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Collective Responsibility for Learning and Its Effects on Gains in Achievement for Early Secondary School Students

How the organization of teachers' work affects students in their early years of high school is the focus of this study. A nationally representative sample of 11,692 high school sophomores in 820 U. S. high schools and 9,904 of those students' teachers was used, drawn from the base year and first follow-up of the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88). Organizational effects were evaluated on students' gains in achievement (in mathematics, reading, science, and social studies) between eighth and tenth grade, as well as the social distribution of those gains. The study focused on three constructs measuring the organization of teachers' work: collective responsibility for student learning, staff cooperation, and control over classroom and school work conditions. Results were very consistent: achievement gains are significantly higher in schools where teachers take collective responsibility for students' academic success or failure rather than blaming students for their own failure. Achievement gains were also higher in schools with more cooperation among staff. Moreover, the distribution of achievement gains is more socially equitable in schools with high levels of collective responsibility for learning.