Categories for Societal Outcomes

2016-17 High School Graduation Rates Show Continued Improvement

January 31, 2019

Digest of Education Statistics 2017. The most recent high school graduation rate data were just released for the 2016-17 school year. The following graph shows consistent improvement in this critical student and school performance metric. Student graduation increased by 12 percentage points during the fifteen years from 2002 and 2017.  While there is still much work to be done to identify and implement graduation standards that translate into meaningful and life long benefits, this type of consistent performance improvement should be acknowledged.

AFGR:   The Average Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) was used by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) from 2002 through 2013.

•ACGR: The Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) was established by DOE in 2008, establishing a uniform and more accurate measure for calculating the rate at which students graduated from high school. 

Both models co-existed for threes years and had comparable graduate rate data during that time.

A second area of the report disaggregates graduation rate data by students from different ethnic backgrounds.  There remains an unacceptable graduation rate gap between White and Black students, and White and Hispanic students.  The resulting graduation rate for Black students (77.8%) and Hispanic students (80.0%) are failures of the system.  While progress will always be too slow in this area, the data do show steady progress in closing the gap over the last six years.  The graduation gap between White and Black students decreased by 6.2 percentage points (from 17% in 2010-11 to 10.8% in 2016-17).  The graduation gap between White and Hispanic students decreased by 4.4 percentage points (from 13% in 2010-11 to 8.6% in 2016-17). 

A third area of disaggregated data was that of graduation rates by individual states.  The variation between states continues to be extreme with the top ten states averaging a 89.7% graduation rate and the bottom ten states averaging 77.4%.  

Improving graduation rates continue to be a clear focus of the education system, and while there is a long way to go, it is one of the few areas where progress is being made.

Citation: Snyder, T.D., de Brey, C., and Dillow, S.A. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics 2017 (NCES 2018-070). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.




High School Dropout and Completion Rates (SY 2016)

December 21, 2018

“Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2018”. Dropping out of high school has significant negative impacts on students. Statistically, they will have lower earnings than high school graduates, are more likely to be unemployed, have poorer health, and have a higher rate of incarceration.  This report provides a detailed analysis of long-term dropout and completion trends and student characteristics of high school dropouts and completers.  The first measure examined was the “event dropout rate” which is the percent of students who drop out in grades 10-12 without a high school diploma or alternative credential. The event dropout rate for SY 2015-16 was 4.8%, which translated into 532,000 students.

The 40 year trend show an alarming lack of progress.  While 2015-16 was lower than in 1976 (5.8%), it reflects a worsening over the last ten years (increasing from 3.8% to 4.8%).  Of all of the student demographic data, the clearest impact was that of family income. Students from the lowest income families had a 7.2% dropout rate compared to 3.9% for highest income families. The “adjusted cohort graduation rate” for 2015-16 was 84% which showed steady improvement over the past five years.  The main problem is the significant differences in graduate rates across race, economic status, states, and disabilities.  For example, graduation rates for white students ranged from 76% in New Mexico to 94% in New Jersey; black students from 57% in Nevada to 88% in West Virginia; Hispanic students from 65% in Minnesota to 89 % in Vermont.


McFarland, J., Cui, J., Rathbun, A., and Holmes, J. (2018). Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2018 (NCES 2019-117). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved December 14, 2018 from




Poverty and School Performance

November 28, 2018

Evaluating the Relationships Between Poverty and School Performance

One of the most critical issues facing K-12 education is the impact that poverty has on school performance.  This study first examines school performance using traditional metrics for school poverty levels (percent of student body that qualify for free and reduced lunch: FRL) and school performance (school achievement based on the aggregate test scores of its student body).  The results support prior research documenting the negative relationship between the level of poverty in a school and student achievement (the higher the poverty the lower the achievement).  However, when replacing the student achievement metric with a student growth metric, the relationship is significantly different.

This NWEA study argues that, while it is important to measure and report a school’s student achievement, it is often a function of the demographics of a school’s population rather than a school’s effectiveness at teaching.  Student growth tracks the learning of students regardless of their poverty level and is a more useful tool for comparing individual school performance. Sixty percent of schools with high poverty student populations had above average student growth.  And a larger percentage of high poverty schools demonstrated substantial growth than schools from wealthy communities.  The dramatic negative relationship between poverty and student achievement was much less evident when looking at student growth, and much more nuanced.

The implications of the study are profound. First, it highlights the need for school performance measures to include student growth in addition to school achievement.  Both are critical measures.  More importantly, it raises the question: If students make comparable progress during the school year regardless of their poverty level, what accounts for the significant differences in test scores.  One study tracked the performance of students by poverty level and their performance on tests administered at the beginning and end of each school year.  The data showed a clear pattern.  Students of all socio economic groups made comparable progress during the school year. The biggest, and compounding gaps, occurred during the summer months suggesting that poverty’s largest impact occurs outside of school.

