Categories for Policy Initiatives
January 7, 2020
School Principal Competencies. Research has consistently shown that principals play a critical role in determining the quality of teaching, and in turn, student learning and achievement. Recent meta-analytic reviews suggest that effective principals are highly competent in the following areas: 1) establishing and conveying the school’s vision, goals and expectations by modeling aspirational practices and promoting data use for continuous improvement; 2) building teachers’ professional capacity by providing targeted and job-embedded professional development, protecting instructional time, and selecting educators who are the “right fit” for the school; 3) creating a supportive organization for learning by sharing and distributing leadership, understanding and building on diversity, and strategically acquiring and allocating resources; 4) facilitating a high-quality student learning experience by developing and monitoring curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and creating learning environments that are personalized, safe, and orderly; and 5) connecting with external partners who can support fulfillment of school goals, and building productive and collaborative relationships with families. While these principal competencies are relevant for a range of school contexts, leaders operating in varying school environments (e.g., high/low poverty, urban/rural) must ultimately determine how best to enact them to optimize teaching and learning.
Citation: Donley, J., Detrich, R., States, J., & Keyworth, (2020). Principal Competencies. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute. https://www.winginstitute.org/principal-competencies-research
December 17, 2019
Practice Outpacing Policy? Credit Recovery in American School Districts. Traditionally, students who failed classes could get credit by taking the class over during summer school. In a relatively brief period of time, most high schools have a undergone a complete and rapid transformation in this area, shifting to “credit recovery” programs to help at-risk students earn credits towards graduation for classes they have failed. These programs typically offer online alternatives to students rather than having them retake the failed class. In the 2015-16 school year approximately three out of four high schools offered credit recovery programs with about 6% of all students participating. This growth in credit recovery programs, rapid expansion of new online models, and numerous cases of misuse to inflate graduation rates highlight the need for research into the implementation and effectiveness of this intervention.
This study examined the policies and practices of a representative sample of high schools to identify how they structure their credit recovery programs. It found: Over 95% of the credit recovery program had online components (58% online with some in-person instruction, 37% were exclusively online). Seventy-eight percent used just one online credit recovery provider to manage their system. Eighty-seven percent of districts offer credit recovery programs year-round. Forty percent of the districts limited credit recovery to courses
Traditionally, students who failed classes could get credit by taking the course over during summer school. In a relatively brief time, most high schools have undergone a complete and rapid transformation in this area, shifting to “credit recovery” programs to help at-risk students earn credits towards graduation for classes they have failed. These programs typically offer online alternatives to students rather than having them retake the failed class. In the 2015-16 school year, approximately three out of four high schools offered credit recovery programs with, about 6% of all students participating. This growth in credit recovery programs, a rapid expansion of new online models, and numerous cases of misuse to inflate graduation rates highlight the need for research into the implementation and effectiveness of this intervention
This study examined the policies and practices of a representative sample of high schools to identify how they structure their credit recovery programs. It found: Over 95% of the credit recovery program had online components (58% online with some in-person instruction, 37% were exclusively online). Seventy-eight percent used just one online credit recovery provider to manage their system. Eighty-seven percent of districts offer credit recovery programs year-round. Forty percent of the districts limited credit recovery to courses required for graduation. Only 16% limited the option to twelfth graders, allowing students from all high school grades to avail themselves of the option. The study concluded that “many districts’ policies allow lots of flexibility for student access and assessment with relatively little constraint. Taken individually, these policies could be justifiable but taken together, and they leave credit recovery programs ripe for abuse.”
Citation: Malkus, N. (2019). Practice Outpacing Policy? Credit Recovery in American School Districts. American Enterprise Institute.
Web Address: https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Practice-Outpacing-Policy.pdf
December 16, 2019
On the Reality of Dyslexia. This paper assesses research on the topic of dyslexia. Willingham’s piece is in response to comments made by literacy researcher, Dick Allington, in which he questions the legitimacy of the label, dyslexia. Answering this question is more than an academic exercise as having a clearer understanding of dyslexia is crucial if educators are to understand why 10% of students struggle to master reading, the skill essential to success in academic learning. Willingham highlights the etiology of the disorder, and he concludes that the ability to read is the product of the home environment, instruction at school, and genetics within the child. Dyslexia is a problem in the child’s ability to successfully master the skills of reading and is closely related to fluency in language. Dyslexia is not like measles in which you are ill, or you aren’t. Dyslexia is more like high blood pressure where individuals fall on a bell curve. Falling somewhere on the bell curve is supported by the hypothesis that the disorder is the complex interaction between multiple causes. Although it does not have a single source, dyslexia is successfully remediated through evidence-based language and reading instruction.
Citation: Willingham, D. (2019). On the Reality of Dyslexia. Charlottesville, VA.http://www.danielwillingham.com/daniel-willingham-science-and-education-blog/on-the-reality-of-dyslexia?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nbspDanielWillingham-DanielWillinghamScienceAndEducationBlog+%28Daniel+Willingham%27s+Science+and+Education+Blog%29.
