APA provides clients with advice, research support, and assistance to answer key questions associated with improving our nation's education system, such as:
Teacher Compensation and Quality
- Alternative Ways of Paying Teachers: School districts are beginning to explore new ways of paying and rewarding effective teachers. For instance, the Denver Public Schools (DPS) relied upon APA help to successfully plan and implement the nation's first and only full-featured, performance-based teacher compensation program. As part of its work, APA developed a mechanism to answer questions such as how many teachers opt into the program over time, and which aspects of the program are the most and least popular. Other clients, including several school districts and the states of Ohio and New Mexico, have used APA to help develop and estimate the cost of revised teacher compensation plans.
- Enhancing Teacher Quality: For the past 12 years, APA staff has provided advice and support to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This organization seeks to enhance the teaching profession as a whole by maintaining rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should be able to do and by providing a national voluntary system to certify teachers who meet these standards.
- Teacher recruitment and retention in hard to staff schools: APA is currently conducting work to identify high-performing schools from across the country that also have high percentages of economically disadvantaged students. These schools are often considered "hard to staff" because they frequently experience high levels of teacher turnover. Using interviews with school and district leaders, teacher surveys, and other data collection devices, APA is working to identify the types of school and district level policies which can be effective in bringing the best teachers to the schools that have the highest levels of student need.
- Adequacy/Costing-Out Studies
: The demand to know the cost of an adequate education has continued to grow, and APA has continued to be the consulting firm most chosen to conduct studies on this topic. This work helps state leaders better understand the level of resources that is â??adequateâ?? to the primary task set before schools and districts: ensuring all students can meet state and federal academic performance expectations. Â Adequacy study results therefore play a key role in helping policymakers understand what it will cost for schools to meet the student performance objectives in legislation, such as the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Â To date APA has conducted adequacy studies in more than 20 states.
- School funding equity and funding formula development: APA has significant experience analyzing state systems that allocate funds to schools. Ensuring that such systems are equitable and efficient is a key priority for clients. APA has helped design the school funding formulas used in several states, including Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Dakota. APA has also worked at the county and district level to determine whether inequities exist in the resources available to districts and schools. Our firm was, for instance, hired by business leaders in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania to determine whether resource disparities existed for the state's third largest urban school district. Based on data gathering, analysis, and interviews with county leaders and district superintendents, APA was able to document significant resource disparities that led the state legislature to provide nearly $11 million in new funding for the Allentown City School District.
- Efficiency of Resource Use: APA is hired by counties, state legislatures, and state departments of education to review the efficiency of school systems and to offer recommendations for changes that may be required to implement reforms. APA has developed a series of efficiency screens to appropriately identify districts that not only achieve at a high level, but do so in an efficient fiscal manner. Using these screens, our firm can: 1) offer recommendations for updates to state education funding formulas; 2) offer recommendations for how states can incorporate district efficiency incentives into the state's education funding system; 3) analyze school district spending to identify overall efficiency; and 4) analyze school district staffing to identify areas where districts may require more or less support to be successful.
- Costing out specific policies and programs: APA can develop effective methodologies to estimate the cost of implementing any new federal, state, or district level education policy or program. We were, for instance, hired by the Council of Chief State School Officers to estimate specific administrative and other costs incurred by complying with No Child Left Behind Act mandates. We have also been hired to estimate the costs associated with implementing expanded early childhood programs such as full-day kindergarten and preschool, and we have worked for the Bellsouth Foundation to study costs associated with operating and running effective virtual schools.
Preschool Program Analysis
- APA is helping the Denver Preschool Program (DPP) to understand how parents, children, and preschool providers access the DPP program, and to learn the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the current program's design. The DPP, approved by voters in November 2006, will provide Denver-area parents with a tuition credit to use at the preschool of their choice. It will be open and voluntary for all Denver four year olds and will include all licensed preschool providers who agree to participate in a quality improvement system. For more information on the DPP, click here: http://denverpreschoolprogram.org
Informing Decisions on Innovative Programs
APA believes that research founded on the best available data is the most effective way to ensure that changes to education systems are made thoughtfully and accomplish their purposes. It is this reliance on data that drives the work we conduct for our clients. When adequate data do not exist, APA has developed methods for conducting research to generate such information. Throughout our history, we have found effective ways to use data to help inform some of the most cutting edge innovations for today's public education systems. Examples of some of these innovations include:
- Helping states analyze the potential policy and cost impacts of implementing recommendations made by the National Center on Education and the Economy in its December 2006 report, Tough Choices or Tough Times.
- Early College High Schools: Helping understand what the long-term return on investment is of early college high schools. Early College High Schools are designed so that low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate's degree or up to two years of credit toward a bachelor's degree, tuition free.
- Virtual schools: Virtual schools have emerged as a viable option for states and school districts to provide students with additional access to coursework or programs which might not be available in a traditional brick and mortar school building. Virtual schools can allow such coursework to be delivered online via the Internet. APA conducted work in 2006 for the BellSouth Foundation to help determine the resources needed to operate an effective virtual school. To make this determination, APA brought together virtual school experts from across the country to discuss the types of resources, equipment, and staffing they need to operate a strong virtual school. See our full report by clicking here.
- Closing the Achievement Gap: APA has conducted work to analyze the types of programs and practices schools use to close the existing gap in achievement between economically disadvantaged students and "average" students. APA developed a methodology for analyzing test score data to identify schools that are already effectively closing this gap, and we visited these schools to conduct interviews with school personnel. This work enabled APA to determine the commonalities that exist across schools and districts that have demonstrated success in closing the achievement gap. To view APA's report, please click here.