Categories for Policy Initiatives

What obstacles do teachers face in using data for decision making?

December 5, 2018

Accountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice. Underlying many accountability policies is the assumption that standardized test data and other common sources of data will be used to make decisions that will result in changes to instructional practices. This study examines longitudinal from nine high schools nominated as leading practitioners of Continuous Improvement (CI) practices. The researchers compared continuous improvement best practices to teachers actual use of data in making decisions. The study found teachers to be receptive, but also found that significant obstacles were interfering with the effective use of data that resulted in changes in instruction. The analysis showed cultural values and practices inconsistent with accountability policies and continuous improvement practices impede implementation. The researchers identify barriers to use of testing and other data that help to account for the less than successful results. Given the current understanding of the importance on implementation science in the effective application of any new practice, these findings are not a surprise. As our colleague, Ronnie Detrich, is quoted as saying, “Implementation is where great ideas go to die”.

Citation: Ingram, D., Louis, K. S., & Schroeder, R. G. (2004). Accountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice. Teachers College Record106(6), 1258-1287.

LinkAccountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice



Changing Demographics in the Teacher Work Force

November 28, 2018

Seven Trends:  The Transformation of the Teaching Force—Updated October 2018

Teachers play a crucial role in education, make up one of the largest workforces in the country, and require significant resources to support. As a result, tracking trends and changes in the demographic characteristics becomes critically important as education systems allocate existing resources and plan for the future. This study examines the most recent data from staffing surveys conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), as well as those going back to 1987.  Its concludes that over the last three decades the teaching force has become: 1) larger, 2) grayer, 3) greener, 4) more female, 5) more diverse by race-ethnicity, 6) consistent in academic ability, and 7) unstable.  It also calls for more research as to the reasons for these trends and their implications and consequences.

A few highlights include: The rate of increase for teachers has far outpaced the rate of increase for students.  The student population has grown by 24% over this period of time while the teacher workforce has grown by 65%.  The workforce is growing both grayer (retirements have steadily increased) and greener (the modal public school teacher was in their first three years of teaching.  It is has an increasing percent of female teachers (76.6%) as well minority teachers (growth in the number of minority teachers was more than three times the growth rate of white teachers).  The field still suffers from extremely high turnover, with 44.6 % of new teachers leaving their jobs in less than five years.

Citation: Ingersoll, Richard M.; Merrill, Elizabeth; Stuckey, Daniel; and Collins, Gregory. (2018). Seven Trends: e Transformation of the Teaching Force – Updated October 2018. CPRE Research Reports.




What does research tell educators and public about reading?

October 26, 2018

Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read?

This report and podcast examines the scientific basis for how to teach reading to children. This investigation reveals how children learn to read, emphasizing the five critical components of reading instruction. Unfortunately, most teacher preparation programs ignore the science and, in some cases, actively resist it. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail. This American Public Media documentary assesses the current knowledge base behind sound reading practices, the positive impact of effective reading practices can have on student reading performance, and the challenges faced in implementing these practices in the face of opposition from practitioners of whole language and proponents of balanced reading instruction.

Citation:Hanford, E, (2018). Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? American Public Media (APM).




How can open science increase confidence and the overall quality of special education research?

August 23, 2018

Promoting Open Science to Increase the Trustworthiness of Evidence in Special Education

The past two decades has seen an explosion of research to guide special educators improve the lives for individuals with disabilities. At the same time society is wrestling with the challenges posed by a post-truth age in which the public is having difficulty discerning what to believe and what to consider as untrustworthy. In this environment it becomes ever more important that researchers find ways to increase special educator’s confidence in the available knowledge base of practices that will reliably produce positive outcomes. This paper offers methods to increase confidence through transparency, openness, and reproducibility of the research made available to special educators. To accomplish this the authors propose that researchers in special education adopt emerging open science reforms such as preprints, data and materials sharing, preregistration of studies and analysis plans, and Registered Reports.

Citation:Cook, B. G., Lloyd, J. W., Mellor, D., Nosek, B. A., & Therrien, W. (2018). Promoting Open Science to Increase the Trustworthiness of Evidence in Special Education.




What are the drivers of effective school turnaround?

June 27, 2018

Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: An Implementation Framework

The National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) and the National Center for School Turnaround published the “Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: An Implementation Framework” as a companion to the Center for School Turnaround’s publication of “The Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: A Systems Framework“. This paper describes “how” to effectively implement lasting school improvement initiatives that maximize leadership, develop talent, amplify instructional transformation, and shift the culture.

Citation:Jackson, K., R., Fixsen, D., and Ward, C. (2018). Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: An Implementation Framework. The Center on School Turnaround.




Plan for Preventing Gun Violence in Schools

April 10, 2018

Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence

In response to the continuing gun violence in American schools, an interdisciplinary group of 19 scholars are proposing an eight-point plan to prevent future tragedies that have become common place in the nation. This one-page position statement proposes a public health approach to protecting children as well as adults from gun violence involves three levels of prevention: (1) universal approaches promoting safety and well-being for everyone; (2) practices for reducing risk and promoting protective factors for persons experiencing difficulties; and (3) interventions for individuals where violence is present or appears imminent.

Citation: Astor, R. et al. (2018). Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America. University of Virginia.




Annual Report Provides Descriptive Data on Demographics, Programs and Outcomes for K-12 and College Education

February 28, 2018

Digest of Education Statistics 2015 Report Released

News Summary:  The Digest of Education Statistics 2015 was just released by The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).  This annual publication provides a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of education from prekindergarten through graduate school. Topics include: the number of schools and colleges; teachers; enrollments; graduates; educational attainment; finances; federal funds for education; employment and income of graduates; libraries; technology; and international comparisons. It has been published annually since 1962, providing over 50 years of data with which to benchmark education performance at the system level in this country.

