School Improvement for Real (Education and Change Development)

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SRI's systems perspective encompasses understanding the complex context in which projects and policies are implemented, exploring interactions among multiple variables, being attuned to small changes, and looking for discontinuities and patterns. Through its evaluation of the Engage New England initiative, SRI is helping the Barr Foundation and the broader education community better understand how to design and implement innovative schools for students who are off track to graduate high school. Skip to main content. SRI's Center for Education and Human Services provides support in these areas and more: Aligning curriculum, instruction, technology, and assessments Achievement monitoring Meaningful parent and community involvement Targeted professional development for teachers and administrators SRI's Center for Education Policy has a long history of studying reform of the prekindergarten education system, with a special emphasis on efforts to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students.

The Center provides support in these areas and more: Evaluation of national, state, and local education policies and initiatives Alternative school models, such as charter schools, early college high schools, and career and technical education schools SRI's Center for Technology in Learning emphasizes the integration of the curriculum, technology, pedagogy, professional development, assessments, and leadership. Systems Change and Innovation in Education SRI works with funders and other innovators to design, implement, and evaluate systems change, resulting in meaningful and sustainable changes in education, social service, health delivery, and workforce development.

Learn More. Evaluation of the Engage New England Initiative Through its evaluation of the Engage New England initiative, SRI is helping the Barr Foundation and the broader education community better understand how to design and implement innovative schools for students who are off track to graduate high school. Case Studies in Education. Evaluation Planning and Design. Educational Impact Evaluation. Implementation Evaluation. Large-Scale Surveys.

Research & Evaluation

Policy Analysis. Research into Practice and Scale-up. Research on Learning. Just as important, schools must support parents rather than acting as a barrier to work. The U. And as the American ideal of a country in which economic mobility and opportunity are accessible to all seems to be moving further and further away, disillusionment with the political system grows. Embracing a progressive agenda for educational equity—detailed below in seven innovative policy ideas—is key to reclaiming the promise and once again putting the American ideal within reach.

The research supporting the effectiveness of tutoring is extensive and stretches back more than a dozen years. While good in theory, SES had many implementation problems, 12 including low participation rates and lack of quality control. Yet despite the problems with SES, the research base for tutoring has continued to grow. One of the many examples of great programs is the SAGA Innovations program, which trains and places full-time tutoring fellows in high-needs schools in Chicago and Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Chicago students who received high-dose math tutoring gained more than two and a half years of math learning in one year. In Lawrence, the schools that implemented the SAGA tutoring program went from the lowest-performing in the state to the top 7 percent of all schools in Massachusetts. A paper that investigated the effects of tutoring provided by teachers found that students who received tutoring in either reading or math performed significantly better on the state standardized test than a control group of students with similar prior scores who did not receive tutoring.

In one study, students tutored by minimally trained community volunteers increased their grades and were more likely to pass their classes. The research results on the effectiveness of tutoring make intuitive sense. High-quality tutoring can meet each student at his or her individual level, 22 a level of differentiation that is impossible for even the most dedicated of teachers to provide.

In addition to the academic benefits of tutoring, there are social-emotional ones as well. Research has shown that developing a close relationship with a role model is an important determinant of engagement in school, and a tutor that a student sees regularly can provide such a relationship. To reap the benefits of tutoring but avoid the problems of SES, tutoring initiatives should grow from the ground up rather than as a result of a blanket mandate.

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Piloting and then a paced scaling of programs such as SAGA could ensure that tutoring programs work with local school communities instead of burdening already limited resources. In order to contain the costs of tutoring, tutors could be found and compensated by recruiting community volunteers, undergraduates interested in teaching careers, recent college graduates, or through the expansion of AmeriCorps.

Teachers who want to participate could also be reimbursed for their additional time. Another way to contain costs would be through appropriate use of computer-based tutoring. There is evidence that computer-based tutoring can yield results similar to one-on-one tutoring in certain subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, and math STEM fields, 27 or when certain principles of the cognitive science of learning—such as self-explanation—are embedded in the program or software. Since it is known that receiving low grades in elementary school is a predictive factor for dropping out during middle school and that receiving more than one failing grade in a core academic course during ninth grade is a predictive factor for dropping out during high school, tutoring can make a difference.

Forty-one million Americans, including 13 million children, do not reliably have enough food to eat. It is not always obvious who is experiencing hunger, and the face of hunger in America is changing. While it remains most acute in urban core neighborhoods with intergenerational poverty, 31 hunger is increasing in suburban locales and is most prevalent in rural Southern locales. Children who are hungry are less healthy; they experience more colds and stomach aches and have a greater likelihood of chronic health problems. Moreover, this stigma can be exacerbated by school policies.

