Low reading ability in a High School in South Dakota. What are possible improvement measures?

Essay, 2018

16 Pages, Grade: 19.00


Table of Contents

Organizational Improvement Change Project

Introduction and Overview

Change Scenario

Obstacles, Impediments, and Supports for Change

Change Topic Analysis

Action Plan

Leadership Self Reflection


Organizational Improvement Change Project

Introduction and Overview

McLaughlin High School is a rural school on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The English Proficiency at the school was 16%, and in the 2014-2015 school year, and 53% of the students graduated with a high school diploma. The ninth grade in the 2014-2015 school year started out with 55 students, the tenth grade 33 students, 11th grade 22 students, and the 12th grad 30 students, 98% are American Indian and 2% White. The total minority enrollment is 98% and 98% are economically disadvantaged. There are 12 full time teachers and the student-teacher ratio is 11:1. 48% of the population are females. 98% are on the free lunch program and a free breakfast is offered. The English Proficiency was 16 with a State average being 60. There was a-20.5 gap between actual and Performance Index (US News and World Report, n.d.).

According to MAPS tests administered during the 2014-2015 school year, a majority of students in the 9th grade had a third-grade reading level. This state of affairs was evidenced when a student was asked to read aloud out of a textbook during class. The low reading level ability was reflected in the low scores a great number of students received in Freshman Science class. Most were experiencing learned helplessness and would not even participate in class which led to discipline problems.

8.2% of the disadvantaged students are proficient. There is a -25.4 gap between school and state disadvantaged students. The college readiness index was N/A. The school is eligible for Title 1 funding.

The District, which is composed of K-12 students come from all parts of the Reservation and are bussed to school daily. There is a high turnover of teachers. There is a high dropout rate. Some teacher reports estimate eight out of ten students do not graduate, although the official figure is 53% graduate.

There were no educational assistants to help with IEP’s and almost half of the freshman class had an IEP. During the basketball season, students on the team would do the minimum amount of work to fail only one course so they could stay on the team. Basketball players were given special privileges by some administrators and the school board.

Many of the freshman students’ parents turn them over to a grandparent or uncle to take care of them because they spend most of their time and money at the casino one Board Member reported. One freshman student was living in a small house with 20 other people. Some students could not participate in class either because they were too drunk or hungover from staying up till late hours it was also reported by a Board Member.

Change Scenario

The purpose of an innovation would be to improve reading skills starting at the beginning of the students’ life, and life in school in order for the student to have adequate reading capabilities in high school and beyond. That the teacher can affect the ability to read as early as Kindergarten is a possibility. In Vandenbrouke, Vershchuren, Dosoete, Auhio, Ghesquiere, and Baeyers (2018), it was found that a Kindergarten teacher’s affective quality had an influence on working memory, which in turn effects skills in first grade. Most effective was the child’s learning of independence through the way the teacher treated the student. In another study, it was found that development of the phonological loop aspect of working memory predicted better reading skills for Chinese students (Zhang and Linn, 2018). The studies suggest that reading skills in children can be affected even earlier than in Elementary School. The students would benefit from a reading program to improve skills, as well as the teachers who could assign reading assignments and have students read in class, the school would benefit because scores would increase.

Obstacles, Impediments, and Supports for Change

When I asked the High School Principal about improving reading skills to help students achieve academically and improve discipline, the statement was made that the situation was “being looked into” at the Elementary School level. After this statement, I immediately thought of the Elementary School teachers and the possibility of some conflict there. The situation has purpose for choosing a political frame or lens because of the “high level of ambiguity and uncertainty” along with conflict (Bolman and Deal, 2013, p.311). School teachers were waiting for change and doing the best that could be done, and were “not happy” with the current intolerable situation reported by the MAPS tests and low English Proficiency ratings of students. There was a need for “real change in a personal, collective experience, conceptions, and behavior” (Fullan, 2016, p. 30). A “bias for action” strategy was needed, “combining top-down and bottom-up forces for change” (Fullan, 2016, p.10).

Change, involving change of conceptions and beliefs, however, was a slippery road to walk in the school. Past memories of American Indian education policies, removal of the Native language in schools and as an extension the culture, and strict treatment in Boarding Schools are still negatively viewed by a majority of the parents and grandparents, (Calloway, 2004). Native American peoples were looking for a different type of change, if not a return, of traditional values for answers.

It is not that the Federal Government hasn’t had, what he thought, was the best interest of the American Indian in mind. In 1885 the “leaders in the reform movement of the Indian were a group of earnest men and women who unabashedly call themselves the friends of Indians” (Calloway, 2004, p. 267). These leaders thought themselves to be saving the Native from themselves and extinction (Calloway, 2004). There was 4,000,000 dollars of treaty money for American Indian education (Calloway, 2004, p.361). The “Indian problem” problem would go away, it was thought, when Native Americans were assimilated into society and the tribes ceased to exist (Calloway, 2004, p. 367). The Indian was the ward of the government and a good guardian would educate and make sure they could “take care of themselves” (Calloway, 2004, p. 369). Laws and education were forced on this people, and Indians were to be civilized and Christianized. Education was the means to save the individual. (Calloway, 2004).

Another major obstacle is that I do not live in the area. I would have no personal, grassroots effect on an improvement change project involving supplying books to children under five and in their early years in school. Even when I lived on the Reservation I thought myself to be an outsider of sorts and merely tolerated.

Disruptive behaviors at MSD needed to change. Improvement could be affected by “intergenerational closure” (Hart and Risley, 2011, p. 23). Intergenerational closure is defined as social networking of community and family relationships between generations. (Hart and Risley, 2011). Fullan (2016) states that “effective networking requires: 1. Ownership; 2. Levels of involvement; 3. Practical focus; 4. Making time; 5. Commitment to values; 6. Shared responsibility” (p. 202). Improved changes in disruptive behavior of students would affect relationships in the school, and would radically affect the high teacher turnover existent at MSD.

Change takes time to occur (Fullan, 2016). As Kotter (1995) as cited in Reeves (2006) states, in order for change to come about there must be “islands of excellence” to carry out the change (p.32). The “Island of Excellence” at McLaughlin School District that I was aware of was the Dean of Students. I have contacted him for teachers contact information about the Wolakota Project in the school. He has been around the Reservation and school a good number of years, knows the community and families, and is a basketball coach, a symbol very important in the school for its temple and carnival effect. (Bolman and Deal, 2013, p. 16).

Change Topic Analysis

The frames I would consider that fits the High School best are the human resource frame and the political and symbolic frames to the greatest degree. Because individual commitment and motivation were an essential part of teaching the students I would have to say the human resource frame was the most important. Because there was such a great amount of uncertainty and ambiguity, conflict between principal and staff, and we didn’t know what the principal would do next, plus scarce resources, for example, the textbooks had to stay in the room because more wouldn’t be bought, the political and symbolic frame had a say.


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Low reading ability in a High School in South Dakota. What are possible improvement measures?
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Stephen Grams (Author), 2018, Low reading ability in a High School in South Dakota. What are possible improvement measures?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/458815


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