College of Education, Health and Human Sciences Center for Research in Educational Policy
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School Improvement and Effectiveness Research and Evaluation Center

School improvement efforts take many forms. CREP specializes in developing methods that examine not only what works, but also why some improvement initiatives may be more or less successful than others. This type of approach is valuable because it provides "formative information" that facilitates data-informed decision making. Additionally, the contextual information is valuable in understanding factors that impact success. Although our evaluations are customized to each project, key components often include:

  • Perceptions and experiences from key stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, administrators, community members)
  • Observations of instruction and student activities
  • Assessment of school climate and culture
  • Program implementation monitoring
  • Analysis of student outcomes and performance, including areas such as achievement, behavior, and attendance

Selected recent evaluation projects by educational area

Art Education/Integration

Art to Grow Program

This program was provided by the Dixon Gallery and Gardens to Memphis area schools. The Dixon's educational outreach instructor traveled to schools in the "Dixon's Hands On Van" to conduct one hour art lessons, including a presentation and a hands-on activity. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine if participating teachers felt that the Dixon Gallery and Garden's "Art-To Grow" program was engaging, age appropriate, and educational for their students. A series of observations and questionnaires was utilized in the study.

Aesthetic Arts Education

This project evaluated the Aesthetic Education in Rural Settings Conference presented by the Crittenden Arts Council's Delta Aesthetic Education Institute and the Lincoln Center Institute. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine if the Aesthetic Education in Rural Settings Conference increased the participant's understanding of aesthetic education practice, strategies, and implications; and if it increased their understanding of the role of aesthetic education practices as they relate to the rural setting. The evaluation utilized three measures: questionnaires completed by the participants, a focus group comprised of a selection of conference participants, and observations conducted during conference workshops.

Different Ways of Knowing Arts Integration

This study focused on an arts integration model based on the Different Ways of Knowing program. Questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, observations, and achievement analyses were used to address the following areas: the extent to which the program (1) facilitated integration of the arts into the core elementary, middle and high school curricula, (2) strengthened arts instruction, and (3) impacted academic performance and students' skills in creating, performing and responding to the arts.

School Choice

Knowledge is Power Program

The Knowledge is Power Program is specifically designed to raise academic achievement of at-risk urban middle school students via interventions such as extended learning time, rigorous curriculum, after-school access to teachers, and extensive family-school connection. CREP has conducted a longitudinal case study of an urban middle school implementing the KIPP program. Link to reports.

TN Charter Schools

CREP has served as the state evaluators of Tennessee charter schools since the first cohort of schools opened during the 2003-2004 academic year. The evaluations have examined the progress made in program implementation, instructional practices, school climate, and student achievement. A mixed-methods design, encompassing both qualitative and quantitative data, was employed. Link to reports.

Jubilee Catholic Schools

The Jubilee schools are a group of urban Memphis Catholic schools operated by the Catholic Diocese of Memphis that had previously been closed due to lack of enrollment and funding. In the late 1990's and early 2000's, these schools were reopened to provide education to students that live in high-poverty, inner-city Memphis neighborhoods. These schools offer reduced tuition based on family income in order to provide a quality Catholic-based education to children who would not be able to afford it under normal circumstances. The purposes of this longitudinal evaluation are to examine (a) student achievement outcomes and (b) stakeholder perceptions related to school climate, conditions, and instruction. A mixed-methods design, encompassing both quantitative and qualitative data, was employed.

School Leadership

Chicago ELIS Program

The Effective Leaders Improve Schools (ELIS) project is charged with improving the quality of principal preparation in the Chicago Public Schools. This includes bringing coherence and alignment to three approved principal preparation programs: LAUNCH, New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS), and the University of Illinois-Chicago Ed.D (UIC). LAUNCH is a district program, NLNS is a national program, and UIC is university-based. All three utilize a one-year internship experience with a mentor principal for participants. CREP has conducted a longitudinal study of the ELIS project since the2005-2006 academic year.

TN Department of Education's Beginning Principals' Academies (BPA)

Since 1995, CREP has provided school climate audits and self-assessment tools for BPA participants. Collecting, understanding, and using the data for school improvement decision making are the key areas of focus.

Center for Urban School Leadership (CUSL) - The University of Memphis

CREP has conducted two studies of programs sponsored by the CUSL-UM. The first was the Memphis Leadership Fellows Program (MLFP), which is a year-long leadership development program designed to prepare prospective principals for the Memphis City Schools (MCS). The second, which was implemented in a rural context, was the Establishing Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in Fayette County Schools. This is a one-year educational program for central administrators as well as a support program for site-based leadership teams. The program is a joint venture between the Center for Urban School Leaders (CUSL) at The University of Memphis and the Center for Data Driven Decision Making (CDDRE) at Johns Hopkins University. Both evaluations focused on goal attainment, implementation, and participant experiences.

