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Schools as Organizations: Examining School Climate, Teacher Turnover, and Student Achievement in NYC
During the last decade, education research and policy have generated considerable momentum behind efforts to remake teacher evaluation systems and place an effective teacher in every classroom. But schools are not simply collections of individual teachers; they are also organizations, with structures, practices, and norms that may impede or support good teaching. Could strengthening schools -- as organizations -- lead to better outcomes for teachers and students?
This study begins to address that question by examining how changes in school climate were related to changes in teacher turnover and student achievement in 278 NYC middle schools between 2008 and 2012. Drawing on teacher responses to NYC's annual School Survey, as well as student test scores, human resources data, and school administrative records, we identified four distinct and potentially malleable dimensions of middle schools' organizational environments:
- Leadership and professional development;
- High academic expectations for students;
- Teacher relationships and collaboration; and
- School safety and order.
We then examined how changes in these four dimensions over time were linked to corresponding changes in teacher turnover and student achievement. We found robust relationships between increases in all four dimensions of school climate and decreases in teacher turnover, suggesting that improving the environment in which teachers work could play an important role in reducing turnover. (The annual turnover in NYC middle schools is about 15 percent.)
We also discovered that improvements in two dimensions of school climate -- safety and academic expectations -- predicted small, but meaningful gains in students' performance on standardized math tests.
Taken together with other emerging evidence, these findings suggest that closing achievement gaps and turning around struggling schools will demand a focus on not only individual teacher effectiveness, but also the organizational effectiveness of schools. The policy brief outlines several potential areas of focus for districts that want to help schools in building healthy well-functioning organizations.
In 2011, with support from a federal Investing in Innovation grant, the NYC Department of Education launched Innovate NYC Schools. The initiative was designed to address two related challenges to effectively integrating education technology (ed-tech) into classrooms: First, procurement of ed-tech tools is often hampered by a disconnect between teaching and learning demands on one hand, and developers' supply of tools and services on the other. Educators are not always informed about the tools and interventions that are available, while developers may not fully understand students' and teachers' needs. Second, because the DOE's traditional procurement process via formal Requests for Proposals is lengthy, it may be prevent some developers from bidding, and technology that was brand new when an RFP was released may be outdated by the time it reaches schools.
This report focuses on Innovate NYC's Gap App challenge and pilot program, which invited developers to submit an app aimed at solving a specific learning challenge. A number of the apps were then piloted in NYC public schools. During the pilot period, the apps were used in classrooms, and teachers had opportunities to provide feedback directly to developers, in an effort to help make the apps more useful.
The report describes the design of the Gap App challenge and the implementation of the pilot program in schools. It then considers whether using a Gap App influenced the way participating teachers and students approached technology in the classroom and provides a set of lessons that may inform future Innovate NYC Schools projects or similar initiatives in other districts.
This report examines, from the perspective of young people themselves, the roles that relationships with adults and peers play in decisions about staying in, leaving and returning to high school. Building on previous studies, including last year's "Don't Call Them Dropouts," this report offers new insights about how support from adults and peers can help to close the remaining gaps between those who graduate from high school on time and those who don't.
Foundation funding focused on Ghana over the past decade has encompassed all aspects of the global development agenda and beyond. Among foundations whose grants are tracked by Foundation Center, their giving focused on Ghana totaled $499 million between 2002 and 2012. While few foundations intentionally aligned their grantmaking priorities with the MDGs, over half of grants (54 percent) made by the 151 foundations included in this analysis and most of their grant dollars (79 percent or $394 million) supported activities consistent with at least one of the eight MDGs.