Citation:Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Olson, L. S. (2001). Schools, achievement, and inequality: A seasonal perspective. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23, 171–191.




What is the impact of student absenteeism on important student outcomes?

October 29, 2018

11 Million Days Lost: Race, Discipline, and Safety at U.S. Public Schools: Part I

Research tells us that student engagement is one of the most important components of a classroom strategy to facilitate student learning, as is effective teaching, a systematic instruction pedagogy, and evidence-based curriculum.  Yet none of these interventions matter if a student is not in school. There are an increasing number of studies examining student absenteeism and its negative impact on student achievement.  This descriptive summary is one of the first reviews to examine the number of days of “lost instruction” resulting from student suspensions. The study examines the total number of days lost nationwide, disparities among different student subgroups, and differences across individual states. Read more Overall, students lost a total of 11,360,004 days of instruction as a result of school suspensions. In order to facilitate comparisons of student subgroups with different enrollment numbers, the study uses a metric of “days of lost instruction per 100 students enrolled”. The resulting analysis documents significant disparity between subgroups. Black students lost 66 days of instruction (for every 100 students) compared to 14 for White students (the national average was 23 lost days).  Students with disabilities lost 44 days of instruction, twice the 20 lost days of those without disabilities.  Individual states had radically different performance in this area, with North Carolina averaging 51 days lost instruction per 100 enrollment annually and Utah 5 days. When examined by subgroup data, some states have extremely large instructional day loss.  Black students lost over 100 days of lost instruction per 100 enrolled in Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. The impact of loss of instruction due to suspensions has a lifelong impact on students, including: lower graduation rates (Rumberger and Losen, 2017), increased involvement in the juvenile justice system (Mowicki, 2018), and arrests as adults Rosenbaum (2018)

Citations: Russell W. Rumberger and Daniel J.Losen, The Hidden Cost of California’s Harsh School Discipline, The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, (2017) Retrieved from

Janet Rosenbaum (2018). Educational and Criminal Justice Outcomes 12 Years After School Suspension. Youth & Society.

Jacqueline M. Mowicki, Discipline Disparities for Black Students, Boys and Students with Disabilities, GAO (March 2018).





What do we know about soft skills? Wing Institute Original Paper

October 22, 2018

Teacher Soft Skills Overview

A teacher’s success is predicated on effective mastery of two requisite skill categories: technical competencies and personal competencies (soft skills). Technical skills are the specific skills and factual knowledge intrinsic to a specific job. Technical competencies elemental to teaching include instruction, assessment, and classroom management. Personal competencies, on the other hand, are skills broadly applicable to almost all professions; they create the foundation that enables a person to effectively use technical skills. Personal competencies basic to teaching include high expectations, love of learning, active listening, ability to adapt to novel situations, empathy, cultural sensitivity, positive regard for students, and good time management. Personal competency research shows large effect sizes, ranging from 0.72 to 0.87, for effective teacher-student relations that increase student academic performance and improve classroom climate. Unfortunately, teacher preparation and on-the-job staff development neglect this important training. To remedy the situation, more research is required to better define the field of personal competencies, and expanded training, including coaching, must be adopted during pre-service and induction.

Citation: States, J., Detrich, R. & Keyworth, R. (2018). Overview of Teacher Soft Skills.Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.




How effective is whole school restorative justice?

October 15, 2018

Restorative justice in Oakland schools. Implementation and impact: An effective strategy to reduce racially disproportionate discipline, suspensions, and improve academic outcomes.

Schools around the United States continue to use zero-tolerance disciplinary policies and practices to suspend or expel students for minor behavioral infractions, such as verbal disrespect, fighting, or truancy Compelling evidence suggests that zero tolerance disciplinary policies and practices used for decades have proven ineffective. This study examines the impact of The Whole School Restorative Justice Program (WSRJ). WSRJ utilizes a multi-tiered strategy. Tier 1 is regular classroom circles, Tier 2 is repair harm/conflict circles, and Tier 3 includes mediation, family group conferencing, and welcome/re-entry circles to initiate successful re-integration of students being released from juvenile detention centers.The key findings of this report show decreased problem behavior, improved school climate, and improved student achievement. In WSRJ schools, suspensions were cut in half (34% to 14%). Chronic absences diminished in WSRJ middle and high schools. Reading levels for ninth graders increased more in WSRJ schools than in non-WSRJ schools and four-year graduation rates increased over control schools.

Citation: Jain, S., Bassey, H., Brown, M. A., & Kalra, P. (2014). Restorative justice in Oakland schools. Implementation and impact: An effective strategy to reduce racially disproportionate discipline, suspensions, and improve academic outcomes.




