Active Ingredients

The Purpose

Launched in 2017 with funding from the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Active Ingredients aimed to help schools develop systems for measuring and reporting the success of supports such as wraparound services, community partnerships, service projects and social-emotional learning in driving meaningful student learning.

At its start, the Institute convened authorizers, content experts, educators, leaders and policy advocates to explore the idea and create a draft framework to support authorizers and schools in this work. Through this project, we intended to provide schools with the ability to develop these measures and communicate them to their authorizer and other stakeholders in the language they understand: credible and replicable data.

The pilot project rolled out in 2019 with six authorizers from across the country, including SUNY, Chicago Public Schools Office of Innovation & Incubation, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Office of Charter School Compliance and Support, School District of Osceola County, Thomas B, Fordham Institute and Washington State Charter School Commission. Each invited one to three schools to participate. Since then, authorizers from shops at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and DeKalb County Georgia have also joined this important work.

The past four years have resulted in a number of useful resources schools and authorizers can use to develop and start tracking mission-aligned measures. Click on the resources and videos on the right hand side of the page to learn more about Active Ingredients, and how you could start engaging in this important work.


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.