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Research-Based Best Practice: Sustaining Excellence

By April 4, 2013December 30th, 2021No Comments

In an Education Week blog on March 1, 2013, contributor Sarah D. Sparks, remarked: “Education research, like most publicly funded research, is likely to take a hit in the across-the-board budget cuts that start to take effect today. But while districts and researchers cut back, President Obama is pushing researchers to get the studies that are funded in the hands of educators faster.”

Although it is true that publically-funded research best practices in education filter slowly to practitioners, school leaders also have to find the time to digest the journals and decide if a particular practice is appropriate for their setting. Results often are generalized, but may or may not be helpful to improve schools with specific needs.

In an effort to support action research, the Middle States Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools encourages currently accredited, high-performing schools to use Sustaining Excellence, the newest accreditation protocol. The Sustaining Excellence Protocol provides an accreditation protocol option for schools that can demonstrate 1) their efficacy, over time, in producing the levels of student performance that are desired and expected by their community of stakeholders; and, 2) are recognized as what Doug Reeves calls “leading schools.” Leading schools are those are achieving high levels of student performance, have an excellent understanding of the necessary antecedents for those results, and likely will continue achieving those high results over time. The Sustaining Excellence Protocol is an option that permits “leading schools” to earn reaccreditation by focusing their time, energy, and resources – and that of their community of stakeholders – on:

  • Identifying an aspect of the educational program, services, and/or learning environment the school and its community of stakeholders desire to grow and/or improve in order to produce even higher levels of student performance, or develop creative ways to measure student performance;
  • Discovering how current research informs efforts to grow and improve the aspect of the school’s educational program, services, and/or learning environment on which the school wishes to focus;
  • Developing a proposal for an action research project to demonstrate its application in the living laboratory of the school;
  • Implementing the research project and documenting the results; and,
  • Sharing the results from the implementation with the broader education community in the form of a colloquium.
Educators often hesitate to “experiment” in schools. Perhaps this is why school-based action research is not as prevalent as it should be. School change, like research studies, is slow and arduous. The fall back position is to continue current practice at the fear of failure – or worse – the fear of jeopardizing student success. One size does not fit all. Educators who also are risk-takers break trail with the status quo when efforts are focused on finding what works to increase student achievement without waiting for publication of research-based best practices.

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