Chock Full of Data: How School Districts are Building Leader Tracking Systems to Support Pipelines

Education and Literacy

Chock Full of Data: How School Districts are Building Leader Tracking Systems to Support Pipelines

At one time, finding an assistant principal for a public school in Denver entailed a search through “a gajillion résumés,” in the words of one local school district administrator. Even then, some ideal candidates likely fell through the cracks. Those days are over, owing to the development by Denver Public Schools of a “leader tracking system,” a database of information about the training, qualifications and performance of principals and aspiring principals.
This Story From the Field examines how Denver and five other school districts have constructed and are using these systems as they seek to better train, hire and support school principals. All six districts are taking part in the Principal Pipeline Initiative, a Wallace Foundation-funded effort to help the school systems develop a large corps of strong school principals and generate lessons for the field.
In addition to aiding district officials in identifying strong principal and assistant principal candidates and matching them to the right schools, the leader tracking systems are helping in efforts to forecast job vacancies, pinpoint principal training topics and spot potential principal mentors. The districts are also beginning to use the systems to share aggregate information about the performance of principals with the preparation programs from which the principals graduated.
The publication makes clear that developing a leader tracking system takes time and effort. It describes, for example, how determining what information to collect, and then finding it, proved to be a key but time-consuming task, not least because essential data could be housed in different niches of the school bureaucracies.

July 2016

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Southern) / Florida / Hillsborough County / Tampa;North America / United States (Southern) / North Carolina / Mecklenburg County / Charlotte;North America / United States (Northeastern) / New York / New York County / New York City;North America / United States (Western) / Colorado / Denver County / Denver;North America / United States (Southern) / Georgia / Gwinnett County;North America / United States (Southern) / Maryland / Prince George\'s County

Schools as Organizations: Examining School Climate, Teacher Turnover, and Student Achievement in NYC

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy;Employment and Labor

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:

  1. Leadership and professional development;
  2. High academic expectations for students;
  3. Teacher relationships and collaboration; and
  4. 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.

March 2016

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (New York Metropolitan Area)

Connecting Teachers and Ed-Tech Developers: Lessons from NYC's Gap App Program

Computers and Technology;Education and Literacy

Connecting Teachers and Ed-Tech Developers: Lessons from NYC's Gap App Program

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.

January 2016

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

Growing Together, Learning Together: What Cities Have Discovered About Building Afterschool Systems

Education and Literacy

Growing Together, Learning Together: What Cities Have Discovered About Building Afterschool Systems

In 2003, The Wallace Foundation began an initiative that eventually included five cities -- Boston, Chicago, New York City, Providence and Washington, D.C. -- to help them develop afterschool systems. At the time, a few cities and organizations were pioneering this approach (L.A.'s Best in Los Angeles, The After-School Corporation in New York, After School Matters in Chicago), but it was still a novelty. Five years later, Wallace examines lessons learned from this initiative, which posited two central premises:

  1. Children and teens can gain learning and developmental benefits by frequent participation in high-quality afterschool programs.
  2. A coordinated approach can increase access to, and improve the quality of, afterschool programs.

July 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-Rhode Island-Providence County-Providence;North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City;North America-United States (Northeastern)-Massachusetts-Suffolk County-Boston;North America-United States (Midwestern)-Illinois-Chicago Metropolitan Area;North America-United States (DC Metropolitan Area)

Changing How High Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men: A Report on New York City's Expanded Success Initiative

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy;Race and Ethnicity

Changing How High Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men: A Report on New York City's Expanded Success Initiative

A growing number of initiatives around the country are attempting to tackle longstanding inequities, including higher rates of school dropout, incarceration, and unemployment among Black and Latino men. New York City's Young Men's Initiative (YMI) has been at the forefront of these efforts since it was launched in 2011 to address disparities in education, employment, health, and criminal justice.

YMI's educational component, the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), focuses on the issue of low college readiness among Black and Latino male students -- a problem that has persisted in NYC even as high school graduation rates have risen. ESI is providing funding and professional development to 40 NYC high schools, aimed at helping them improve outcomes, particularly college and career readiness, among their Black and Latino male students.

