Pondering Effective Research-Practice Partnerships - What skills Make them Successful?

Pondering Excellence in Teaching, A Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) Speaker Series

February 28, 2017

Laura Wentworth reviews existing research describing the skills needed for partnering between research and practitioners as well as skills emerging from the field within the partnership between Stanford Graduate School of Education and San Francisco Unified. Implications for training both doctoral students hoping to become academics and educators pursuing their administrator's credential will be discussed.

SFUSD-Stanford GSE Pathways Observation Protocol Starter Packet

August 2016

The SFUSD-Stanford GSE Pathways Observation Protocol was designed to be used to observe English Language Learner Instructional Practice in the English Learner Pathways at San Francisco Unified. This packet provides you with a training overview, practice modules, and the observation protocol itself. The Protocol was a product of a research project participating in the third year the Stanford University Graduate School of Education (GSE) 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.

Navigating Through the Documents

Thank you for your interest in learning how to use the SFUSD-Stanford GSE Pathways Observation Protocol. This Starter Pack includes: 

  1. SFUSD-Stanford Measuring EL Pathways Presentation Video (1a) and Script (1b) 
  2. EL Pathways Observation Protocol (2a) and Guide (2b)  
  3. iWalk Download Instructions

1a. SFUSD-Stanford Measuring EL Pathways Presentation and Script (1b) 

This video provides background on the research study that developed the protocol and activities to practice application of the protocol.

1b. Observation Protocol Presentation- SCRIPT per slide

This script is for reference while watching the video to the left. 

2a. SFUSD Stanford GSE Pathways Observation Protocol 

This file is the observation protocol itself. 

2b. SFUSD - Stanford EL Pathways Protocol- GUIDE 

This file is the guide that provides an explanation of the descriptor and an observable example for each. Since the video only covers a portion of the protocol, it is important to fully review the guide before using the protocol during observations. 

3. iWalk Download Instructions 

  1. License required
  2. SFUSD employees-- please contact supervisor 
  3. Non-SFUSD employees-- contact Kevin Crotchett at kevinc@iwalkobservation.com 

Interested in downloading all files at once?

Download from this Google Drive Folder: 


Stanford GSE announces the 2016-17 Incentive Fund Recipients for projects in SFUSD

August 2016

This is the third year the Stanford University Graduate School of Education (GSE) supported 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. 

Below is a list of the six projects funded for the 2016-2017 school year by the Stanford GSE Incentive Fund for Projects in SFUSD:


Practical Measures for Improving the Quality of Mathematics Classroom Practice

Stanford: Professor Hilda Borko

SFUSD: Program Administrator Elizabeth Hull Barnes

Problem of Practice: How can SFUSD assess the quality of discourse in mathematics?

Overview: The purpose of this study is to develop a set of practical measures (Bryk, et al, 2015) that can be used to assess the quality of discourse in mathematics classrooms and associated implementation routines. In collaboration with colleagues at Vanderbilt University and the University of Washington, the project will develop brief surveys to assess students’ perceptions of the quality of small group and whole-class discussions in mathematics classrooms, data collection and analysis routines, and data representations to share findings with multiple audiences. The measures will be aligned with the SFUSD vision of powerful classrooms, with a particular focus on improving students’ access to mathematics content, and their agency, authority and identity.


iLabs Design Thinking Innovations Research

Stanford: Professor Shelley Goldman

SFUSD: iLab Director Brian Fox

Problem of Practice: How can schools design new solutions to persistent equity dilemmas facing their communities within the context of limited financial and human resources?

Overview: The purpose of the research is to examine and profile the evolution of innovation and equity that results from iLab activities. The iLab is committed to using a design thinking process and promoting related mindsets through training and coaching in design as part of a change management process. The study will examine how school teams winning iLab support through the Innovation Awards are using design thinking to develop innovations that address the specific achievement and equity goals they identify. The research will be aimed at profiling how the training and design thinking problem solving process are understood and put to work in helping innovations be conceptualized and implemented in the awarded schools.


Examining the process and evidence explored during the SFUSD Student Assignment Decision in 2009-2010

Stanford: Assistant Professor Leah Gordon

SFUSD: Executive Director Orla O’Keeffe

Problem of Practice: What are the driving criteria of the different student assignment options explored in 2008-10?

Overview: This study will review artifacts from the 2009-2010 policy development process when the district was considering a proposed change to its student assignment policy. SFUSD policy-makers are in the process of re-examining the student assignment policy and want a survey of documents reflecting the decision-making processes that led to this policy change.


Early Literacy Risk Assessment Partnership

Stanford: Professor Bruce McCandliss

SFUSD: Chief of Special Education Elizabeth Blanco & Chief of Curriculum and Instruction Brent Stephens

Problem of Practice: What is the research-based framework for supports and assessments for students with learning disabilities?

Overview: The central aims of this partnership involve a thought partnership to engage in shared dialogue between research and practice, followed by a systematic assessment of available data on current practice and analysis of potential changes, including jointly-designed pilot studies. The project is designed to help inform new approaches to dyslexia screening in response to a new state mandate requiring a phonological screening for dyslexia by 2017-2018.


Educational success of highly mobile students

Stanford: Assistant Professor Jelena Obradovic and the John W. Gardner Center

SFUSD: Chief of Student, Family, and Community Support Kevin Truitt and Executive Director Mary Richards

Problem of Practice:  How can we help SFUSD/how can SFUSD better track, understand, and support their homeless and highly mobile (HHM) student population?

Overview: The study is designed to describe the growing homeless and highly mobile (HHM) student population and to advance our understanding of various risks that these students face. In addition to analyzing the size and distribution of the HHM population across a range of school and student characteristics, the study will identify the implications of being homeless and highly mobile by studying various processes and outcomes related to educational success, including school attendance, academic achievement, socio-emotional learning, and students’ participation in relevant existing services


English Learners' Access to Science: An Exploratory Investigation of the SFUSD Middle School Science Core Curriculum, Assessments, and PD

Stanford: Professor Guillermo Solano-Flores, the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity, and Understanding Language

SFUSD: Program Administrator Sarah Delaney

Problem of Practice: How might we develop a core curriculum that will ensure that every student has access to high-quality and engaging teaching and learning in science?

Overview: “Learning Through Performance” (LTP) in middle school science is a collaborative project between SFUSD and UL/SCALE in which teacher-leaders, teachers, and UL/SCALE staff are co-designing professional development and NGSS-aligned science curriculum with embedded performance assessments. At the center of this collaboration is a shared goal to ensure that every student has access to high quality and engaging teaching and learning in science. To achieve this goal it is critical that we more fully understand how curriculum, assessments, and instruction support access and achievement of students who are English Learners (ELs).  Thus, the purpose of this study is to build a research base in order to: 1) Identify and document issues and challenges relevant to equitable participation and optimal performance-based learning for ELs that emerge during the planning, development, and implementation of the Grades 7 and 8 NGSS-aligned science courses; and 2) Address those issues and challenges as they emerge with the intent to ensure effective curriculum, assessments, and instruction

Stanford GSE announces its Request for Proposals for the Stanford GSE Incentive Fund for Projects in SFUSD

April 2016

On April 1, 2016, Stanford Graduate School of Education announced its requests for proposals for the third year of the Incentive Fund for Projects in San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The GSE will provide funding for faculty-initiated research projects in SFUSD that align with the priorities of the district. 

