Robust and Equitable Measures to Identify Quality Schools

The Robust and Equitable Measures to Identify Quality Schools project (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

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. 

Research Questions

JFF and Urban Institute will investigate the following:

  • 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? 

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

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

Learn more about the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative at

Bridging the worlds of research, practice, and policy, JFF’s Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative investigates student-centered approaches to improve outcomes for learners from all backgrounds, particularly those who have been marginalized or underserved by the current system. Learn more about our current studies and work underway here.

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