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools is conducting a four-year evaluation of ESI's implementation and impact. This report, Changing How Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men, presents our findings from Year 2 of ESI (the 2013-2014 school year), drawing on interviews and focus groups with staff at ESI schools and a set of matched comparison schools, a student survey, and an analysis of student achievement data.

May 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (New York Metropolitan Area)

Pathways to an Elite Education: Application, Admission, and Matriculation to New York City's Specialized High Schools (Working Paper)

Education and Literacy

Pathways to an Elite Education: Application, Admission, and Matriculation to New York City's Specialized High Schools (Working Paper)

New York City's elite public specialized high schools have a long history of offering a rigorous college preparatory education to the City's most academically talented students. Though immensely popular and highly selective, their policy of admitting students on the basis of a single entrance exam has been heavily criticized. Many argue, for example, that the policy inhibits diversity at the schools, which are predominately Asian, White, and male. In this paper, we provide a descriptive analysis of the "pipeline" from middle school to matriculation at a specialized high school, identifying group-level differences in rates of application, admission, and enrollment unexplained by measures of prior achievement. These differences serve to highlight points of intervention to improve access for under-represented groups. We also look at the role of middle schools in the pipeline, examining the distribution of offers across middle schools and testing for middle school effects on application and admission. Finally, we simulate the effects of alternative admissions rules on the composition of students at the specialized high schools.

March 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

Civil Rights Suspended: An Analysis of New York City Charter School Discipline Policies

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy

Civil Rights Suspended: An Analysis of New York City Charter School Discipline Policies

Over the past few years, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) has assisted an increasing number of parents who have contacted them with concerns about charter school suspensions and expulsions. In helping parents with these cases, AFC found that charter school discipline policies were not always readily available.

In this report, AFC sent Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the three New York City charter school authorizers and, to the extent possible, charter schools opening in NYC during the 2013-2014 school year seeking, among other things, copies of their discipline policies. Charter schools are required to comply with FOIL requests, and most charter schools responded. From the FOIL responses and charter school websites, AFC was able to review 164 discipline policies from 155 of the 183 charter schools operating in NYC during the 2013-2014 school year. These discipline policies came from large charter school networks as well as from small, independent charter schools.

While charter schools should be able to discipline their students, they must uphold the rights of their students and provide them with a fair discipline process. The Charter Schools Act requires charter school authorizers to ensure that charter applications include discipline policies and procedures that comport with the law. Yet, all three authorizers of New York City charter schools have approved charters for schools that have legally inadequate discipline policies.

February 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

Districts Taking Charge of the Principal Pipeline

Education and Literacy

Districts Taking Charge of the Principal Pipeline

Six urban school districts received support from The Wallace Foundation to address the critical challenge of supplying schools with effective principals. The experiences of these districts may point the way to steps other districts might take toward this same goal. Since 2011, the districts have participated in the Principal Pipeline Initiative, which set forth a comprehensive strategy for strengthening school leadership in four interrelated domains of district policy and practice:

  1. Leader standards to which sites align job descriptions, preparation, selection, evaluation, and support.
  2. Preservice preparation that includes selective admissions to high-quality programs.
  3. Selective hiring, and placement based on a match between the candidate and the school.
  4. On-the-job evaluation and support addressing the capacity to improve teaching and learning, with support focused on needs identified by evaluation.

The initiative also brought the expectation that district policies and practices related to school leaders would build the district's capacity to advance its educational priorities.

The evaluation of the Principal Pipeline Initiative has a dual purpose: to analyze the processes of implementing the required components in the participating districts from 2011 through 2015; and then to assess the results achieved in schools led by principals whose experiences in standards-based preparation, hiring, evaluation, and support have been consistent with the initiative's requirements. This report addresses implementation of all components of the initiative as of 2014, viewing implementation in the context of districts' aims, constraints, and capacity.

January 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Western)-Colorado-Denver County-Denver;North America-United States (Southern)-North Carolina-Mecklenburg County-Charlotte;North America-United States (Southern)-Maryland-Prince George;North America-United States (Southern)-Georgia-Gwinnett County;North America-United States (Southern)-Florida-Hillsborough County;North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

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