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"An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people."
– Thomas Jefferson
SERP works with numerous districts to conduct randomized control studies of teaching and learning to examine the effectiveness of educational products and interventions.
SERP's commitment to user-centered design requires that the organization enlist the aid of practitioners in the field to respond to prototypes, test usability, and offer feedback.
Districts work with SERP to build large scale programs of professional learning related to their established priorities.
When SERP and a school district agree to enter into a field site partnership, a set of critical mutual commitments are made. SERP commits to follow the superintendent’s lead regarding the focal problem for our partnership work. This reverses the typical relationship of district and researcher. Once the district has identified the target problem, SERP recruits researchers with a variety of expertise related to that problem to become involved in the work. Authority remains with the district to decide whether proposed approaches to addressing a problem move forward or land in the dustbin. The district, in turn, commits to engaging routinely with SERP, sustaining focus and incorporating SERP work into relevant district decision-making processes. Field site partnerships are entered into with the knowledge that the problems at hand have no easy solutions. Together, SERP and the districts stay the course following the contours of a problem in order to understand why past efforts may have failed. While general district decision-making continues uninterrupted, the collaboration requires that all parties carve out time to step out of day-to-day activity and explore these ongoing questions more deeply.
A field site partnership has three structures:
The Core Group consists of district leaders and SERP staff and meets together regularly to steer the field site work, reflect on what is being learned, and identify issues that warrant further exploration. The Superintendent has the sole authority to decide who from the district will participate in the Core Group. S/he often delegates leadership of the Core Group to the Deputy Superintendent or the Chief Academic Officer.
Ideas Team(s) are formed to broaden the expertise related to the focal problem. In addition to Core Group members, the Ideas Team includes accomplished researchers from a variety of related disciplines, and district participants from various departments and levels of the district hierarchy. These groups meet periodically to help frame the problem, imagine potential solutions, and respond to the work of the on-the-ground RDI teams.
Research, Development, and Implementation (RDI) team(s) emerge from the Ideas Team when researchers and district leaders conclude that a line of work is worth pursuing. These groups carry out the work of designing tools and building new knowledge.
In the spring of 2005, SERP launched its first field site in collaboration with the Boston Public Schools. The problem identified by the school district as its most urgent problem of practice was middle school literacy across the content areas. The problem was manifest in the inability of students to comprehend their subject-area textbooks when they reached high school.
The work in Boston has continued to follow the contours of the original problem over time, and now encompasses a variety of significant research and development efforts with BPS and nearby districts.
SERP's focus in Boston includes:
Products of the partnership include Word Generation, the Strategic Adolescent Reading Intervention (STARI), the Content-area Literacy Survey (CALS), the Internal Coherence Assessment and Protocol (ICAP) and assessments such as the Reading Inventory and Scholastic Evaluation (RISE), the Academic Language Assessment (ALA) (coming soon), and the Perspective Taking Assessment (PTA) (coming soon).
SERP began working in SFUSD in 2006. District leaders targeted middle school math and science achievement as areas for focus, and the work in each of those areas continues today.
SFUSD also participated in a randomized control trial of the Word Generation academic language program.
SERP's focus in San Francisco has been:
Supporting the development and public negotiation of course pathways that align with the CCSS-M and that provide the opportunity for success in mathematics for a wide range of students
Products of the partnership include Sense-making Tools, Poster Problems, Reading to Learn (coming soon), and Science Starters (coming soon).
In the spring and summer of 2006, SERP launched its first multi-district field site in collaboration with the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) and its member districts. MSAN districts are smaller urban or inner-ring suburban school districts that share a deep commitment to closing the achievement gaps among students from different races and ethnicities while ensuring all students achieve to high levels. Participating districts identified two problems of practice to target: (1) students’ academic engagement, and (2) the achievement gap in Algebra 1 among students of different races/ethnicities.
Participating districts: Ann Arbor Public Schools (MI), Arlington Public Schools (VA), Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Public Schools (NC), Evanston Township High School (IL), Evanston/Skokie School District 65 (IL), Green Bay Public Schools (WI), Madison Metropolitan School District (WI)), and Shaker Heights School District (OH)
SERP's focus with MSAN has been:
A new project began in July 2015 to develop and test MathByExample, a downward extension of AlgebraByExample for grades 4 and 5.
In the winter of 2010, SERP began a partnership with Oakland Unified School District to establish a strategic approach to improving middle school mathematics and elementary science.
SERP's focus in Oakland has been:
A new project began in July 2015 to build teacher capacity to engage in Common Core instruction using the TruMath Framework and Lesson Study in high school mathematics departments.
In July 2014, Baltimore City Schools and SERP established a field site partnership focused on grit, perseverance and other non-cognitive factors that contribute to academic success. Exploratory work with schools is under way that will lead to an approach to intervention.
Previously, Baltimore participated in a randomized controlled trial of the Word Generation academic language program and then as the largest participating school district in SERP's Catalyzing Comprehension through Discussion and Debate (CCDD) research and development project. Baltimore City Schools’ widespread use of the RISE assessment in middle grades has provided valuable data for establishing validity and reliability properties.
About SERP Field Sites
Minority Student Achievement Network
Strategic Education Research Partnership
1100 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 1310 | Washington, DC 20036