Joint Project for the Development and Improvement of the Measurement of Classroom Quality

Since its beginning in 2007, the collaboration between the William T. Grant and Spencer Foundations on the RFP for the Development and Improvement of the Measurement of Classroom Quality has approved seven grants and committed approximately $3.3 million dollars to their support. The recipients of these grants are, in our view, doing timely and important work. Progress in improving elementary and secondary education has been impeded by the lack of accessible and reliable data that describe the classroom environment and the instructional activities students experience. The absence of such data for large numbers of students limits our ability to understand variation across classrooms in student learning, to design programs of professional development to help teachers make their classrooms function more effectively, and to enable principals and other instructional leaders to provide better information to teachers on their performance and ways to improve it.

Our program has had the limited—but critical—aim of improving our ability to obtain important information about what is happening in classrooms more reliably and at lower cost than has been possible previously. We have been gratified by the number of strong proposals our RFP elicited from leading researchers, and we are confident that the work we are supporting will make real progress toward meeting the program’s aims. In fact, we received so many strong applications that we exceeded our planned budget in each of the two years the program has been operating, and even with added funds, had to turn down promising researchers.

Last spring we learned that Tom Kane and Steve Cantrell will be leading a major research initiative at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at learning how to improve teaching outcomes in American schools, and that a major component of their effort would be improving measurement of classroom attributes. This project parallels our own program in many ways. Many of the scholars we supported through the RFP are also being asked to contribute to the Gates effort.

In light of the large-scale and rapid development of the Gates project and the success of the first two years of our efforts, the William T. Grant and Spencer Foundations have decided not to issue the RFP for the third and final year of our joint program. We will continue to work actively with the grantees who have received funding through the RFP, and we plan to support the work of the Gates Foundation as it develops. We remain keenly interested in this area and are open to the possibility of our two Foundations undertaking further joint work as the scope and boundaries of the Gates program become clearer. And, researchers with proposals in the classroom measurement arena are encouraged to apply to the research grant programs currently being funded at each of our Foundations.