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IES Grant

Title: National Research and Development Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Cannata, Marisa Awardee: Vanderbilt University
Program: Education Research and Development Centers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years Award Amount: $13,573,066
Type: Multiple Goals Award Number: R305C100023

Topic: Improving Low-Achieving Schools


The National Center on Scaling up Effective Schools (NCSU) is a collaboration of researchers, developers, and practitioners from Vanderbilt University, Florida State University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the Education Development Center, the Broward County School District of Florida, and the Fort Worth Independent School District of Texas.

NCSU's primary goal is to identify the combination of programs, practices, and policies that make some high schools in large urban districts effective with historically low-performing groups (e.g., low-income students, minorities, and English language learners); to develop an intervention using these practices that can be implemented by less effective high schools; to evaluate the implementation and impact of the intervention at less effective high schools; and to evaluate the ability of districts to scale up the intervention to other less-effective high schools.

A secondary goal of NCSU is to work cooperatively with the Institute of Education Sciences to formulate and carry out supplementary research studies that are responsive to the needs of districts with low-performing high schools.


NCSU's primary goal will be addressed through the following four steps.

Identification Study: The Practices of Highly Effective Schools

NCSU will generate school effectiveness measures for all high schools in Florida and Texas using value-added models that produce separate growth estimates for students in traditionally low-performing groups of students (low-income, Black, Hispanic, and English language learners). These estimates will be used to identify effective and less effective high schools. The efficacy of these practices will be identified through: (1) a survey of all high school principals in Florida and a sample of approximately 400 high school principals in Texas; (2) a survey of a sample of high school students at all high schools in Broward County (FL) Public Schools, and Fort Worth (TX) Independent School District; (3) two surveys of high school teachers in the two school districts (both will include all core academic teachers in the high schools and one will also include a sample of non-core teachers); and (4) classroom observations, focus groups, document collection, and interviews focused on the 10th grade at four schools (two found effective and two found less effective) in each of the two school districts that are part of NCSU.

Design Intervention and Transfer Practices

NCSU's researchers and developers will collaborate with district leaders and representatives from high- and low-performing high schools to design interventions that can be implemented in low-performing high schools. District-level design teams will be established with representatives from researchers, district personnel, and high school administrators and teacher leaders (from both effective and less effective high schools). The teams are to identify the practices linked to effective schools, how they are implemented, and why they work. Next they are to develop prototype interventions to transfer the practices to less effective schools.

Evaluate and Revise the Intervention's Implementation and Analyze Impacts

Three high schools in each of the two districts are to implement these prototype interventions. The prototype interventions are first to be implemented under ideal conditions (e.g., with extensive NCSU support). To support the implementation, professional learning teams will be established in each high school. To track implementation, the principal, teacher, and student surveys will be repeated in the treatment schools and two matched control schools for each treatment school. Classroom observations, focus groups, and interviews will be done in the treatment schools. These surveys and fieldwork will track the implementation of the intervention and its impacts on instruction and other school/classroom characteristics. In addition, the value-added models will be used to track changes in the low-performing groups' achievement. The district-level design teams will review the results of the surveys, fieldwork, and achievement data and recommend revisions to the intervention.

Evaluate District Implementation and Analyze Impacts

NCSU's support for the implementation of the intervention in the six treatment schools will be reduced and the ability of the district to support implementation at the original treatment schools and any additional less-effective high schools the district chooses to implement the intervention will be examined. The Center will focus on studying the district's implementation process using the student, teacher, and principal surveys and field work at two of the schools in each district. The Center will also complete the analysis of the short time-series analysis to provide evidence on the impact of the intervention at the six treatment schools.

IES Program Contact: Dr. Allen Ruby
Phone: 202-219-1591

Project Website:


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Cannata, M., and Rutledge, S. (2017). Introduction to New Frontiers in Scaling Up Research. Peabody Journal of Education, 92(5), 559–568.

Redding, C., Cannata, M., and Taylor Haynes, K. (2017). With Scale in Mind: A Continuous Improvement Model for Implementation. Peabody Journal of Education, 92(5), 589–608.

Tichnor-Wagner, A., Harrison, C., and Cohen-Vogel, L. (2016). Cultures of Learning in Effective High Schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(4), 602–642.

Tichnor-Wagner, A., Wachen, J., Cannata, M., and Cohen-Vogel, L. (2017). Continuous Improvement in the Public School Context: Understanding How Educators Respond to Plan–Do–Study–Act Cycles. Journal of Educational Change, 18(4), 465–494.

Torre Gibney, D., Preston, C., Drake, T.A., Goldring, E., and Cannata, M. (2017). Bringing Student Responsibility to Life: Avenues to Personalizing High Schools for Student Success. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 22(3), 129–145.