“Shortened School Weeks in U.S. Public Schools”. There is an increasing trend among schools and districts to reduce the school week from five days to four (longer) days. Much of the impetus of this structural intervention comes from the perception that this schedule would generate significant cost savings. Additionally, there is a belief that it positively impacts student achievement, teacher recruitment, and other quality indicators. Unfortunately, the lack of experimental evidence makes it difficult to prove or disprove most of the claims.
In the 2017-18 school year approximately 1.9% of public schools provided shortened school weeks. Eight states had more than 10% of their schools on this schedule, with Wyoming having almost twenty percent of its schools on a four-day week. In general, rural schools and those in the West were more likely to adopt this model. (NCES, 2020).
The number of school districts operating on a four-day schedule grew by 466% over the last three years. There were 120 districts in 21 states in 2016 and 560 districts in 25 states in 2019. Over half of Colorado’s districts now operate on four-day weeks. (Walker, T., 2019)
Proponents claim that the model saves money, improves student performance, helps with teacher recruitment and retention, reduces student absenteeism, and improves the quality of life for all involved as they have an extra day away from school to take care of personal business. Opponents challenge these claims and highlight the potential new costs for parents, loss of wages for support professionals, and reduced access to services for low income students.
Regarding potential savings, the analysis is straightforward. The Education Commission of the States conducted a detailed analysis calculating that the maximum savings for a district was 5.43%, but that the more likely average is in the .4% to 2.5% range. Many of the largest costs such as salaries, facilities, administrative costs, etc. are not affected by fewer days (Griffith, M., 2011).
Unfortunately, large-scale experimental studies on the other stated pros and cons of this intervention are as of yet nonexistent. The studies that have been completed are often non- or quasi-experimental and produce results that are inconsistent, inconclusive, or show negative impact (Heyward, G., 2018). Additionally, it is difficult to evaluate the impact of this intervention because, as with most structural interventions, the 4 day school schedule does not represent any particular teaching or educational model. It is just a work schedule. Regardless, “the idea has proved contagious because adults like it”. (Hill, 2017).
Citation(s): NCES. (2020). Shortened School Weeks in U.S. Public Schools. NCES 2020-011. National Center for Education Statistics.
Griffith, M. (2011). What Savings Are Produced by Moving to a Four-Day School Week?. Education Commission of the States (NJ3).
Heyward, G. (2018). What Do We Actually Know About the Four-Day School Week? Center on Reinventing Public Education
Hill, P.T. & Heyward, G., (2017). A Troubling Contagion: The Rural 4-Day School Week. Brookings Institute, Brown Center Chalkboard.
Long, C. (2019). Four-Day School Weeks More Popular, But Impact on Students and Educators Unclear. neaToday
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). (2019). Four-Day School Week Overview
Walker, T. (2019). After Moving to a Four-Day School Week, There May Be No Going Back. neaToday
The Current Controversy About Teaching Reading: Comments for Those Left with Questions After Reading the New York times Article. This Op-Ed commentary by Daniel Willingham discusses the current knowledge base on effective reading instruction in the context of a recent New York Times article on the topic. For over twenty years, the core components of effective reading (phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension) have been available to educators. Despite ample evidence, a large number of teacher preparation programs do not adequately train teachers on the best available evidence, many relying on an approach, “Balanced Literacy.” Balanced literacy was offered as a compromise to end the conflict between those advocating for phonics instruction and instructors promoting the immersion in relevant texts designed to motivate student’s learning. In practice, when Balanced Literacy is implemented, phonics instruction is frequently not included in the curriculum. Willingham concludes that decoding is the most thoroughly researched aspect of reading, decoding’s efficacy is well documented, and he suggests it is about time educators take advantage of this work.
Exploring the Impact of Student Teaching Apprenticeships on Student Achievement and Mentor Teachers. Each school year, more than 125,000 student teachers complete training working in a classroom with actual students. A substantial body of research exists regarding the importance of clinical training for teachers, but much less is available on the impact of student teachers on the students they serve. This paper examines the consequences of having an apprentice teacher for 4-8 graders in the state of Washington. The authors find that hosting a student teacher had neither a positive or negative impact on student’s performance in the year of the apprenticeship. The study did find a modest positive impact on students’ math and reading achievement in a teacher’s classroom in the following years. The study concludes that schools and parents feel comfortable that hosting a student teacher, and there may be a small benefit achievement from this experience.
