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IES Grant

Title: What Works for Title I Schools: Understanding the Contributors and Barriers to School Improvement
Center: NCER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Kurz, Alexander Awardee: Arizona State University
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/13 – 6/30/15) Award Amount: $385,739
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H130080

Co-Principal Investigator: Giovannone, Carrie

Partnership Institutions: Arizona State University (ASU); the Arizona Department of Education (ADE)

Purpose: The goal of this partnership was to lay the groundwork for future improvements to Arizona's Priority schools using a three-part strategy. First, the partnership identified measures in existing ADE data sources that predict student achievement. Next, the partnership employed these measures to assess the effectiveness of ADE school improvement strategies. The partnership assessed factors that predict student achievement within Arizona's 74 Priority schools as well as a sub-sample of 74 medium- and high-performing schools. Finally, the partnership took stock of data sources and measurement strategies at ADE, to assess whether they are sufficient to inform and sustain future school improvement efforts.

Project Activities: ASU brought research expertise and a substantive focus on core components of effective schools, transformative leadership behaviors, and opportunities to learn. ADE brought a commitment to school improvement—reflected in a set of seven school improvement strategies instituted over the last 4 years—as well as the decision-making authority to launch new initiatives, and a large set of data resources. The partnership coordinated its activities through regular meetings, including a series of semi-annual meetings where all partners established long-term goals and agreed upon short-terms goals to accomplish them. Using a collaborative capacity-building framework, the partnership organized school-site meetings around specific topics with teachers and school leaders. These "Solution Meetings" assessed current school practices in light of research-based practices pertaining to the topic and arrived at revised programming/intervention efforts that include data collection and evaluation. By regularly convening researchers, state officials, school leaders, and teachers, the partnership sustained a large set of coordinated activities aimed at establishing an evidence-based system of school improvement.

Key Outcomes: This section will be updated when key outcomes are published.

  • The products of the partnership were a set of tools and processes for describing and analyzing school improvement efforts using a range of datasets from various ADE divisions.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project took place in secondary schools across Arizona including 74 low-performing Title I Priority schools, 37 high-performing Title I "Reward" schools, and 37 Title I "Focus" schools in which large gaps exist between low- and high-performing students.

Sample: All students in Arizona's 74 Title I Priority Schools, as well as sub-samples of students in 37 Reward schools and 37 Focus schools.

Education Issue: Policymakers at the federal and state levels prioritized finding solutions to low performance and dropout among students at the lowest-performing schools. Drawing on test results and high school completion rates, Arizona began identifying the lowest-performing Title I schools in 2009. These "Priority" schools were elementary or middle schools in which the proportion of students scoring proficient on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) fall in the lowest 5 percent among all schools, or high schools in which the graduation rate is lower than 60 percent. While in many of these schools, less than one-third of students were proficient in mathematics and reading at the time of identification, some Priority schools made substantial improvements. State education officials prioritized identifying successful education strategies in these schools, with the future goal of applying these strategies statewide.

Research Design and Methods: The partnership used a mixed-methods approach that combined quantitative analysis of administrative data sources with qualitative data techniques (i.e., classroom observations, focus group interviews, or surveys).

Key Measures: Student math and reading achievement; high school graduation indictor; Attendance rate; English language Learner status; special education status; free and reduced lunch status; student count; teachers' year of experience; graduate degree indicator of teachers.

Data Analytic Strategy: The partnership reviewed 11 statewide data sets that include student characteristics, test scores and graduation rates; teacher characteristics; and school-level improvement strategies and incident reports. Descriptive analysis was used to assess the validity and quality of available measures at each level for predicting student achievement. The partnership examined data related to ADE's seven School Improvement Strategies, to assess the level of implementation indicated by these data as well as their quality and suitability for multivariate analysis; however, poor data precluded the partnership from performing analysis on the success of the improvement strategies. The final multi-level models estimated relations between malleable factors—at the student, teacher, and school levels—and Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test scores for students in grades 3-8, and 10, in reading and mathematics, as well as graduation for high school students. Sensitivity and missing data analysis was also conducted. The models identified differences between schools that showed significant academic improvement and those that did not. Finally, the partnership used qualitative analysis to identify needed measures of malleable factors, such as leadership and teacher practices, that are not available in the extant data sets and that should be collected in the future.

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.