Link: On the Reality of Dyslexia
December 16, 2019
PISA 2018 Results (Volume I): What Students Know and Can Do. Benchmark Indicators are critical tools to help education stakeholders track their education system’s performance over time, in comparison to other similar level education systems (state, national, international), and by student groups (ethnicity, disabilities, socioeconomic status, etc.). One of the most respected tools for benchmarking system performance is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-old-students across nearly 80 countries and educational systems in reading, mathematics, and science. The results from the most recent testing (2018) were just released. The report itself has an enormous amount of data. A summary of key findings follows.
Performance Over Time
U.S. test performance, despite small fluctuations, has been virtually flat over the past twelve to eighteen years (depending on the subject area). The reading performance score was 504 in 2000 and 505 in 2018. Math performance got worse, dropping from 483 in 2003 to 478 in 2018. And science performance has remained the same over the last four testing periods, remaining at 502 between 2009 and 2018. Consistency is not inherently a bad thing depending on how well a system is performing. However, PISA data suggests that the U.S. system is significantly underperforming compared to other international systems (see following). Consistency is also a problem when one considers that unprecedented investments in school reform efforts during this time period (e.g. No Child Left Behind, School Improvement Grants, Race to the Top, and Every Student Succeeds) have failed to move the needle in any significant way.
Performance Compared to Other Countries
U.S performance in reading ranked thirteenth among participating nations in reading, thirty-eighth in math, and twelfth in science. These represent a slight improvement in rankings from the 2015 test results, but that is a reflection of several top performing nations had lower scores, not that the U.S. improved.
Performance Across Different Student Subgroups
One of the biggest takeaway’s from this report is the growing inequity in performance between the high student performers and low. The following chart looks at the average scores of a gap between student scores in the highest percent of academic achievement (90%) and scores at the lowest (10%).
Reading scores of the highest performing students have increased over the lasts two tests from 614 to 643, while the scores of the lowest 10% have decreased from 378 to 361. The result is a widening gap between the top and lowest performing students. While improving the scores of the best performing students is a laudable achievement, an education system must serve all of its students in the interest of equity.
Further analysis of the data shows a correlation between student performance differences and their socioeconomic status (SES). One of the metrics used to determine SES is whether or not students qualify for the National School Lunch Program.
This data shows a direct correlation between a school’s reading scores and the SES of its student body. The more low SES students, the lower the PISA reading, math, and science scores.
It is almost impossible to document cause and effect with data at this level of analysis and control. Still, when making policy and program decisions, we must use the best available evidence. In this case, the best available evidence portrays an education system that, despite significant school improvement efforts, has shown little or no improvement over time, performs worse than a significant number of other nations’ education systems and continues to have inequitable results.
Citation. OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume I): What Students Know and Can Do, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5f07c754-en.
Web Address. https://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/pisa-2018-results-volume-i-5f07c754-en.htm
December 16, 2019
Examining racial/ethnic disparities in school discipline in the context of student-reported behavior infractions. Research strongly supports the existence of bias in human beings. Discrepancies between how teachers handle behavior management incidents for students of color and white students has been a concern of education researchers for well over a decade. This paper looks at the disproportionality of consequences for disciplinary infractions between these groups of students. The researchers were interested in determining whether students of color would show similar rates of suspensions, office referrals, personal warnings from a teacher, or warnings about their behavior sent home based on ethnicity, as is the case for white students. Wegman’s study finds that African American students are less likely to receive warnings for behavior infractions than white peers, resulting in escalating consequences for students of color. The unequal handling of disciplinary actions reflects a pressing need for schools to address issues of implicit and explicit bias as a means to address this central issue in education.
Citation: Wegmann, K. M., & Smith, B. (2019). Examining racial/ethnic disparities in school discipline in the context of student-reported behavior infractions. Children and Youth Services Review, 103, 18-27.
November 15, 2019
A Powerful Hunger for Evidence-Proven Technology. The technology industry and education policymakers have touted the benefits of computers in learning. As a consequence, schools in the United States now spend more than $2 billion each year on education technology. But what are schools getting in return for this significant investment in technology learning? Robert Slavin examines the results from five studies designed to answer this question. Slavin concludes that the impact of technology-infused instruction on reading, mathematics, and science in elementary and secondary schools is very small. His analysis finds a study-weighted average across these five reviews to be a +0.05 effect size. This effect size appears to be an insignificant return on investment for such a substantial allocation of resources. Slavin concludes that how software is designed is at the heart of the problem. Commercial companies most often develop education technology. Given technology companies are market-driven, education software developers value profit margins, attractiveness, ease of use, low cost, trends, and fads, over evidence of efficacy. Slavin proposes a solution to improve upon this current model needs to include boosting the incentives to technology developers for creating products based on rigorous research and proven technology-based programs. Regardless of how best to solve the problem, educators need to take seriously this call to address this issue.