Citation:  Snyder, T.D., de Brey, C., and Dillow, S.A. (2018). Digest of Education Statistics 2016 (NCES 2017-094). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.




How effective are Tier 1 Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) reading instruction interventions?

January 22, 2018

The impact of tier 1 reading instruction on reading outcomes for students in Grades 4–12: A meta-analysis

This meta-analysis examines the impact of 1st tier reading instruction on reading outcomes for students in grades 4-12 in an Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) service delivery model. 37 studies met criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis. The study finds small, but positive effects for 1st tier reading instruction on comprehension, vocabulary, and indicates minimum evidence for struggling readers maintaining or improving reading comprehension over struggling students receiving typical instruction. Hedges’s g was used calculating effect sizes. Because of the limited number of studies examining phonics/word recognition and fluency instruction, it was not possible these critical instruction areas in this meta-analysis.

Citation: Swanson, E., Stevens, E. A., Scammacca, N. K., Capin, P., Stewart, A. A., & Austin, C. R. (2017). The impact of tier 1 reading instruction on reading outcomes for students in Grades 4–12: A meta-analysis. Reading and Writing30(8), 1639-1665.




The Importance and Dilemma of Publishing Studies That Do Not Produce Positive Results

December 18, 2017

(1) An Evaluation of a Learner Response System (2) The Effects of Financial Incentives on Standardized Testing (3) Do Teacher Observations Make Any Difference to Student Performance?

Commentary: This piece reports on three examples of studies of practices that did not produce positive results and highlights the issue of publication bias in educational research. There are powerful contingencies that shape the publication process in ways that do not always work in the best interest of science. For example, promotion and tenure committees do not give the same weight to published replication studies. Also, journals generally do not publish studies that show no effect resulting in the “file drawer problem”. The only exception to this rule is if a study shows that a widely accepted intervention is not effective. Studies that show no effect may be very experimentally rigorous but because they did not show an experimental effect the studies are relegated to the researchers file drawer. These contingencies result in a publication bias for original research that demonstrates a positive effect. This can result in efforts to systematically review the evidence for an intervention over-estimating its effectiveness. Publishing in peer-reviewed journals is a critical component needed to safeguard the quality of research but these biases reflect potential publication biases. Replication is a fundamental cornerstone of science.  Replication studies demonstrate the robustness of a finding. The biases against publishing non-results is a bit more complicated. Some studies that report non-results are unimportant. For example, demonstrating that a car will not run if gas is put in the tires is unimportant. The only important demonstration is one that shows a positive relation between where the gas was put in the car and the car actually running. Other studies reporting non-results are important because they show that a variable that has been experimentally demonstrated to have an impact on student behavior does not have that effect in a replication study or under a particular set of conditions.

News Summary:

  • An Evaluation of a Learner Response System: A Learner Response System (LRS) is a classroom feedback tool that is becoming increasing popular. LRS is the practice of teachers and pupils using electronic handheld devices to provide immediate feedback during lessons. Given that feedback has been found to be a powerful tool in learning, it is not surprising that LRS are being adopted. The important question remains, do LRS increase student performance. This study tests a Learner Response System using Promethean handsets to assess whether it improves student outcomes. The study found no evidence that math and reading were improved using the system for 2 years.


  • The Effects of Financial Incentives on Standardized Testing: Standardized testing has increasingly been used to hold educators accountable. Incentives are often offered as a way to improve student test performance. This study examines the impact incentives for students, parents and tutors on standardized test results. The researchers provided incentives on specially designed tests that measure the same skills as the official state standardized tests; however, performance on the official tests was not incentivized. This study finds substantial improvement for performance when there were incentives on the results did not generalize to the official test. This calls into question how to effectively use incentives so they will actually produce desired outcomes.


  • Do Teacher Observations Make Any Difference to Student Performance? Research strongly suggests that feedback obtained through direct observations of performance can be a powerful tool for improving teacher’s skills. This study examines a peer teacher observation method used in England. The study found no evidence that Teacher Observation improved student language and math scores.


(1) Education Endowment Foundation (2017). Learner Response System. Education Endowment Foundation. Retrieved

(2) John A. List, Jeffrey A Livingston and Susanne Neckermann. “Do Students Show What They Know on Standardized Tests?” working papers (2016) Available at:

(3) Education Endowment Foundation (2017). Teacher Observation. Education Endowment Foundation. Retrieved







How Can Schools Intervene to Reduce Sexual Harassment and Dating Violence?

December 18, 2017

A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Interventions Aimed to Prevent or Reduce Violence in Teen Dating Relationships

The issue of sexual harassment has been front page news this past year. What does the research tell us about school interventions designed to reduce sexual harassment? This meta-analysis examines research on the topic and provides insight into how effective current efforts are at stemming incidents of this serious problem. This review provides a quantitative synthesis of empirical evaluations of school-based programs implemented in middle and high schools designed to prevent or reduce incidents of dating violence. This meta-analysis of 23 studies indicates school-based programs having no significant impact on dating violence perpetration and victimization; however, they can have a positive influence on dating violence knowledge and student attitudes.

Citation: De La Rue, L., Polanin, J. R., Espelage, D. L., & Pigott, T. D. (2017). A meta-analysis of school-based interventions aimed to prevent or reduce violence in teen dating relationships. Review of Educational Research87(1), 7-34.


For more information on this topic please examine a Campbell Collaboration Systematic Review by the same authors: