This is a proposal by the University of Michigan?s Institute for Social Research to con-duct exploratory research on Excellence for All during the period of January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015. The research will describe how aligned instructional systems (like those used in more than 150 nations around the world) are being implement?ed in a diverse sample of American high schools and provide data on the academic achievements of students from differ-ent social backgrounds attending these schools.
The goals of the systems we plan to study are consistent with current high school reform initiatives, but go beyond them. Like current reforms, aligned instructional systems seek to up-grade academic standards and institute new end-of-course exams in high schools. Beyond this, however, the systems we intend to study also function as comprehensive platforms for instruc-tional improvement. These systems include: (a) rigorous and well-defined curricula for all high school academic courses; (b) substantial instructional guidance for teachers of these courses; (c) rigorous assessments of course-specific learning aligned to college and career readiness standards; (d) professional development to support teachers? classroom instruction; and (e) instructional supports for students unprepared for or having difficulty passing these courses.
Our research will describe how two specific aligned instructional systems (operated by ACT and Cambridge International Examinations) are being implemented in a diverse sample of 22 high schools located in Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Mississippi. With support from the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), we will gather data on course en-rollments, course grades, and learning outcomes for students passing through the lower division (i.e., grades 9 and 10) of these schools.
The research we propose will use a variety of qualitative and quantitative data analysis strategies to accomplish three objectives. One objective is to describe the aligned instructional systems themselves, as well as the state and local contexts in which they are being implemented. A second objective is to describe how diverse high schools are implementing these programs, paying special attention to students? exposure to treatment, as measured by rates of student en-rollment in ACT QualityCore or Cambridge IGCSE courses and students? learning in these courses. A final objective is to analyze the academic achievement levels of students in the schools implementing the aligned instructional systems. Here, we describe academic achieve-ment levels of students in Excellence for All schools using the ACT college entrance examination and compare the achievement levels of students attending these schools to the achievement of students in closely matched high schools not implementing an aligned instructional system.
We expect our work to make important contributions to research and practice. As states move forward with the implementation of new and more rigorous standards it will be imperative for stakeholders to understand ways to support these processes.