On April 1, 2016, Stanford Graduate School of Education announced its requests for proposals for the third year of the Incentive Fund for Projects in San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The GSE will provide funding for faculty-initiated research projects in SFUSD that align with the priorities of the district. The research has a high likelihood of having an effect on policies and practice because district administrators identify the problems of practice being researched and engage in a dialog with Stanford researchers throughout the life of a project. The collaboration and funding thus gives the GSE an opportunity to make a measureable difference in the quality of education experienced by a very diverse population of students. The Incentive Fund allows faculty to by-pass lengthy funding processes and to provide a much more timely response to district research needs.


A joint selection committee comprising two SFUSD representatives (SFUSD’s Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Social Justice and Chief of Research, Planning, and Assessment) and two Stanford representatives (to be selected by the Stanford GSE Dean) will make sure the Stanford projects awarded funding meet three criteria:

Criterion #1: The project is aligned with SFUSD research agenda.

Criterion #2: The project meets Stanford GSE’s standard for generalizability – likely to produce findings that will be relevant and useful to other school districts.

Criterion #3: The project has a clear SFUSD leader who helped to shape the research question(s), is willing to help operationalize the project and has a strong desire to utilize the findings in their day-to-day work or decisions.


The proposals are due May 16, 2016 at midnight. Completed proposals to the Incentive Fund should be sent to Laura Wentworth at laura@caedpartners.org. Incentive fund awards will be announced by July 1, 2016 and incentive fund awards will be distributed by August 1, 2016.


If you have any questions, please send them to Laura Wentworth at laura@caedpartners.org or call Laura at 415-279-8446.


Please see the document to the right for the forms and directions necessary to apply. Only Stanford Graduate School of Education Professors in partnership with SFUSD administrators can apply to this funding opportunity.

Blog: Foundational Research on Grit, Purpose & Belonging

By Ada Ocampo

What do we mean when we talk about developing grit, a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging in students, especially in reference to students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds? In response to this question, this blog focuses in on three seminal works from key scholars in the field. William Damon, a Stanford Professor, focuses his research on the role that "purpose" plays in youth development with implications to fulfillment later in life. Greg Walton, a Stanford Psychology Professor, has dedicated his works in finding interventions to mitigate stereotype threat with a focus on social belonging. Angela Duckworth, a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is well known for developing the concept of "grit" within the academic context.

Sense of Purpose

(William Damon, 2008) *


Related Video: Damon with UPenn Character Lab (2013-14)

Related Article: The Why Question. Education Next (2009).


What is it?

“A purpose is an ultimate concern . It is the final answer to the question Why?... A purpose is a deeper reason for the immediate goals and motives that drive most daily behavior.”


Why does it matter?

People who find a sense of purpose are found to be happier and feel more fulfilled in life.


What can schools do to develop a sense of purpose?

To answer this question, William Damon studies the pathways of many students whose sense of purpose varies. For those students who lead extremely purposeful lives, he identifies a sequence of common steps (Table 1) on the pathway towards purpose. One can imagine ways in which each step can be supported or integrated within a school.

In the context of schooling, Damon argues that schools should move beyond short-horizon thinking such as achieving good grades and, instead, design curriculum which ties the global overarching why of the content at hand. For example, to what end is a student learning to multiply fractions? What career is this connected to? What global problem will the student be able to fix as a result of learning this?

Damon also emphasizes the crucial role that societal culture can play in a young person’s search for purpose. Based on his findings, he draws the connection between a strong community that together leads youth to purposeful ventures. In supporting youth, he advocates for the “ positive youth development approach ” where adults are not “fixing” students, but instead adults are understanding, and engaging children in productive, purposeful activities. Specifically, given current trends, he advocates for a heightened civic education where schools teach students how to engage within their communities and political system to combat the sense of apathy and powerlessness youth are currently expressing.


Social Belonging

(Greg Walton, 2012)


Related Video: Walton interviews with the Stanford Graduate School of Business


What is it?

In psychology, social belonging is the term used to refer to one’s perception of whether their individuality is accepted, valued, or respected by others in a social setting.


Why does it matter?

Low levels of social belonging in educational contexts may lead to lower academic outcomes (i.e. dropout, low GPA). Greg Walton, a Stanford Psychologist, studies the relationship between social belonging and stereotype threat—a situational stressor of confirming negative stereotypes (e.g., “women are bad at math”). Walton argues that social belonging and the experience of being negatively stereotyped (i.e., stereotype threat) are mutually incompatible. If a person is in a social context where there negative stereotype could be proven correct (e.g., Women’s quantitative abilities in high level math course), they will feel that they do not belong in that classroom. Thus, Walton theorizes that increasing one’s feelings of social belonging will mitigate the effects of stereotype threat and improve academic performance.


What can schools do to develop feelings of social belonging?

With this theory in mind, Walton designs a social belonging intervention which has been found to have long-lasting effects on academic outcomes in various contexts. In a college freshman experiment with black and white students, black students who experienced the intervention reported higher levels of social belonging when faced with adversity (e.g. “bad days”) and received 1/3 of a grade point higher than their control group counterparts and the black students’ campus wide, which persisted for the next three years. The intervention changed their academic trajectory. 

The social belonging intervention known as the attributional retraining intervention delivers three key messages: 1) there is an alternative, non-threatening explanation for negative events in school; 2) worrying about negative social experiences and belonging are normal at first in a new school and not reflective of actual lack of belonging to the social group; 3) these negative experiences will reduce over time and you will begin to feel at home. In this intervention, these key messages were delivered through survey results from upper-year students in the same school. Based on psychology-research methods of processing known as “saying is believing,” students also wrote an essay about the change students’ experience in college over time and then delivered their essay as a speech to a video camera, which was framed as a video resource to be shown during freshmen orientation the following year to help future students better adjust to the college environment.

They replicated this intervention at the middle school level and found similar results. The black middle school students reported higher levels of social belonging over three years, received higher grades in 8 th grade, and also experienced less disciplinary incidents.




(Angela Duckworth, 2007)


Related Video: TEDtalk: Duckworth- The Key to Success? Grit (2013)


Related Article: Response: It’s Time to Change the Conversation about Grit (2015).


What is it?

Grit is defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals.


Why does it matter?