School Reform and Improvement

Accelerated Schools

The primary purpose of the Accelerated Schools Plus (ASP) model is to transform school communities characterized by high poverty and low academic performance into enriched environments via the use of instructional strategies traditionally used with gifted and talented students. This study examined the implementation and impact of the Accelerated Schools PLUS (ASP) model during the first two years of implementation in two states. Two major research questions were addressed: (1) What changes in school climate take place during the first two years of the ASP model implementation? (2) To what extent are changes in school climate associated with changes in student achievement?

Chicago Fresh Start Schools

Based on the experience with a two-year Partnership Initiative between the Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union, a new program called "Fresh Start" was designed to move teacher-led school improvement forward in Chicago. This program incorporates lessons learned from the Partnership experience and strategies that have proved effective in other districts. Enhancements made by CPS and CTU administrators included: more choice regarding participation; more autonomy from the auspices of the Area Office; creation of instructional leadership teams; and implementation of a peer review system. The mixed-methods design addressed the (a) degree to which reform initiatives are being effectively implemented in each of the schools and the factors associated with implementation success or difficulty; (b) extent to which positive changes in school climate, as a precursor of successful reform, occurs; (c) "value-added" contributions of the various types of support made available to the schools through the Fresh Start staff/representatives from the district and union; and (d) the perspectives and experiences of school administrators and staff relating to the model implementations in particular, and reform efforts in general.

Different Ways of Knowing CSR Model

The Different Ways of Knowing (DWoK) model builds on students' multiple intelligences to develop their skills in different areas. This study used a quasi-experimental approach to examine the impact of the DWoK model on student achievement and attendance. Link to report.

Edvantia CSR Research Study

This collaborative project with Edvantia (formerly AEL) examined the impact of five Comprehensive School Reform models on instructional practices, school climate, and reading achievement. A quasi-experimental, mixed-methods design was used.

Memphis Restructuring Initiative

This study examined the Comprehensive School Reform initiative undertaken by the Memphis City Schools. A longitudinal study using questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, observations, and analysis of value-added achievement scores was conducted. Link to report.

School Renaissance Program

This study examined the effects of the School Renaissance (SR) comprehensive school reform model on student achievement in an urban district in Texas. A rigorous matched treatment-control pretest-posttest design was employed. The primary research questions were: (1) How do SR schools compare to matched Comparison schools in student achievement?; (2) Do SR effects relative to Comparison schools vary for (a) reading and mathematics; and (b) elementary and middle schools?; (3) Do SR effects vary for different types of students?; and (4) Do SR effects relative to Comparison schools vary as a function of the degree of SR model implementation? Link to report.

Success for All and Direct Instruction Study

This research examined the effectiveness in an urban school district of two of the most widely used Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) programs: Direct Instruction, implemented in 9 district elementary schools; and Success for All, implemented in two elementary schools. In examining impacts on student achievement and school change outcomes (e.g., teacher buy-in, school climate), a mixed methods research design was employed, encompassing both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Link to reports.

Science, Math, and Engineering Programs

Building Bridges to Health Sciences Literacy

The Building Bridges to Health Science Literacy Program has two primary goals: (1) introduce authentic problem-based learning (PBL) in Science instruction and (2) develop an educational program to illustrate and explain the process and goals of genetic research. The evaluation plan was designed to address the goals of the PBL teacher training as well as the school-level application of the training. The plan employed a mixed-methods approach, encompassing both qualitative and quantitative data on the multiple project processes, products, and outcomes.

Girls Experiencing Engineering

The Girls Experiencing Engineering (GEE) program administered by The University of Memphis Herff College of Engineering was designed to instill young women with confidence, interest, and awareness of a wide array of career opportunities within science, technology, and engineering fields. Program activities included daily design competitions, presentations from female engineers and students, and brief "field work" snapshots of related disciplines presented by visiting scientists and professors. The evaluation was aimed at examining student attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge through the use of a mixed-method design utilizing both pre- and post-program qualitative and quantitative data.

Math Academy

The University of Memphis' Summer Math Academy is a two-week residential summer program for rising high school sophomores and juniors from the Memphis City School System (MCS). The program focuses on enhancing math skills (especially algebra) and had a variety of collateral activities geared toward college preparation and planning. The overall goals of the Academy are to improve skills for success in college and to establish stronger connections for the participants with the college environment. The evaluation used observations, interviews, questionnaires, and assessments of Algebra knowledge to examine the impact of this program.

Memphis Science Partners

This program is geared toward implementing LabLearner in elementary and middle schools. LabLearner is a science lab program that equips schools with a working and well-stocked science lab, an age-appropriate curriculum covering all of the national science standards, and professional development for teachers. The longitudinal evaluation examined teacher and student perceptions, usage of lab materials, and impact on student science knowledge.

