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Foundation Invests $22 Million in Research and Data Systems to Improve Student Achievement


Grants to identify effective practices and support student performance

DALLAS -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced more than $22 million in investments in research and data systems. The grants are intended to help schools, districts, and states gather and effectively use data to have maximum impact on teaching and learning and create evidence-based links between students, educators, and policy makers.The grants are part of the foundation’s efforts to ensure that all students can graduate from high school college-ready and earn a postsecondary credential with real value in the workplace.

Grants to build and strengthen longitudinal data systems to support student progress and achievement will be given to the National Student Clearinghouse, National School Boards Foundation, and the National Center for Educational Achievement’s Data Quality Campaign. More than $8 million will go to organizations in Texas, including the Dallas Independent School District, the Communities Foundation of Texas, the College for All Texans Foundation, and E3 Alliance. Texas has been a national leader in developing effective educational data systems, with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation playing a critical role in funding the development of key performance management tools across 10 districts, including the Houston, Austin, and Dallas school districts and four charter management organizations.

The foundation also announced grants to support research into the impact of teacher-level characteristics on student achievement to ACT Inc. and Teach For America, as well as to the Educational Testing Service for an unprecedented research collaboration with the RAND Corporation and the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

“As a country, we need to build an evidence base that will inform decision making at all levels in the system and lead to dramatic improvement in student achievement,” said Vicki L. Phillips, director of education at the foundation, in remarks at a news conference at W.T. White High School in Dallas. “Useful data and solid research about what works will help empower teachers, schools, and districts to more effectively keep students on the path to success in college and beyond. Our education system must be grounded in reliable data that assesses what works best in the classroom and serves the interests of all students"

The grants announced build on the new strategic direction of the foundation’s education work: on supporting the work that students and teachers do in the classroom; empowering effective teachers through professional development, reward, and recognition; innovation in engaging and supporting students of all achievement levels in the classroom and beyond; and ultimately doubling the number of low-income, young adults who earn a postsecondary credential. Underlying all of these strategic goals is a commitment to invest in research and data systems to inform decision making across the education system.

The foundation’s emphasis on data and research is reflected in the recent appointment of Thomas J. Kane, Ph.D., as deputy director of education for data and research. Kane is a nationally recognized education policy expert and professor of education and economics at Harvard University, where he and his colleagues have been working with school districts around the country, using data to evaluate hiring and certification policies for teachers, public school choice systems, and the effect of charter and pilot schools on student outcomes.

Texas has been a pioneer in creating student achievement standards, accountability policies, and innovative, engaging schools aimed at preparing all students for college and career readiness. Nevertheless, like other states, Texas faces data management challenges that inhibit its efforts to ensure that all students, particularly those from low-income and minority backgrounds, are achieving at high levels.

“Texas has long been a leader in accountability and standards-driven reform,” said John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Texas High School Project based at the Communities Foundation of Texas. “But despite mounting recognition of the need to prepare all students for postsecondary education or training, there is work to be done in developing the performance management tools needed to accomplish that mission. This investment will help us create a road map to help policy makers, educators, business leaders, and parents navigate toward the goal of college and career success for all students in Texas.”

“Educators in Texas are committed to using data and research to inform and improve their work with students, but without a reliable way to track their progress, even the best intentions can miss the mark,” said Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District (ISD). Dallas ISD will receive a grant of $3.8 million to develop early warning indicators and tools that enable educators to respond in “real time” when students need additional assistance to stay on track and graduate college ready. This investment allows the district to build on groundbreaking performance management work funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its partners are working to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and go on to successfully earn postsecondary credential with value in the labor market, with a focus on low-income and minority students. Since 2000, the foundation has invested more than $2 billion to this end, supporting more than 2,600 schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Data and Research Grants

Grants to support longitudinal data systems and data implementation nationally ($4.2 million):

Data Quality Campaign ($600,000 over 3 years) to expand the focus of the National Center for Educational Achievement’s Data Quality Campaign to include postsecondary education. Working with national postsecondary organizations, such as the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and the State Higher Education Executive Officers, the Data Quality Campaign will facilitate state efforts to share data between P-12 and postsecondary education systems, build support to sustain these systems, and change the culture around data sharing and use. The Data Quality Campaign is a national, collaborative effort to encourage and support state policy makers to improve the collection, availability, and use of high-quality education data and to implement state longitudinal data systems to improve student achievement.
Media Contact: Aimee Guidera, 703.303.6912

National School Boards Foundation ($755,603 over 2 years) to promote the effective use of data for decision making by local school board members through the development of training modules, on-line materials, and easy-to-use data tools that would be piloted in six districts in three states over a 15-month period and then rolled out to the National School Boards Association network. The National School Boards Association is a nonprofit federation of state associations of school boards in the U.S. It represents 95,000 local board members who govern 14,600 local school districts serving more than 49 million public school students.
Media Contact: Christina Gordon, 703.838.6744

National Student Clearinghouse ($2.9 million over 2 years) to develop the first national secondary education research and reporting system that will provide participating high schools across all 50 states with reliable information on their graduates’ college access and success rates. The grant will be used to evolve the current platform of the Clearinghouse’s secondary educational research service, StudentTracker for High Schools, to enable it to provide secondary data collection and reporting to all 50 states, providing the first true information bridge between secondary and postsecondary education. The Clearinghouse, a national nonprofit organization, maintains the only nationwide database of postsecondary enrollment and degree records and provides educational verification and research services to more than 3,200 US collegiate institutions and 1,600 high schools.
Media Contact: Kathleen Dugan, 703.742.4208.

