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IES Grant

Title: Raising GPA: Partnering to Increase Grit, Perseverance, and Achievement in Baltimore City Middle Schools
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Donovan, Suzanne Awardee: Strategic Education Research Partnership Institute
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 18 months (7/1/2014-12/31/2015 Award Amount: $400,000
Goal: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H140121

Name of Partners: The Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) and the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS)

Co-Principal Investigators: Gregory Thornton (BCPSS), Angela Lee Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), and Faith Connolly (Baltimore Education Research Consortium)

Education Issue: The importance of psychosocial contributors such as grit and perseverance to student academic achievement has garnered increased attention in recent years. Researchers have identified potential points of intervention for addressing student attitudes and beliefs directly, for engaging teachers and parents in supporting student perseverance, and for actively intervening when students begin to disengage from school. What remains to be determined is how best to support student grit and perseverance in school settings given the complexities of school environments coupled with their tightly constrained resources. The Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) recently set a goal that their students would experience courses as rigorous and at the same time have the perseverance to work hard and achieve in those courses. As a first step, BCPSS added items that measure persistence and self-efficacy to their existing school climate assessment to begin the process of addressing this goal. Through this partnership grant, the district seeks to further pursue this goal by 1) analyzing data collected through the BCPSS school climate survey on persistence and self-efficacy, 2) investigating school-based processes that might contribute to grit and perseverance, and 3) working with researchers who are expert in this domain to identify effective strategies for improving grit and perseverance in Baltimore City Schools.

Partnership significance and goal: The Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) and the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) will establish a SERP field site partnership to focus on the district-identified challenge of fostering students’ grit and perseverance. Additional members of the partnership include Angela Duckworth and her team at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Baltimore Education Research Consortium. The products of this partnership work will be: 1) the infrastructure for a sustainable partnership and an evaluation of its health; 2) a synthesis of lessons learned from prior research, from the interactions among partnership members, from work in partner schools, and from the partnership building experience that will be shared on a public website; and 3) the development of one or more proposals for research, development, and implementation. BCPSS may also revise its own data collection and analysis of student perseverance measures, and of the decisions that are informed by those data.

Partners and Partnership Activities: Through this grant, the partners will establish a partnership infrastructure to foster relationship building and the mutual trust necessary for effective, sustained collaboration. The partnership infrastructure, replicating that developed in SERP field sites elsewhere in the country, will support a culture of collaboration through a carefully defined process of “problem framing.” This process draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary group of researchers who provide access to the relevant research knowledge bases, district staff from multiple levels of the system who bring knowledge of education practice and of the BCPSS context, and partnership staff who will guide the interaction of the group toward the formulation of a shared agenda that will ultimately include research, development, implementation and evaluation on student grit and perseverance to support student academic achievement.

Setting: This research project will be conducted in the Baltimore City Public School System.

Population/Sample: Participants include teachers and students in sixth grade classrooms in three BCPSS middle schools.

Initial Research: To address the challenge of increasing grit and perseverance of 6th grade students in Baltimore City middle schools, the research team and practitioners in three BCPSS-identified partner schools will work together on three distinct constructs for which there is evidence of impact on grit and perseverance: growth mindset, belonging uncertainty, and deliberate practice. The school-based work will include: 1) classroom observations to identify points of entry into teachers’ practice for interventions targeting the three constructs; 2) collection of baseline student survey and teacher report data on grit and perseverance; and 3) exploring beliefs and practices in middle school classrooms that may support students’ perseverance in the face of challenge.