Public Schools and Socioeconomic Diversity
The Public Schools and Socioeconomic Diversity Project focuses on intentionally diverse public schools – both charter and district-run schools -- with student populations that are socio-economically mixed. The project is being carried out in two phases. During the first phase, the project team is collaborating with a national group of eight charter leaders and the Cambridge Public School District (12 public schools) to develop and field test school climate surveys targeted to the unique interests of diverse public schools. The survey instruments (for parents, staff, and students) are being designed to evaluate the benefits and challenges of diverse charter schools. Once the surveys have been finalized, they will be available to the hundreds of diverse public schools across the U.S. The survey data will allow schools to track their own performance over time as well as benchmark themselves against other similar charters whose mission they share.
In the second phase, the project team, with foundation support, will conduct rigorous research to delve more deeply into the benefits and challenges of diverse public schools. The research will draw on a nationally representative sample of diverse public schools, both charter and district-run. The research methods, in addition to the school climate surveys, will integrate both qualitative and quantitative approaches, including school-level interviews with teachers and administrators, focus groups with parents and students, and social network analysis across key stakeholder groups. Student achievement data will also be collected and analyzed to shed new information on the link between integration and student achievement. Through the project, we hope to identify, describe, and disseminate promising practices and strategies across participating schools, as well as analyze and make sense of emerging patterns for both scholarly and practitioner audiences.
Large, Comprehensive West Coast High School
In a large, comprehensive high school, getting a sense of what's working and what's not can be difficult. A west-coast public high school serving nearly 3,000 students asked us to gather opinions from parents, students and staff about everything from school culture to amount of homework. School officials used the information from our customized report to adjust their initial plans to alter the bell schedule in order to meet parent and staff concerns. They also determined that it was an appropriate time to move forward with an initiative to help fund an iPad program with active parent fundraising support.
Southern Charter Management Organization
The executive director of a charter management organization in a southern state had a hunch that her newest schools lacked the strong discipline and culture of the original charter school, and she wanted evidence to either confirm or allay her suspicion. We surveyed parents, students and staff on a host of school characteristics, and our results helped to substantiate the executive director's concerns. She used the findings from our report to structure a staff retreat and develop protocol for ongoing professional development throughout the year.
An arts-based non-profit wanted to know how its artist-in-residence and teacher training programs were performing. We surveyed educators across eight elementary and middle schools to gather classroom teachers' opinions of the programs and their suggestions for improvements. We found that the teachers overwhelmingly supported each program, both in terms of student learning and teacher satisfaction. In particular, we found that teachers consistently praised the way that the artist-in-residence program helped teachers integrate the arts into the broader curriculum even after he or she left the school.
Social Emotional Learning
A Southern California school with a mission to provide a rigorous, standards-based K-8 academic program, drawing upon the discipline, creativity, and cognitive aspects of dance wanted to assess the impact of its socio-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum We collaborated with school leaders to develop survey questions exploring student-teacher interactions and student self-reflections regarding compassion, creativity, flexibility, integrity, and resilience. Survey data was used to assess the implementation and impact of the school’s SEL curriculum on student achievement, and to identify opportunities for improvement.
A West Coast Charter High School
A Midwest large charter high school experiencing increased racial tensions has worked with TC SRI over the past three years to assess progress on issues related to school climate. In collaboration with school leaders and the Board, our team developed surveys for students, staff, and parents to measure their satisfaction with the school’s culture, academic program, teacher and administrator effectiveness, and learning/support services. In the most recent year, at the request of school leaders, we revised our surveys to gain insight on parent opinions regarding a pilot busing program, parent donation patterns, and parents’ willingness to pay for an iPad program and outside educational support (e.g., tutoring). All stakeholder perspectives, both within and across groups, were considered in our analyses and recommendations.
Co-Located Charter School
The Board of a new Southern California public charter high school co-located within a public library reached out to us to develop surveys about staff, parent, and student satisfaction with their academic program, the school environment, working conditions, and the effectiveness of the school’s teachers and administrators. The school was particularly interested in determining parent, student, and staff views of the executive director and leadership team. In addition to focusing satisfaction data with current constituents, TC SRI developed an Exit Survey for all stakeholders – parents, students, staff -- who had left the school. SRI’s director presented findings and recommendations to the Board of Directors and wrote a briefing to the school community, that summarized findings, interpreted the results, and offered recommendations for governance and educational improvements.
Midwest Charter Network
A Midwest K-12 charter network operating 12 schools, serving over 4,000 students, and focused on creating a college-bound network of public schools reached out to TC SRI to gain a deeper understanding of how their network-wide focus on academics, arts and athletics is helping them achieve their goal of creating a diverse, empowering, safe, communicative, and community-oriented school. Our team worked with school and network leaders to develop surveys for students, staff, and parent. School leaders were most interested in how their network schools compared to one another and how their results also compared to a group of similar schools nationwide (benchmarking). The survey results were used to structure conversation at an end-of-the-year retreat for all staff.
Elementary and Middle Schools Charter Network
TC SRI partnered with a charter network serving 1,110 students in four elementary and middle schools, with a learning system that is student-centered and focused on students learning at their own pace. Technology plays a large role in service delivery. In coordination with school and network leaders, TC SRI developed surveys to gauge student, staff, and parent perspectives on the effectiveness of their eight signature practices: 1) Shared Vision, 2) Code of Cooperation, 3) Tools to Elicit Student Voice, 4) SMART Goals, 5) Plan, Learn, Check, Adjust, 6) Rubrics and Capacity Matrices, 7) Proof of Proficiency Charters, and 8) Standard Operating Procedures.
