Current Studies

In the fall of 2018, the Research Collaborative kicked off its second research cycle of studies investigating the impact of student-centered learning on equitable student outcomes. This research cycle comprises six studies headed up by scholars and practitioners from the High Tech High Graduate School of Education; Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University; New Hampshire Learning Initiative, Center for Innovation in Education, and New Hampshire Department of Education; Rowan University; University of California, Berkeley; and Urban Institute.

Read more about current studies below, and sign up to stay connected to receive real-time updates and resources from the research teams!

Robust and Equitable Measures for Identifying Quality Schools (REMIQS)

JFF and Urban Institute

REMIQS exists to reimagine the way states, districts, and the general public have grown accustomed to evaluating school quality: using test scores as the primary data point. This overreliance on test scores occurs in spite of the fact that the reductive and biased nature of the strategy has been widely documented, as has the negative impact of “accountability” efforts linked to those test scores. While all school quality measures must make decisions about what to capture and characterize, too many designs continue to ignore a range of important outcomes many families, employers, colleges, and students themselves would readily identify as being crucial (e.g., college/career readiness, deeper learning outcomes, school climate, social-emotional supports, college completion, workforce earnings, civic participation, mental health, etc.). The good news is that an increasing number of states are capturing a wider range of these types of indicators such that it may now be possible to rethink our over-reliance on test scores and replace it with something far better

Funding provided by the Barr Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and Oak Foundation.

In fall 2017, JFF, in partnership with the Urban Institute and supported by the Barr Foundation, conducted a feasibility study of a unique approach that constellates “beat the odds” practices, contextual factors, and school designs to identify high-functioning schools that have been consistently successful at achieving exemplary outcomes among marginalized student populations. This research methodology is designed to first locate and then study in depth those “high-flying” schools to determine precisely how they enable student success. Finding that such a design was feasible, JFF plans to conduct a five-year research project consisting of multiple phases, including an initial methods refinement phase (underway now), a quantitative filtering phase, a qualitative investigation phase, and a strategic communications and dissemination effort to amplify what is learned. The goal is not just to change the way we measure and report “school quality,” but to influence the public conversation about which policies and practices offer the greatest opportunities to achieve equity. Specifically, the team will explore the following research questions: 

  • What are the set of factors, indicators, outputs, and outcomes that, taken together and analyzed with rigor, would comprise an authentic characterization of a “quality school”? 
  • To what extent do current data gathered across multiple states yield comparable, authentic, and stakeholder-responsive indices capable of identifying high-quality schools who have been consistently successful at achieving exemplary outcomes for marginalized student populations?  
  • What would need to happen for this REMIQS design to be scaled across an ever-larger set of states, and what implications might this have for policy and practice? 

Following REMIQS’s phase 1 refinement, we will work to expand the applicability of the model to additional settings while building a broader base of support to further validate and bring to scale this more nuanced way of measuring school success. This would include recruiting additional states into the project and implementing the REMIQS method to identify actual schools.   Part of testing the model will be to complement our quantitative findings with a deep qualitative exploration to understand why certain schools outperform their peers in achieving broad and equitable success for students. In the process, we hope to understand what sorts of practices and interventions work for what students and why. We will simultaneously expand our advisor group inputs as well as integrate a stakeholder committee to advise and evaluate our findings.  With experts and practitioners reviewing our process and findings, we seek to address issues of validity and reliability.  Using our findings, advisor inputs and stakeholder endorsements, we also plan strategic advocacy campaign to communicate the value and worth of using REMIQS to move beyond limited test measures to address successful learning that meets needs of ALL students. 

