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In 2014, the Stanford University Graduate School of Education (GSE) launched an Incentive Fund for Projects in San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The fund supports faculty research that is conducted in the context of a sustained and deep collaboration with SFUSD. Because the district identifies the problems of practice being researched, the research has a high likelihood of having an effect on policies and practice. The collaboration and funding give Stanford’s GSE an opportunity to make a measureable difference in the quality of education experienced by a very diverse population of students.

Here is a list of the six projects funded for the 2014-2015 school year by the Stanford GSE Incentive Fund for Projects in SFUSD:

 Title: Advancing the Stanford Summer Teaching Institute in SFUSD

Stanford: Associate Professor Janet Carlson

SFUSD: Program Associate Lizzy Barnes and Supervisor Miguel DeLoza

Problem of Practice: How do we build the capacity of teachers to implement early literacy and math instruction that supports the Common Core State Standards?

Research overview: The Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) and SFUSD will collaborate to design selected courses for the Stanford Summer Teaching Institute (SSTI). The courses will focus on SFUSD’s Common Core State Standards math implementation at the middle school level and/or the balanced literacy focus at the elementary level. After the professional development experience is complete, we will study the participating teachers to see what ideas and instructional moves introduced in the professional development are transferred into classroom practice and connects back to student outcomes. SFUSD plans to examine the impact of these courses to decide how to improve the characteristics of it district-wide teacher professional development.

Title: Early warning indicators for middle school students

Stanford: Professor Prudence Carter

SFUSD: Assistant Superintendent Jeannie Pon and Assistant Superintendent Ritu Khanna

Problem of Practice: What predictive indicators can be developed to help identify at-risk middle school students to keep them on track to graduate from high school?

Research overview: This study follows the 2011 John W. Gardner Center-SFUSD analysis and development of Early Warning Indicators (EWI) to identify matriculating high school students who are at risk of not graduating. Now, we seek to expand this work and develop predictive indicators to identify SFUSD students beginning in the sixth grade who are in need of support to stay on track to graduate from high school. Using SFUSD's administrative data, the Gardner Center team will employ longitudinal data analysis to study the characteristics of elementary and early middle school students to identify factors that are 1) most predictive of high school graduation, 2) relevant to the school district, and 3) can be linked to actionable supports.

Title: Scaling-up self-affirmation interventions for schools

Stanford: Professor Geoff Cohen

SFUSD: Principal Demetrius Hobson, Project Manager Orlando Elizondo, Director of Special Projects Joya Balk

Problem of Practice: What strategies increase the positive feelings related to school culture and climate and support students’ and teachers non-cognitive factors in school?

Research overview: We will use self-affirmation research as a basis for developing a unique school site manifesto for SFUSD’s Willie Brown Middle School. The manifesto will outline an implementation plan of psychological and emotional support that is informed by community voice and that connects current research to site practice. The opening of Brown Middle School provides a unique opportunity to build a school model from the ground up that embeds psychological and emotional supports for students and faculty into the very fabric of the school. Working with school leaders and classroom teachers as well as directly with students, the proposed interventions will be integrated into the school's strategic plan so they become natural and fundamental components of the school climate. These psychological and emotional supports and the positive consequences that they give rise to will be codified and scaled to schools throughout the district.

Title: Building instructional leadership capacity across SFUSD’s elementary schools

Stanford: Professor Linda Darling Hammond and Associate Director Ann Jaquith

SFUSD: Supervisor Eve Arbogast and Assistant Superintendent Brent Stephens of the elementary district team; Assistant Superintendent Dee Dee Desmond and Executive Director Dongshil Kim of the Bayview team.

Problem of Practice: How can SFUSD’s elementary district team best support principals and site-based instructional leadership teams to work together effectively, focus on learning how to improve instructional leadership practice and instruction in their schools, and support changes to school culture and classroom instruction?

Research overview: Related research questions for this project are: 1) What kinds of practices—among elementary district leaders, among principals and among instructional leadership teams within schools—lead to improved instruction? 2) How do district leaders support principals to lead instructional improvement in their schools? 3) How do district leaders learn how to support principals' instructional leadership? 4) How, and in what ways, do principals learn how to support teachers' instructional leadership and improvement to instructional practice? 5) How do principals grow instructional leadership capacity in their schools for continuous improvement to teaching and student learning? Stanford researchers will use design implementation research to document and examine the work on building instructional leadership capacity at all of its elementary schools, with specific attention to its lower performing schools.

Title: The effects of the ethnic studies curriculum on student outcomes

Stanford: Professor Tom Dee

SFUSD: Assistant Superintendent Bill Sanderson

Problem of Practice: What effect does SFUSD’s ethnic studies curriculum have on a range of student outcomes?

Research Overview: This study will use archival, administrative data to examine the causal effects of participating in the ethnic-studies curriculum on a range of student outcomes (e.g. GPA and credits earned, attendance, and drop out status, suspensions and expulsions, Individualized Education Plan status, California Standards Test and California High School Exit Exam performance). The study will use administrative data on students (those who took the course and those who did not) to compare academic outcomes among students whose baseline data meant they were just eligible or ineligible for assignment to the course sequence.

Title: Measuring implementation and quality of English Learner Pathways

Stanford: Professors Claude Goldenberg and Sean Reardon

SFUSD: Special Assistant to the Superintendent Christina Wong

Problem of Practice: How do we measure the quality of SFUSD’s different pathways for English Learners?

Research Overview: This study will assess the quality and implementation of the SFUSD English Plus, Biliteracy, and Dual Immersion pathways for English Learners. What constitutes “quality” will be informed by: (a) each program model and its constituent components, including the implementation of English Language Development Standards; and (b) existing research on effective instructional practices for English Learners.  After distilling the essential features of the district’s three English Learner pathways and the knowledge of teachers and administrators participating in the design group, we will develop an observation protocol to permit the collection of classroom data to determine to what extent these features are present in classrooms in each pathway.