Carnegie’s Improvement Activity

The Carnegie Foundation is steadfast in its commitment to nurturing and strengthening the improvement community. To achieve this, we strive to expand its reach and impact by increasing access to learning opportunities, resources, and tools. Examples of how we are scaling the use of high quality improvement resources are below.


The Foundation has partnered with Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) as part of the district’s efforts to increase the number of African American, Latinx, and low-income students that are on track for high school graduation at the end of 8th and 9th grade. The specific work is focused on creating a networked improvement community of 14 middle and high schools across the district to improve secondary literacy outcomes for the students they serve and who are predominantly of the previously mentioned populations.

City Schools began this work with school teams by focusing on English Language Arts and student engagement per the district’s adopted strategic plan. With the school as the unit of change, school staff will engage in intensive coaching and data review sessions with coaches who are both content and instructional experts. At the network level, the district will facilitate cross-school learning efforts and promote buy-in across leadership structures. The Carnegie team will support City Schools to launch their NIC and use improvement to increase instructional capacity over time.

Launching a NIC

Teachers and leaders from Baltimore City Schools discuss the launch of its networked improvement community and the role of improvement science in advancing equitable outcomes for their students.



The Carnegie Foundation has partnered with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to provide learning support to its Deeper Learning + Diffusion of Innovation and Scaled Impact network. The network’s 10 research-practice partnerships are working to (1) advance deeper learning at scale in K–12 contexts with a focus on creating equitable learning environments for all students and (2) develop theoretical insight into questions related to the scaling and sustainability of deeper learning instruction.

To inform this work, Carnegie will draw on its emerging conceptual framework for providing analytic support to improvement networks and organizations known as Evidence for Improvement, which provides guidance to analysts and evaluators seeking to support continuous improvement efforts. EFI argues that analysts should support improvement organizations as they develop and refine their theories of improvement, monitor and measure the “health” of the organizations engaged in improvement, and help improvement organizations map factors in their broader policy and political environment in order to respond strategically.

Partners/Participating Organizations

Colorado Education Initiative, in partnership with Colorado Springs School District 11, will cultivate leadership and change management practices in the district with the ultimate goal of having 80% of the district’s students engaged in deeper learning by 2021.

The Critical Civic Inquiry Research Group, in a partnership with the Student Voice and Leadership Program of Denver Public Schools, will scale “action civics” throughout the district and study key levers for diffusing deeper learning practices in a decentralized district, how equity aims are advanced in the scaling process, and changes in student civic engagement and learning.

Generation Citizen will partner with the Oklahoma City Public Schools to advance students’ civic participation by embedding collaborative project-based learning in the district’s secondary social studies courses, including a proven state standards-aligned action civics class that gives students the opportunity to experience real-world democracy.

Inflexion is a nonprofit consulting group that works with school leaders in creating an organizational framework to build learning communities that work for all students. It will partner with the Anaheim (California) Union High School District to produce knowledge on how addressing a school’s identity and organizational infrastructure influences efforts to diffuse reflective practices that thereby leads to equitable scaled impact in large, diverse school systems.

Jobs for the Future, in a partnership with the New Hampshire Learning Initiative, the New Hampshire Department of Education, and the National Center for Innovation in Education, will build on years of state and district innovation in performance assessment and competency-based education to establish both an empirical and procedural foundation for diffusing and advancing success in deeper learning.

Outlier Research & Evaluation at UChicago STEM Education, University of Chicago is partnering with the Broward County (Florida) Public Schools to scale high-quality implementation of deeper learning practices targeted at student critical thinking. Aiming to spread these practices districtwide, the partnership’s strategy is to build organizational and individual readiness for change with a focus on developing teacher will or intention to implement new practices.

Scaling HQPBL for Deeper Learning Impact is a research practice partnership among PBLWorks, Pearl City-Waipahu (Hawaii) Complex Area, Manchester School District (New Hampshire), and Education Northwest. The goal of the project is to scale high-quality project-based learning (HQPBL) to 80% of the 29,284 students they serve, including at least 80% of their students who are furthest from opportunity in the districts for mastery of academic core content, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.

The Student-Centered Accountability Program (S-CAP) is a networked school system improvement approach involving rural districts across Colorado that are using multiple measures and processes to drive the continuous improvement of deeper learning opportunities, practices, and outcomes. This grassroots approach includes a peer-review process to build system improvement capacity and accountability within and across participating districts.

University of California at Berkeley, in a partnership with the Hayward (California) Unified School District and the REACH institute, will redesign professional learning systems for teachers in order to develop four core teaching practices fostering deeper learning throughout the district: (1) creating curiosity for the new content of a lesson, (2) co-constructing new insights in a dialogue with students, (3) setting up an independent student conversation around a substantive idea, and (4) giving feedback that enables learning from student misconceptions.