Grants to fund research on teacher effectiveness and its impact on student achievement ($9.8 million):

ACT Inc. ($578,531 over 2 years) to explore the relationship between high school teacher characteristics and student learning outcomes. Using new data collected from a large national sample of students and teachers, ACT and a team of university-based researchers will examine high school teacher qualifications, including certifications, educational record, subject training, years teaching, and other experience variables. Results from this study will be made public in 2009. ACT is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides more than a hundred assessment, research, information, and program management services in the broad areas of education and workforce development.
Media Contact: Scott Gomer, 319.341.2337

Educational Testing Service ($7.3 million over 4 years) will work with the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and The RAND Corporation on “Understanding Teaching Quality,” a project that will evaluate the validity, the utility, and the interrelationships of a range of measures currently in use to assess teaching effectiveness. The aim of the project is to provide an empirical and methodological base for the development of robust teaching evaluation systems by the fall of 2012. ETS is the world’s largest private nonprofit educational research organization. ETS’s mission is to advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research.
Media Contact: Tom Ewing, 609.683.2899

Teach For America ($1.9 million over 2 years) to support research that will evaluate Teach For America’s teacher training framework, Teaching As Leadership. Through video-taped observations, document collection (student work samples and lesson plans), and surveys, researchers will study the impact of specific teacher practices on student achievement. Teach For America is the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates and professionals of all academic majors and career interests who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and become leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity.
Media Contact: Amy Rabinowitz, 917.763.0697

Grants to support data systems in Texas ($8.0 million):

College for All Texans Foundation ($1.2 million over 3 years) to support the development of a next-generation P-20 data system in Texas. Through this investment, the College for All Texans Foundation will support a strategic planning initiative at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. This initiative is aimed at strengthening the data and analytical resources required for a robust education research infrastructure in Texas and will further develop the capacity of three Education Research Centers established by the Texas Legislature in 2006. Additionally, the investment supports more effective use of data currently available. In partnership with the College for All Texans Foundation, the Coordinating Board will provide week-long academies aimed at helping educators, policy makers, and administrators make better use of P-20 data, with an emphasis on the higher education portion of the data system. The College for All Texans Foundation supports the College for Texans Campaign, led by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, a central part of the state’s higher education plan. Its mission is to enroll an additional 430,000 academically prepared people into Texas higher education by 2015.
Media Contact: De J. Lozada, 512.427.6119

Dallas Independent School District ($3.8 million over 3 years) will strengthen its efforts to track student performance and improve college readiness, the key to the district’s Dallas Achieves initiative. Dallas ISD is pioneering a college readiness warning system and building teacher capacity to use data to identify student needs, provide appropriate interventions and ultimately increase college readiness. Dallas ISD is the state’s second largest school district, serving more than 157,000 students.
Media Contact: Jon Dahlander, 972.925.3903

E3 Alliance (Education Equals Economics) ($145,000 over 1 year) to support more effective P-16 Data Analysis and performance management through improved state data access and strategic student data systems design, as well as a regional model for transparent information sharing with business, education, and community leaders. The project’s centerpiece is an annual educational profile of never-before-available regional education trends and outcomes. In addition, the grant supports regional metrics and target setting for The Blueprint for Educational ChangeTM strategic plan for Central Texas. Since its founding in 2006 by the Austin Area Research Organization, The University of Texas at Austin, and Austin Community College District, the E3 Alliance has acted as a catalyst for change and is the P-16 Council for the Central Texas region. The E3 Alliance is dedicated to better aligning educational systems and practices to drive higher outcomes for students and ensure a more efficient allocation of resources to increase our competitiveness as a region.
Media Contact: Rick Olmos, 512.223.3244

The Texas High School Project ($2.9 million over 2 years) will work with eight of the largest urban school districts in Texas and a high-performing charter management organization (IDEA Public Schools) serving principally economically disadvantaged and minority students to advance effective data use at the district, school, and classroom levels. This system will allow teachers in participating school districts—Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Ysleta—to more effectively use data to make decisions and impact student outcomes. Together these school districts serve more than 640,000 students. THSP is an initiative of the Communities Foundation of Texas dedicated to graduating all Texas students ready for college and career success and prepared to be contributing members of the community.
Media contact: Sylvia Martinez, 214.750.4243

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.


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