CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

Learning to Think, Thinking to Learn

CPRE is evaluating the America's Choice middle and high school comprehensive school reform designs. The designs are being developed and specified by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) as they are being field-tested, and revisions are being made based on the experience in the field-test sites and feedback from the evaluation research team. This is not a straightforward study of the implementation of a fully developed program, but a much more dynamic and complex study of the development, specification, implementation, and revision of new school designs.

The research team is examining the designs from the perspective of the school (Does it meet our needs? Does it meet our expectations? Is it feasible? Is the support adequate? Does it produce the results we expected?, etc.) and from the perspective of NCEE (Is there commitment and capacity in the site? Is it being implemented as designed? Are there barriers to be addressed? Do components produce the desired results, etc.?). The following questions are among those of central interest to the research team:

  • How well do NCEE's entry and engagement strategies work? Do these strategies engage faculty and build commitment to the design?
  • How do faculty response to the designs and faculty engagement in the process vary across content areas, particularly among areas in which curriculum is provided and areas in which it is not?
  • Do the NCEE designs provide adequate incentives, tools, training, assistance, and sequencing to support implementation? How are the enactment supports affected by local conditions? How are these changed over time, and why?
  • To what extent are the schools able to implement the designs? Are some components more difficult to implement than others? What problems are encountered? How come? How do problems vary across the sites?
  • How is implementation affected by the leadership structure and style in the school? How is leadership altered by the design?
  • Are local adaptations made by the schools or NCEE so that the implemented designs vary significantly across the sites? Why? With what effects?
  • Do educators feel that they have to make significant modifications to the design to meet the needs of all students? How does the presence of significant numbers of special education students or English language learners affect implementation?
  • What factors affect implementation? Are there prerequisite conditions for implementation of the designs? What obstacles are frequently encountered, and how are they overcome?
  • Do the design elements produce the envisioned professional culture and classroom practice?
  • Do the designs produce the expected changes in school policy and organization?
  • What is the impact on student achievement as measured by NCEE, the school, the district, the state, and the public?
  • What is the impact of the design on other student measures: discipline, attendance, school completion, course selection, postsecondary participation, and so on?
  • Does the design's impact on student outcomes vary across sites, and what factors seem to account for this variance?
  • Do the design elements produce the desired outcomes for all significant sub-groups of students?
  • Can the design be replicated at reasonable costs and with reasonable probability of success?