The introduction of the concept of Grit and a measurement for Grit, developed by Angela Duckworth (2007) . Grit has been shown to account for successful outcomes in very challenging contexts (e.g., Ivy League, Spelling bee, West Point Academy). The idea counters the popular belief that only talent decides fate, but instead determined perseverance linked with long-term passion plays a significant role in ultimate success. The idea provides a different lens from which educators can approach their students’ development. 


What can schools do to develop grit?

Research to answer this question is underdeveloped. Only one study focused on spelling bee competitors has drawn a positive relationship between “deliberate practice”-- practice where a student receives immediate informative feedback and has the opportunity to try again and change incorrect methods/answers—and increased levels of grit. Nevertheless, Angela Duckworth offers three theoretical methods to increase grit at Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s 2015 Annual Summit.

The first method is to encourage students to focus and appreciate the task at hand instead of imagining themselves in another place.

The second approach is to promote a growth mindset. Duckworth has found that “grittier” students tend to have more of a growth mindset; thus, if you develop a growth mindset, you are likely to also develop grit.

Lastly, schools should build in opportunities for deliberate practice” in educational contexts. Deliberate practice is one in which students set a specific goal, practice, receive immediate informative feedback, reflect on their feedback, refine their practice and repeat. Duckworth argues that individualized immediate informative feedback is often not as present in the classroom as you would expect.


Stanford-SFUSD Partnership Winter Reads for Administrators



Below are ten recommended books for administrator’s reading over the winter break.  The list is based on recent administrators’ requests for research and current problems of practice being dis cussed in SFUSD. I list the citation, one sentence explaining why I recommend this book, and an abstract from Amazon.


1. Mathematical Mindsets. Unleashing Students Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages, and Innovative Teaching .

By Jo Boaler, 2015


This book would be helpful for administrators trying to understand SFUSD’s policy aimed at de-tracking math courses and actually references SFUSD’s work.




Mathematical Mindsets turns research findings into practical activities and advice. Boaler translates Carol Dweck's concept of 'mindset' into math teaching and parenting strategies, showing how students can go from self-doubt to strong self-confidence, which is so important to math learning. Boaler reveals the steps that must be taken by schools and parents to improve math education for all. Mathematical Mindsets :

2. Data wise, revised and expanded edition: A step-by-step guide to using assessment results to improve teaching and learning .


Editors: Kathryn Parker Boudett, Elizabeth A. City, & Richard J. Murnane, 2013


For those administrators interested in a cycle of inquiry which helps them examine systematic data, this book is a great reference.  While the data examined takes place at a school level, the steps are also relevant for a systematic perspective.


In the wake of the accountability movement, school administrators are inundated with data about their students. How can they use this information to support student achievement? This book presents a clear and carefully tested blueprint for school leaders. It shows how examining test scores and other classroom data can become a catalyst for important schoolwide conversations that will enhance schools' ability to capture teachers' knowledge, foster collaboration, identify obstacles to change, and enhance school culture and climate.


3.     Meeting wise: Making the most of collaborative time for educators .


By Kathryn Parker Boudett & Elizabeth A. City, 2014


For administrators who love Instruction Rounds and Data Wise, and want to be more efficient and effective in their meetings, I think this book would be a great read.



This book, by two editors of Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning , attempts to bring about a fundamental shift in how educators think about the meetings we attend. They make the case that these gatherings are potentially the most important venue where adult and organizational learning can take place in schools, and that making more effective use of this time is the key to increasing student achievement.


4. Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better .


By Anthony S. Bryk, Louis M. Gomez, Alicia Grunow, & Paul G. Lem, 2015


This book would be helpful for administrators who are addressing big, hairy problems of practice, and wants some structures for guiding their improvements efforts. Also, for those administrators who loved Tony Bryk’s work on the five essential supports, this is a must read as this book expresses the next iteration of thinking around school improvement.



In   Learning to Improve , the authors argue for a new approach. Rather than “implementing fast and learning slow,” they believe educators should adopt a more rigorous approach to improvement that allows the field to “learn fast to implement well.”   Using ideas borrowed from improvement science, the authors show how a process of disciplined inquiry can be combined with the use of networks to identify, adapt, and successfully scale up promising interventions in education. Organized around six core principles, the book shows how “networked improvement communities” can bring together researchers and practitioners to accelerate learning in key areas of education.


5. Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance .

Editors: Prudence L. Carter & Kevin G. Welner, 2013


Many administrators are trying to get at problems of practice related to race, culture, poverty, and general gaps in outcomes, and this book helps to frame the research and general thinking about these concepts quite well. This one is on my short list to read!




Closing the Opportunity Gap offers accessible, research-based essays written by top experts who highlight the discrepancies that exist in our public schools, focusing on how policy decisions and life circumstances conspire to create the "opportunity gap" that leads inexorably to stark achievement gaps. They also describe sensible policies grounded in evidence that can restore and enhance opportunities. Moving beyond conventional academic discourse, Closing the Opportunity Gap will spark vital new conversations about what schools, parents, educators, and policymakers can and should do to give all children a fair chance to thrive.


6. Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom, Third Edition .


By Elizabeth G. Cohen & Rachel A. Lotan, 2014


Many SFUSD teachers, especially SFUSD math teachers, have been using instructional strategies stemming from this research by Cohen and Lotan, known to most as Complex Instruction.



Based on years of research and teaching experience, the new edition of this popular book features significant updates on the successful use of cooperative learning to build equitable classrooms.   Designing Groupwork, Third Edition   incorporates current research findings with new material on what makes for a groupworthy task, and shows how groupwork contributes to growth and development in the language of instruction. Responding to new curriculum standards and assessments across all grade levels and subject areas, this edition shows teachers how to organize their classroom so that all students participate actively. This valuable and sensible resource is essential reading for educators at both the elementary and secondary levels, for teachers in training, and for anyone working in the field of education.


7. The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life .


By William Damon, 2009


With so much talk among administrators about concepts relating to social-psychological research like mindsets, belonging, stereotype threat, I would recommend this book by Stanford Professor Damon.



Drawing on the revelatory results of a landmark study, William Damon brilliantly investigates the most pressing issue in the lives of youth today: why so many young people are "failing to launch" -- living at home longer, lacking career motivation, struggling to make a timely transition into adulthood, and not yet finding a life pursuit that inspires them.


Damon shows that the key ingredient for the highly engaged is that they have developed a clear sense of purpose in their lives that motivates them and gives them direction. Based on in-depth interviews, he takes readers inside the minds of the disengaged and drifting kids and exposes their confusion and anxiety about what they should do with their lives. He then offers compelling portraits of the young people who are thriving and identifies the nine key factors that have made the difference for them, presenting simple but powerful methods that parents and all adults can and must employ in order to cultivate that energized sense of purpose in young people that will launch them on the path to a deeply satisfying and productive life.