Citation: Slavin, R. (2019). A Powerful Hunger for Evidence-Proven Technology. Baltimore, MD: Robert Slavin’s Blog. https://robertslavinsblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/14/a-powerful-hunger-for-evidence-proven-technology/.
November 14, 2019
Using Resource and Cost Considerations to Support Educational Evaluation: Six Domains. Assessing cost, along with the effectiveness of an initiative is common in public policy decision-making, but is frequently missing in education decision-making. Understanding the cost-effectiveness of an intervention is essential if educators are to maximize the impact of an intervention given limited budgets. Education is full of examples of practices, such as class-size reduction and accountability through high-stakes testing, that produce minimal results while consuming significant resources. It is vital for those making critical decisions to understand which practice is best suited to meet the needs of the school and the schools’ students that can be implemented using the available resources. The best way to do this is through the use of a cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA).
A CEA requires an accurate estimation of all added resources needed to implement the new intervention. Costs commonly associated with education interventions include; added personnel, professional development, classroom space, technology, and expenses to monitor effectiveness. The second variable essential to a CEA is the selection of a practice supported by research. In the past twenty years, a significant increase in the quality and quantity of research supporting different education practices has occurred. A CEA compares the extra expenditures required to implement a new intervention to current practices against targeted education outcomes. Examples of educational outcomes are standardized test scores, graduation rates, or student grades.
The focus of this essay is on which economic methods can complement and enhance impact evaluations. The authors propose the use of six domains to link intervention effectiveness to the best technique needed to determine which practice is the most cost-effective choice. The six domains outlined in the paper are outcomes, treatment comparisons, treatment integrity, the role of mediators, test power, and meta-analysis. This paper provides examples of how analyzing the costs associated with these domains can complement and augment practices in evaluating research in the field of education.
Citation: Belfield, C. R., & Brooks Bowden, A. (2019). Using Resource and Cost Considerations to Support Educational Evaluation: Six Domains. Educational Researcher, 48(2), 120-127.
October 24, 2019
Small class sizes for improving student achievement in primary and secondary schools: a systematic review. This Campbell Collaboration systematic review examines the impact of class size on academic achievement. The review summarizes findings from 148 reports from 41 countries. Reducing class size is viewed by many educators as an essential tool for improving student performance, and is especially popular among teachers. But smaller class sizes come at a steep cost. Education policymakers see increasing class size as a way to control education budgets. Despite the real policy and practice implications, the research on the educational effects of class‐size differences on student performance is mixed. This meta-analysis suggests, at best only, a small impact on reading achievement. The study finds a small negative effect on mathematics. Given the fact that class size reduction is minimally effective while being costly, aren’t there better solutions that are both cost-effective, benefits students, and can help teachers be successful in a very challenging profession?
Citation: Filges, T., Sonne‐Schmidt, C. S., & Nielsen, B. C. V. (2018). Small class sizes for improving student achievement in primary and secondary schools: a systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 14(1), 1-107.
October 22, 2019
Teacher turnover is an enormous burden on education systems, both in terms of student achievement and dollars. High turnover necessitates the recruitment of large numbers of novice teachers, whom research shows are less skilled. This situation is exacerbated by a steady exodus of veteran teachers opting to move from challenging assignments in poorer performing schools with higher percentages of lower socio-economic students to preferred assignments more affluent areas. The high rate of turnover destabilizes the system, forcing diversion of valuable resources from ongoing improvements to recruitment, hiring, and training of novice instructors. Teachers seem to be particularly at risk for higher turnover at the beginning of their careers. Nearly half of teachers leave within 5 years of entering the profession. Efforts to improve retention have been inadequate as evidenced by steadily increasing departures from the profession. This tendency toward turnover is even more striking in private schools than in public schools. Turnover represents a major obstacle to long-term stability, diverts valuable resources, and derails many efforts at reform.
Citation: Donley, J., Detrich, R., States, J., & Keyworth, R. (2019). Teacher Retention Strategies Overview. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute. https://www.winginstitute.org/teacher-retention-strategies
October 15, 2019
The effect of charter schools on student achievement. Charter schools increasingly play a prominent role in educating students in the United States. Given the vast resources allocated to charter schools, it is imperative the question is asked, How effective are these schools in comparison to traditional public schools? This meta-analysis focuses on student math and reading performance. The authors found an overall effect size for elementary school reading and math of 0.02 and 0.05 and middle school math of 0.055. Effects were not statistically meaningful for middle school reading and high school math and reading. The study offers compelling evidence that charters under-perform traditional public schools in some locations, grades, and subjects, and out-perform traditional public schools in other geographical locations, grades, and subjects. The mixed results are not surprising as there is no set management model, quality of personnel, curricula, or pedagogy that distinguishes charter schools from public schools. The study did find a small positive effect size for KIPP charter schools. The absence of significant achievement gains attributed to charter schools should concern school systems considering expanding the number of charter schools as a solution to underperforming schools.
Citation: Betts, J. R., & Tang, Y. E. (2019). The effect of charter schools on student achievement. School choice at the crossroads: Research perspectives, 67-89.