During the 2007-08 school year, the New York City Department of Education launched the second phase of its ambitious and innovative initiative known as Children First. The reform is guided by three principles: leadership, empowerment, and accountability. Key components include restructuring central-office services, increasing principal authority, providing schools access to new forms and sources of support through affiliate school support organizations (SSOs), and developing new data-driven accountability tools that hold schools responsible for student performance while providing rich diagnostic information to support organizational and instructional improvement. Ultimately, this initiative aims to intensify the focus by all educators on student performance and in doing so to stimulate the development of evidence-based cultures at all levels of the system.
This report provides formative feedback on the implementation of an important new component of Children First called the Inquiry Team process. The Inquiry Team initiative was rolled out in all 1,450 city schools in the summer of 2007 after being piloted in Empowerment Schools in 2006-07. Under this initiative, schools are expected to establish small "Inquiry Teams" of teachers and administrators charged with examining the performance problems of small, select target populations of students with the goal of identifying instructional "change strategies" that will improve their performance. Through this process, these small teams are expected to make use of performance data and other information to diagnose and monitor student learning and to make recommendations for changes in any aspect of their school to help close the achievement gap for these target populations of low-performing students. Teams are expected to become experts in the diagnostic use of the accountability tools and other data and the Inquiry Team process itself. The goal is for teams to share their new knowledge with the broader school community throughout the year to simulate instructional changes and improvements in the conditions of teaching and learning.