8. The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children


By Gloria Ladson-Billings, 2009


Many SFUSD administrators reference the aspirational goal of culturally relevant pedagogy. If administrators are interested in this topic, I would recommend this book by Gloria Ladson-Billings.



In the second edition of her critically acclaimed book The Dreamkeepers , Gloria Ladson-Billings revisits the eight teachers who were profiled in the first edition and introduces us to new teachers who are current exemplars of good teaching. She shows that culturally relevant teaching is not a matter of race, gender, or teaching style. What matters most is a teacher's efforts to work with the unique strengths a child brings to the classroom. A brilliant mixture of scholarship and storytelling, The Dreamkeepers challenges us to envision intellectually rigorous and culturally relevant classrooms that have the power to improve the lives of not just African American students, but all children. This new edition also includes questions for reflection.


9. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotype Threats Affect us and What We Can Do .


By Claude M. Steele, 2011


Again, if you are an administrator interested in issues related to school culture and climate or students social-psychological well-being, I recommend administrators read this book by Claude Steele.



The acclaimed social psychologist offers an insider’s look at his research and groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity. Claude M. Steele, who has been called “one of the few great social psychologists,” offers a vivid first-person account of the research that supports his groundbreaking conclusions on stereotypes and identity. He sheds new light on American social phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men, and lays out a plan for mitigating these “stereotype threats” and reshaping American identities.


10. The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program: Research Project.


By Carol Campbell, Ann Lieberman & Anna Yashkina, 2013


This is the only publication on my list that is not a book, but this is a must read for administrators interested in building a career lattice for teachers and generally supporting teacher professional growth and retention.



Launched in 2007, the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) in Ontario, Canada is a joint initiative between the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) and the Ontario Ministry of Education with shared goals to: support experienced teachers to undertake self-directed advanced professional development; develop teachers’ leadership skills for sharing their professional learning and exemplary practices; and facilitate knowledge exchange for spread and sustainability of effective and innovative practices. Each year, experienced classroom teachers can apply individually or in a team to conduct a TLLP project.


This report on the TLLP asks three overarching questions:   What is the value of TLLP for teachers? To what extent have the overall goals of TLLP been realized?   What lessons can be learned so far?


San Diego and Seattle’s Gems from the Early Education Department’s Data Day

In September 2015, the Early Education Department (EED) hosted six California school districts to discuss their collaboration with university partners, and discuss r esearch strategy for Pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade alignment.

Laura Kohn, Executive Director of Education Synergy Alliance in San Diego, and Sonja Griffin of the Seattle Early Learning Academy shared some of their takeaways from their experience in San Francisco.


San Francisco’s explicit focus on equity was an unexpected, significant takeaway for the Seattle and San Diego leaders. Griffin took note of this cohesive and pervasive lens, “Every person who presented lead with the image and message around equity.” Kohn noticed the extension of the vision for equity into practice; “They talk about it explicitly, measure it, and hold themselves accountable for it both in internal planning and in frequent dialogs with the public.”

Kindergarten Readiness Measure: “A seemingly simple idea, yet very, very complicated.”

In the 2011-12 academic year, SFUSD’s Early Education Department partnered with Stanford University Professor Susanna Loeb and then doctoral candidate Ben York to develop a kindergarten readiness measure to understand whether students were or were not ready for kindergarten. The kindergarten readiness measure combines information on multiple aspects of child development into one holistic measure. Children are rated “Kindergarten Ready” if they meet 6 of 8 Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) benchmarks and score on average of 3 of 5 or higher on all Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP) domains.

Both Kohn and Griffin acknowledged the value of having a kindergarten readiness measure to assess the impact and progress of the pre-kindergarten grade. “We may all agree that our students need to be kindergarten ready, but we do not yet have an agreement on what K-readiness is,” reflected Griffin on the utility of the measure.

The attendees were impressed by the willingness and effort that was needed to engage in the 5-year iterative process for developing the measure, which sought to include all stakeholder voices.  Ben York, Executive Director of CEPA Labs, explained the multi-year process as necessary to ensure the measure, “always communicates the highest expectations and is most informative to kindergarten teachers and other users.”


Many of the districts attending that day walked away with lingering incredulity and resounding excitement for READY4K , a text-messaging program designed to provide parents of preschoolers with the beliefs, skills, encouragement and support necessary to enhance their home literacy practices. In particular, Kohn emphatically stated the program’s impact in an email reporting back to her department, “The kids of parents who got the READY4K! program texts arrived at Kindergarten two or three months ahead. Wow, that’s a lot of impact from a nearly free intervention!”

PreK-3 Alignment

San Francisco Unified School District is one of the few public school systems at the forefront of integrating pre-kindergarten into the K-12 structure. SFUSD made significant progress towards aligning standards from pre-kindergarten to 3 rd grade. The work to establish a kindergarten readiness indicator set a data strategy to facilitate prospective alignment. Both Griffin and Kohn cited another significant strategy from a subsequent portion of the week that involved utilization of Instructional Rounds. In this case, the kindergarten teachers observed prekindergarten classrooms, which then lead to an increased fruitful collaboration between Pre-K and K teachers. This particular instance was seen as a small, yet powerful instructional leadership move towards alignment among the various other facets that goes into cohesive, thorough PreK-3 alignment.

Inclusive, Long-Term Commitment

As our early education visitors and thought partners reflected on the SFUSD Early Education Department’s initiatives highlighted throughout the week, they recognized not only the fruits of the labor, but the multi-faceted, multi-year engagement in continuous improvement by all stakeholders that allowed and supports the successful endeavors at SFUSD. Griffin expressed this fact with appreciation, “All stakeholders, including policy makers and funders are in-sync. They are all engaged in the thoughtful consideration of designing something that is very comprehensive and meets the individual needs of children and their families. All partners are in the journey for the long haul. They understand that this is not an overnight fix.”




We asked visiting districts to share interesting takeaways from the highlighted research through a Data Walk. See there takeaways below.

This is the second year the Stanford University Graduate School of Education (GSE) supported 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 five projects funded for the 2015-2016 school year by the Stanford GSE Incentive Fund for Projects in SFUSD:


Weaving Social-Psychological Research Into the Fabric of a School, Year 2

Stanford : Professor Geoff Cohen

SFUSD : Principal Demetrius Hobson, Director of Special Projects Joya Balk

Problem of Practice: How can we weave the principles from social psychological research into the everyday practices and policies of a school?

Overview: In its second year, the overarching goal of the project is to enhance the sense of belonging, trust, self-efficacy, self-integrity, and growth mindset in staff and students.  This can be thought of on three levels: institution-wide policies and practices, teachers and staff, and students. Ideally, this will evolve into a model for “wise” institutional development that can be used to inform school design and management. This project will accomplish these goals by: first, implementing a set of “tried and true” social-psychological interventions; and, second, by engaging teachers in a cycle of inquiry around the research to find new ways to incorporate principles from social psychology into everyday practices in the school. A combination of a randomized control trial and other analytic methods will be used to examine the effects of the project over time.


