CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

Formative Evaluation of Collaborative Inquiry in New York City Schools

Under this initiative, schools establish small inquiry teams of teachers and administrators charged with examining the performance problems of small populations of students that they select. Their goal is to test instructional strategies that will help close the achievement gap for these low-performing students. The inquiry teams are expected to make use of performance data and other information to diagnose and monitor the learning of these students and can make recommendations for changes in any aspect of their schooling. Teams are expected to become experts in the diagnostic use of the district’s accountability tools and other data as well as the inquiry team process itself. One major goal is for teams to share the knowledge gained from testing their instructional changes with the broader school community throughout the year to simulate the spread of effective practices and overall improvements in the conditions of teaching and learning in their school.

From 2006-2010, CPRE documented the implementation of this promising initiative and providing quick formative feedback to the Department to help strengthen the inquiry team process and the quality of supports available to schools. Broadly, the CPRE studies focused on three key aspects of New York City’s collaborative inquiry process:

(1) How have schools, specifically team members and principals, implemented the collaborative inquiry process? 
(2) How have inquiry teams and principals approached stimulating improvements in the conditions of teaching and learning in their schools?
(3) What are the conditions, supports, and resources that facilitate collaborative inquiry?

CPRE examined the early piloting of the inquiry team process in 300 Empowerment Schools in 2006-07 and its initial roll out to 1,450 city schools during the 2007-08 school year. In 2009-10, CPRE examined the leadership practice dimensions in city schools where a high proportion of faculty were engaged in collaborative inquiry.

Data supporting the series of studies in New York City schools come from interviews with principals, assistant principals, classroom teachers, and support staff involved with collaborative inquiry and from observations of inquiry team meetings. As appropriate, interviews were also conducted with affiliated School Support Organization (SSO) Network Leaders and Department Senior Achievement Facilitators (SAF) charged with providing support to the school-based inquiry teams.

To learn more about the New York City Department of Education’s collaborative inquiry process visit:

Start date: 
October 2006
End date: 
December 2010