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Many corporations want to help improve education.  Common wisdom tells us that publicly-funded education has many urgent needs, and the private sector has many valuable resources. What do corporations and their education partners need to do from the outset to craft the most productive partnerships?

IRRE has identified five attributes that, when adopted by corporate and other philanthropic partners seeking to improve education quality, produce greater impact.

As classroom practitioners, we are often searching for practices and strategies that will help our students find greater success on assessments.  We want them to succeed on all assessments: SAT, ACT or any other test of college readiness; state, quarterly or benchmark assessments; and those we use in our classrooms to determine mastery and guide our instructional decisions.   We also know we want students to be able to use what they learn beyond the assessment; we want them to connect to future learning and to promote interest and inquiry that lead to more complex understandings.  Prior to an assessment, our desire for student success and preparedness often finds us engaging students in review sessions. Research indicates it is not enough to simply have review sessions; it is the quality and structure of these sessions that make the difference for students, ensuring review reflects the ever-increasing rigor and complexity of our assessments. 

When we first began partnering with schools and supporting teachers in engaging students, we ran into an interesting phenomenon.  Many of the teachers would continue to teach as they always had and then stop and insert one of the strategies they had learned.  Seeing this from the outside, it had a feel of “teach a little, engage a little” and then back to teaching. It often felt as disjointed to students as it did to us as classroom visitors.  The expectation of seamless integration was not taking hold. Since that time, we have learned a great deal from the amazing teachers we have worked with over the years.  Three of these lessons include: the importance of a shared definition of active engagement; an understanding that active engagement is intentionally and seamlessly embedded throughout learning activities; and changes in student cognition must occur in order for solid engagement and learning to occur.  Taken together, these three components positively impact student outcomes.

Public educators spend their professional lives supporting student success.  Taxpayers invest billions of dollars in support of these educators’ efforts.  Students depend more than ever on their education to help them meet 21st century challenges and opportunities.  These bare bone facts demand that timely, meaningful and credible information be available to assess education quality.  The big data movement gives us ways to access, integrate, analyze and display massive amounts of information.  What education requires is a “right data” movement to ensure educators, policy makers and citizens get what they need to know to do their jobs as education stakeholders.  IRRE and others are trying to meet this challenge. 

At the core of most professional development efforts seems to be the desire to move people beyond what they know or learn (information) to what they do (implementation).  Instructional coaching has two critical roles; 1) moving new learning into practice; and 2) going deeper into the feelings, beliefs and assumptions of the individual than typical professional development.  As it relates to implementation of best practices, coaching helps to move educators from a place of compliance to a position of personal commitment and from novice to proficient users of the new learning.

The Institute for Research and Reform in Education (IRRE) has been working in Detroit for five years with multiple partners committed to improving high school graduation rates.  In our research capacity, we analyzed school performance data from 2010 to 2015 representing over 90,000 K-12 students and survey data from approximately 32,500 4th – 12th grade students from 2013 to 2015. We also reviewed results of our own and our partners’ efforts to strengthen graduation rates in Detroit area schools. 

Nine Yale undergraduate students at the Education Center of the Roosevelt Institute are now digging into New York, New Jersey, and Washington DC’s systems for rating school quality to see if there might be a better way to decide which schools get sanctioned and rewarded for their performance.  Teaming up with research staff from IRRE, these students will be applying IRRE’s Education Quality Information System (EQIS) to publicly available data that are used to assess how well (or badly) schools are performing.  In all fifty states and DC, ratings like these are used to decide what, if anything, the state should do to intervene in these schools and school districts.  

The Institute for Research and Reform in Education (IRRE) has been working in the Detroit area for five years with multiple partners committed to improving high school graduation rates.  In our study of graduation rates and student academic outcomes, we analyzed school performance data from 2010 to 2015 representing over 90,000 K-12 students and survey data from approximately 32,500 4th -12th grade students from 2013 to 2015.  We also reviewed results of our own and our partners’ efforts to strengthen graduation rates in Detroit area schools.

What have we learned?

In our previous article on this subject, we analyzed the Michigan State Reform Office’s policy for closing struggling schools, and we made the following suggestions:[1]

To make the policy more rigorous and transparent we propose a new way of defining “quality” based on absolute, not relative standards for student and school performance.

To make it more fair, we suggest including metrics assessing the level of difficulty schools face in meeting quality standards.

And, to make it more useful, we call for schools to be grouped by level of difficulty so that schools with different levels of success but similar challenges can work together to improve quality.

Michigan’s School Reform Office (SRO) recently announced its intent to identify schools for potential closure in the next few years.  All schools scoring in the bottom 5% of the state’s quality ranking system for the last three years will be candidates for closure.

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