Project advisors to Phase I: 

  • Adriana Janette Umaña-Taylor, Professor of Education, Harvard GSE 
  • Andrew Ho, Professor, Harvard GSE 
  • Anne Holton, visiting professor and fellow, George Mason University, former Virginia Secretary of Education 
  • James Basham, Associate Professor University of Kansas, and Chair/CEO, Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research Network  
  • Ryan Reyna, Director, Education Strategy Group 
  • Yeshimabeit Milner, Co-Founder/Director, Data for Black Lives, previously Chair of the Education Committee at Highlander Institute 

Agentic Mindset: Empowering Students to Take Ownership Over Their Education and Development

University of California, Berkeley

This two-year study will test an evidence-based and scalable intervention to mitigate the effects of stigma on teacher-student relationships and enhance a sense of agency in students’ mindsets about learning. Across the United States, Black, Latino, and Native American students underperform compared to their peers in academics even though they tend to value education as much as, if not more than, their peers. These disparities spill over into a variety of life outcomes that include school dropout, underemployment, and incarceration. This study seeks to look at both the means to offset the effects of stereotypes and interventions that can create student mindsets that are able to weather threats to excel in school.  

Funding provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Oak Foundation, and Overdeck Family Foundation.

Critical Civic Inquiry: Student-Centered Learning 

Rowan University and University of Colorado

This study will investigate two areas of student-centered learning: 1) How students can be supported to take “ownership” of their learning and 2) How learning can occur “anytime, anywhere.” It will study an approach to student-centered learning that the team is calling Critical Civic Inquiry (CCI). CCI draws on the inquiry cycle in participatory action research (PAR), which includes students identifying a compelling problem or challenge related to equity, studying that problem through original research, and then advancing their ideas by sharing their work with school leaders, policymakers or other public audiences. The goal of CCI is to support student agency and ownership by inviting students to participate in creating more equitable structures in their schools and communities.  

Funding provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Oak Foundation, and Overdeck Family Foundation.

Practices and Outcomes of a Culturally Responsive Mastery Collaborative in New York City 

Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools

The Mastery Collaborative program (MC) of New York City Department of Education’s Office of Leadership supports mastery-based or competency-based education (MBE, CBE), a “systems model in which (1) teaching and learning are designed to ensure students are becoming proficient by advancing on demonstrated mastery and (2) schools are organized to provide timely and differentiated support to ensure equity” (CompetencyWorks website). This study will document MC inputs and activities as they implement a culturally responsive approach; examining short-term outputs and outcomes on schools, teachers, and students, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The hypothesis is that if teachers in MC Living Lab schools implement culturally responsive MBE effectively, then their students, particularly those who have been historically marginalized, will demonstrate improved learning capacities, school engagement, and academic outcomes.  

Funding provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Oak Foundation, and Overdeck Family Foundation.

Leveraging the Power of Improvement Networks to Spread Lesson Study 

High Tech High Graduate School of Education

The High Tech High Graduate School of Education, in partnership with three Southern California school districts, will leverage lesson study within a networked improvement community (NIC) to explore how student-centered instruction and assessment strategies impact student mathematical understanding and achievement, particularly for Latinx and African American students. The research team will use a continuous improvement framework to craft a communal vision of ambitious student-centered teaching for equity; build the mathematical knowledge necessary to teach for student understanding; and develop pedagogical skills necessary to enact ambitious instruction in classrooms. Building on learning from the Mathematical Agency Improvement Community, the network will also focus on supporting teachers as they adopt student-centered math practices refined in the previous study cycle.  

Funding provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Oak Foundation, and Overdeck Family Foundation.

Deeper Learning and Diffusion of Innovation and Scaled Impact of New Hampshire’s Work-Study Practices 

JFF and New Hampshire Learning Initiative

Through its Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) initiative, New Hampshire offers innovative, successful approaches in competency-based and deeper learning practices, and is a model for other states to follow. JFF is partnering with the New Hampshire Learning Initiative, the NH Department of Education, and the Center for Innovation in Education to understand how work-study practices – also sometimes called deeper learning practices – related to communication, collaboration, creative thinking, and self-direction are being adopted and scaled across the state. Specifically, the study is seeking to understand how certain professional development opportunities impact teachers’ and students’ experiences as they learn to develop, use, and assess work-study practices in classrooms. This research-practice partnership is nearing the end of year one of a three-year research, implementation, and diffusion project to determine: the extent to which integrating a set of deeper learning practices improves outcomes on field-leading academic performance assessments; whether outcomes improve particularly for marginalized groups and students furthest from opportunity; and whether a collaborative, learner-centered diffusion approach accelerates uptake and scaling of evidence-based practices.

Funding provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.