Citation: Goldhaber, D., Krieg, J. M., & Theobald, R. (2020). Exploring the impact of student teaching apprenticeships on student achievement and mentor teachers. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 1-22.
Teacher prep review: Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction. Each school year, over one million public school 4th graders fail to achieve proficiency in reading. Evidence strongly suggests this is unnecessary as a roadmap with the potential to reduce the rate of reading failure from 3% to 1% of children is available.
The National Council of Teacher Quality (NCTQ) review examines teacher preparation program progress in adopting the necessary components of evidence-based reading instruction. The report continues the effort of two previous reports offering educators a look at trends on preparation program progress on providing this essential training. NCTQ assesses Teacher preparation programs on the instruction of the five components of effective reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The NCTQ assessed preparation programs on three criteria; teaching all five components, the inclusion of high-quality textbooks offering detailed information on all five factors, and requiring teacher candidates to demonstrate mastery of the five skill sets.
The findings reveal that preparation programs are making persistent progress delivering instruction for all five reading components. The report concludes the field of teacher preparation is at a critical juncture in reading training as the data suggests a continued momentum in favor of science-based reading instruction. This year’s report finds undergraduate programs consistently improved scientifically-based reading instruction since NCTQ first began these studies. This report finds 57 percent now earning an A or B. This growth represents a 10-point improvement when compared to 2016 and an 18-point increase over the 2013 Teacher Prep Review.
Although this progress is to lauded, it is important to note only half of the programs provide instruction in phonemic awareness, the first step in mastering reading. The study also finds teachers are not any more likely to learn the importance of fluency, with only 53 percent of programs providing adequate coverage of this component.
The trouble with teacher turnover: How teacher attrition affects students and schools. Schools in the United States continue to experience a shortage of classroom teachers. Teacher shortages negatively impact school systems, including but not limited to student learning and available district resources. This study finds higher turnover rates in the southern states; among mathematics, science, special education, English language development, and foreign language teachers; in schools serving students of color and from low-income families; and among teachers of color. The analysis reveals factors associated with higher turnover rates, ranging from insufficient administrative support to teacher compensation. Finally, the paper proposes strategies to address teacher turnover to ensure a stable teacher workforce.
Citation: Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2019). The trouble with teacher turnover: How teacher attrition affects students and schools. education policy analysis archives, 27, 36.
The Unavoidable: Tomorrow’s Teacher Compensation. This research examines the issue of teacher compensation. The author finds that teachers earn significantly less than they could make working in other comparable fields. The results show teacher salaries have been stagnant as a result of money has been funneled to increasing the number of educators and support personnel in schools. An examination of school expenditures reveals substantial growth in the costs of teacher pensions, and health care coverage has negatively affected teacher compensation. Consequently, inadequate teacher compensation reduces teacher retention and, ultimately, the quality of instruction. The research cautions against merely throwing money at the problem, as is commonly the case in many policy initiatives that do not directly impact how teachers teach.
Citation: Hanushek, E. A. (2020). The Unavoidable: Tomorrow’s Teacher Compensation. Stanford Hoover Education Success Initiative. http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/unavoidable-tomorrow’s-teacher-compensation
Decreasing Inappropriate Behavior Overview. Teachers place inappropriate conduct at the top of the list of challenges they face. Unacceptable behavior ranges from problematic speech to violence. Evidence supports a continuum of strategies to decrease inappropriate behavior, beginning with the least intrusive and progressing through increasingly restrictive interventions. A simple but effective intervention is explicit student reprimand, a brief correction defining the error and explaining how to improve. Performance feedback is a more formal strategy that uses comments, charts, graphs, and reports to assist students analyze and improve performance by specifying expected behavior, unacceptable performance, and the consequences for each. Basic to reducing inappropriate conduct is planned ignoring (extinction), or withholding attention when misbehavior occurs. A multiform intervention is differential reinforcement. It combines reinforcement for appropriate behavior and ignoring misbehavior in various arrangements by increasing desired behavior to replace or decrease misbehavior. Systems that award points for appropriate behavior and remove points for misbehavior (response cost) are also effective. A more restrictive option for serious disruptive conduct is time out. It is the removal of a student to a less reinforcing environment when undesired behavior occurs.
