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Partners in Pittsburgh Public Schools' Excellence for All Initiative: Findings from the First Year of Implementation

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Abstract:

The Pittsburgh Public School District asked the RAND Corporation to monitor the first year’s implementation (2006-2007) of Excellence for All (EFA) and provide feedback to district staff, the board, and other stakeholders. The Pittsburgh Public School District leadership developed EFA with the aim of increasing student achievement by improving classroom instruction across the district by instituting managed instruction. The authors review materials from the district describing EFA, contracts outlining the services and materials provided by four outside partner organizations, corroborating data from observations of four professional development sessions, and interviews with district staff and partner staff. To promote openness in responses, interviewees were guaranteed anonymity. This documented briefing makes the following key recommendations: Ensure that all staff understand EFA as a coherent strategy; focus on the practical application of differentiated instruction in the classroom; target more professional development on data use to support the use of assessment tools; build on existing coach networks to disseminate best practices, create cross-district consistency, and strengthen a cross-district professional learning community; build instructional leadership capacity through promoting team-based leadership in addition to hands-on instructional leadership and continuing to invest in coaches; encourage principals to align coaches’ tasks with their core roles; and provide more school-based professional collaboration time built into the school year to afford sustainable transfer of information and practice into the schools and classrooms.