The Robust and Equitable Measures to Inspire Quality Schools (REMIQS) project is designed to illuminate how schools are able to outperform expectations when it comes to serving historically marginalized populations. This is a multiphase study that aims to uncover the practices, policies and structures highly successful schools implement to ensure their most vulnerable learners flourish. Currently, this project is in phase one, the quantitative filtering phase.
During phase one the project team has been gathering data from five participating states to build a statistical model capable of identifying a small sub-set of schools that exceed, meet and fall below expected performance levels. The model prioritizes the extent to which marginalized students are experiencing in-school and post-secondary achievement levels equal to or greater than those experienced by more privileged students. The model constellates a host of outputs and outcomes to identify 15 schools across five states to be studied in-depth during the next phase.
In phase two, researchers will then engage with the schools identified and conduct case studies to discover what those schools do to promote such inspiring outcomes among students from historically marginalized backgrounds. This phase of the project isn’t about making predictions about future outcomes but rather is designed to surface those features that “inspiring” schools tend to use to promote academic success in historically marginalized student populations.
We first identify the population of high schools to include in the pool. To be included, high schools had to have at least 200 students with at least 25% of the student body from historically marginalized backgrounds. This includes students who identify as Black, Latinx, Indigenous, or multiracial, students with (dis)abilities, English learners and low-income students. When identifying inspiring schools, we control for several important factors including, but not limited to, student demographics, teacher workforce composition and prior student achievement. In addition, our methodology accounts for the hierarchical structure of the data, which means we consider the extent to which students are nested in schools, and schools are nested in districts. By incorporating all of this information into the estimation process, the team is able to more precisely measure the effects of school inputs on student outcomes and get a better sense of the schools whose performance is well above the predicted mean. To do this, we first compile de-identified student-level data across and within the five partner states to see how schools performed relative to their predicted performance. We then fit a statistical model to generate a composite (combined) measure for each school and rank order them to identify the schools that are true outliers in performance.
While REMIQS is about finding and learning from schools that are outperforming with regard to outcomes for historically marginalized students, we need to know if the policies, practices, and features we’re seeing in our “beat the odds” schools are sufficiently distinct from what other schools do. So Phase one will also identify two tiers of comparison schools—those that align with predicted levels of outcomes for historically marginalized students and those that fall below—to provide necessary counterfactuals.
The outcomes we care about can be grouped into three categories: high school success, college enrollment, and workforce outcomes. The team will collect data in these three areas to determine the top-performing schools in each state.
REMIQS doesn’t value all outcomes equally, however. Based on advice from our funders, Advisors and KnowledgeWorks staff, postsecondary education enrollment and persistence outcomes are given more weight in the composite measure for each school. For example, if two schools were the same on all outcomes except one school consistently sent more historically marginalized students to two or four-year college after graduation, that school would receive a higher rank. We believe this weighting represents the kinds of school outcomes most valued by students, families, employers and higher education.
The states were selected based on the availability of school-level data, whether those data can be matched to post-secondary outcomes and the comparability of their longitudinal data systems with other states. We also selected states to ensure they roughly reflected the demographic diversity of regions across the country.
Across the country, longstanding disparities in resource allocation, high-quality teaching and higher education access have resulted in immeasurable harm to marginalized communities. This trend has seemingly intensified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these opportunity gaps, this project aims to detect and broadcast the specific approaches that schools employ to achieve equity. Since so many students in the United States attend schools that support large populations of historically marginalized students, it is imperative to understand and share broadly what these inspiring schools are doing well. The WestEd team is honored to partner with KnowledgeWorks in this mission-aligned work of improving the learning and outcomes of children, youth, and adults and highlighting what it takes to realize educational equity. Our central objective is to help to close the opportunity gap that so many historically marginalized students across the country face.
After identifying a tiered subset of 45 schools from across the partner states, KnowledgeWorks will work closely with Advisors, the Stakeholder Committee and funders to narrow that set down to the final 15 schools to be studied in-depth. A diverse team of researchers will then engage those schools to reveal what they do to promote equity. We also will explore how these schools adapted during the COVID-19 crisis and attempted to extend their track record at promoting such inspiring results among populations many schools struggle to serve well.
During this second phase of the project, the team will take an in-depth look at a variety of school features including staff allocations and supports, instructional and assessment strategies, school climate and learning environment, parental and community engagement, disciplinary approaches and supports for struggling learners, educator beliefs and professional development, and a host of other factors research has demonstrated contribute to school success.
By interviewing school leaders, staff, teachers, students, parents/guardians/caregivers, and community members, and administering surveys with various stakeholders, conducting observations of learning activities, and probing the ways inspiring schools differ from other comparable schools, we intend to show which high-impact strategies should be implemented at other schools to build the capacity of all schools to serve our most vulnerable students well.
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