Categories for Structural Interventions

Impact of Class Size and Staffing Ratios in Early Childhood Education

August 8, 2017

A Meta-Analysis of Class Sizes and Ratios in Early Childhood Education Programs: Are Thresholds of Quality Associated With Greater Impacts on Cognitive, Achievement, and Socioemotional Outcomes?

This meta-analysis of early childhood education programs in the U.S. examines the impact of class size and child to teacher ratios on the cognitive, achievement, and socioemotional outcomes for children. The study found no socially significant relationship with cognitive and achievement effect size for either class size or child to teacher ratios. The only notable effect size was when child to teacher were ratios lower than 7.5-1.

Citation: Bowne, J. B., Magnuson, K. A., Schindler, H. S., Duncan, G. J., & Yoshikawa, H. (2017). A Meta-Analysis of Class Sizes and Ratios in Early Childhood Education Programs: Are Thresholds of Quality Associated With Greater Impacts on Cognitive, Achievement, and Socioemotional Outcomes?. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 0162373716689489.




Do Healthier School Lunches Have a Positive Impact on Students?

June 15, 2017

School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance

Providing children with nutritious school meals continues to be a topic of interest in education policy. It has been argued that a healthy diet can have a positive impact on childhood obesity as well as student achievement. However, there is little empirical evidence to support this popular intervention. A working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research offers insights to help policy makers decide whether to select this option as a way to make a difference in children’s lives. The study, a natural experiment conducted in California public schools, uses a difference-in-difference regression statistical analysis of data from a treatment group and a control group at two or more different time periods, pre-treatment and post-treatment. The study found no evidence to support a reduction in obesity, but it did discover that introducing healthy meals was associated with a 0.036 standard deviation increase in test scores. The improved student achievement, although small, makes nutritious school lunches a viable cost-effective intervention that can boost test scores. It is important to remember that this is a correlational study and thus cannot establish a cause and effect relationship between healthy eating and student achievement.

Citation: Anderson, M. L., Gallagher, J., & Ritchie, E. R. (2017). School lunch quality and academic performance (NBER Working Paper No. 23218). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.




What We Know About Supporting New Teachers

June 14, 2017

Creating Supportive School Cultures for Beginning Teachers: Mitigating the Cultural Contextual Factors

This systematic literature review examines factors that affect new teachers as they become employed. It suggests that new teachers experience significant stress as they transition from teacher preparation programs to everyday teaching. The pressures experienced by novice instructors are evidenced by high rates of turnover during the first 5 years of teaching. This initial period entails a steep learning curve as new teachers try to match and adjust what they learned in pre-service training with the unique cultural practices of their new placements. To mitigate the challenges new teachers face, schools have implemented an array of practices subsumed under the heading “teacher induction.” Unfortunately, the literature review finds that the lack of standardization of practices including mentoring to coaching has reduced the overall impact of teacher induction and the ability of schools to effectively align the education philosophy and cultural values of new teachers with the strategies, procedures, needs, and resources of the schools where the new teachers are beginning their careers.

Citation: Kutsyuruba, B, Walker, K. D., and Gooden, L., (2017). Creating supportive school cultures for beginning teachers: Mitigating the cultural contextual factors. International Journal of Educational Organization and Leadership, 24(2), 1–18.




Can Providing Each Child With a Computer Improve Academic Performance?

May 31, 2017

Learning in One-to-One Laptop Environments: A Meta-Analysis and Research Synthesis

A recently released paper on the impact of computers on student achievement has concluded that providing each student with a computer has a modest but positive effect on student achievement. This meta-analysis included 10 studies from more than 15 years of research on the topic. The researchers found that one-to-one laptop programs have a statistically significant positive role in improving student test scores in English/language arts, writing, math, and science. This research runs counter to previous studies, which viewed computer impact as overstated and computers as underused in schools. The new study found that providing students with their own computers has a positive impact by making it easier to share drafts of projects and thus increasing access to feedback. The researchers also concluded that more research is needed as only 10 rigorous studies were available for inclusion in the meta-analysis.

Citation: Zheng, B., Warschauer, M., Lin, C. H., & Chang, C. (2016). Learning in one-to-one laptop environments: A meta-analysis and research synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 1052–1084.




