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Leaders in the Tumult: Schooling Innovations and New Perspectives From a Year Interrupted

October 27, 2021

This brief is the first of three briefs emerging from our conversations with members of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This brief presents the principals' perspectives on the changes that their schools experienced and on the innovations that they led in their schools during 2020–2021. The second brief provides principals' perspectives on changes to their work, priorities, and profession; and the third brief provides principals' perspectives on policies that can advance student learning and heal schools and communities.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation National Character Initiative Retrospective Final Report

December 22, 2020

Starting in 2019, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) partnered with the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, to capture grantees' experiences with the National Character Initiative. Specifically, through interviews and surveys, AIR aimed to describe grantees' experiences implementing the grants and participating in the supports that were provided by the Foundation and expert consultants. Findings from the retrospective may be useful to other foundations as they decide how to fund and support youth-serving organizations.

Thriving, Robust Equity, and Transformative Learning & Development: A More Powerful Conceptualization of the Contributors to Youth Success

July 1, 2020

This new conceptualization of youth success draws from more than 180 sources and makes an argument for new definitions to propel practice and policy that addresses educational and racial equity. The paper:Introduces a formula and a rationale for addressing thriving, equity, and learning and development together that helps us better focus on actionable social factors;Summarizes prevailing definitions of thriving, equity, and learning and development (and related terms);Takes a deeper dive into the dimensions that contribute to individual and collective thriving;Offers powerful and aligned conceptualizations of thriving, equity, and learning and development;Describes the opportunities and conditions required to ensure that efforts to create "equitable educational outcomes" or "equitable learning and development opportunities" are as powerful and inclusive as possible.

Delivering on the Promise: An Impact Evaluation of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program

May 1, 2019

This report shares findings from an impact evaluation of the GMS program and reflects on findings from implementation evaluations conducted on the program since its inaugural year. It discusses the extent to which the program has made an impact, and offers concluding thoughts on how the Foundation can maximize its investment in the higher education arena. A central argument of this report is that philanthropic activities like the GMS program can indeed play a crucial role in improving academic outcomes for high-achieving, disadvantaged students for at least three reasons.

Maximizing Student Agency: Implementing and Measuring Student-Centered Learning Practices

October 9, 2018

American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted this study as part of the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative's initial cycle of research. The team at AIR worked alongside fellow scholars, educators, and policymakers to investigate the impact of specific student-centered practices and then translate their findings for cross-sector audiences.The research questions investigated in this study are:What practices do teachers employ to provide feedback to students on their performance that assist with the development of student agency?What contextual factors do teachers view as facilitators of or challenges to implementing these practices?How well do student survey questions measure student agency?Were the measurement properties of the agency scales consistent over time and across student subgroups?Are there significant subgroup differences in measures of student agency?How does student agency change during the school year?Do changes in student agency during the school year differ between subgroups of students?How do teachers use data to inform their practices?This report represents their work over the past two years as they designed, tested, and revised teacher practices as part of a networked improvement community and examined how student agency impacted academic outcomes.

Learning with Others: A Study Exploring the Relationship Between Collaboration, Personalization, and Equity

October 5, 2018

Study OverviewPersonalized learning is often equated with individual learning using technology. Yet for many students, learning on their own may not effectively meet their needs. The aim of this study was to explore racial differences in experiences and benefits associated with collaboration. We collected data from a variety of sources for students, teachers, and classrooms within four racially diverse high schools that emphasized both personalization and collaboration. Our sample included 892 students, 138 teachers, and 30 classrooms. Our qualitative analyses identified emergent themes from focus groups and interviews, and our quantitative analyses examined associations among opportunities for collaboration, classroom experiences, and outcomes, testing whether these associations differed forBlack students versus White students. We found that, for all students, reports of high-quality collaboration were strongly associated with positive classroom experiences and mind-set/ dispositional outcomes such as motivation, engagement, and self-efficacy. Moreover, high-quality collaboration was strongly associated with students' perceptions of personalization—and personalization, in turn, was strongly associated with outcomes. At the same time, focus group discussions revealed that Black students perceived less relevance in collaborative activities, more frequent experiences of exclusion and marginalization, and lower support from teachers during collaborative group work than did non-Black peers. Findings from this study suggest that collaborative experiences could be among the factors that contribute to positive changes in the academic trajectories of Black students, particularly when these opportunities reflect high-quality features. Thus, schools and educators aiming to address equity through personalization should consider increasing opportunities for high-quality collaboration.

Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety - 2015-16

July 20, 2017

These reports present key findings on crime and violence in U.S. public schools, using data from the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS). SSOCS provides information about school crime-related topics from the school's perspective, asking public school principals to report the frequency of violent incidents, such as physical attacks, robberies, and thefts in their schools. Portions of this survey also focus on programs, disciplinary actions, and policies implemented to prevent and reduce crime and violence in schools.The survey was first administered in the spring of the 1999–2000 school year and repeated in school years 2003–04, 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10, and 2015–16. The 2015–16 survey was developed by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education with the support of the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Community-Based Violence Prevention Study of the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative: An Intervention To Prevent Urban Gun Violence

April 1, 2017

The causes and drivers of youth violence are complex—related to many variables including poverty, racism, and lack of education, training, and opportunity. In partnership with Wested's Justice and Prevention Research Center, AIR examined the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI), an intervention targeting urban firearms violence in 12 cities in Massachusetts. The study looked at community-level changes in violent crime over an eight-year period (2007-2014) in the intervention communities as compared with non-intervention communities.Surveys and focus groups with community members, local youth, business owners, and SSYI program participants across the state provide a unique view into the complexities of these relationships and the central role that race, and changing population demographics have intersected with the way the justice system interacts with young men of color at the greatest risk for gun violence and living in economically vulnerable communities. This report presents the findings and methodology from the study.Key FindingsThe study's results add to growing evidence of previous SSYI findings that declines in violent crime (using police generated crime data) continue in the target cities. Among incidents committed by offenders 14-24 years old (the SSYI target population), there are significant differences between this age group and older offenders in the rate changes for violent crime, homicide, and aggravated assaults.Findings confirm prior evidence that community members are less likely to call the police and report crime when they do not trust the police to act in their best interests (i.e., police treating witnesses as suspects) and when they fear retaliation from cooperating with police,The study reveals a broader problem with the way communities feel targeted by police, rather than a protective supportive partner helping to create a safe community. This result held across different types of community members—from business leaders, to parents, to youth in SSYI and youth who have never had involvement with the justice system.Importantly, results suggest that participation in SSYI results in 2.1 fewer violent crimes each month per 100,000 residents in the post-intervention period compared to cities who do not experience the program and this result appears to be related to levels of concentrated disadvantage in communities. The report also discusses the challenges of applying traditional social science research methods to the study of urban gun violence and offers insights for improving the way evidence is generated in this field of study.

Independent Evaluation of the Jim Joseph Foundation's Education Initiative Final Report

September 1, 2016

The Jim Joseph Foundation created the Education Initiative to increase the number of educators and educational leaders who are prepared to design and implement high-quality Jewish education programs. The Jim Joseph Foundation granted $45 million to three premier Jewish higher education institutions (each institution received $15 million) and challenged them to plan and implement programs that used new content and teaching approaches to increase the number of highly qualified Jewish educators serving the field. The three grantees were Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU). The grant covered program operation costs as well as other costs associated with institutional capacity building. The majority of the funds (75 percent) targeted program planning and operation. The grantees designed and piloted six new master's degree and doctoral degree programs or concentrations;1 eight new certificate, leadership, and professional development programs;2 two new induction programs;3 and four new seminars within the degree programs. 4 The Education Initiative also supported financial assistance for students in eight other advanced degree programs. 5 The grantees piloted innovative teaching models and expanded their use of educational technology in the degree and professional development programs. According to the theory of change that drives the Jim Joseph Foundation's Education Initiative, five types of activities must take place if higher education institutions are to successfully enhance the Jewish education workforce. These activities include (1) improved marketing and recruitment of talented individuals into ongoing education programs, (2) a richer menu of programs requiring different commitments of time to complete and offering varying content, (3) induction programs to support program participants' transition to new employment settings, (4) well-planned and comprehensive strategies for financial sustainability, and (5) interinstitutional collaboration. As shown in Exhibit 1, the five types of activities are divided into two primary categories. The first category (boxes outlined in green) addresses the delivery of programs that provide educators and educational leaders with research-based and theory-based knowledge and vetted instructional tools. The second category (boxes outlined in orange) is not programmatic; rather, it involves sharing knowledge, building staff capabilities, enhancing management structures, and providing technological and financial support to enable the development of quality programming that is sustainable after the grant ends.