Developing System Capacity for Instructional Leadership, Year 2

Stanford: Professor Linda Darling Hammond, Associate Director Ann Jaquith, and Research and Policy Fellow Elizabeth Stosich

SFUSD: Supervisor Eve Arbogast and the central administrative team supporting elementary schools; Directors Han Phung and Pablo Villavicencio of the central administrative team supporting high schools

Problem of Practice: How can SFUSD’s elementary and high school district teams support site-based   instructional leadership teams '   work together to focus on improving instructional leadership   practices, school culture, classroom instruction?

Overview : The study is designed to understand and explain how district leaders can enhance instructional leadership in schools through their work with principals and their Instructional Leadership Teams (ILTs) comprised of administrators and teachers. At the elementary level, the project focuses on three goals: 1) documenting administrators efforts to develop principals’ capacity to improve instruction in their schools, and strengthening their efforts through our role as thought-partners; and 2) To empirically examine how a district develops instructional coherence across the nested but distinct contexts of a school system to improve teaching and learning. At the high school level, the administrative team will use the Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL), a school-wide leadership assessment and feedback system developed and validated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to assess school conditions for instructional improvement and identify actions principals and ILTs can take to improve these conditions.



Building Capacity for Professional Learning of English Language Development

Stanford : Professor Kenji Hakuta, Researcher Jeff Zwiers

SFUSD : Special Assistant to the Superintendent Christina Wong, Supervisor Angie Estonina

Problem of Practice : What are features of an effective professional development model that emphasizes communication-focused teaching of English Language Development in various instructional settings?

Overview: The goal of this research project is to build district and site capacity to improve the practices that teachers use to develop English (especially academic English) during instruction with English learners. The main purpose of the research is to understand the most effective ways to foster teachers' abilities to design lessons and to teach with authentic and engaging communication activities in order to maximize the development of students' academic English. This project will engage teachers in kindergarten through twelfth grade in a professional development series, including their participation in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by Stanford’s Understanding Language initiative. Researchers will gather and analyze data on shifts in teacher instruction and the impact teachers have on student outcomes. Data gathering tools include observation protocols (based on previous Stanford-SFUSD partnerships), surveys, interviews, and MOOC assignments.


Identifying and Addressing Human Resource Needs in SFUSD

Stanford : Professor Susanna Loeb

SFUSD : Executive Director Daniel Menezes for SFUSD’s Human Resources Department

Problem of Practice : How can SFUSD develop and retain talented teachers and leaders to support district goals?

Overview: This project will continue a partnership originally established to evaluate Quality Teacher and Education Act (QTEA) in San
 Francisco and seeks to deepen the collaboration between SFUSD Human Resources and Susanna Loeb’s research team in the Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA). Our project will support data collection, management, and sharing in order to bolster SFUSD’s capacity to develop its teacher, leader, and staff talent. We will analyze the major staffing concerns of SFUSD: applications (the hiring process), promotions (career pathways), and retention. Within each of these areas, we will integrate existing SFUSD administrative data with new survey data collected by Stanford. By preserving unique SFUSD data and producing new data that are not commonly found in other settings but are relevant to the larger urban education landscape, our project seeks to integrate several sources of workforce data to provide research that supports SFUSD and helps us understand education labor markets more broadly.


Sustaining Equitable Pedagogy in Heterogeneous Math Classrooms

Stanford: Professor Rachel Lotan

SFUSD : Program Administrator Lizzy Barnes and Math Specialist Angela Torres

Problem of Practice : How do you sustain equitable pedagogy in heterogeous math classrooms across a school and across a district?

Overview: This study will provide systematic documentation of teacher practices in support of equitable student learning in heterogeneous Complex Instruction classrooms. Stanford researchers will gather evidence for the development of mathematical practices and mathematical thinking among students in Complex Instruction classrooms . The data collected will be used to explore the organizational and professional conditions that support productive implementation of Complex Instruction at school sites and inform the district leadership in San Francisco and beyond of the necessary conditions and resources for deepening district-wide implementation of equitable pedagogies such as Complex Instruction . D istrict   capacity to sustain and expand the program will be enhanced.  

GSE Internship Highlight: Student Nutrition Services

June 2015 | By Emma Bean, GSE Master's Student in Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies Program

In the 14-15 academic year, GSE Master 's student, Emma Bean, interned with the Student Nutrition Services Team to further understand the key factors that were associated with high and low participation in the SFUSD Meal Program. Emma Bean conducted descriptive analysis of the existing participation data. From this data, general trends were reported and outliers were identified for further observation. 

Healthy Children are Ready to Learn


SFUSD Initiative

SFUSD is committed to creating access to free, reduced-, and full-priced lunches to children in public schools. SFUSD has made considerable efforts to change their healthy meals program, including contracting an independent vendor Revolution Foods to provide fresh and nutritious meals to diverse students within the school district. However, despite the improvement in meals provided, not all students are participating in meals district wide. In particular, the district is interested in identifying key factors that are associated with high and low participation among different ages and demographics.


Research into the Efficacy of SFUSD’s Healthy Meals Initiative

The Student Nutrition Services team has been working to further understand participation patterns. By looking at current student participation data, variables associated with meal distribution, and school site-specific factors, the team is interested in articulating associated contributions and barriers to participation.


Examples of questions analyzed and a summary of initial results include:

  1. What is the relationship between the percent of Free and Reduced Lunch qualifying students in each school, and the percentage of Free and Reduced Lunch student participation?


Descriptive data analyses shows that in schools with low percentages of Free and Reduced Lunch students enrolled school wide, lower percentages of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch participate in school lunch programs. Conversely, in schools with higher percentages of Free and Reduced Lunch qualifying students tend to have higher percentages of participating students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch.



The Student Nutritional Services team identified outliers to these trends. For schools with low percentages of Free and Reduced Lunch qualifying students enrolled school wide, the team identified schools with high levels of participation. These schools will serve as examples for further qualitative research in order to know what factors contribute to their high rates of participation among students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. The team also identified outlier schools for low levels of participation of qualifying Free and Reduced Lunch students in school with high levels of qualifying Free and Reduced Lunch students school wide. These schools also are identified for further qualitative research to understand contributing barriers to participation, and perhaps sites for intervention.






  1. What are trends in participation between different demographic profiles (race/ethnicity, SES)?


Among all ages, the team identified participation trends between different ethnicities. During the fall semester of the 2014-2015 academic school year, non-Chinese Asian and Pacific Islander and White students under participated, when compared to their demographic representation district wide. In contrast, African American, Chinese and Hispanic/Latino students over participated, when compared to each subgroup’s percent representation district wide.






  1. Among Elementary-aged students, does having recess before or after lunch contribute to increased lunch participation?


At this point, results are inconclusive because of the small sample size and range in results. The team has committed to gathering more data to better analyze the relationship between these potentially correlated factors.


