Corcoran, Thomas B.

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 15
  • Publication
    Learning Progressions in Science: An Evidence-Based Approach to Reform
    (2009-05-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.; Mosher, Frederic A; Rogat, Aaron
    American education policy seems poised to escalate and shift its two decade long commitment to standards and outcome-based reform. That commitment has involved a set of “grand bargains”, in which the federal government provides Title I (The “No Child Left Behind Act” or NCLB) disadvantaged education funds in return for the states’ agreeing to set ambitious content standards, and define performance or “proficiency” standards associated with them that all students in the states’ schools will be expected to meet by the 2013/2014 school year. The disadvantaged children targeted by Title I are expected to meet the same standards as all of the rest of the children in each state. In return for agreeing to hold their schools accountable for meeting these expectations, the states are left free to set their standards and their related measures of proficiency as they wish, within some broadly defined parameters. And the local school systems and schools in each state, in return for their share of the Title I/NCLB money are left free, for the most part, to choose their preferred approaches to instruction as long as they agree to be held accountable for ensuring that all their students are making adequate progress towards meeting the state’s proficiency goals. So, the general form of each bargain is an agreement to reduce or forgo regulation of inputs in return for a commitment to define, and meet, outcome expectations. But, having agreed to do something they had never before tried to do—to succeed with essentially all students—schools and educators face the problem that they don’t know how to meet their side of the bargain. Proponents and observers of reform claim to be shocked that some states are setting their performance standards in ways that minimize or disguise the degree to which their students are likely to fail to meet the hopes of reform. In addition, schools and teachers are resorting to approaches, such as relentless test preparation and focusing on students who are just at the edge of meeting proficiency requirements, that try to meet the letter of the bargains’ requirements while leaving the more ambitious spirit of the reforms’ hopes well behind, along with all too many children.
  • Publication
    The Limits and Contradictions of Systemic Reform: The Philadelphia Story
    (2002-11-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.; Christman, Jolley Bruce
    In Philadelphia, the Annenberg Challenge was known as Children Achieving and was a districtwide systemic reform initiative designed and led by a small core group of District officials and external partners. This report examines the Children Achieving Challenge and the strategies the designers employed to improve teaching and learning in the public schools. Among the conditions associated with the Annenberg Challenge were requirements that two matching dollars be raised for each one received from the Annenberg Foundation and that an independent management structure be created to provide program, fiscal, and evaluation oversight of the grant. In Philadelphia, a business organization, Greater Philadelphia First, assumed these responsibilities, and with them, the challenge of working with the School District to build and sustain civic support for the improvement of the public schools.
  • Publication
    America's Choice Comprehensive School Reform Design: First-Year Implementation Evaluation Summary
    (2000-02-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.; Hoppe, Margaret; Supovitz, Jonathan A; Luhm, Theresa
    In the fall of 1998, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) contracted with the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) to conduct the evaluation of the America’s Choice School Design. This is a summary of CPRE’s first report of a three-year evaluation of the design. The evaluation of America’s Choice seeks to answer four basic questions: Are schools successfully implementing the America’s Choice program design? What environmental characteristics are facilitating or impeding implementation? How effective is America Choice’s implementation strategy? And what are the impacts of the program on teachers and students? As America’s Choice is still in the early stages of implementation, most evaluation efforts are directed toward the questions about the implementation of the program and the conditions surrounding its implementation. In subsequent years, CPRE increasingly will emphasize its evaluation of the impacts of the program on students. This report describes the first year of the implementation of America’s Choice. Following this introduction, section two provides a description of America’s Choice and the theory behind the America’s Choice school design. Section two concludes with a set of reasonable expectations for the progress of America’s Choice in its first year. Section three describes CPRE’s findings concerning the implementation of America’s Choice, including many of the specific design components. Section four analyzes the role of the school district in the implementation of America’s Choice. The report concludes with a summary of the findings of the first year’s evaluation.
