Karen R. Zittleman, PhD
McGraw-Hill Higher Education
What Makes a School Effective?
A Note of Caution on Effective Schools Research
Although the research on what makes schools effective has had a direct impact on national reform movements, it has limitations. First, there is disagreement over the definition of an effective school. Researchers use varying descriptions, ranging from "schools with high academic achievement" to schools that foster "personal growth, creativity, and positive self-concept." Although the five factors we have described are helpful, they do not really pro-vide a prescription for developing successful schools.
Another problem is that much of the research has been conducted in elementary schools. Although some researchers suggest applicability to secondary and even higher education, caution must he used in carrying the effective-schools findings to higher levels of education. The generalizability of the re-search is also limited, since several of the studies were conducted in inner-city schools and tied closely to the achievement of lower-order skills in math and science. If one wanted to develop a school that nurtures creativity rather than basic skills, another set of characteristics might be more appropriate.