  1. Among Elementary-aged students, does the number of minutes and/or the number of students in the cafeteria contribute to school lunch participation?


The general trend shows that the greater the number of students per minute was, the lower the participation in the lunch program.  Yet, the data also shows that the mean number of students per minute in the district is 1.75 students/minute and the median is 0.94 student/minute. Additionally, for this particular analysis two schools were taken out of the sample since they were outliers with high number of students per minute as well as high participation rates: Gordon Lau, 7.5 students/minute, 82.1% ADP & Sanchez, 6.7 students per minute, 78.7% ADP.

From Demetrius Hobson, Willie Brown Middle School Principal


After attending Office of Access & Equity’s professional development session featuring Stanford University Professor Geoffrey Cohen and his research on social-psychological interventions in education, Willie Brown Middle School Founding Principal, Demetrius Hobson, speaks to the potential of using these interventions to help close the racial achievement gap.


Professor Cohen’s seminar started with a perspective on stereotype threat—a reduction in potential performance when an identity is negatively associated with the context at hand-- that slightly shifted my mindset around the topic: Stereotype threat is not just a “minority issue,” it is a human perception issue. All people can experience stereotype threat. For example, if your boss believes you are not capable of doing your job. You are likely to then exert more psychological effort to overcome the stress of your boss’s perception or altogether distance yourself from your boss’s unwelcoming environment. 


Built on this conceptual foundation are two interventions Cohen highlighted: Wise Criticism and Values Affirmation. Both of these interventions I found to be high leverage, low cost practices. In the study on Wise Criticism, 7 th grade students were given two forms of feedback for a written essay. In addition to regular feedback on the essay content, the intervention included a note to the student stating: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.” For me, this intervention just calls on educators to be honest with underperforming students so that they strive to succeed rigorous requirements. When you give false praise, students are overwhelmed with the expectation to perform at a high level, which then triggers stereotype threat again.


The second intervention-- values affirmation-- hit home for me. When I was in 5 th grade, the teacher gave us construction paper and instructions to cut out our school picture, place it on the construction paper, and cut out words from magazines that spoke to us. She told us to tell our life story one word at a time. My story included the phrase: “I’m blessed because I’m wealthy, and I’m wealthy with love.” I remember the praise that my teacher gave me, and how that praise felt. I wanted my students to have that feeling. 


Many years later, as a principal at Matthew Hanson Elementary School in Chicago, a team of teachers and myself incorporated Cohen’s research into our winter break program curriculum. This curriculum targeted the bridge grades (3 rd , 6 th , & 8th)— a time where stereotype threat is triggered more often as a result of high stakes assessments. For the intervention, we provided students space to write about something they do well, something they appreciate, or something they want outside of school. Bringing in these outside experiences to the school setting begins to change students’ experience within the school, especially when the adults validate the students as people. Specifically, we supported students in designing PowerPoints presentations that highlighted who there were in 3-4 slides. Students took over the development of their own PowerPoints presentations. Our initial intention was to disrupt the recursive stereotype threat cycle; I did not expect the intervention would also have an impact on teachers.


One particular 5 th grade girl had a final slide that answered the question: What do you wonder about? She answered: “I wonder what the governor does during his free time?” At that moment a teacher next to me, nudged me and said, “Who would have ever thought that a 5 th grader wonders what the governor does.” I noticed the teacher experiencing a transformation around how he viewed the intellectual curiosity of his students.  At that moment, the intervention felt like it was working just as much for the teacher as it was for the student.


Social-Psychological Research at Willie Brown Middle School


We are going to utilize social-psychological research to influence our day-to-day practices at Willie Brown Middle School. We have been working with Professor Cohen and his team at Stanford to infuse this research into three areas: teacher recruitment, connecting to families, connecting with students.  Below I describe these efforts to bring together this research and practice.


Teacher Recruitment

Our students will be coming in with different experiences from each other in regards to academics, economics, social, etc. We need teachers who have a particular skill set and beliefs that can support all students to grow in our school. We were interested in screening candidates early enough to make sure that candidates interviewed and offered positions were the ones who actually have the mindsets we need to facilitate the building of a community across differences. We wanted to screen for close-mindedness, flexibility, hope, humility, implicit bias, and optimism. Stanford has designed a survey that effectively highlights those areas of interest and concern. We are using this survey to inform our teacher selection process.


Connecting with Families

We surveyed families who attended enrollment sessions to identify the values held across those who had shown interest in the type of school that Willie Brown is poised to become. We are using the expressed values – fun & laughter; growth & discovery; innovation & creativity—to inform the school structure, culture, and instruction. The data from that survey found that families were very concerned with safety; for us, that would mean we need to prioritize building a sense of belonging and community at Willie Brown.


Looking Forward to Connecting with Students

Once Willie Brown opens its doors in the fall, we will continue to implement the social-psychological research throughout the year. We are developing a plan for implementing values affirmation interventions and self-efficacy surveys during high-stakes assessment periods. Along with these interventions, we expect to hold quality professional development sessions in partnership with Stanford to support the application of this research on a more regular basis.

Many districts ask themselves– what constitutes quality instruction? What does quality instruction look like and how do you know it when you see it? For districts in California, one of the closest definitions of quality instruction resides in the California Standards for the Teaching Practice (CSTP). Districts often use these standards as a means for teacher evaluation, and the standards imply a set of characteristics for quality instruction.


When a district is defining quality instruction, they may also want to consult with a set of research studies that attempt to explore the elements of quality instruction from more robust angles.  This research could help districts better understand the elements of the CSTPs and potentially enhance their understanding of areas where the CSTPs need bolstering. This post gives brief descriptions of a few frameworks from research exploring quality instruction and how they might enhance a district’s understanding of the CSTPs.


I highlight the Danielson Framework and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) as they are often referenced by practitioners and researchers as measures for quality instruction.  Many frameworks articulating quality instruction overlook issues of equity and access in their domains, and yet these characteristics are important values to teachers working with our most underserved students. Consequently, I also present two frameworks that address these issues within frameworks for quality instruction. Below, I also describe Ball’s framework and the Complex Instruction framework. Both of these frameworks were developed by Stanford professors attempting to address the issue of quality instruction through the lens of equity and access.


Danielson Framework [1]

As seen in figure 1, the Danielson Framework for Teaching is a research-based set of components that define quality instruction. The framework is divided into four domains – planning and preparation, instruction, classroom environment, and professional responsibilities – each with a set of components. As seen in Figure 1, the Danielson framework domains map on well to the CSTPs, and consequently, the tools and resources associated with the Danielson Framework could be helpful to CA districts for enacting the CSTP as their definition of quality instruction.


