Getting the Ground Ready to Sow Change: An Ethnographic Case Study of Blewbury Middle School

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Title: Getting the Ground Ready to Sow Change: An Ethnographic Case Study of Blewbury Middle School
Author: Garland, Rebecca Bass
Advisors: Dr. Peter Hessling, Committee Member
Dr. James Swiss, Committee Member
Dr. Ken Brinson, Committee Chair
Dr. Paul Bitting, Committee Member
Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation study has been to investigate the effects of school culture on reform in a school targeted for improvement. Blewbury Middle School is one of scores of schools in this country that have been impacted by poverty and changing demographics over the last few decades. A declining economic base and immigration have left the school with a majority of its students on free or reduced lunch. Dr. Maryann Callaghan and Mr. John Gunn requested administrative positions at Blewbury, expecting to find a school at risk. Their objective was to address low student achievement with a stated goal of impacting the school's culture to make it a more positive environment for students. Instead of finding a school in need of refocusing, they found a totally dysfunctional school with all systems broken. Although their first sixteen months were filled with seemingly insurmountable challenges, the new administration shook the status quo and made many needed improvements. The school today is physically more attractive, and it functions more effectively and efficiently. Students move through the building in an orderly fashion, and parents report satisfaction with the changes. Dr. Callaghan herself would be the first to admit that the school has a long way to go before it becomes an effective middle school. The teaching staff is comprised mainly of lateral entry hires. After two summers there were more than twenty teacher vacancies. It was exceedingly difficult to find enough certified teachers willing to accept the challenges of Blewbury . Effective classroom management is still the most pressing concern along with improved instructional strategies that invite active student participation in their own learning. The teaching force in the school still finds it difficult to maintain the energy required to make Blewbury work although teachers are more focused than they were in the beginning. Although definitive, observable, positive changes in the climate at Blewbury have occurred, deep seeded cultural changes are yet to materialize.
Date: 2005-01-20
Degree: EdD
Discipline: Educational Administration and Supervision

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