Areas of Expertise
Federal, State, and District Education Policy
AIR works closely with government agencies at the federal, state, and district level to examine how they have structured their systems of support to address the needs of low-performing schools and the degree to which the strategies employed by these systems facilitate improved school and classroom practices, and, ultimately, improved student achievement. AIR most recently conducted an in-depth investigation in six states, collecting data primarily from interviews with key stakeholders at the state, district, and school level and extant sources, and collected survey data from all 50 states.
Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides funds to states and districts to support ELL students’ successful attainment of English language proficiency and state academic standards. The U.S. Department of Education commissioned AIR to evaluate the Title III program to determine how well states are implementing its provisions, how state policy translates into district practices, and how well ELLs are mastering grade-level content and improving their English language proficiency. The study included a survey of English language proficiency standards; interviews with state Title III and assessment directors; a nationally representative survey of districts receiving Title III funds; in-depth case studies in twelve districts nested in five states; an analysis of longitudinal student achievement data; and an analysis of trends in state achievement.
The Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative, part of the larger federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provided an unprecedented amount of federal competitive grant funding to push educational systems toward innovation through the use of coherent and comprehensive reforms. AIR is conducting a mixed-method evaluation for the state of Hawaii, examining the extent to which the state’s RTTT program has been implemented as planned and is meeting its key benchmarks, especially for RTTT resource usage and participation. AIR evaluators are analyzing which changes in policy and professional practice have been associated with implementation as well as the resulting impact on student performance. The evaluation is providing timely, actionable information, supporting continuous improvement and enabling RTTT leaders, participants, and stakeholders to judge the value and worth of the initiative and its components.
Wisconsin Culturally Responsive Education for All (CREATE) Initiative - Training and Enhancement Initiative
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction contracted with AIR to provide a comprehensive evaluation of its Culturally Responsive Education for All: Training and Enhancement (CREATE) initiative during its first three years of implementation. AIR employed a qualitative case study design to assess program implementation and to determine the effect participation in the CREATE initiative had on districts’ capacities to provide culturally responsive education and to implement policies and practices designed to close achievement gaps and reduce disproportionality in special education.
The State and Local Evaluation Center at AIR is partnering on three winning Investing in Innovation (i3) federal grants to evaluate innovative practices designed to improve student achievement. The i3 competitive grant program awarded more than $140 million in federal funds for innovative ideas in education on November 8, 2012.
The Wisconsin Reading Excellence and Demonstration of Success (READS) initiative was launched by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in 1999–2000 in an effort to positively affect student reading achievement and reduce the number of referrals to special education in READS-funded schools through the implementation of comprehensive reading programs. This four-year comprehensive evaluation of the READS initiative includes both qualitative case studies and longitudinal analysis of student demographic and achievement data and special education referral rates.
As an alternative to the specified sanctions under the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as the No Child Left Behind Act, for school districts that were cited as being in corrective action, the state of New York negotiated an audit of the written, taught, and tested curriculum for its districts in need of improvement. The audits conducted by AIR consist of a mixed method evaluation, including analysis of extant student performance data; district policy documents; classroom observations; and interviews and focus groups with teachers, principals, students, parents, and district officials.