Citation: Guinness, K., Detrich, R., Keyworth, R. & States, J. (2020). Overview of Decreasing Inppropriate Behavior. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute. https://www.winginstitute.org/classroom-inappropriate-behaviors.
Examining the NAEP 2019 Results in Terms of Equity. Benchmark indicators are critical tools to help education stakeholders track their education system’s performance (1) over time, (2) in comparison to other similar level education systems and (3) across student groups. They also can provide critical information regarding the “equity” in a system. In other words, to what extent does a student’s ethnicity, socio economic status, or location predict/impact their education performance. One of the most respected tools for answering this question is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), as it disaggregates test data by student ethnicity, socio-economic status, and location of schools. The most recent test results (NAEP 2019) suggest we have significant inequities in our K-12 education system.
The following figure maps out education performance by ethnicity and grade level for reading proficiency. “At or above proficiency” becomes a critical benchmark because it is the level at which students have met the standards for a subject area. It is also a benchmark metric by which most states school districts accountable.
This most recent NAEP data suggest that there is significant inequality in learning outcomes in the U.S. education system for children of particular ethnicities (Black, Hispanic).
In 2019, there was a significant gap in fourth-grade reading proficiency between White (45%) and Hispanic (23%) students (22 percentage points) and between White (45%) and Black (18%) students (a difference of 27 percentage points)..
The gap does not change significantly over the remaining two tested grades. The White – Hispanic gap is 20% in 8th grade, and 21% in 12th grade. The White – Black gap is 27% in 8th grade and 29% in 12th grade.
The gaps have remained virtually constant over the testing years going back to 1992. In 1992, the fourth-grade reading proficiency gap between White and Hispanic students was 23 percentage points, and between White and Black was 27 percentage points.
A similar NAEP analysis examines the reading performance for students based on their socio economic status. Children’s eligibility for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is used to identify low-income families.
As with ethnicity, NAEP data for reading proficiency across grades show an enormous gap between students who are lower income and those with higher income. In 2019, there was a significant gap in fourth-grade reading proficiency between students from higher income families and those from lower income families (30%). In eighth-grade the gap was 26 points and in twelfth grade 22 points.
These gaps, and their resulting low proficiency scores, definitely document a system that is out of balance when it comes to providing equitable outcomes across ethnicity and SES.
Citation(s): National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Nation’s report card. National Assessment of Educational Progress.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). NAEP Data Explorer. National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Why is this question important? Given the limited resources that are available for the education of children, it is important to select interventions that have the greatest impact we can afford. Using Stuart Yeh’s effectiveness cost ratio formula, a rough comparison can be drawn comparing class size reduction with other educational interventions.
Citation: Yeh, S. S. (2007). The Cost-Effectiveness of Five Policies for Improving Student Achievement, American Journal of Evaluation, 28(4), 416-436.
Research Synthesis of Meta-Analyses of Preservice Teacher Preparation Practices in Higher Education. Identification of best practices in teacher preservice training remains one of the top goals of education reform. This research synthesis of teacher preparation practices examines meta-analyses on the topic to identify those practices that predictably lead to effective classroom instruction. The paper examines practices such as teacher degrees, preparation models, methods of course delivery, technology-based instruction, cooperative learning practices, instruction methods, field experience, field experience supervision, and induction practices. A cluster of six practices was associated with a medium effect size of preservice teacher training and positive educational outcomes. The highest impact practices include; extended student teaching (ten or more weeks), simulated instruction with practice, coaching and feedback, critical thinking instruction, micro-teaching, peer instruction, and course-based learning practices. Low impact practices identified in the study are teacher degree, number of education classes, explanation-based teaching methods, teacher certification, extended preparation programs, first-year teaching seminars, and teacher induction. The study finds high impact training practices to be reliable indicators that produce the most effective teachers. The results are consistent with previous research supporting course instruction linked to classroom teaching experiences, coaching while working with children in classrooms, frequent feedback based on observations of the preservice teachers performing tasks using evidence-based teaching methods.
Citation: Dunst, C. J., Hamby, D. W., Howse, R. B., Wilkie, H., & Annas, K. (2020). Research Synthesis of Meta-Analyses of Preservice Teacher Preparation Practices in Higher Education. Higher Education, 10(1).