Data Matters: Using Chronic Absence to Accelerate Action for Student Success

October 1, 2018

Excessive student absenteeism (chronic absences) can have a devastating impact on student achievement.  It’s significance was recognized in the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which now requires all states to include in their school report cards how many students are chronically absent.  The Data Matters report analyzes the data in an attempt better understand the relationship between chronic absences and a wide range of variables: chronic absences by year, state, schools, poverty, ethnicity, and other school characteristics.  Key findings include:  (1) Nearly eight million students in the nation (15%) were chronically absent in the 2015-16 school year, (2) While chronic absenteeism affects all states, there is great variability between individual states ranging from 12% to 31% students with chronic absences, (3) over half (52%) of chronic absenteeism comes from students in schools with high or extreme levels of chronic absenteeism, and (4) schools with higher concentrations of low income students are more likely to experience chronic absenteeism.  The report provides recommendations and strategies for managing chronic absenteeism at all levels of education leadership, from state agencies through individual schools.  It also has an interactive web site where the reader can drill down on specific data at all levels of the education system.

Citation: Chang, Hedy N., Bauer, Lauren and Vaughan Byrnes, Data Matters: Using Chronic Absence to Accelerate Action for Student Success, Attendance Works and Everyone Graduates Center, September 2018.




Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales: Results From the 2015 NAEP Reading and Mathematics Assessments

October 1, 2018

Standardized tests play a critical role in tracking and comparing K-12 student progress across time, student demographics, and governing bodies (states, cities, districts).  Each individual state establishes its own curricula, standardized tests, and achievement (proficiency) standards.  As these decisions vary significantly across states and time, it becomes difficult to establish common metrics that would assess the true picture of a state’s performance. One methodology is to benchmark the each state’s proficiency standards against those of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test.  This study does just that.  Using NAEP as a common yardstick allows a comparison of different state assessments. The results confirm the wide variation in proficiency standards across states.  It also documents that the significant majority of states have standards are much lower than those established by the NAEP.

At the national level, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test is the gold standard.  It has been administered annually since 1970 and establishes student achievement standards using rigorous and independent evaluation methodology to ensure they are reasonable, valid, and informative.  The achievement levels (Basic, Proficient, and Advanced) identify what students should know and be able to do at each grade level in a specific subject area. Students performing at or above the Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter.  Proficiency is the target academic performance benchmark for students.

The study provides two sets of data regarding this issue: (1) how the individual state standards themselves compare to NAEP standards and (2) where students would have been placed for both the state and national tests.  In 2015, only two states had proficiency standards for reading at the same range as those of NAEP.  Forty-one states had proficiency standards that corresponded with the Basic Level in NAEP.    One state had standards that corresponded with below Basic.  In other words, the achievement levels in most states for being identified as proficient are much lower than those identified by NAEP.

The second analysis examined the percent of students identified as proficient in each state and compares it to the percent of the same student population that would be considered proficient by NAEP standards.  For example, Louisiana standards identified 66.8% of its students as being proficient across reading and math, only 24.8 % of the students would have been classified as proficient by NAEP.  In Nebraska, 76.2% of students were classified as proficient as opposed to only 40.2% meeting the proficiency standard for NAEP.

Citation: Bandeira de Mello, V., Rahman, T., and Park, B.J. (2018). Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: Results From the 2015 NAEP Reading and Mathematics Assessments (NCES 2018-159). U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.




What Is the Impact of Two Instructional Strategies on Student Motor Skills Acquisition?

September 10, 2018

Effectiveness of the Practice Style and Reciprocal Style of Teaching: A Meta-Analysis

This meta-analysis looks at the effectiveness of two strategies in teaching motor skills to students: practice and reciprocal. The research examined two of the 11 teaching strategies identified in Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles designed for teachers in physical education. Six studies met the criteria for inclusion in this paper. The practice strategy involves the student in the decision-making process. The reciprocal strategy assigns each learner to a specific role: One learner performs the task and the other is the observer who offers immediate and ongoing feedback using a criteria sheet designed by the teacher. At the end of the practice, the students switch roles.

The study showed a very large effect size of 1.16 for the practice strategy, and a large effect size of 0.94 for the reciprocal strategy. It would not be surprising to see these particularly large effect sizes moderated in subsequent replication studies (Makel & Plucker, 2014; van Aert & van Assen, 2018). The study confirms previous research on reciprocal teaching as an effective instructional strategy. Reciprocal teaching has been found to be a powerful strategy for teaching reading and other academic subjects. John Hattie (1995) reported an effect size of 0.74 for reciprocal teaching. The takeaway from this meta-analysis is that practice and reciprocal styles have positive effects on motor skill acquisition.


Chatoupis, C., & Vagenas, G. (2018). Effectiveness of the practice style and reciprocal style of teaching: A meta-analysis. Physical Educator75(2), 175–194.

Makel, M. C., & Plucker, J. A. (2014). Facts are more important than novelty: Replication in the education sciences. Educational Researcher, 43(6), 304–316.

van Aert, R. C. M., & van Assen, M. A. L. M. (2018). Examining reproducibility in psychology: A hybrid method for combining a statistically significant original study and a replication. Behavior Research Methods, 50(4),1515–1539.

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge.




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.