Active Ingredients

The Purpose

Since the State University of New York authorized its first charter school more than 20 years ago, the Institute has come to understand what it takes to create an environment where strong public charter schools can take root and thrive – as evidenced by the academic success of our students.

But we also know that when it comes to serving vulnerable student populations, there is still much to learn.

And that’s the purpose of the Institute’s Active Ingredients project. It is our opportunity to collaborate with likeminded educators and peer authorizers across the nation to explore the unique supports and services that charter schools are using to target the social-emotional health and wellbeing of students. What we consider Active Ingredients components of a school’s program – high intensity special education services, social and emotional learning, health services, social services, etc. – are not academic in nature but target the needs of at-risk students to create the conditions for them to achieve academic excellence.

Our goal: to determine which practices we can credibly count and replicate for the benefit of children everywhere.

What is the Active Ingredients Project?

Simply put, this pilot project was an opportunity for schools to demonstrate outcomes for their students besides test scores. The Active Ingredients pilot project aimed to create an environment for responsible and credible collection and reporting of additional measures of student and school success, in tandem with traditional measures of academic success. It was not the intention of those contributing to the project to replace existing academic measures, but rather to enhance stories of  programmatic impact with the addition of data tightly aligned to school missions and  theories of change. The pilot allowed schools the space to innovate without consequence in order to find ways to better tell their story with data. Ultimately, the  pilot project will contribute valuable insight to a growing national conversation among educators about how to capture growth and impact in co-academic areas of development.

Who participated?

Pilot project participants included authorizers and schools. Five different charter authorizing institutions from around the country participated in the Active Ingredients pilot project. Each authorizer invited 1-3 schools within their portfolio to participate. Both the authorizers and their selected schools agreed to participate so that they could  explore ways to capture a school’s progress toward its chartered mission. The project  provided expert coaches to support the selection of appropriate measures and provide  guidance on Active Ingredient data collection and reporting.

What did participants do?

Each authorizer worked with the school(s) to identify an Active Ingredient that is central to the school’s theory of change and that contributes to students’ academic success. The authorizer also (with the help of an expert coach) selected an appropriate method of measuring that Active Ingredient. The school’s responsibilities included creating an implementation and data collection plan for the 2019-20 school year, collecting data, and reporting it to the authorizer. The authorizers provided guidance to the schools as necessary during the data collection phase, and worked with coaches to document successes and challenges along the way. All participants attended a mid-pilot national convening in February 2020 to share progress and learn from each other.

What was the project timeline?

Activities for this project began in spring 2019 with planning for pilot implementation. Data collection occurred during the 2019-20 school year, and the final report was completed in October 2020.

What data were used and how will they be used?

Descriptive data about the participating schools and their programs will be used to describe pilot participants and share how additional Active Ingredients measures were selected and relate to the school program. De-identified student data will also be collected to investigate the credibility of new data collection and reporting processes. Lastly, reflection data will be collected from participants to make recommendations for future improvement to the framework and processes.

What happened at the end of the pilot project?

The project concluded with an evaluation report and a set of resources and tools other interested schools and authorizers can use to add additional measures of student success.

Yes, Phase 2 of the project will launch in 2021. Contact the Institute at [email protected] for more information.