Current Projects

This is an exploratory study examining how connections between the formal educational system and informal non-system actors shape educational priorities and practices in the region. A strategic set of case studies are used to assess the structures, connections, and policies that define the relationship between formal and informal actors.

Funded by the Learning Research and Development Center (2008-2010).

This study explores the extent to which kindergartens have shifted from a development model emphasizing social skills and play to a year of formal academic instruction. It illuminates how shifting conceptions of appropriate kindergarten education and state and local policies influence kindergarten teachers instructional practices.

Funded by the Spencer Foundation (2006-2007).

This project was established in order to develop a viable set of education indicators for the greater Pittsburgh region. The project will collect information on 130 school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania, 8 school districts in West Virginia, and 15 school districts in Ohio. The education indicators will include traditional input/output variables such as school finances and achievement scores, but also process variables. Process variables address the daily work of teachers and students inside schools and classrooms as well as decisions regarding how and what resources become available. This project will yield a rich source of data among schools and districts that can be explicitly used by educators and policy makers to enact beneficial change.

Funded by partnership with Pittsburgh Today.

The federal Race to the Top (RttT) initiative contains no legislation or policy mandates for states to follow, but the program is nevertheless likely to drive all major state education reform efforst for the next decade. However, it it uncertain whether the diverse education reform proposals from the states will be enacted in ways that actually translate to real change in the teaching and learning that occurs within classrooms. The study examines three questions: (1) What are the theories of action implicit in successful RttT applications?; (2) To what extent is the improvement of teaching and learning central to the theories of action laid out in states' approaches to RttT reforms?; and (3) What aspects of states' RttT reform initiatives are likely to be implemented in ways that positively influence teaching and learning?

Funded by Learning Research and Development Center (2009-2012).