Term of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Deborah Thomas

Committee Member 1

Russell Mays

Committee Member 2

Sonya Shepherd

Committee Member 3

Dawn Tysinger

Abstract

In a September 2 Education Week Commentary, Kahlenberg (2009) identified 5,000 schools across the nation categorized as failing or low-performing schools. A significant amount of attention and resources are dedicated to transform low-performing schools to high-performing schools promoting student achievement. Because of the increasing demand that low-performing schools be turned around, Georgia schools that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) two consecutive years for the same indicator are placed in Needs Improvement (NI) status and face escalating consequences from the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). In the midst of all of the demands to meet local and state requirements, there were school personnel who made structural or organizational changes by implementing professional learning communities to achieve the desired outcome of improving student achievement and became high-performing schools. Conversely, there were school personnel that made structural or organizational changes by implementing professional learning communities to achieve the desired outcome of improving student achievement, yet remained in low-performing status. This research focused on six middle schools in Georgia, in which the five critical elements of a professional learning community were implemented as a response to school reform. Of the six middle schools, three schools were selected because they were recognized as high-performing. Simultaneously, three middle schools were selected because they had yet to meet all of the criteria of a high-performing school and were labeled as low-performing. The researcher examined real-life implementations of critical elements of a professional learning community in these high-performing and low-performing middle schools to determine if there were significant differences or patterns that existed among or between the two groups of schools. This research was approached using a mixed method design. The quantitative data were gathered and analyzed adopting the Olivier, Hipp, and Huffman (2009) survey instrument, Professional Learning Communities Assessment - Revised (PLCA-R). The qualitative data were gathered and analyzed by conducting recorded semi-structured focus group interviews and individual interviews, observing and documenting PLCs, and collecting and reviewing artifacts.

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