Catholic Independent School
TC SRI partnered with an independent Catholic high school in Pennsylvania with a mission to develop a strong Catholic identity, educational excellence, integrity, community, and service for all of its students. The school welcomes students from a wide range of social, economic, and religious backgrounds. TC SRI developed surveys to evaluate the overall satisfaction with school culture, the academic program, and working and learning environments. School leaders also requested several school-specific items concerning parent interest in a one-to-one technology program, staff desire to remain in the Catholic educational system, and student interest in taking elective classes.
Elementary West Coast Charter
TC SRI has been working with an elementary charter school in Clarksburg, California for two years. The schools focus on providing a family-oriented learning environment that is devoted to the academic, social, linguistic, and personal success of each child. In the most recent year, we revised the surveys, at the request of school leaders, to assess stakeholder satisfaction with specific elements of their academic program and the working conditions for staff. Overall, the school received overwhelmingly positive responses, especially with regard to the academic program. Art and music classes, as well as project-based learning, were well liked by both parents and staff. In terms of areas in need of improvement, stakeholders requested more extracurricular offerings, and staff asked for more targeted professional development. The school over the past few years added two more schools to their network. This year our analyses of results cover responses from individual schools and also compare responses across the three network schools.
Pioneer of the Charter Movement
One of the first charter schools in the state of California reached out to TC SRI to ask for assistance in developing school climate surveys. This K-8 school practices a progressive educational model, emphasizing independent thinking, as well as social and personal responsibility. This is the second year TC SRI and the school have partnered together. Therefore, we created a final report that highlighted year-over-year trends with regard to parent satisfaction. This year the school for the first time SRI also surveyed students. Both stakeholder groups were very satisfied with the school’s teachers. There was also unanimous agreement that the school offered ample enrichment opportunities for students. We provided ideas on how to improve school facilities and also on how administrators can communicate more effectively with parents.
Arts-Based Middle and High Charter School
For the past two years, TC SRI has been working with an arts-focused charter middle and high school, and we will be partnering with the school again this year. This charter school emphasizes visual and performing arts and business through integrated project-based learning. In 2015, we produced two individual reports for this school – one for middle school and one for high school – to more accurately present survey results, which to some extent included distinct questions. In both reports, we also compared results to last year’s, which showed a significant difference between the two years. Both middle and high school students saw improvements from 2014 in most every category, with the exception of school discipline. As a result, TC SRI recommended that the school consider implementing more restorative disciplinary measures, as issues of bullying and fighting appeared to be reoccurring themes. We also offered suggestions for new vendors, as students noted (in the open-ended section of the surveys) dissatisfaction with food services.
Non-Profits Arts Organization
TC SRI has partnered with a nonprofit arts organization since 2012, whose mission is to build upon the power of art to transform lives and communities through creating, teaching, and presenting the arts. The organization showcases exhibitions, offers classes, and hosts resident artists at local public schools. For the past few years, SRI has customized surveys to evaluate, from both the teacher and artist perspectives, their satisfaction with the artist-in-residency program. Survey questions asked respondents to assess, for example, “Quality of Instruction and Curriculum Design,” and “Observations of Student Learning.” Our final reports, which have demonstrated program improvement over time, have been used to evaluate the art teaching staff and to develop new strategies for improvement (e.g., STEAM) moving forward.
In 2014, TC SRI partnered with a language academy, whose mission is to prepare all students for the challenges of higher education through an academically rigorous dual-language program. The school teaches students to think critically, challenge the status quo, and to take on social responsibility to make their communities better. In collaboration with school leaders, TC SRI developed bilingual surveys (English, Spanish, Vietnamese) for parents, students, and staff to assess satisfaction with the school climate. All stakeholder groups expressed high levels of satisfaction with the language academy, especially with regard to the school mission and the emphasis on dual language immersion. Through open-ended questions, SRI was able to capture the extent to which the school’s core values of community and shared leadership were present.
New-York based K-12 School
A New York-based school partnered with TC SRI to evaluate their school services. This charter school primarily serves students in kindergarten through 8th grade who live in the surrounding community, with well over 70% of their student body qualifying for free and reduced lunch. The school focuses on serving students through: professional learning communities, New York state standards-based curriculum, technology integration, character education, extended day and school year, professional development, and family engagement. Survey questions were developed to capture and evaluate these elements from the parent perspective.
Language Immersion School
One of TC SRI’s clients is a Spanish-immersion elementary and middle school. Based in Oregon, the school’s mission is to offer a solid education that includes Spanish immersion and a rigorous mathematical curriculum. It also seeks to prepare students to be responsible citizens and lifelong learners with strong values. TC SRI worked with school leaders to develop parent surveys to assess the school culture, support services, and the administration. In addition, TC SRI customized the surveys to meet the school’s needs, by translating the surveys into Spanish. The survey included targeted questions on the effectiveness of the teachers in the language classrooms. The responses suggested there were opportunities for improving the clique-ish Parent Teacher Organization and how school administrators communicated with parents.
Single-Sex Charter Network
A network of three single-sex schools in Georgia sought the services of TC SRI to gather stakeholder opinions on the schools’ overall performance. We developed three surveys to capture inclusive trends within each individual school, as well as across the entire system. At the request of school leaders, TC SRI developed and included survey items to gain insight on school-specific issues including an extended school day and a stricter discipline policy. Results highlighted strong relationships between staff and students, and praised the school’s efforts to communicate its mission and celebrate student accomplishments. There were lingering concerns about bullying at the school, and access to adequate resources.