Research on Relationships in School Communities
Why Relationships, Not Just Money, Are The Key To Improving Schools
Study Finds Social Capital Has 3-5 Times The Impact Of Funding
Serena J. Salloum, Roger D. Goddard & Dan Berebitsky (2018):  Resources, Learning, and Policy: The Relative Effects of Social and Financial Capital on Student Learning in Schools, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR),

Research Paper Abstract
In this paper, we note the contrasting positions occupied by social and financial capital in state and federal education policy and compare their relative impacts on student learning. To make such a comparison, we analyzed data from a representative sample of Michigan’s elementary schools using multilevel structural equation modeling to examine the relationships among social capital, instructional expenditures, and student achievement. We found that the level of social capital characterizing schools was not a function of instructional expenditures. We also found that both social and financial capital had a positive and significant relationship with reading and mathematics student achievement. However, the effect of social capital was three and five times larger than that of financial capital on mathematics and reading, respectively. We discuss the implications of these findings for education policy and programs that might improve student learning by strengthening social relationships.
Keywords:  social capital, community, student achievement, relationship, education policy

Research on Relationships in School Communities
“Social capital was not only more important to learning than instructional expenditures, but also more important than the schools’ poverty, ethnic makeup or prior achievement,” Goddard said.While social capital tended to go down in schools as poverty levels increased, it wasn’t a major decrease. “We could see from our data that more than half of the social capital that schools have access to has nothing to do with the level of poverty in the communities they serve,” he said. “Our results really speak to the importance and the practicality of building social capital in high-poverty neighborhoods where they need it the most.”

The study also found that the money spent on student learning was not associated with levels of social capital in schools. That means schools can’t “buy” social capital just by spending more money. Social relationships require a different kind of investment, Goddard said.

The study can’t answer how to cultivate social capital in schools. But Goddard has some ideas.

One is for schools to do more to help teachers work together. “Research shows that the more teachers collaborate, the more they work together on instructional improvement, the higher the test scores of their students. That’s because collaborative work builds social capital that provides students with access to valuable support,” he said.

Building connections to the community is important, too. School-based mentoring programs that connect children to adults in the community is one idea.

“Sustained interactions over time focused on children’s learning and effective teaching practice are the best way for people to build trust and build networks that are at the heart of social capital,” Goddard said.

“We need intentional effort by schools to build social capital. We can’t leave it to chance.”

Visual Tools

Nonlinguistic and Linguistic Representations
David Hyerle, Visual Tools for Transforming Information Into Knowledge, Corwin Press, 2009.
In what has become a landmark research study cited in many journals and by word of mouth in many schools around the country—Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement—Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane Pollock identify nine strategies that directly impact student achievement (Marzano et al., 2001):

  1. Identifying similarities and differences
  2. Summarizing and note taking
  3. Reinforcing effort
  4. Homework and practice
  5. Nonlinguistic representations
  6. Cooperative learning
  7. Setting objectives and providing feedback
  8. Generating and testing hypotheses
  9. Cues, questions, and advance organizers

The authors, with the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning Institute (McREL), used a meta-analysis process for analyzing and synthesizing classroom-based research studies to make key generalizations about what works. (For a discussion of the meta-analysis process, which combines results from studies to find “average effects,” refer to pp. 4–6 of their book.) One of the top nine instructional strategies they identified is nonlinguistic representations. Following is the authors’ background theory and definition of this instructional strategy: Many psychologists adhere to what has been called the “dual-coding” theory of information storage (see Paivio, 1969, 1971, 1990). This theory postulates that knowledge is stored in two forms—a linguistic form and an imagery form. . . . The imagery mode of representation is referred to as a nonlinguistic representation The more we use both systems of representation—linguistic and nonlinguistic—the better we are able to think about and recall knowledge.

This integration and direct use by students of linguistic and nonlinguistic forms is the essence of visual tools. Integrating drawings or pictures in a visual map along with words creates a rich mental bond within the brain and mind for remembering information. This bond is constructed by the learner and thus offers a process for conceptualizing and transforming information into a meaningful visual display of the knowledge base of the learner on paper or computer screen. The maps become an external memory for the brain and mirror for mental reflection and self-assessment for the learner.

The authors continue to both distinguish between linguistic and nonlinguistic forms, and also link the forms, as they represent a range of graphic organizers that represent how to effectively translate research and theory into classroom practice:

Graphic organizers are perhaps the most common way to help students generate nonlinguistic representations. . . . Graphic organizers combine the linguistic mode in that they use words and phrases, and the nonlinguistic mode in that they use symbols and arrows to represent relationships. Keywords:  nonlinguistic, linguistic, cooperative learning, recall knowledge, advance organizers, graphic organizers 

Mapping for Justice:  How One Community Transformed GIS into
a Tool for Educational Change
by Verónica Vélez, Equity Alliance Blog, Oct 28, 2013
It is important to note that while the mothers collectively worked to employ GIS as a transformative practice, they were also quick to note its limitations and possible dangers.  Similar to feminist, postcolonial, and other critical geographers who question GIS’ lack of attention to issues of positionality, power, and the politicized nature of representation in maps (Kwan, 2002; Knigge and Cope, 2006; Crampton and Krygier, 2006), the mothers pushed back on filtering their story through legitimizing technologies that made real what their own voice should have accomplished but hadn’t – the result, they argued, of being racialized as “unfit” to sit at the decision-making table.  We engaged in these difficult conversations, and the more we did, the more the mothers became convinced that GIS, when applied critically, could bolster advocacy efforts and catalyze new partnerships to address the geographic footprint inherent in all educational inequity.  By redefining GIS mapping as a community-based praxis, the mothers “ground-truthed” the maps, making visible spaces and spatial relationships that otherwise would go unnoticed.

The lessons learned were powerful. The opportunity to collaborate with the mothers on this project has since motivated me to continue exploring the potential of GIS to expose and analyze educational inequities across space that is more critically attuned to map-making. They made clear that GIS cannot be reimagined as a transformative tool for both policy and practice, without the following considerations:

Local expertise.  The mothers’ experiential knowledge was key in the development of the maps. Their understanding of the local context drove how we “bounded” space and defined neighborhoods, what types of data we mapped, and which spaces mattered for exploring concerns connected to educational inequity.  Youth, parents, community members, and other local experts are essential for employing GIS to explore complex geographies of opportunity.

Maps are a point of departure, not the end goal.  GIS maps are incredibly persuasive on their own.  Therein lies one of its greatest dangers.  The ability of GIS maps to convince at first glance masks the intentionality of the map-maker(s) and their socially constructed view of space and key spatial relationships.  If GIS is to be re-purposed for transformative ends, the map-making process needs to be foregrounded and made transparent.  Furthermore, the goal should rest in the collaborative inquiry and analysis, of which GIS is only a part.  The maps should support and help illuminate a much broader narrative, or rather counter-narrative, driving the overall project.

Developing critical partnerships with GIS access is essential.  GIS is expensive and, in most cases, inaccessible to the very communities that are working to enact change on the ground. Partnerships between community groups and key allies with access to the technology are critical.  Ultimately, the goal is for communities to employ the technology on their own without depending on outside institutions that can often dictate the terms of the partnership.  Until then, though, critical GIS allies committed to a community-based mapping praxis are needed.
Keywords:  justice, mapping GIS mapping, expertise, critical partnerships


Questions and Inquiry