Marinating in Data—My Experience Working on Six Lessons to Facilitate Deep Ownership of Ambitious Instructional Reforms

Six Lessons to Facilitate Deep Ownership of Ambitious Instructional Reforms

For several years, Research for Action and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education have been studying Philadelphia schools’ take-up of an instructional reform that has demonstrated positive impacts on teacher knowledge and student learning in math. The Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP) is designed to deepen teachers’ understanding of foundational concepts in math and engage them in regular formative assessment of their students’ problem-solving strategies. Implementing an ambitious educational reform such as this one is notoriously challenging, as project staff, district personnel, and school leaders struggle to move from initial professional development—where so much money is invested—to deep, routine engagement in schools and classrooms. Teachers’ instructional practices are difficult to change, and it is particularly hard to engender reform ownership in contexts full of competing demands.

Our brief, Six Lessons to Facilitate Deep Ownership of Ambitious Instructional Reforms, shares six lessons we gathered from the experiences of one school that engaged deeply with OGAP.

 

While analyzing data from a larger study of OGAP implementation in Philadelphia, we realized that one school had a unique story to tell. Cedar Elementary’s* faculty appeared to really own the instructional reform, and we heard about supports for OGAP that were enacted in conjunction with one another. It wasn’t the story of one lone wolf championing a project, but of a system of mutually-reinforcing supports that engendered deep engagement.

So, we dove deep into our data from the school, re-analyzing it and triangulating our impressions from interviews with data from other sources. We don’t really discuss our methods in the brief—in the interest of keeping it brief! But it was a joy to marinate in transcripts describing one school; think about how best to tell its story; and rework the approach in response to invaluable feedback from team members and colleagues. We decided to emphasize implications for reform developers, district leaders, and school leaders. We wanted to underscore lessons that people in these roles could transfer to other reforms and other school contexts.

The Cedar faculty gave so generously of their time to provide the details—and the promising story of reform ownership—that we share in this brief. I want to thank the hard-working educators at that school, and the OGAP partners who helped to support them!

*The school name is a pseudonym.

 

Jill Pierce, Research Associate

Research for Action

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