A 2015 PSA report for The Wallace Foundation details how six urban school districts are beginning to build larger pools of strong principal candidates, revamp principal hiring and placement, and effectively evaluate and support new principals. The report, Building a Stronger Principalship: Districts Taking Charge of the Principal Pipeline, is the third in a multi-year evaluation conducted by PSA and RAND.
In two new studies, PSA is continuing to evaluate the outcomes of an academic after-school counseling service that aims to help low-income public high school students gain admission to and graduate from competitive colleges. The Scholars Program is administered by Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), a nonprofit organization based in New York City. In a previous PSA evaluation, SEO Scholars in the 2009 and 2010 cohorts outperformed matched comparison students by statistically significant margins on most outcome measures. One of PSA’s new studies will follow up on those two cohorts, comparing their college persistence and graduation with that of similar students, and the other new study will examine high school and college enrollment outcomes of four additional cohorts of Scholars.
Out-of-school time (OST) programs are well positioned to enhance students’ Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills, increase their interest in STEM fields, and increase their engagement in learning overall. Staff from PSA are currently conducting an evaluation of a component of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) Great Futures in Science Programs. Through the use of Club member surveys, interviews with Club program and administrative staff, and observations of program activities, evaluation team members are assessing the implementation and outcomes of the Ready for Robotics and RoboTech programs in operation at approximately 20 Clubs nationwide. The study is intended to help BGCA understand which factors facilitate or impede the successful implementation of STEM programming in the Club setting.
PSA conducts high-quality evaluation, research, and policy analysis to improve decisions in education and youth development.
Comprehensive teacher evaluation systems are a core element in the current federal strategy for improving elementary and secondary education. On behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, PSA recently completed a study of the design and early implementation of high-stakes teacher evaluation systems in eight local school districts. The study is intended to help other districts and states learn from the experiences of these eight districts and apply the lessons to their own work in teacher evaluation and support. The exploratory analyses of district experiences may also help inform future research on the effects of teacher evaluation systems on teacher professional practice and student performance. The report is due to be released in spring 2015.
With SRI International, PSA is participating in a two-year project on teacher leadership in K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The project, for the U.S. Department of Education, will clarify the characteristics of teacher leader programs, identify challenges and opportunities for the field, and facilitate activity that moves the field forward. After analyzing programs and gaps in the field of STEM teacher leadership, the team will convene experts—including policymakers, researchers, program leaders, and practitioners—to define and advance strategies for improvement. The team will then facilitate Research Action Clusters of experts to investigate practical issues in STEM teacher leadership, identify lessons for the field, and develop action plans.
An independent evaluation by PSA is examining Teach For America corps members’ preparation, their ongoing training and support, and their decisions about whether to continue teaching. Supported by a grant from the state of Florida to Teach For America, the study relies on surveys and focus groups of corps members in two large counties, as well as focus groups with recent alumni. When the study is completed in mid-2015, the findings will support ongoing program improvement efforts.