Looking Under the Hood of Competency-Based Education: The Relationship Between Competency-Based Education Practices and Students' Learning Skills, Behaviors, and Dispositions

June 28, 2016

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation (Nellie Mae), in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), has recently released a comprehensive analysis of competency-based education (CBE), an instructional approach that emphasizes what students learn and master rather than time spent in a classroom. The study, titled "Looking Under the Hood of Competency-Based Education," examines the relationship between various competency-based practices and increased student learning capacity. Additionally, the study highlights the varying degrees of CBE practices in schools that have an existing reputation for implementation."Schools across the country are increasingly seeking ways to provide a competency-based education for students, yet many educators are not sure of where to begin or how they can implement this approach to learning," said Eve Goldberg, Director of Research at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. "The framework developed by AIR of learning skills, behaviors, and dispositions and the findings on specific practices can help educators strengthen their practices and gives them the tools to continuously improve their practice. We hope educators interested in making this shift will benefit from this analysis.""Looking Under the Hood" analyzes a variety of competency-based practices to examine how schools implement CBE and determine how it relates to students' learning capacities. Some notable findings include:Learning in contexts outside the classroom (for example, internships) positively relates to increasing students' learning capacitiesThe option for students to learn at a comfortable pace (for example, extra time to finish a topic or unit and the opportunity to retake an exam or re-do a final project) has a positive association with self-efficacy and increasing students' motivation to learnThe option for students to receive both instruction and assessment in a variety of formats, including collaborative group projects, helped students' intrinsic motivationEstablishing clear learning targets was positively related to increasing students' learning capacitiesOverall, the study finds that many students' experiences with CBE-aligned practices were positively associated with changes in learning capacities in several areas, most notably in students' intrinsic motivation for classroom work."Competency-based education varies tremendously from school to school and even across classrooms, so it can be hard to determine if it is working," said Erin Haynes, Senior Researcher at the American Institutes for Research. "This study examined specific CBE-aligned practices, giving us a more finely-honed view of how such practices are related to students' capacity to learn. We hope this research will help inform future efforts to implement competency-based methods across districts, schools and classrooms."

Improving Teaching Effectiveness: Access to Effective Teaching, The Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching Through 2013–2014

June 6, 2016

This report attends to the distribution of effective teachers within and across schools in the sites, collectively known as the Intensive Partnership sites. We examine the trends in the distribution of effective teachers between LIM students and other students. We also examine whether any of a variety of mechanisms can explain changes in LIM students' access to effective teaching. These mechanisms include increasing the percentage of LIM students whom effective teachers teach, increasing the effectiveness of teachers with large percentages of LIM students, and replacing less effective teachers of LIM students with more-effective teachers.

Respite Partnership Collaborative (RPC) Innovation Project Evaluation: Final Report

June 1, 2016

The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA)—funded by Proposition 63—supports five unique components: (1) Community Services and Supports, (2) Prevention and Early Intervention, (3) Workforce Education and Training, (4) Capital Facilities and Technology, and (5) Innovative Programs. In September 2010, the Sacramento County Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS) initiated a community planning process to develop Sacramento's first Innovation Project. DBHS convened an Innovation Workgroup that developed the Innovation Plan and the Respite Partnership Collaborative (RPC) Innovation Project.Through a competitive selection process, Sacramento County DBHS awarded Sierra Health Foundation: Center for Health Program Management (the Center) a contract to administer the RPC Innovation Project. The RPC Innovation Project is a public-private partnership of the Sacramento County DBHS and the Center. The Center uses MHSA Innovation funding to support the RPC, whose members are from the community at large. RPC members make recommendations for respite service grants to community organizations. The RPC's goal is to increase local mental health respite service options to offer alternatives to hospitalization for community members experiencing a crisis in Sacramento County.American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted an evaluation of the RPC Innovation Project from April 2013 through March 2016. Evaluation objectives were to assess the extent to which the RPC Innovation Project achieved the following:1. Promoted successful collaboration between public and private organizations (i.e., DBHS and the Center) in Sacramento County2. Demonstrated a community-driven process3. Improved the quality and outcomes of respite services in Sacramento County This report presents findings from evaluation activities, which included stakeholder interviews, RPC member surveys, and document reviews.This report emphasizes data collected in the third year of the evaluation after June 2015. The report begins with a brief history of the RPC Innovation Project. Next we describe evaluation objectives and methods for conducting the evaluation. Finally, we present findings, organized by evaluation objective.