Figure 1: Domains and sub-domains of Danielson Framework

California Standards for the Teaching Practice

Danielson Framework Domains and Components

  • Standard 3: Understanding and organizing subject matter for student learning
  • Standard 4: Planning instruction and designing learning experiences for all students

Planning and preparation

  • 1a) Demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy
  • 1b) Demonstrating knowledge of students
  • 1c) Setting instructional outcomes
  • 1d) Demonstrating knowledge of resources
  • 1e) Designing coherent instruction
  • 1f) Designing student assessments
  • Standard 1: Engaging and supporting all students in learning
  • Standard 5: Assessing students for learning



  • 3a) Communicating with students
  • 3b) Using questioning and discussion techniques
  • 3c) Engaging students in learning
  • 3d) Using assessment in instruction
  • 3e) Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness
  • Standard 2: Creating and maintaining effective environments for student learning


Classroom environment

  • 2a) Creating an environment of respect and rapport
  • 2b) Establishing a culture for learning
  • 2c) Managing Classroom Procedures
  • 2d) Managing Student Behavior
  • 2e) Organizing physical space
  • Standard 6: Developing as a professional educator


Professional responsibilities

  • 4a) Reflecting on teaching
  • 4b) Maintaining accurate records
  • 4c) Communicating with families
  • 4d) Participating in the professional community
  • 4e) Growing and developing professionally
  • 4f) Showing professionalism


The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

The CLASS is a tool used for observing instruction and focuses in on the interactions in classrooms aimed at improving student learning. Often times, CLASS is used to better understand how to support teachers’ professional development needs for teachers in training or general classroom teachers, but it also has become used in some schools and districts for evaluating teacher instruction. Developed by the University of Virginia, the CLASS is now being use at the pre-K, elementary and secondary levels. The training for using CLASS is very rigorous and centralized, with assessments and reliability tests for all raters. In Figure 2, I list below the domains and sub-domains from the secondary level CLASS observation tool as an example of the elements captured by CLASS.


Figure 2: The Domains and Sub-domains for the CLASS – Secondary [2]

Emotional Support

Positive Climate , reflecting warmth and sense of connectedness in classroom

Negative Climate , reflecting expressed negativity in classroom

Teacher Sensitivity , reflecting responsiveness to student academic/emotional needs

Regard for Adolescent Perspectives , reflecting teacher’s ability to recognize and capitalize on student needs for autonomy, active roles, and peer interaction in the classroom.

Classroom Organization

Behavior Management , reflecting teacher’s ability to use effective method to encourage desirable behavior and prevent/redirect misbehavior

Productivity , reflecting teacher ability to manage the classroom so as to maximize instructional time

Instructional Learning Formats , reflecting teacher use of varied and interesting materials and teaching techniques in an organized fashion.

Instructional Support

Content Understanding , reflecting teacher presentation of content within a broader intellectual framework

Analysis and Problem Solving, reflecting emphasis upon engaging students in higher order thinking skills

Quality of Feedback , reflecting provision of contingent feedback designed to challenge students and expand their understanding of a concept.


The CSTPs, the Danielson framework, and CLASS overlook the area of culturally relevant pedagogy as a facet of quality instruction. The Danielson Framework does talk of “creating an environment of respect and rapport ,” but does not take into account what Ladson-Billings (1995) describes as culturally relevant pedagogy. [3]   This type of teaching rests on the notions that teachers create a connection between students’ home lives and school experiences, utilizing student backgrounds and experiences to inform teachers’ lessons and general instruction. As I mentioned above, I explore this area in more depth by describing two instructional approaches that posit characteristics of quality instruction paying attention to issues of culture, language, race, and issues related to status and power.


Ball’s Teaching in Culturally or Linguistically Complex Classrooms [4]

Ball’s research uses this four-fold theoretical framework to articulate ideal teacher characteristics within culturally and linguistically complex classrooms. These characteristics could help districts explain what characteristics a teacher demonstrates when they participate in culturally and linguistically relevant instruction.

  • Teachers with high levels of metacognitive awareness can help themselves identify their own barriers to learning, change the strategies they are using to attain their goals, and modify their teaching and learning strategies based on awareness of their effectiveness;
  • Teachers  are able to bring together new perspectives, new ideas, and new voices as an essential component to their  personal  growth or “ ideological becoming ”;
  • Teacher learning must involve internalization meaning learning occurs in a social plane and internal plane;
  • Teachers must have self-efficacy or the belief in their potential ability to affect positive change in the lives of students.


Cohen and Lotan’s articulation of Complex Instruction [5]

Cohen and Lotan’s research posits a framework for instruction articulating a set of characteristics that addresses issues of race, power, and status. Known as Complex Instruction (CI), teachers focus on mitigating students’ status in their classrooms by using cooperative learning tasks to influence their own perceptions and students’ perceptions of students’ competence. The list below shows the three components of CI that influence the shift in teachers’ and students’ perceptions.

  • Multiple ability curriculum - Provide curricular tasks that are open-ended, rich in multiple abilities, and support learning important mathematical concepts and skills central to a big idea.
  • Instructional strategies - Develop autonomy of and interdependence within each group through the use of norms, roles, and teacher interventions.
  • Status and accountability - Raise intellectual expectations for all students, hold individuals and small groups accountable for learning, and intervene in status issues .

[1] Danielson, C. (2007) Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, 2 nd Edition. Association for Supervisor and Curriculum Development.

[2] Allen, A.G., Mikami, A., Lun, J., Hamre, B., and Pianta, R.C. “Predicting Adolescent Achievement with the CLASS-S Observation Tool.” Research Brief. University of Virginia CASTL Curry School of Education.

[3] Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The Dreamkeepers: Successful teaching for African-American students . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[4] Ball, A. (2009). Toward a Theory of Generative Change In Culturally and Linguistically Complex Classrooms. American Education Research Journal, (46 (1).

[5] Cohen, E.G., and Lotan, R.A. (2014) Designing Group Work: Strategies for a Heterogeneous Classroom , third edition . Teachers College Press.


Growth Mindset for Leaders


If interventions to shift students’ towards a growth mindset can work, can these types of interventions work for teachers and leaders in our schools?


The topic of mindsets in education has been explored by a number of professors in the Stanford University Psychology Department and the Graduate School of Education. One of the best summaries of this research is in Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success , which utilizes research findings to dissuade readers from focusing on developing a fixed mindset-- the view that people’s intelligence is not malleable (e.g. you are either smart or not smart)-- and encourages readers to focus on developing a growth mindset-- the view that people’s intelligence is malleable (e.g. you can learn and grow smarter). [1]


One of the San Francisco and Stanford joint projects has explored whether an intervention can improve teachers’ mindsets towards mistakes in mathematics, therefore helping students’ have more opportunities to persevere in the face of mistakes in mathematics and hopefully improve their performance. So far, the study suggests that teachers’ mindsets are malleable, and can actually be influenced to build a growth mindset, encourage mistakes, and reduce worry over mistakes with a set of online modules.