  • Publication
    Expanding Access, Participation, and Success in International Baccalaureate Programmes: Year One Documentation Report
    (2010-10-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.; Gerry, Gail
    In fall 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded a three-year project (IB Access Project) with International Baccalaureate (IB) to increase participation of minority students and students in poverty in the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP). The IB Access Project seeks to do four things: Improve teacher practice in designing curriculum and assessment that prepares students for the DP by providing new resources designed for this project; professional development and instructional support. Improve teacher access to resources for effective assessment design including increased use of online learning environments. Increase teacher onsite professional support around classroom practice. Increase participation of low-income and minority students in the pilot districts in both certificate courses and in the full DP. CPRE's evaluation of the IB project is focused on the changes in the student population, the use of the new instructional tools and participation in the professional development, the teacher perceptions of the progress of the students and the efficacy of the new tools, and changes in the outcomes for the newly recruited students.
  • Publication
    Teaching Matters: How State and Local Policymakers Can Improve the Quality of Teachers and Teaching
    (2007-02-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.
    A growing body of evidence confirms what common sense has suggested all along: The quality of teaching in the public schools matters for how well students learn. An important corollary is that poor children, minority children, and children from nonEnglish-speaking homes are even more dependent on the quality of their teachers than are more affluent, English-speaking, White children. Pressures to improve teacher quality stem mainly from state efforts to hold local schools accountable for student achievement and from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Policymakers want to know how to train, license, recruit, select, deploy, assign, develop, evaluate, retain, and compensate teachers to produce a well-qualified teacher in every classroom and especially in the classrooms that need them the most--those in urban, high-poverty, high-minority, low-performing schools (Ferguson, 1991; Sanders & Rivers, 1996; Sanders & Horn, 1998; Darling-Hammond, 2000). State policy counts as a salient force in shaping teacher quality, with influence in domains including teacher-licensing standards, teacher-education policies, compensation and evaluation, induction, professional development, and data policy and systems. These were key issues addressed by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF, 1997) and the Teaching Commission (2004). This issue of CPRE Policy Briefs summarizes the findings on issues related to teacher quality in the chapter authored by Thomas B. Corcoran in the book, The State of Education Policy Research (Cohen, Fuhrman, & Mosher, Eds., in press). This report also draws on discussions that took place during a Summer, 2006, policy briefing on teacher labor-market issues held in Chicago and sponsored by the Spencer Foundation.
  • Publication
    Expanding Access, Participation, and Success in International Baccalaureate Programmes (IB Access Project): Evaluation Report Year Two
    (2011-09-01) Gerry, Gail; Corcoran, Thomas B.
    In the fall of 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded a three-year project proposed by the International Baccalaureate (IB) to demonstrate the feasibility of increasing the participation of minority students and students in poverty in its Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP) in selected school districts in the United States. “Expanding Access, Participation and Success in IB Programmes” or the IB Access Project, as it has come to be known, is utilizing a multi-faceted technical assistance and materials development strategy to strengthen IB programs and broaden access for students previously excluded in the Anne Arundel County Public Schools, the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, and the Palm Beach County Public Schools. This is a report on the progress made in the second year of the project.
  • Publication
    Science Instruction in Newark Public Schools
    (2011-09-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.; Gerry, Gail B
    The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) has prepared this report on the Newark Public Schools (NPS) for the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) to assist them with the development of a strategic plan for improving science education in the district. The data used in the report have been gathered and analyzed through the collaborative efforts of CPRE, MISE, and Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI). MISE and CPRE collaborated on two rounds of school site visits; CPRE conducted interviews with district officials; MISE staff analyzed Newark’s curriculum documents and administered a survey of Newark teachers and administrators; and HRI reviewed a sample of interim science assessments developed by the NPS staff.
  • Publication
    Getting It Right: The MISE Approach to Professional Development
    (2003-12-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.; McVay, Siobhan; Riordan, Kate
    With an initial 10-year commitment from Merck & Co., Inc. the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) was founded in 1993 to demonstrate that virtually all students could reach high levels of scientific literacy. Shortly thereafter, MISE formed partnerships with four public school districts -- Linden, Rahway, and Readington Township in New Jersey, and North Penn in Pennsylvania -- where Merck has major facilities and a history of providing employee volunteers and supporting local science education initiatives. These district partnerships quickly merged into one multi-district Partnership. MISE's approach to improving science teaching has been systemic, addressing both policy and practice in the partner districts. MISE has helped its partners plan strategically, select highquality instructional resources, support teacher learning, and carry out instructional and curricular reforms. Working together, MISE and its partner districts have developed and implemented a shared vision of good science instruction based on national and state standards. This vision has been the basis for the design and delivery of professional development for teachers and administrators. Sustained by the Partnership since 1994, this professional development program has helped the partner districts make significant reforms in the teaching of science and mathematics. In 1993, MISE contracted with the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania to evaluate the effectiveness of its work with the four districts. CPRE has documented the activity and progress of the Partnership for a decade and has issued a series of reports on its impact. In this report, we assess the Partnership’s approach to professional development. Specifically, we address the following questions: 1. How has the Partnership’s professional development measured up against the emerging standards for professional development? 2. Has participation in Partnership professional development resulted in increased teacher content knowledge? 3. Has participation in Partnership professional development led to changes in instructional practice? 4. Has participation in Partnership professional development resulted in improved student achievement? 5. Has MISE’s strategy strengthened district capacity to support the improvement of teaching? 6. What lessons can be learned from the experience of MISE and the Partnership with professional development?
