Categories for Effective Instruction

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 The federal grant program subsidizing AP tests for low-income students has been replaced by block grants in the Every Student Succeeds Act.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:



Impact of Virtual Charter Schools

February 16, 2017

A study released on February 16, 2017, finds that online charter schools perform worse than traditional public or brick and mortar charter schools. The study by New York University and RAND Corporation (Ahn & McEachin, 2016) concludes that Ohio students who are enrolled in virtual charter schools spend significantly less time engaged in instruction and are less likely to pass the Ohio Graduation Test. A second study from Mathematica Policy Research (Gill et al., 2015) reports that online charter students experience weaker overall academic growth than comparable traditional public and charter school students. These findings, along with those of a study from Johns Hopkins University (Balfanz et al., 2014) suggesting that virtual charter school graduation rates are worse than those of traditional public and charter schools, strongly support a closer examination of the model and indicate a need for caution regarding online charter schools.

Ahn, J, and McEachin, A. (2017). Student enrollment patterns and achievement in Ohio’s online charter schools. Education Researcher, Vol. XX No. X, pp. 1–14.

Gill, B., Walsh, L., Wulsin, C. S., Matulewicz, H., Severn, V., Grau, E., … & Kerwin, T. (2015). Inside online charter schools. Cambridge, MA: Mathematica Policy Research.

Balfanz, R., Bridgeland, J. M., Fox, J. H., DePaoli, J. L., Ingram, E. S., & Maushard, M. (2014). Building a grad nation: Progress and challenge in ending the high school dropout epidemic. Annual Update 2014. Baltimore, MD: Everyone Graduates Center, School of Education, Johns Hopkins University



New Evidence-based Web Site for ESSA

February 15, 2017

The Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University has announced a February release for a website that reviews every math and reading program for grades K to 12 to determine which meet the strong, moderate, or promising levels of evidence defined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This web site is designed to provide education decision-makers at the state, district and school levels, teachers, parents, and the public with the information to ascertain which programs meet the ESSA evidence standards.

Additional commentary on this topic is available from Robert Slavin



Read to be Ready

February 8, 2017

The Tennessee Department of Education combines coaching, instruction in evidence-based reading practices, and a multitiered system of supports in a new initiative called Read to be Ready. The initiative trains teachers in the best ways to teach children literacy skills. Ample evidence supports the importance of students reading at grade level. Effective reading has been shown to be a reliable indicator of future success in school and adulthood. This initiative is designed to increase literacy by coaching teachers on how to use evidence-based practices of reading. For the past 20 years much attention has been paid to explicit instruction of phonics to improve students’ reading scores. This initiative will build on these efforts by also requiring explicit comprehension instruction to build skills for deriving meaning, analyzing the logic of argumentation, generating conclusions, and interpreting content.



Impact of School Improvement Grants

February 3, 2017

School Improvement Grants: Implementation and Effectiveness

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently released a summary report of the impact of School Improvement Grants (SIG). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided states and school districts with $3 Billion for SIG. By accepting SIG grants states agreed to implement one of four interventions to improve the lowest performing schools: transformation, turnaround, restart, or closure. The goals of SIG were to improve practices in four main areas: (1) adopting comprehensive instructional reform strategies, (2) developing and increasing teacher and principal effectiveness, (3) increasing learning time and creating community-oriented schools, and (4) having operational flexibility and receiving support. The report finds minimal positive effects from the grants and no evidence that SIG had significant impacts on math and reading scores, graduation rates, or increased college enrollment.

Citation: Dragoset, L., Thomas, J., Herrmann, M., Deke, J., James-Burdumy, S., Graczewski, C., … & Giffin, J. (2017). School Improvement Grants: Implementation and Effectiveness (No. 76bce3f4bb0944f29a481fae0dbc7cdb). Mathematica Policy Research.



Effects of Ability Grouping and Acceleration on Academic Achievement

January 25, 2017

What One Hundred Years of Research Says About the Effects of Ability Grouping and Acceleration on K–12 Students’ Academic Achievement: Findings of Two Second-Order Meta-Analyses

This paper analyzed the results of research on the effects of ability grouping and acceleration on students’ academic achievement. Nineteen meta-analyses met criteria for inclusion for the review. The researchers divided ability grouping into four types:

  • between-class ability grouping, students in the same grade divided into low, medium, or high level classes;
  • within-class ability grouping, students within a classroom taught in groups based on levels;
  • cross-grade subject grouping, students of different grades combined into the same class depending on achievement; and
  • grouping for gifted students

Results were found for improved academic achievement within-class grouping, cross-grade grouping by subject, and grouping for the gifted. No positive effects were identified for between-class grouping. The results were consistent regardless of whether students were high, medium, or low achievers. The study found acceleration appeared to have a positive, moderate, and statistically significant impact on students’ academic achievement.

Steenbergen-Hu, S., Makel, M. C., & Olszewski-Kubilius, P. (2016). What One Hundred Years of Research Says About the Effects of Ability Grouping and Acceleration on K–12 Students’ Academic Achievement: Findings of Two Second-Order Meta-Analyses. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 849-899.



Children and parents attitudes toward reading

December 6, 2016

Kids & Family Reading Report

The Bi-annual Kids & Family Reading Report on the attitudes of children and parents toward reading was released in early January 2016. The latest research touches on reading aloud to children of all ages, the impact of reading independently for fun at school and at home, the importance of frequent reading, and the books children want most to read.

Scholastic. (2015). Kids & Family Reading Report 5th Addition.




Corporal Punishment Use in US Schools

December 6, 2016

Corporal Punishment in U.S. Public Schools: Prevalence, Disparities in Use, and Status in State and Federal Policy

Despite a significant drop in the use of corporal punishment in schools, a recent study finds corporal punishment is currently legal in 19 states and over 160,000 children are subject to corporal punishment in schools each year. This policy report examines the prevalence and geographic dispersion of corporal punishment in U.S. public schools. The research finds corporal punishment is disproportionately applied to children who are Black, to boys and children with disabilities. Black students experienced corporal punishment at twice the rate of white students, 10 percent versus 5 percent. This report summarizes sources of concern about school corporal punishment, reviewing state policies related to school corporal punishment, and discusses the future of school corporal punishment in state and federal policy.

Gershoff, E. T., & Font, S. A. (2016). Corporal Punishment in US Public Schools: Prevalence, Disparities in Use, and Status in State and Federal Policy. Social Policy Report, 30(1).



How effective are early childhood programs?

December 5, 2016

Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Programs and Policies on Educational Outcomes in Elementary School

A recent study, attempts to answer this question by examining the effects of two North Carolina early-childhood programs on students’ educational outcomes in elementary school. This study looked at the impact of state funding allocations to programs in each of 100 counties across 13 consecutive years in South Carolina. These findings indicate that North Carolina’s investment in early childhood programs is associated with improved educational outcomes for students in terms of math and reading scores, reductions in special education rates, and diminished incidence of grade retention. Importantly, these effects don’t appear to fade during the elementary grades.

Dodge, K. A., Bai, Y., Ladd, H. F., & Muschkin, C. G. (2016). Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Programs and Policies on Educational Outcomes in Elementary School. Child