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Reports: Presenting What We Learn

Education Matters produces evaluation and research reports that are designed to reflect the complexity of the school reform work underway, highlight strengths and weaknesses of the work, and offer suggestions for next steps. The firm's policy reports aim to synthesize what we are learning across projects with the goal of informing others who may be in a position to develop new reform initiatives.

Evaluation/Research Reports

Whole-School Improvement/Standards-Based Reform in the Boston Public Schools. The following set of reports details the implementation and continuous development of the whole-school improvement agenda in the Boston Public Schools. They devote considerable attention to the development of strategies to make teaching a public practice in order to create collaborative, instructionally- focused school cultures, and to the role that principals and coaches play in this important work. And, they address the role of the Boston Plan for Excellence, the local education fund that has served as a research and development partner of the district.

The four papers that focus on Collaborative Coaching and Learning in Boston form a set. This approach to coaching began at the start of the 2001-2002 school year in a sample of the districtís schools. By the middle of the school year, the district had decided that this new coaching model should be tried in all of the districtís schools. In light of that decision, Education Matters wrote Using What We Know: Implications for Scaling-Up Implementation of the CCL Model (January 2002). At the end of the school year, we completed Off to a Good Start: Year I of Collaborative Coaching and Learning in the Effective Practice Schools (July 2002) which described the first year implementation of this coaching model. In July 2003, one year later, we reported on the second year of implementation in the same sample of schools in the report titled, Year II of Collaborative Coaching and Learning in the Effective Practice Schools: Expanding the Work. Finally, in light of the districtís decision to engage all schools in collaborative coaching at the start of the 2003-2004 school year, we wrote a brief report in the experiences of a different sample of schools, schools that had not yet achieved ďEffective PracticeĒ status, as they attempted to implement this complex coaching model. That report, our most recent, is Year I of Collaborative Coaching and Learning in the Boston Public Schools: Accounts from the Schools.

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Standards-Based Middle School Reform In San Diego, CA; Long Beach, CA; Louisville, KY; and Corpus Christi, TX.

Standards-Based Middle School Reform in San Diego. Education Matter's work in San Diego began in 1993, however, in light of the extensive changes in the district that began in the 1998-1999 school year with the new administration of Alan Bersin, Superintendent and Anthony Alvarado, Chancellor of Instruction, the reports referenced here begin with that school year. The reports highlight the district's approach to improving literacy instruction through multiple approaches to professional development including the extensive use of school-based coaches.

  • Growing Instructional Capacity in Two San Diego Middle Schools: A Report prepared for The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. (June, 2003)
    This report describes the efforts of two middle schools to develop in-school coaching capacity in the context of the district's shortage of highly trained literacy coaches.
    Download (PDF format, ~310kb)

  • San Diego City Schools: Indicators of Coherence and "Planfulness" in Implementing Middle School, Standards-Based Reform. (March 2001)
    Written for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation staff, this report summarizes the district's accomplishments through the middle of the 2000-2001 school year.
    Download (PDF format, ~80kb)

  • Implementing Standards-Based Reform in San Diego City Schools: Update Report, August 22, 2000.
    This report is a companion to the February 2000 report identified below. It describes middle school teachers' views of the Literacy Framework and the staff developer role near the end of the first year of implementation. While teachers are quite positive about the work in which they are engaged, they also raise concerns that the district needed to address.
    Download (PDF format, ~190kb)

  • Update Report: Implementing Standards-Based Reform in San Diego City Schools, February 2000.
    This report describes the first phase of the staff developer role in San Diego's middle schools. The report highlights the positive initial implementation of this role based on the perspectives of principals and staff developers who work at seventeen of the district's twenty-four middle schools.
    Download (PDF format, ~190kb)

  • Update Report: San Diego City Schools, August 1999.
    This report highlights three facets of San Diego's approach to implementing the first year of the Literacy Framework: a) the Instructional Leader role, b) three literacy strategies: Read-Alouds, Independent Reading, and Accountable Talk, and c) the district's literacy portfolios.
    Download (PDF format, ~210kb)

  • Update Report: Middle School Standards-Based Reform in San Diego. (April 1999)
    This report reviews the initial direction that San Diego's new administration took with respect to implementing its Literacy Framework and the new district organization designed to support its implementation.
    Download (PDF format, ~80kb)

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Standards-Based Reform in Louisville (Jefferson County Public Schools). Standards-based reform in Louisville takes place in an extremely complex environment of teaching, learning, and assessment reforms launched by KERA (the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1989) and its associated set of assessment practices initially called KIRIS (the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System). KERA and KIRIS together are a form of standards reform; they require schools to teach so that all children make progress away from the standards called "novice" and "apprentice" and toward those called "proficient" or "distinguished" within a designated period of time. Education Matters' reports on middle school, standards-based reform in Louisville consider the interaction of the district's reform efforts in the context of the state's high stakes accountability system.

