Our Work

We take our commitment to our client schools seriously. We believe it is our responsibility to ensure that a district and the school are putting in place practices and systems that will ensure the success of all students and teachers.


The state of Missouri realized that schools and districts needed help to strategically plan for the changes to turn around student learning and performance. AIR was selected to work directly with six Missouri schools to conduct needs assessments and develop turnaround and transformation plans prior to submitting the SIG application. All six schools were awarded 2010 SIG funds. Two of the schools—Hayti High School and Hazelwood East Middle School—had the top-scoring applications in the state. AIR continues to work with Hazelwood East Middle School in St. Louis County as its turnaround partner. Nearly a year later, at the close of the 2010–11 school year, Hayti R-II School District Superintendent Jeff Tucker reported, “We are pleased with the progress. We actually had a good school year, and the students, teachers, and community accepted the changes extremely well. We held really close to the plan we developed and only made a few adjustments.” Gary Jansen, Principal, East Middle School, Hazelwood, Missouri – we are the lead partner in this school’s turnaround effort that began during the 2010-2011 school year

 Cahokia, Illinois

Cahokia Unit School District (CUSD) 187 in Cahokia, Illinois, needed an educational makeover. Applying for the 2010 federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) 1003(g) funding provided an opportunity for CUSD 187 to overhaul the practices at Cahokia High School but district and school administrators did not have the relationships in place to meet the minimum requirements of the Illinois SIG application. American Institutes for Research (AIR) introduced the structure, protocols, and process for district administrators and union officials to move beyond their rocky relationship and find common ground. As a result of these efforts, CUSD 187 and union officials worked together effectively to create a SIG transformation plan to improve teaching and learning for Cahokia’s 1,000 high school students. CUSD 187 administrators and union officials were struggling to establish agreements to expand student learning time and implement an evaluation system for teachers and principals that incorporates student growth and teacher performance—two requirements needed for the SIG application process in Illinois. AIR led the needs assessment/school improvement team responsible for submitting CUSD 187’s SIG application. Our staff worked to build trust and collaboration between district and school administrators, the local teachers union, and state union representatives. Our staff connected local representatives with leadership training opportunities and other resources from the American Federation of Teachers to enhance their participation in the SIG planning. As a result of these efforts, CUSD 187 and union officials worked together effectively to create a SIG transformation plan to improve teaching and learning for Cahokia’s 1,000 high school students.

Romulus, Michigan

In 2010, Romulus Middle School was awarded one of Michigan’s largest School Improvement Grants (SIG), $5.3 million over three years. The school now needed a partner capable of coordinating all of the complex moving parts—including organizing a variety of external providers, each responsible for a specific activity in the school’s improvement plan. The school’s administrators hired American Institutes for Research (AIR) to be that partner. “AIR is helping us refine our activities,” said Jason Salhaney, principal of Romulus Middle School. “Our school team had the plan and the vision. We know what we wanted things to look like. AIR came in to help us prioritize and implement the pieces and target the areas of support.” Administrators are using the SIG funding to intensify the school’s efforts to improve instruction and to build a structure to foster greater teacher leadership and collaboration. AIR staff are utilizing data to move the school’s ambitious plans forward. They are coaching school staff in collecting and analyzing data to determine how initiatives are being implemented and whether or not those initiatives are successful, and to focus interventions where they are needed most. Principal Salhaney is clear that he did not want a provider to come in and take over the decision making for the school. “Once you establish a vision, make sure your provider believes in that and helps you make it come alive. You want it to be your own school.” Salhaney said. “We want to build our capacity, and that’s what AIR helps us do.”

East Middle School

East Middle School in greater St. Louis was one of the lowest performing schools in Missouri before implementing the turnaround school improvement model, hiring a new principal and at least 50 percent new staff to improve student achievement last year. The school administration chose AIR to lead its turnaround efforts. East Middle School’s growth in students’ reading scores has outpaced the performance of all of the middle schools in the Hazelwood School District after its first year of implementing the turnaround school improvement model with AIR. Student math scores rose from the lowest of the district’s six middle schools to the best, with students scoring an average of 76 percent. The school also outperformed the district’s other middle schools in eighth grade communication arts.  East Middle School’s Communication Arts teacher, Sean Manion, was recognized as the Outstanding First Year Teacher in the district this year.