  • Publication
    The Merck Institute for Science Education: A Successful Intermediary for Education Reform
    (2003-03-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.
    A variety of technical assistance organizations have been created in the last 20 years to help public schools implement reforms to improve their perfor- mance. These organizations vary in size, sponsorship, and focus, but their creation rests on the common premise that the reforms needed in the schools to educate all children to high standards require strong external stimuli and resources and knowledge beyond what are ordinarily available in public school systems (McDonald, McLaughlin, & Corcoran, 2000). Accordingly, these technical assistance organizations forge partnerships with school systems under pressure to improve their performance. Working across the boundaries of the educational system, these organizations serve as catalysts for reform, offering schools and districts expertise and other resources needed to make the desired changes. Dedicated to the implementation of reforms, they are presumed to be free of the ordinary interests and ordinary political pressures and, therefore, more likely to be able to overcome the inertia and resistance that often block reform in public bureaucracies like school systems. Researchers have not paid sufficient attention to these organizations, yet they play an increasingly important role in the improvement of public education. To stimulate more interest in these organizations, and in understanding what makes them effective, we report here on the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE). For nearly 10 years, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) has evaluated MISE’s partnership with four school districts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, providing MISE staff with feedback on the progress of their work and assessing MISE’s impact on schools, teachers, and students. This long-term relationship has provided an extraordinary opportunity for both CPRE and MISE staff to gain insights into how a technical assistance organization works with school districts to change classroom practice. The story of MISE, and its efforts to bring about instructional reforms in science, is a story of vision, collaboration, learning, and persistence. It is also a success story that offers important lessons for other intermediary organizations working with school districts to improve teaching and learning.
  • Publication
    The Use of Research Evidence in Instructional Improvement
    (2003-11-01) Corcoran, Thomas B.
    Those who seek to reform our public schools often argue that school performance would improve if only policy and practice were based on evidence. If decision-makers and practitioners paid more attention to research findings, the argument goes, they would make better decisions about improvement strategies and resource allocation, and we would see better results. The belief in this axiom is demonstrated by the increasing frequency with which reformers, educators, and policymakers find it necessary to legitimate their actions with claims that they are "research-based." However, moving beyond rhetoric to actually put this principle into operation turns out to be difficult. This issue of CPRE Policy Briefs looks at findings from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education's study of how central office and school staff in three urban districts made decisions about instructional improvement strategies, and how much weight they gave to evidence. The three districts, in three different states, had enrollments ranging from 50,000 to over 200,000. Leaders in all three districts were addressing the problems common to most urban districts: students' problems associated with living in poverty, low achievement, high mobility, and high dropout rates. Changes in district and school leadership, high teacher turnover, changes in funding, and new state policies compounded the difficulty of improving performance in all three sites. The districts were also working in environments characterized by decentralized decision-making, high-stakes accountability, and increasing competition among providers of comprehensive school reform designs and other "research-based" instructional improvement strategies. During our study, we looked at three sets of strategic decisions that each district faced as it tried to improve student performance. The first set of decisions concerned what to do (i.e., which reform design or curriculum to adopt). The next set was deciding how to get it done; how to provide adequate support and coordination; and how to focus people's attention on the desired changes, ensure effective implementation, reduce distractions, and buffer this important work from competing agendas. Finally, there were decisions about scaling up the reforms -- the problem of replication. The decision-making process in each case was complicated and the use of evidence to support the ultimate decisions varied considerably. While these categories overlap, they are useful organizers of our findings.