For example, there have been instances of schools refusing to give the regular hot meals to students in the free and reduced-price lunch program or forcing them to get in a separate line. For states and localities where universal access is unrealistic, an expansion of the community eligibility program, which allows schools and districts in low-income areas to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students without collecting applications, would be an interim step to consider.

Staff Development and School Improvement

All families—even those who could otherwise afford lunch—would benefit from this change. For instance, having healthy lunch options at school would alleviate the worry of packing lunch or parsing out lunch money on busy mornings. Absent federal action, states could embrace this policy by supplementing federal funds with state dollars in order to implement a universal school meal program. Not every student has the same academic needs, interests, and goals, but many schools still offer courses and provide instruction that treat students as if they are the same.

Far too many schools are not preparing students for the world which they will enter after their K education, instead relying on sit-and-get direct instruction and leaving students feeling disengaged from the real-world contextual challenges that they will eventually face. With each passing day, technology advances in previously inconceivable ways; climate change alters coastal lines; distant wars and international trade shape relationships with foreign governments.

Yet many high schools are not preparing students for any of these realities or for professional experiences that could help them get jobs upon graduation. Preparing students to confront and contribute to a rapidly changing world beyond their K schooling means providing coursework that addresses these challenges; allows students the space to uncover and express their interests; and then provides them with the necessary resources to tailor their educational experiences to those interests.

CTE and dual enrollment programs, specifically, provide students with options for coursework that will best meet their postsecondary and career goals. Under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of , states are provided with funding to develop the technical skills of secondary and postsecondary students who elect to enroll in CTE programs. Linked Learning students also reported better jobs that were more likely to offer paid vacation, sick time, and health insurance. Black students who completed the program were also more likely than their traditional high school peers to enroll in a four-year college.

Another example of a program that successfully combines academic and real-world experiences comes from DuVal High School in Maryland. There, students are enrolled in an aerospace engineering and aviation technology course in partnership with NASA and the College Park Aviation Museum, giving them exposure to exciting career options.

In order to increase the number of schools willing to experiment with such programs, states should incentivize school districts by creating or expanding grant programs that offer flexibility for students to learn outside of traditional school hours and beyond school buildings.

Implementing Education Reforms to Enhance School Performance

States should also provide additional funding for apprenticeships and use grant programs to incentivize districts to form partnerships with local employers to offer summer internships or a semester of credit. Blending traditional instruction with advanced postsecondary courses and real-world career preparation prepares high school students for their next steps and helps them gain practical skills in growing fields. Innovation status, which provides a package of waivers to public schools to implement new school designs, has been enacted through legislation in states such as Colorado and Massachusetts.

Such reform could also require local school boards to adopt graduation requirements that better reflect college and career-ready standards and provide credit for nontraditional courses. Lastly but critically, the federal government should increase its support for states in this work and leverage improvements to the quality of CTE programs through Perkins Act reauthorization. Federal policymakers should also allow for the integrated use of funding streams and incentivize states to target federal funding toward communities that are unable to provide these options through other means.

Currently, the average school day is less than seven hours and the median school day ends at p. Nearly half of all U. Between school vacations, professional development days, summer recess, and after-school time, most working parents who have school-age children face many gaps in child care and may even be forced to leave their children in unsafe care.

5 Steps to Better School/Community Collaboration

According to a Center for American Progress report examining the largest school districts in the country, schools are closed for an average of 29 days each school year—not including summer recess—which is 13 days longer than the average private sector worker has in paid leave. The length of the school day is also an equity concern. Only around 45 percent of all public elementary schools offer before- and after-school care, and low-income schools are actually less likely to offer after-school programs.


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Access to after-school programs improves academic performance, decreases dropout rates, reduces drug use, and improves classroom behavior. Academic gains, economic productivity, and equity concerns should incentivize the federal and state governments to better align work and school schedules. However, teachers, already strapped for time and pressured by myriad responsibilities, cannot be expected to work several extra hours each day for nothing in return.


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Changing school schedules will require new and creative uses of time, personnel, and money. At the federal level, the Department of Education could promote the use of ESSA funding for expanded school schedules, encouraging high-poverty schools to use funds from Title I, Part A to pay for longer school days as part of a larger effort to boost student achievement.

Congress could also increase funding for programs—such as Promise Neighborhoods, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and AmeriCorps—that provide students with longer school days and access to after-school programs. Furthermore, the federal government could implement a pilot program under the university-assisted community model in order to partner graduate schools in social work with neighboring public school districts to develop a 9-to-5 schedule.

Lower teacher pay is not the only factor contributing to disinterest in or attrition from the teaching profession. New teachers too often feel unprepared to teach and manage a classroom of their own when they graduate from their preparation program and enter their first experience as a full-time teacher. Teacher residency models—not dissimilar to those in the medical profession—provide emerging teachers with an opportunity to experience for a set period of time what leading a classroom of their own would be like.

When new teachers receive this type of support, their students gain months of additional learning.