What Is the Impact of Special Education Inclusion on General Education Students?

May 15, 2017

Academic achievement of students without special educational needs in inclusive classrooms: A meta-analysis

A newly released multi-national meta-analysis examined the impact of including special education needs students (SEN) in classrooms with students without special needs. Inclusion of SEN students in general education classrooms has been broadly practiced for more than 30 years and is seen as a method for improving SEN student performance. Previous research on the impact of the practice on non-SEN students produced mixed results, prompting the authors to conduct a meta-analysis to estimate the effect size of the relationship between inclusion education and academic achievement of students without special needs. A total of 47 studies with more than 4,800,000 students met the criteria for the meta-analysis. The studies had to be quantitative, assess academic achievement, and measure student academic achievement in at least one of the following subjects: language, mathematics, science, biology, or a foreign language. Also, the participants had to be in grades K–12. The meta-analysis concluded that attending inclusive classrooms is positively, though weakly, associated with the academic achievement of students without special needs. The effect size was determined to be 0.12. This compares with the effect sizes John Hattie found for many popular structural interventions: educational expenditure (0.23), class size (0.21), ability grouping (0.12), within-class grouping (0.16), and charter schools (0.20).

Citation: Szumski, G., Smogorzewska, J., & Karwowski, M. (2017). Academic achievement of students without special educational needs in inclusive classrooms: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 21, 33–54.




How Effective Is Teacher Merit Pay?

April 17, 2017

Teacher Merit Pay and Student Test Scores: A Meta-Analysis

Teacher merit pay has garnered significant attention as a promising reform method for improving teacher performance and, more importantly, student achievement scores. This meta-analysis, which examined findings from 44 studies of teacher merit pay, found that merit pay is associated with a modest, statistically significant, positive effect on student test scores. The research also found that not all merit pay programs are equal. The best results are dependent on constructing efforts that incorporate sound, evidence-based practice elements. The authors of the meta-analysis concluded that while a merit pay program has the potential to improve student test scores, success hinges on school administrators and policymakers paying close attention to how the program is structured and implemented. The meta-analysis also recognized the need for additional research to better delineate features and practice elements that produce the best results.

Citation: Pham, L., Nguyen, T., & Springer, M. (2017). Teacher Merit Pay and Student Test Scores: A Meta-Analysis. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.




Increasing Opportunities for Teachers to Plan Lessons

February 28, 2017

Reimagining the School Day: Innovative Schedules for Teaching and Learning

A new report from the Center for American Progress suggests that American students would be better served if teachers were allowed more time to collaborate with colleagues, plan lessons, and review the effects of instruction. Education reform efforts in the United States have resulted in notable increases in the average length of the school day and the school year, expanding total instructional time for students. This means that teachers spend about 27 hours per week in face-to-face time teaching. Disappointingly, these efforts have not increased student achievement scores. An unintended consequence has been that American teachers typically spend significantly less time planning lessons than peers in nations such as Singapore and Finland, which are achieving better results. This report examines scheduling options that increase educator time to plan lessons. Examples of school schedules from across the United States are offered as a resource for schools systems looking to improve performance in this critical area of instruction.

Benner, M., & Partelow, L. (2017). Reimagining the School Day: Innovative Schedules for Teaching and Learning. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.



20% of High School Students Passed an AP Exam in 2016

February 23, 2017

1 in 5 Public School Students in the Class of 2016 Passed an AP Exam

The number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) tests has grown to more than 2.5 million students annually. Overall test scores have remained relatively constant despite a 60% increase in the number of students taking AP exams since 2006. In school year 2015–16, 20% of students taking an AP test passed and were eligible for college credit. The College Board also reports a continuing trend in the significant increase in the number of low-income students participating in the program. Unfortunately, this trend may be negatively impacted by changes in funding. The federal grant program subsidizing AP tests for low-income students has been replaced by block grants in the Every Student Succeeds Act. These funds may still be applied to subsidize low-income populations but are not mandated for this purpose as in the past.

Zubrzycki, J. (2017). 1 in 5 Public School Students in the Class of 2016 Passed an AP Exam. Education Week.

College Board Advance Placement Data: