Can the Strategic Inquiry method help struggling students?

In 2014 newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that instead of closing “troubled schools” and simply reshuffling the deck, New York City would invest in a “Renewal” program to turn the schools around and benefit their students. Ninety-four schools were enlisted based on low four-year graduation rates and poor test scores for middle and elementary schools. Renewal schools received additional funds, students an extra hour of instruction each day, and teachers extra professional training. The schools also offered students summer enrichment programs to support learning.

In October 2018 de Blasio did an about-face and announced that the Renewal program was being phased out as too costly, about $775 million over four years, with at best only incremental improvement in student performance.

But de Blasio probably acted too fast and with incomplete data. A new study just released by Columbia University shows that at least in some cases the Renewal program was surprisingly successful. Researchers concluded that the Strategic Inquiry program implemented in some of the Renewal high schools was able to help more troubled city students get on track to graduate.

According to the study, the Strategic Inquiry approach helped teachers and administrators to target struggling students and provided them with the literacy skills they needed to complete course work and pass state exams. Students in the Strategic Inquiry schools were almost two and half times more likely to be on track to graduate than similar students in other schools. The study’s co-author Priscilla Wohlstetter argued that their results also showed that this was an approach that could be “replicated, customized and adopted in school districts throughout the country as one important component of education improvement reform.”

John Adams High School in Queens was one of the schools that successfully implemented Strategic Inquiry. Its principal, Dan Scanlon, said staff training in Strategic Inquiry methods was instrumental in boosting the school’s graduation rate there from 53% in 2013 to 72.4% in 2017. He credited Strategic Inquiry with transforming “the culture of our school” putting more students “ on track to graduation and successful lives.”

Read the rest of the article here. Shared with the author’s permission.


Featured image by Max Choong — Flickr.