It is a truism in education reform that expectations set by policy makers are not always experienced in the classroom in the way they were intended. At Eskolta, one of our goals is to strengthen the communication between these two worlds of policy and practice. This is the focus of an ongoing research collaboration with the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) to capture educators’ experiences implementing the Citywide Instructional Expectations (CIE) and bring these insights back to policy makers. Established in 2011, the CIE encourage schools to initiate a long-term process for adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), academic behaviors, differentiated classrooms, routine teacher feedback, and teacher teams.
Over the course of the 2012–13 school year, Eskolta spent time at six NYC elementary, middle, and high schools, interviewing teachers and administrators. Their experiences are woven into six case studies that highlight the various ways these schools sought to raise expectations for students. Three of these case studies, highlighting the experiences of Septima Clark Elementary School, Autherine Lucy Prep Middle School, and Myles Horton Academy (a high school), are featured here. In 2013–14, Eskolta engaged in another year of research with five of the original schools and four additional schools with a more rigorous qualitative research methodology, permitting a greater degree of comparison across schools. The final report examines how teacher teams have experienced both successes and challenges in facilitating schools’ efforts to meet the CIE and also adds the voices and experiences of students.
Insights from the 2012–13 and 2013–14 studies are now being used in the NYCDOE’s work to help schools meet the CIE; excerpts from one case study were used at professional development sessions hosted by the NYCDOE Office of Instructional Support to show how academic behaviors are being integrated into the classroom. The findings have also influenced the development of subsequent years of the CIE. Through this work, Eskolta aims to continue to bring insights from the classroom back to the district to better inform and shape the Citywide Instructional Expectations in the future.