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Standards-Based Reform in Corpus Christi. Middle school, standards-based reform in Corpus Christi was significantly influenced by the Texas accountability system which included the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) now known as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skill (TAKS). The basic skills orientation of the assessment as well as the high stakes attached to it led the district to have difficulty focusing on the kind of work implied by standards-based reform. Nonetheless, the district was successful in increasing the number of students from all demographic groups who achieved the minimal standards required by the state.

  • Standards-Based Reform in Corpus Christi: A Focus on the Early Implementation of Looking At Student Work, August 2000.
    During the 1999-2000 school year, with the district's agreement, Education Matters focused on the ways in which the district approached the implementation of Looking at Student Work (LASW) as a strategy for improving the quality of teachers' assignments and, thereby, students' work. This report details the variations in implementation as well as several common and often interrelated factors that led to those variations: 1) individual principal's knowledge of LASW and leadership of its implementation; 2) teachers' knowledge of the purpose of LASW; 3) clarity about the use of protocols and, 4) structured time in which to do LASW. The greater the presence of these factors, the greater the likelihood that LASW would be more deeply understood and effectively implemented at a school. Conversely, the greater their absence, the greater the likelihood that LASW would be shallowly understood and ineffectively implemented.
    Download (PDF format, ~150kb)

  • Update Report: Standards-Based Middle School Reform, August 1999.
    This report synthesizes what we learned from observing classrooms in our middle school sample during March 1999. Our focus during the observations was on the extent to which students had access to high level content and were being taught with strategies that enabled them to have a genuine opportunity to be actively engaged in their own learning. Across all four schools, our findings were similar: in our judgment, the range of pedagogical strategies in use was far too narrow to enable CCISD's middle school students to achieve at high standards, and the quality of work they were expected to produce was far too low.
    Download (PDF format, ~140kb)

  • Update Report: Standards-Based Middle School Reform, January 1999.
    In this report, we emphasize assessment and quality of student work because a) it is these two issues that we understood to be the center of the district's work during the 1998-1999 school year, and b) we think that a genuine focus on these issues will lead to improved student learning. We discuss the implications of focusing on these issues for professional development and consider the district's capacity to move forward with this work.
    Download (PDF format, ~150kb)

  • Update Report: Standards-Based Reform, August 1998.
    Building on previous reports, this update emphasizes the issues of quality and consistency in assessing student work in a standards-bases system. We present the concerns and issues that teachers raise as they try to assess the quality of student work. In addition, we consider the district's latest approaches to providing "safety nets" for students who are not making sufficient progress toward passing performance standards or who have failed them. And, we briefly review the focus of the Superintendent's Leadership Conference as an opportunity to enhance teachers' and principals' ideas about assessment.
    Download (PDF format, ~190kb)

  • Update Memo: Standards-Based Middle School Reform, August 1997.
    The purpose of this report is to describe changes in the individual middle schools that are in Education Matters' Corpus Christi sample. The report covers the "early implementation" of standards-based reform, from the middle of school year 1995-1996 to the end of school year 1996-1997.
    Download (PDF format, ~210kb)

  • Update Memo: Standards-Based Middle School Reform, February 1997.
    This update focuses on districtwide initiatives that seem most closely related to improving classroom teaching so that it leads to more rigorous instruction and improved student performance. To this end, the report describes how the district is a) developing and revising standards in academic and other curriculum areas; b) revising and implementing scoring guidelines with ongoing review and analysis; c) tackling the issue of grading guidelines; d) administering the first standards-based summer school; e) building on the successful piloting of Algebra for All; and, f) supporting professional development.
    Download (PDF format, ~110kb)

  • Standards-Based Reform: Baseline Report, Corpus Christi Independent School District.
    This report describe's CCISD's strong commitment to implementing standards in middle schools across the district. It concludes that building-based administrators and central office staff view standards as the center of reform and see themselves as accountable for advancing the standards agenda. The report also describes the challenges the district faces in trying to implement standards while increasing students' test scores on the statewide test, Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). The report describes the ways in which teachers engaged in a balancing act: promoting innovative performance tasks while preparing students, through drill and practice, for TAAS.
    Download (PDF format, ~170kb)

Standards-Based Middle School Reform: Long Beach Unified (August 1999).

