Since our founding in 2011, we have completed more than 150 consulting projects. We regularly share some of the findings and insights that emerge from these projects.
Curriculum-Based Professional Learning
The State of the Field
In recent years, open-source, high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) have presented exciting opportunities to enhance students’ engagement and agency in their learning, expand access to grade-level content, and narrow the boundaries between home and school. However, research suggests that curricula, on their own, can only do so much to advance student learning; curriculum-based professional learning is an essential ingredient. Yet, to build the field of curriculum-based professional learning, a field of diverse, interdisciplinary actors from across the education sector must work together to collectively co-produce improved professional learning that strengthens educational experiences and outcomes for students.
With support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Columbia University's Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) researched the state of the field of curriculum-based professional learning, identifying its areas of strength and opportunities to grow, scale, and strengthen the effort. Building on an analysis of information provided by 146 people over the course of 122 interviews, as well as an extensive review of secondary sources, the research reveals that the field of curriculum-based professional learning is emerging. While its impact is not yet consistently felt across the education ecosystem, its infrastructure and field-level agenda are fairly well-developed. Its actors, knowledge base, and resources are still in more nascent stages and require focused attention for the field to reach its potential for impact.
Staying the Course: Toward Strong HQIM Implementation in Delaware
Delaware’s implementation of high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) has shown benefits, challenges, and elicited promising practices and policies that could help guide other school systems in using HQIM in ways that help schools continuously improve student learning, according to new research by the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University.
The newly published study, “Staying the Course,” examines when, where, how, and under what conditions systems, schools, and teachers have rolled out HQIM in Delaware. The research looks at policies and practices on the state, district, and school levels, with a close look at HQIM implementation in seven schools across five Delaware school districts that have seen improvements in teacher practice and student learning since beginning to use HQIM. The report was sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, which convenes the Instructional Materials and Professional Development Network, of which the Delaware Department of Education has been a member since 2017. “Staying the Course” adds to CPRL’s growing body of research on how leaders at every level of the education system create the infrastructure, systems, practices, supports, and community needed to provide rigorous and affirming learning experiences for each and every child. For related CPRL research, see Fundamental 4 and Curriculum-Based Professional Learning: The State of the Field.
Read "Staying the Course."
Leading Through Learning is a toolkit that summarizes Evolutionary Learning, a disciplined approach to creating and sustaining more equitable education systems through careful observations of people's experiences. The toolkit is based on more than a decade of insights and experiences with system leaders as they work to understand, act on, and advance improvements in education.
Leading Through Learning begins with an introduction to Evolutionary Learning. Next, it describes each stage of Evolutionary Learning and includes more than 12 ready-to-use protocols, which are embedded throughout the toolkit. Lastly, we created a case study of a fictionalized district implementing Evolutionary Learning to help illustrate key ideas.
Helping to Create Stronger Family-School Ties
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of strong family-school connections. Our collaboration with states, districts, community-based organizations, funders, and others has resulted in a series of insights and resources about how to build and sustain family-school connections now—and beyond the pandemic.
The Carnegie Corporation of New York launched Public Understanding to explore the role of philanthropy in supporting family-school connections. Five years after the start of Public Understanding, CCNY engaged CPRL to study the current state of the field. In "Forward Together: Building a Field that Works for Families," we describe how the field has evolved and identify future directions.
In our report, "Fundamental 4: Pandemic Learning Reveals the Value of High-Quality Instructional Materials to Educator-Family-Student Partnerships," we met with nearly 300 students, families, and educators from nine school districts and charter school organizations to uncover how system leaders expanded their understanding of the instructional core to include families—and how to sustain this innovation and others well after the pandemic.
How might we design an education system that prepares every child, of every race and background, to thrive in school and in life? We answer this question in RISE to Thrive. Based on conversations with more than 300 students, families, teachers, and leaders, among others, our latest publication also incorporates existing research on instructional practices as well as the insights and innovations gained since the pandemic to help leaders design more equitable school systems.
As the second half of the school year begins and many children across the country continue to participate in school via hybrid or remote learning, we are excited to share a resource to help families support their children’s learning and growth. Download the materials, which are available in English and Spanish. Check out these suggestions for how to use these materials.
Distance learning presents a challenge for many families. We are proud to provide families with some much needed resources to make distance learning more manageable. Check out these publicly available resources in English and Spanish. You can also access these resources as Google Slides in English and Spanish.
Supporting More Integrated and Inclusive Learning Experiences
We have partnered with education leaders at the state, district, and school levels to pursue school integration as one strategy for creating more equitable school systems. Below are some resources we have developed in partnership with others to support school integration.
The New York Community Trust provided valuable support to help us share some of our ideas and lessons learned about school integration to a wider audience. We also thank MarGrady Research for their collaboration in this work, especially in the creation of IntegrateNY and the design of the segregation index.
More Reports, Tools, and Ideas
Below are more publications, tools, and other resources that reflect the diversity of our work with state agencies, school districts, charter school organizations, foundations, and advocacy groups—among others.
Concerned about the impact of staffing shortages on Connecticut schools – particularly those in the state’s urban centers that serve a high proportion of students living in poverty and Black and Latinx students – dozens of educators and administrators from across the state recommend changing the state’s educator preparation and certification process in ways that will help school systems fill vacancies with strong, effective educators who better reflect the diversity of their students. The current system, they say, deters strong candidates from applying and does not adequately prepare teachers for the classroom. A new report by CPRL, “Connecticut Educator Insights on Building a More Effective, Diverse Educator Workforce,” captures the experiences and insights of 60 Connecticut pre-service educators, teachers, and administrators.
Educators nationwide are forging their way in a landscape shaped by pandemic-induced disruptions. Training resources designed to spark new thinking often feel outdated – especially if they were published before 2020. To address this need, the Center on Reinventing Public Education at Arizona State University and CPRL produced teaching case studies that showcase the successes and challenges of high schools improving or redesigning the student experience. Our three new case studies of authentic high school dilemmas include a narrative of each school and accompanying questions designed to generate grounded, in-depth discussions of key issues related to innovation and equity in high school education. Each teaching case is intended for groups of leaders and design teams learning about or engaged in high school reinvention.
In 2011, the Great Oaks Foundation started the Great Oaks Fellowship Program, a whole-school model of high-dosage tutoring designed to help schools redress inequitable access to high-quality learning opportunities. In "From Acorn to Seedling: Developing the Great Oaks Fellowship Program," CPRL depicts the Foundation’s strategic efforts to implement a more standardized Fellowship Program to strengthen its impact on its tutors, students, and school communities. The report includes some early, promising outcomes and directions for continued development.
Although at times hard to navigate, a firm understanding of pension policies reveals legally permissible pathways to improve funding sustainability and ensure adequate retirement income security for states’ workforces. We partnered with the Equable Institute to create infographics that map states’ pension governance to help achieve that understanding. Check out the first 35 maps.
The sudden shift to remote learning has unsettled long-held assumptions about the structure of the school day and the scheduling process. Instead of viewing master scheduling as a technical task, more schools and districts now view master scheduling as part of a strategy to address inequity. In the report “About Time: Master Scheduling and Equity,” we draw on the experiences of principals, schedulers, programmers, and others to establish a case for adopting a more equity-focused, strategic approach to master scheduling.
We studied the role of the Purple Star School Designation Program ("Purple Star"), a national initiative sponsored by the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) to help families reduce the burdens of frequent mobility that military-connected families may experience. The study describes the reach of the Purple Star program, and how it galvanizes, strengthens, and promotes existing school and district strategies for supporting military-connected families. It closes with recommendations for refining Purple Star as both a program and a brand.
We are pleased to share the results of our 2-year formative evaluation of the Networks for School Improvement (NSI), an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We found that NSIs have great potential to improve academic and college access outcomes for marginalized students. Two NSIs in our study exemplify the motivational and management structures needed to realize that promise.
CPRL, in collaboration with the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and its educational partners, developed guidance to support districts in creating equitable, high-quality, and culturally responsive and sustaining remote learning available to all children, no matter what their home situation and their education and language needs. In response to the possibility that public health data may require remote learning for the 2020-21 school year, this resource draws directly on the state’s fall guidance as well as comprehensive research into best practices of how districts and schools met the challenges and opportunities posed by the spring 2020 transition to remote learning. Follow the link to see the complete set of resources.
The models and tools included in this guide are designed primarily for adaptation and use by school- and district-level personnel responsible for supporting highly mobile student populations. The guide will also be helpful to state department of education personnel seeking to devise state-level supports for mobile students and to assist districts and schools in designing and implementing their supports.
CPRL and MarGrady Research released this report which examines the school enrollment system in Newark, New Jersey and determines that Newark’s centralized enrollment system has improved access and equity for high-needs students. Newark Public Schools (NPS) developed a universal enrollment system, Newark Enrolls, that went into effect during the 2014-15 school year. This report assesses the impact of Newark Enrolls, highlights strengths in the implementation of Newark Enrolls, and identifies opportunities for continued improvement.
CPRL released this report which examines the current environment of school transitions and military-connected children. The report describes the challenges students and families face, shares promising practices, and identifies potential solutions. CPRL produced this report at the request of the Military Child Education Coalition® (MCEC) and with the support of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
CPRL hosted two dozen U.S. and Canadian leaders of innovative university-based graduate programs in multiple disciplines and allied professional organizations at the Accelerating Multidimensional Learning in Professional Education Convening at Columbia University. In preparation for the convening, CPRL staff prepared this paper to provoke discussion about the state of professional education, the need for reform, and the promises and challenges of implementing the dramatic changes needed to prepare professionals for the 21st workplace.
Looking for More?
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Want to Become a Client?
As a CPRL client, you will work with a Project Director and a team of 3-6 graduate students and receive support from our Founder Jim Liebman, Executive Director Dr. Elizabeth Chu, CPRL senior leadership, and other faculty and staff at Columbia University. Client engagements typically begin in September, January, and May each year. Read more about our services and testimonials from our clients.
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