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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 (SERP) Institute
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 18 months (7/1/2014 – 12/31/2015 Award Amount: $400,000
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H140121

Co-Principal Investigators: Thornton, Gregory; Duckworth, Angela Lee; Connolly, Faith

Partnership Institutions: The Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP), Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS)

Purpose: The primary goal of the project was to bring together the experiences and knowledge of district officials, teachers, administrators, and distinguished scholars to find promising points of entry for interventions targeting BCPSS students' academic grit and perseverance.

Project Activities: During the first year, the project team worked with three BCPSS middle schools to gather data and conduct interviews and observations. SERP created the Focus 5 intervention during the second year of the project. SERP also worked with Baltimore City Schools on proposals for continued collaboration. The first of these was a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education that would have allowed for larger scale implementation and evaluation of mindfulness breathing exercises and WOOP (a goal setting exercise).

Key Outcome: This partnership produced the Focus 5 intervention, a set of breathing exercises that can be done in less than 5 minutes to develop a greater sense of focus and awareness. Focus 5 script cards were disseminated to teachers across the district, and the partnership made these materials available for free online.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This research project was conducted in the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS).

Sample: Participants included teachers and students in sixth grade classrooms in three BCPSS middle schools.

Education Issue: In the 2014–15 school year, BCPSS 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. SERP and BCPSS established a partnership to focus on a district-identified challenge to foster students' grit and perseverance to increase engagement and academic achievement. Through this partnership grant, the district sought 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 experts (Angela Duckworth and her team at the University of Pennsylvania) to identify effective strategies for improving grit and perseverance in Baltimore City Schools.

Research Design and Methods: This project team used a mixed methods approach including classroom observations and a collection of baseline survey data on grit and perseverance.

Key Measures: Key measures included growth mindset, belonging uncertainty, and deliberate practice.

Data Analytic Strategy: To address the challenge of increasing grit and perseverance of sixth grade students in Baltimore City middle schools, the research team and practitioners in three BCPSS-identified partner schools worked 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 included (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.

Products and Publications

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

Select Publications:

Baelen, R. N. (2017, September 19). The mindful student. Behavioral Scientist.