University of Colorado at Boulder, in a partnership with Denver Public Schools, will provide professional learning support for teachers to engage in culturally relevant, phenomenon-based science teaching, with the goal of ensuring that students’ sense of belonging, contribution to knowledge building in the classroom, and identification with science and engineering cannot be predicted by their race or gender.


Partnering to Scale Instructional Improvement: A Framework for Organizing Research-Practice Partnerships

This paper offers a four-part framework and a reflectiv tool for use by RPPs working to improve instruction at scale. The interactions among the components provide for learning that, in turn, can influence whether a partnership is up to the achieving equitable instructional reform at scale. More


This work is supported by a grant from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.


As the number of improvement networks continues to grow, the need for a common way to look across networks to understand their development becomes increasingly important. Such networks are part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Networks for School Improvement (NSI) initiative. Gates has invested in intermediary organizations that will drive and organize networks of secondary schools towards continuous improvement and better outcomes for students. These intermediaries must guide network members in their use of continuous improvement methods, consolidate and communicate learnings that emerge in local sites across the network, and foster a trusting learning community across diverse contexts, among other core tasks.

In order to help these intermediaries learn about their specific networks and help Gates learn about its larger community of networks, Carnegie is working with the Partners for Network Improvement (PNI) at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center. Together, they have developed a conceptual and analytics infrastructure for understanding network health and development—see Figure 1 below and the white paper The Social Structure of Networked Improvement Communities: Cultivating the Emergence of a Scientific Professional Learning Community—and a survey of network health and an associated set of reporting and analysis tools. The team is deploying the Network Health Survey to each NSI from which an associated set of reports will be produced to inform NSI membership and leaders. By supporting NSIs to better understand themselves, this work will help them in their efforts to become organized, engaged, and self-sustaining learning communities.

To learn more about the Network Health Survey, contact Angel Li at


Carnegie Staff: Angel Li, David Sherer, Susan Haynes, Mannong Pang, and Laura McReynolds

Senior Fellows: Jennifer Russell, and Anthony S. Bryk


The Social Structure of Networked Improvement Communities: Cultivating the Emergence of a Scientific-Professional Learning Community

How do networked improvement communities (NICs) create a social structure to catalyze the type of community that can solve complex problems? Based upon prior theorizing, research literature, and observations of developing NICs, here we describe a framework for use as an analytic tool for understanding NIC emergence and maturation. More


This work is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


The Improvement Scholars Network is an effort initiated by the Carnegie Foundation to build shared identity and purpose among those advancing improvement research in education that is grounded deeply in problems, needs, and opportunities in practice contexts. Leaders in the development of this field include the Carnegie Foundation, the Design-Based Implementation Research community, the National Network of Education Research Practice Partnerships, the SERP Institute, the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools, and the National Implementation Research Network.

The aim of the Improvement Scholars Network is to advance improvement research in the academy, in practice communities, and in policy environments. As part of this effort, Carnegie has created multiple opportunities for leaders in the field to (1) engage in convenings in which they have framed organizing principles and strategies for the field and (2) collaborate in joint projects, publications, and conference presentations.

This work has culminated in a collaborative, field-wide push to produce an inaugural handbook on improvement-focused educational research; the constitution of a representative leadership board of the Improvement Scholars Network; and initial efforts by this leadership board to advance the Improvement Scholars Network as a collegially led, self-sustaining organization.


Senior Fellows: Donald J. Peurach, and Jennifer Russell

Carnegie Staff: Jennifer Au


Contact us if you have questions about the Improvement Scholars Network.


The Carnegie Foundation has come together with the Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT) Foundation for a three-year partnership with 11 educator preparation programs in Texas that aims to improve teacher education by strengthening the teacher-candidate pipeline and deepening the clinical experience component of teacher preparation. The Raising Texas Teachers initiative encourages teaching as a profession by granting scholarships to aspiring teachers, and seeks to improve teacher education by convening teacher preparation programs across the state to improve shared problems as a networked improvement community.

The Foundation will support NIC initiation, launch, and maintenance, as well as to provide individual capacity building opportunities for RYHT staff and partners. This partnership will launch two NICs focused on improving teacher preparation: One focused on improving the quality and coherence of clinical field experiences and the other focused on reducing teacher candidate attrition.

Partners/Participating Organizations

Raise Your Hand Texas

Key Staff

Carnegie Staff: Patrice Dawkins-Jackson, Jennifer Au, Jon Norman, and Kelly McMahon