Exploring Assignments, Student Work, and Teacher Feedback in Reforming High Schools Report

AIR researchers and leaders at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began a nationwide study of teaching and learning in foundation-supported schools with a pilot study in Washington State. We will use this experience to test our methods and measures in high school settings and to strengthen the work before expanding our data collection. This report describes our pilot work in 2002-03 with eight large Washington high schools planning to begin conversion to small learning communities in 2003-04. We will return to these schools in 2004-05 to see whether and how teaching and learning have changed. 

In 2003-04 our work will move beyond Washington State across the country to other large high schools planning to convert to small schools and to several new small high schools. As with the schools in Washington, we will follow these schools over time to see how teaching and learning evolve. We also will contrast their work with the efforts of teachers and students in conventional high schools. 

This report describes our measures of the rigor and authenticity of assignments, the quality of student work, and the utility of teacher feedback. It details our data collection methods, gives examples of the assignments and work we gathered, describes their scoring, and discusses our results. It examines the quality of the measures and makes suggestions for improving them and our methods moving forward.