Smart and Thrive Algebra Programs

SMART and THRIVE are programs utilized within the Little Rock Public Schools to serve at-risk students. The overall purposes of the SMART and THRIVE programs are to provide supplemental pre-algebra support to students entering Algebra I and to prepare students to meet state standards in Algebra I, respectively. The programs' intentions/goals are to: a) provide a solid foundation for Algebra, b) encourage exploration; c) make mathematics fun; d) enable students to achieve academic success in mathematics; and e) create the confidence necessary to pursue higher level courses. The SMART program meets for two consecutive weeks during the summer. The THRIVE program meets every other Saturday during the Spring semester. The global purpose of the evaluation was to: a) provide cumulative evidence of SMART/THRIVE implementation practices; b) examine the extent to which the programs have been effective in improving and remediating academic achievement of African-American students; and c) explore perceptions of participants, parents and teachers as well as level of student participation in SMART and THRIVE.

Smart TN

This program provides Tennessee schools with a financial literacy curriculum and professional development for teachers based on the Financial Fitness for Life (FFL) program of the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE). The evaluation focused on the impact the program had on students' financial literacy.

Supplemental Educational Services

Supplemental Educational Services (SES), a component of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, provides free tutoring to economically disadvantaged children who are attending Title I schools in at least their second year of school improvement. CREP has served as state SES evaluators for numerous states. Key evaluation components are: Provider effectiveness; Customer perceptions and satisfaction; and Service delivery and compliance. Link to reports.

Teacher Training and Development

New Teacher Center at The University of Memphis

The New Teacher Center (NTC) at The University of Memphis provides intensive mentoring services to beginning teachers working in urban middle and high schools. The two overall purposes of the NTC are to significantly improve retention of new teachers and to positively impact student achievement in the Memphis City Schools (MCS). The evaluation utilized mentor focus group, classroom observations, control and treatment teacher surveys, and an analysis of both student achievement and teacher retention data.

TN Transition to Teaching Program

Transition to Teaching is an Alternative Licensure C program which was designed to attract extremely capable individuals who bring maturity and a variety of work experiences to the teaching of math and sciences at the middle and high school levels. The collaborative program involving the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee Board of Regents, and local educational agencies began in the spring of 2003. A mixed-methods design was used to examine participant perceptions and experiences, attainment of program objectives, and program outcomes.

Teaching American History (TAH)

CREP evaluated TAH programs in both the Memphis City Schools and Kansas Public School System. The programs sought to implement innovative and cohesive models of professional development for elementary and secondary teachers. The broad goals of the programs were to improve the achievement in American history of students in low-performing and Title I schools by increasing teacher knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of American history through professional teacher training. The evaluation focused on implementation of program activities, perceptions and experiences, and impact in instruction and knowledge.

Georgia Southern Professional Development District

The goals of this project were to facilitate university and district collaboration, and to align professional development that teachers at all grade levels received in the district. The evaluation utilized questionnaires, observations, interviews, and analysis of achievement data to examine the implementation and outcomes associated with the program.

Tutoring Programs and 21st Century Community Learning Centers

20/20 Vision Tutorial Program

The 20/20 Vision Tutorial Program attempts to help middle school students who are low achievers in mathematics succeed academically in their coursework and on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program through tutoring and remediation work. A quasi-experimental design was utilized to address the following questions: (1) What are the impacts of the tutoring program on tutored students' achievement?; (2) Which students receive tutoring and how do they compare to the overall student population with regard to poverty, gender, and prior achievement?

Youth Education Through Sports (YES) Program

The Youth Education through Sports (YES) Foundation program provides after-school tutoring for middle school basketball players in six Memphis City Schools (MCS) middle schools. The goals of the YES Foundation After School program are to enhance academic achievement and promote life-long learning skills in student athletes through well-structured, after-school tutoring sessions. The overall purpose of this evaluation was twofold: (a) to provide evidence of the implementation progress and educational outcomes for the program, and (b) to provide formative evaluation data as a basis for guiding improvement planning and documenting progress in attaining program goals.

21st Century Community Learning Centers

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and provides out-of-school opportunities for academic enrichment to help students meet state and local performance standards in core academic subjects. Programs and activities are designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program of participating students. Families of students are offered opportunities for literacy and related educational development. CREP is evaluating 21st CCLC in multiple states. The evaluations focus on the impact of the programs in the areas of student academic achievement, operation, participation, objectives, activities, student behavior, and partnership.


Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP)
325 Browning Hall
Memphis, TN 38152-3340
Office: (901) 678-2310
Toll free: 1-866-670-6147
Fax: (901) 678-4257
Email: CREP@memphis.edu

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Last Updated: 2/6/12