  • December, 1997: The December 1997 report describes the diffusion throughout the district of an increasing unity of vision and coherence of standards-based reform, particularly in the areas of professional development and student assessment.
    Download (PDF format, ~110kb)

  • August, 1998: This report continues to focus on the developments discussed in the December 1997 update, the development of a comprehensive professional development system and classroom-based assessment, within in the context of increasing state accountability pressures. Long Beach responded by taking major steps toward ending social promotion..
    Download (PDF format, ~210kb)

  • February, 1999: Data collection for this report focused on schools and teachers' and administrators' perspective of district's rapid pace of reform. We begin by first enumerating a number of new district developments and then discuss the implementation of those initiatives as experienced at the school sites.
    Download (PDF format, ~150kb)

  • 1998-1999: Data collection for this report focused on schools and teachers' and administrators' perspective of district's rapid pace of reform. We begin by first enumerating a number of new district developments and then discuss the implementation of those initiatives as experienced at the school sites.
    Download (PDF format, ~170kb)

  • Update Memo: Standards-based Middle School Reform: Long Beach Unified (February 2000)
    This report focuses on a major collaborative effort between Long Beach Unified, California State University, and Long Beach City College called, "Seamless Education," designed to improve teacher preparation K-16.
    Download (PDF format, ~110kb)

  • Implementing Standards-Based Middle School Reform in Long Beach Unified School District. (August 2000)
    This annual evaluation report focuses on quality professional development as a key to the effective implementation of reform efforts. The success of interventions in the district corresponded directly to the strength of the professional development to support each initiative.
    Download (PDF format, ~260kb)

  • Update Memo: Standards-based Middle School Reform in Long Beach Unified (February 2001)
    Written for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, this report focuses on the districtís progress on four initiatives identified by the district as their priorities in raising student achievement.
    Download (PDF format, ~130kb)

  • Six Years of Standards-based Middle School Reform in Long Beach Unified Schools (December 2001)
    This six-year review chronicles the major developments of six years, highlighting the successes and the challenges encountered along the way.
    Download (PDF format, ~170kb)

  • Standards-based Reform in Long Beach Unified: Progress in Reading Development: Final Evaluation Report (December 2002)
    This report summarizes the progress of the Reading Development program in Long Beach from 1997 through 2001. The progress seen underscores the importance of having highly trained reading teachers throughout the district.
    Download (PDF format, ~260kb)

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Policy Related Papers

Coaching: A Strategy for Developing Instructional Capacity
Download (PDF format, ~730kb)

Coaching is an increasingly popular strategy for districts seeking large-scale improvement in instruction. In this paper, Coaching: A Strategy for Developing Instructional Capacity, Barbara Neufeld and Dana Roper describe what coaching is, what coaches do, the kinds of supports that coaches need, and the potential benefits to both educators and students. The paper is co-published by the Annenberg Institute and the Aspen Institute Program on Education. A print copy of this report can be ordered via the web site of the Annenberg Institute.

Transforming Events: A Local Education Fund's Efforts to Promote Large-Scale Urban School Reform

This paper was co-authored by Barbara Neufeld and Ellen Guiney, Executive Director of the Boston Plan for Excellence, the local education fund that has taken a leading role in supporting whole-school improvement in the Boston Public Schools. The paper describes the ways in which this local education fund has been working with the Boston Public Schools. It was originally presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association in New Orleans in April 2002 and revised for publication in June 2002. [This report is available for PDF Download on the web site of the Annenberg Challenge. The article by Neufeld and Guiney begins on page 51.]

Transforming Abbott Schools in New Jersey, Guidance from the Field. (November 1997)
Download (PDF format, ~260kb)

This paper was prepared for the Education Law Center, Newark, NJ, as part of a set of papers written to inform discussions about how to improve urban schools in New Jersey in light of the state Supreme Court's May 14, 1997 order that the state of New Jersey "immediately establish parity in regular education spending between each special needs district and average spending in wealthy suburban districts." The papers were compiled into a volume titled Transforming Teaching and Learning in Special Needs Districts which was background reading for a meeting designed to address "next steps" in this process which was held at the Education Testing Service's Chauncey Center in Princeton, NJ during the weekend of December 12-14, 1997.

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