Selecting a Sample of Participating Schools
The goal of a SPIR review is to get an accurate, detailed picture of current practices to provide a report that will be valuable in planning the what, how, and who for future improvements. In doing so, we are committed to respecting the time of all staff involved by focusing on the most essential, research-based aspects, using only well-trained, expert reviewers; by using electronic surveys to gather much of the information; and by limiting the classroom observations to some carefully chosen sample schools.
Selecting the sample can be a puzzling process, and there is no “one right way” to select a sample because values, concerns, and history differ from one district to another.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we have to sample?
On one hand, time equals money. The review is very detailed, covering about 50 elements of an exemplary science program. It takes two to three trained reviewers at least one day to gather information from a small-sized school, and NSTA recruits experts with comprehensive experience as reviewers. Their time and travel expenses, plus the time-consuming process of collating and analyzing of all the data causes costs to rise quickly.
On the other hand, there is no need to overdo. A well-chosen sample of several schools, combined with a one-day work session with district leaders will produce enough information to confidently provide ratings for all the objectives that fairly describe current practices.
Why not use a random sample?
The ultimate goal is your confidence in the review’s report. If all your schools are about the same in achievement, student population, and attention to science teaching, a random sample at a range of grades would work to meet the goal. Since most districts have some variation, the sample can be constructed to offer some insight into practices at varied schools. When digesting your final report, you want to be comfortable that you have a fair picture of typical science teaching and learning practices across the district.
Should we include high-performing schools?
Definitely. The SPIR standards describe research-based best practices. Reviewing against these standards will pinpoint where best practices are in use and where improvements are needed to make good learning experiences even better. Following the review, the knowledge and experience of schools or individuals using best practices can be tapped to inform planning and professional development.
Can we cut back on the scope of the review in order to include more schools?
It is tempting to try to scale back the undertaking—such as, just look at instructional practices. However, research and decades of experience clearly indicate that exemplary science programs are the result of a well-aligned system. Further, keeping that system in top condition requires leadership that recognizes the function and importance of each part of the system. Each SPIR review will define and examine the entire system.
SPIR staff members will provide resources to the leadership team in working through the selection of a sample.