­ ­

This project left a group of SFUSD leaders wondering what affects, if any, principals’ mindsets have on the outcomes for the teachers they manage.


One of the administrators pointed out that Dweck discusses some research findings by Heslin and colleagues in her book Mindset . This team of researchers found that managers’ mindsets affected their ability to acknowledge improvements in their employees’ performance after they have formed an initial impression of an employee. Heslin and colleagues refer to these mindsets as “implicit person theory” or the beliefs about the malleability of personal attributes (like personality or ability). Heslin and colleagues found that employees with managers having a growth mindset thought their managers provided better coaching for employee development. [2]


In Mindset, Dweck goes onto describe how Heslin and colleagues conducted a workshop with some steps that helped a set of managers shift their mindsets. The exercises in this workshop included:


a)      They considered why it is important to understand that people can develop their abilities

b)      They think of areas in which they once had low ability but now perform well

c)      They write to a struggling protégé about how his or her abilities can be developed

d)      They recall times they have seen people learn to do things they never thought these people could do

After the workshop, there was a rapid change in how readily the participating managers detected improvements in employee performance, in how willing they were to coach a poor performer, and in the quantity and quality of their coaching suggestions. [3]


Dweck translated these findings into two implications: 1) it is not just about hiring the best managers, but looking for managers who embody a growth mindset, and 2) we need to train managers to believe in growth, in addition to effective communication and mentoring.


These findings are also supported by others in the private sector, as seen in Hagel and Brown’s post online in the Harvard Business Review describing how mindset profoundly shapes key business practices. They argue for three key principles in business that advocate for a growth mindset:

1)      A growth mindset sees the ecosystem of a business benefiting from the development of its employees and a broad range of networks, rather than just believing there are a finite set of smart people and valuable resources

2)      Businesses should focus on talent development rather than exclusively on attracting and retaining talent, and 3) by working together we can create more value than working individually. [4]


Dweck article in Principal Leadership titled, “Mindsets and Equitable Education,” also provides a strong rationale for why school teachers and administers should set a culture of growth mindset in schools. According to Dweck:


Teachers and administrators should send messages that intelligence is fluid, and they need to hear such messages too. They need to keep growing, especially in these challenging and changing times. Thus, they, too, need permission to learn—the freedom to stretch themselves, make mistakes, and try again. Only in growth mind-set cultures, where teachers and administrators are encouraged to fulfill their potential, will they be able to help their students fulfill their potential in schools that are free of bias. [5]


This research highlights the importance of school and district leaders supporting a growth mindset among their peers and teams. While there is no “magic bullet” intervention focused on growth mindsets for leaders, if anything, these research findings suggest that school and district officials could set new norms and practices which value the development and growth of their staff abilities.

[1] Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How we can learn to fulfill out potential . Ballatine Books.

[2] Heslin, P. Latham, G., VandeWalle, D. (2005) “The Effects of Implicit Person Theory on Performance Appraisals. Journal of Applied Psychology. Vol. 90, N. 5, p. 842-856.

[3] Dweck, C. (2007). p. 140-141.

[4] Hagel III, J. and Brown, J.S. (November 3, 2010). Change Management: Do you have a growth mindset? Harvard Business Review . Retrieved on December 1, 2014 from https://hbr.org/2010/11/do-you-have-a-growth-mindset/.

[5] Dweck, C. (January 2010). “Mindsets and Equitable Education.” Principal Leadership . P. 26-29.

From Jennifer Schuster, Junior Administrative Analyst in the SFUSD Office of School Health Programs


After attending the SFUSD presentation on College and Career Readiness, I was reminded of Paul Tough’s New York Times Magazine Article “Who Gets to Graduate” . [i]   This article demonstrates the power of self-doubt to derail even the most academically prepared student’s college and career dreams. My work supporting the Wellness Initiative in SFUSD allows me to witness the impact of promoting student health and well-being in a safe, supportive environment. Students who receive therapy, participate in support groups, and establish caring relationships with staff see improvements in their school attendance and grades. I hope to use this research to further expand the Wellness Program’s low-cost, high-impact interventions for supporting students.


While the article describes how many students periodically doubt whether they belong or have the ability to succeed, I found it very interesting that these negative feelings have particularly debilitating consequences for ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged students. In other words, members of groups that felt themselves to be under some special threat or scrutiny were especially susceptible to being sidelined by self-doubt. The researchers found that even brief, low-cost interventions could have an enormous impact. At-risk students who received these interventions were better equipped to let go of their doubts, overcome initial failures, and develop feelings of belonging and confidence that translated into academic success.


Here are a few excerpts from the article about the piloted UT online pre-orientation for freshmen:


               A “belonging” treatment group read messages from current students explaining that they felt alone and excluded when they arrived on campus, but then realized that everyone felt that way and eventually began to feel at home.

               A “mind-set” treatment group read an article about the malleability of the brain and how practice makes it grow new connections, and then read messages from current students stating that when they arrived at U.T., they worried about not being smart enough, but then learned that when they studied they grew smarter.

               A combination treatment group received a hybrid of the belonging and mind-set presentations.

               And finally, a control group read fairly banal reflections from current students stating that they were surprised by Austin’s culture and weather when they first arrived, but eventually they got used to them.


Students in each group were asked, after clicking through a series of a dozen or so web pages, to write their own reflections on what they’d read in order to help future students. The whole intervention took between 25 and 45 minutes for students to complete, and more than 90 percent of the incoming class completed it.


The disadvantaged students who had experienced the belonging and mind-set messages did significantly better: 86 percent of them had completed 12 credits or more by Christmas. They had cut the gap between themselves and the advantaged students in half.


Yeager believes that the interventions are not in fact changing students’ minds — they are simply keeping them from over interpreting discouraging events that might happen in the future.


Every college freshman — rich or poor, white or minority, first-generation or legacy — experiences academic setbacks and awkward moments when they feel they don’t belong. But white students and wealthy students and students with college-graduate parents tend not to take those moments too seriously or too personally. Sure, they still feel bad when they fail a test or get in a fight with a roommate or are turned down for a date. But in general, they don’t interpret those setbacks as a sign that they don’t belong in college or that they’re not going to succeed there.


It is only students facing the particular fears and anxieties and experiences of exclusion that come with being a minority — whether by race or by class — who are susceptible to this problem. Those students often misinterpret temporary setbacks as a permanent indication that they can’t succeed or don’t belong at U.T. For those students, the intervention can work as a kind of inoculation. And when, six months or two years later, the germs of self-doubt try to infect them, the lingering effect of the intervention allows them to shrug off those doubts exactly the way the advantaged students do.


*Jennifer Schuster pulls out passages from the article that she found impactful and provides her take on the content.

[i] Tough, P. (2014). “Who Gets to Graduate?” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/magazine/who-gets-to-graduate.html?_r=0