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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.




Formative Assessment Overview (Wing Institute Paper)

June 13, 2017

Effective ongoing assessment, referred to in the education literature as formative assessment or progress monitoring, is indispensable in promoting teacher and student success. Feedback through formative assessment is ranked at or near the top of practices known to significantly raise student achievement. For decades, formative assessment has been found to be effective in clinical settings and, more important, in typical classroom settings. Formative assessment produces substantial results at a cost significantly below that of other popular school reform initiatives such as smaller class size, charter schools, accountability, and school vouchers. It also serves as a practical diagnostic tool available to all teachers. A core component of formal and informal assessment procedures, formative assessment allows teachers to quickly determine if individual students are progressing at acceptable rates and provides insight into where and how to modify and adapt lessons, with the goal of making sure that students do not fall behind.

Citation: States, J., Detrich, R. & Keyworth, R. (2017). Overview of Formative Assessment. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.




How Powerful Is Formative Assessment?

June 6, 2017

Formative Assessment and Elementary School Student Academic Achievement: A Review of the Evidence

A recent comprehensive search of the research on formative assessment interventions for elementary school students identified 23 studies that met inclusion criteria and allowed conclusions to be drawn about the impact of formative assessment on student outcomes. On average across all the studies, students who participated in formative assessment performed better on measures of academic achievement than those who did not. Across all subject areas (math, reading, and writing), formative assessment had larger effects on student academic achievement when other agents, such as teachers or computer programs, directed the formative assessment.

Citation: Klute, M., Apthorp, H., Harlacher, J., & Reale, M. (2017). Formative assessment and elementary school student academic achievement: A review of the evidence. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.




New Individuals with Disabilities Act Website

June 2, 2017

In early February, the IDEA hosted website that provides special education resources disappeared prompting concern among some in the special education community and members of Congress that the new administration was permanently eliminating this support for special education. After a prolonged outage, the U.S. Department of Education Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) website, has been revamped and is now back online. The website offers useful information on special education law and policy, topic area reports, grants and funding resources, links to outside resources, and a blog for use by policy makers, parents and educators.




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.




What Strategies Are Needed to Maximize Treatment Integrity?

May 12, 2017

Treatment Integrity Strategies Overview

Student achievement scores in the United States remain stagnant despite repeated attempts to reform the education system. New initiatives promising hope arise, only to disappoint after being adopted, implemented, and quickly found wanting. The cycle of reform followed by failure has had a demoralizing effect on schools, making new reform efforts problematic. These efforts frequently fail because implementing new practices is far more challenging than expected and require that greater attention be paid to how initiatives are implemented. Treatment integrity is increasingly recognized as an essential component of effective implementation in an evidence-based education model that produces results, and inattention to treatment integrity is seen as a primary reason new initiatives fail. The question remains, what strategies can educators employ to increase the likelihood that practices are implemented as designed? The Wing Institute overview on the topic of Treatment Integrity Strategies examines the essential practice elements indispensable for maximizing treatment integrity.

Citation: States, J., Detrich, R. & Keyworth, R. (2017). Overview of Treatment Integrity Strategies. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.




How Powerful Is Mindfulness?

May 11, 2017

Mindfulness-based interventions for improving cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and socioemotional functioning of primary and secondary students

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) in schools have become increasingly popular. These practices are employed to reduce student stress and anxiety, and to improve socioemotional competencies, student behavior, and academic achievement. For purposes of the study MBI’s were defined as self-regulation of attention to the conscious awareness of one’s immediate experiences while adopting an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance. A recent Campbell Collaboration systematic review examined the effectiveness of school-based MBIs on cognition, behavior, socioemotional outcomes, physiological, and academic achievement. Of 61 studies examined, 35 studies, with a total of 6,207 student participants, met the criteria for inclusion. Studies in this review included randomized trials, quasi-experimental designs, single group pre-post test comparisons, and single subject designs. To be included in the review, a study had to report outcomes on at least one of these measures: cognition, academic performance, behavior, socioemotional, and physiological. Study populations included preschool, primary school, and secondary school students.

The Campbell review found that MBIs had a small, statistically significant positive effect on cognitive and socioemotional outcomes, but no significant effect on behavioral and academic outcomes. The study also concluded that further work in this area is needed, given the quantity of research and quality of the available studies.

Citation: Maynard, B. R., Solis, M. R., Miller, V. L., & Brendel, K. E. (2017). Mindfulness-based interventions for improving cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and socioemotional functioning of primary and secondary students. Campbell Systematic Reviews:5





How Effective Is Phonics Instruction?

April 20, 2017

Comparing and Validating Methods of Reading Instruction Using Behavioural and Neural Findings in an Artificial Orthography

There is a strong evidence base for emphasizing print-to-sound relationships when teaching students to read alphabetic languages. Nevertheless, direct reading instruction methods remain controversial. The results of this study confirm that early literacy instruction is most effective when focused on print-to-sound relationships (phonics) rather than on meaning. The benefits of print-to-sound training were found to be superior to print-to-meaning training for these reasons: (a) Reading aloud trained words learned phonetically was faster and more accurate, (b) generalization in reading aloud untrained words was faster, and (c) comprehension of written words was more accurate earlier in learning. These findings provide additional experimental support for the importance of early phonics instruction. They contradict the argument that phonics teaching does not improve reading for meaning (comprehension).

Citation: Taylor, J. S. H., Davis, M. H., & Rastle, K. (2017, April 20). Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication.