offers little useful direction for those trying to improve achievement in struggling schools with low-income student populations.
To address this limitation, the present study’s design and methodology take student characteristics into account. Specifically, a successful school is defined as one whose test scores are better than would be predicted based on its student characteristics. Using this definition, A Climate for Academic Success investigates how two factors—school climate and school personnel resources—differed among three groups of California secondary schools.
In the report, 40 schools are identified as “Beating the Odds“, derived by using data from over 1,700 California public middle and high schools, these 40 schools were identified that consistently performed better than predicted on standardized tests of math and English language arts achievement. These schools were labeled “beating-the-odds” (BTO) schools.
Of the 40 schools, Sparks Middle School of Hacienda la Puente Unified was the only California GEAR UP school on the list. California GEAR UP schools utilize professional development resources, partner services, and discretionary funds to create a college-going culture over a six year period. Sparks has been a California GEAR UP school since 2011 and has implemented a full compliment of GEAR UP resources to address school climate and culture to ensure ALL students have access to high quality academics and preparation. California GEAR UP schools believe it is never to early to prepare students for their future and it takes a school community of committed adults to achieve great performance.
A previous study using this definition of success found that personnel resources—such as the education, experience, and roles of staff—did not help distinguish successful from unsuccessful schools. The current study looks at the relationship between school climate and success, as measured by the California Healthy Kids Survey. The measure includes such dimensions of the school environment as safety, academic supports, social relationships, and school connectedness. A positive school climate has been associated with higher academic achievement and healthy behavioral outcomes for students.
In addition to the Report Summary, a Full Report is also available on the WestEd Website.
Funded for its third six-year cycle on October 1, 2011, the program goal of California GEAR UP is to: Develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare ALL students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults — counselors, faculty, school leaders and families — who influence middle school students. All program services are geared towards sustainability, such that school change can be successful beyond the life of the grant cycle.