The 2021-2022 school year will mark the first year since 1980 in which Andover has done a full system review, according to Dianne Domenech-Burgos, Interim Chief of Staff at Andover. A full system review includes the evaluation of academics, curriculum, teachers, athletics, residential life, and various additional facets of Andover life and education. Head of School Raynard Kington is leading these efforts. As a current board member and former scientist for the RAND corporation, Kington is familiar with the corporation’s work and values. With his understanding, Kington recommended for RAND to come to Andover to work alongside faculty on their system review.
Since 1948, the RAND Corporation has served as a data research and analysis group, initially created to serve the U.S. Armed Forces. Now, RAND works as a non-profit think-tank working with the U.S. government and other organizations to study literature on subjects including, but not limited to, energy and the environment, education and literacy, and international affairs.
In its role at Andover, the RAND Corporation plans to study the current data and literature on teacher evaluations in independent secondary schools, as well as other high schools and colleges alike. The corporation then plans to evaluate Andover’s current system for faculty evaluation and collect data. By surveying Andover’s staff, RAND will be assessing faculty perspectives on the efficacy of their evaluations. According to Jeffrey Domina, Dean of Faculty, as of a month ago, RAND planned to use their data and research to propose a new potential faculty evaluation system.
“[RAND will] propose options for other systems of both faculty evaluation and academic department reviews… Any system that emerges… from this process would be administered by faculty and staff here at Andover—not by RAND,” Domina wrote in an email to The Phillipian on November 9.
Kington has been a member of the RAND Corporation board since February 16, 2021. He stated that his values lie in agreement with the RAND Corporation, and reiterated their mission. He specifically highlighted their nonpartisan affiliation and strive to build stronger public policy.
“I was asked to join the board, because they respected that I had an unusual career. I had been a scientist there, but they generally didn’t hire their former scientists… It’s an institution whose mission I deeply believe in. It’s about using nonpartisan, evidence-based knowledge to make public policy. A half of what it does is in international relations and a lot of it is military, but you know, I’m all for if intelligence can help us go to war less often,” said Kington in an interview with The Phillipian.
Domenech-Burgos is one of the faculty members asked by Kington to coordinate with the RAND Corporation. As of now, she is working to assist Andover alum and current RAND member Heather Schwartz ’95 in her data analysis efforts for the project. Domenech-Burgos expressed that Andover’s goal at improving the systems in place within the school made RAND a good fit to help.
“Their charge is to really look at the Andover experience, and if we’re giving the best Andover experience to every student. Part of that is just to look at our academics, our curriculum, our faculty, and our departments. That’s why we went to RAND because they’re known for their work in education,” said Domenech-Burgos.
RAND is not just working with Andover on the project. The corporation also plans to interview another eight independent schools in the area to create a collective work. The research report RAND creates from these efforts will be publicly available, a facet of the project which Domenech-Burgos is especially excited about.
“The other piece is they’re not just interviewing us. They’re going to interview our neighbors, the [schools in the] Eight Schools [Association]. They’re going to interview all of them to find out how they do their faculty evaluations, and then the best part is that we’re hoping to take all this data and write a report and then share it with our neighboring schools and anybody in the independent world who would like the information. We would want to share it for free, so it’s part of our agreement with RAND that we would be able to share that information more broadly so that everybody can be a part of it, so it’s exciting for me,” said Domenech-Burgos.
The RAND Corporation will be coming to Andover next week to begin the faculty surveying process. They will then return to Andover in March once data has been compiled for a meeting regarding their preliminary findings. According to Domenech-Burgos, the plan is to provide their evaluation to the Andover staff by the beginning of May.
Domenech-Burgos said, “They’re coming next week already, so when they come next week, they’re going to start the process of surveying the whole faculty, and hopefully all of that will help us get the best system to evaluate not really the faculty, but our faculty’s ability to help students.”