Archive for the 'Research' Category

8th 2015
Tennessee Study Sequel Pours More Cold Water on Pre-K Enthusiasm

Posted under Early Childhood & Federal Government & Journalism & learning & Research

I’m going to be honest with everyone. Getting education policy right is hard work. There are no silver bullets out there. Some things (like school choice) show small but consistent benefits in study after study. Other practices (like paying teachers to earn masters degrees) represent large outlays of money with no return.

Today I’m looking at pre-K or early childhood education. Some recent research further calls into question the prevailing line on increasing tax subsidies for preschool. Chalkbeat Tennessee last week reported on a landmark study that challenged some conventional wisdom. Since as a 5-year-old edublogging prodigy I tend to be more than a little unconventional, it seemed like a reasonable idea to bring it to your attention:

A new Vanderbilt University study suggests that public pre-kindergarten programs in Tennessee might actually negatively impact students as they advance through school, surprising experts and advocates alike. But the study’s lead researchers say that policymakers shouldn’t abandon pre-K as they seek to close the achievement gap between minority and lower- and higher-income students.

A careful read through the executive summary of the Vanderbilt University report raises some significant caution flags. Studying a randomly assigned group of more than 1,000 kids, researchers essentially found that the initial advantages provided to Tennessee pre-K participants washes away by the end of kindergarten. By first grade, teachers observed worse “non-cognitive” (aka attitude and behavioral) outcomes for the pre-K kids, followed by a similar statistically negative result in “cognitive” (or academic) results in second grade.

This study, which follows its subjects through third grade, is not the original. It’s a sequel. Continue Reading »

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24th 2015
Colorado’s ACT Flatline Has Me Worried

Posted under Accountability & Grades and Standards & Research & Testing

I feel like I’ve been alienating my fellow edu-nerds in recent weeks by spending so much time talking about the antics of the courts. Most recently, we examined a Colorado Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the “Negative Factor” under Amendment 23. One could be forgiven for believing that I had suddenly changed careers and become the world’s youngest edu-lawyer extraordinaire. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

Today, we celebrate my triumphant return to the world of education policy data by taking a belated look at Colorado’s 2015 ACT scores. As most of you know, the ACT is taken by every high school junior in the state under state law. This year, that amounted to 57,328 kids. The ACT is an important test, as it provides the best picture of the “end product” our education system has produced after more than a decade of school for most students.

Unfortunately, Colorado’s ACT numbers this year are flat again. In fact, they’re a little worse than flat, with our overall composite score having fallen from 20.3 in 2014 to 20.1 this year (on a 36-point scale). Other than a very slight increase in science composite scores, scores across all subjects were down.

The bad news doesn’t stop there. The typical achievement gaps we’ve come to expect are still present, with Hispanic students coming in at a composite of 17.3, black students at 17.1, and English language learners (ELLs) coming in at just 13.7. White students, by contrast, achieved a composite of 21.7.

Low-income students also continue to fall behind their higher-income peers. Students eligible for free lunch achieved a composite score of 16.9, and those eligible for reduced lunch prices managed an 18.5. Kids qualifying for neither free nor reduced lunches came in at a composite of 21.6. Continue Reading »

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23rd 2015
New Survey, Research Point to Need for Balanced Computer Use in Learning

Posted under Innovation and Reform & International & learning & Online Schools & reading & Research & Teachers

Given the prodigious quantity of blogging here, some may find the contents of this particular post somewhat hypocritical, or perhaps just a little bit ironic. But I certainly strive to keep things interesting.

Once upon a time, you heard quite a bit more from little Eddie about blended learning — though recently my eyebrows have been raised about the opening of Denver’s Roots Elementary, my dreams rekindled of Rocketship Education landing in Jeffco, and my repetition that Colorado needs course choice was, well, repeated.

For those who need a refresher, one commonly accepted definition for blended learning comes from the Clayton Christensen Institute:

a formal education program in which a student learns: at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

The Christensen Institute’s disclaimer that blended learning is not “technology-rich instruction” should not be brushed aside. It’s not just using more technology in the same structures and practices. Technology, though, is critical to the rethinking that comes with designing and implementing various blended learning models. Continue Reading »

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18th 2015
Granddaddy of KIPP Studies Shows More Success for Growing Charter Network

Posted under Denver & learning & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

I can confess to you that something has made Eddie a little sad lately. That’s just the amount of crazy charter-bashing going on these days.

Some of this craziness gets imported locally by reform opponents who twist themselves in knots to dance around their rage at the Jeffco and Thompson boards of education providing fair, equitable funding for public charter school students.

A quick reminder to all that public charter schools are not a silver bullet solution, nor are they in any way guaranteed success. But in Colorado, charters tend to slightly outperform their traditional school peers and are overrepresented among the highest performers. Unlike their counterparts, struggling charters can be closed down. Meanwhile, some charters — like KIPP — are hitting it out of the park.

Two and a half years ago I smiled at the fresh research showing KIPP middle schools provide significant learning boosts while working with challenging student populations. Just over a year ago, I highlighted some further analysis that unraveled some of the skepticism about the famous charter network’s success. Bottom line? “KIPP is obviously doing something right.”

Well, my friends, this week appears the granddaddy of them all (so far). Again from Mathematica Research, this rigorous study shows that the positive impacts are sustained even as the network continues to grow, or “scale up”. (H/T Choice Media) Continue Reading »

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15th 2015
Binding Thread? Four-Day School Week Research & Denver’s Roots Elementary

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research & Rural Schools

Sometimes a little edublogger sees two small interesting stories to cover, and leaves it to insightful readers like you to figure out the connection. Today is one of those somewhat interesting occasions.

Let’s start over at Education Week, where a recent post by Liana Heitin caught my attention. A newly published study of 15 rural Colorado elementary schools show that changing the school week from five days to four brought about clear improvements in math and likely has the same sort of effect on reading. (It may even help student attendance, but those results weren’t definitive.)

The average person’s reaction to such news might be a true head-scratcher. The research doesn’t provide any real insights into what causes this counterintuitive result. All these schools are still providing the required instructional hours, just packing them into longer days and extending the weekends.

Some complementary research from Idaho released a couple months ago shows that making the shift to the shorter school week yields no savings, and in a few cases, actually incurs extra costs. Crazy, huh? Continue Reading »

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2nd 2015
Despite Union Statements, National Polls Show Public Support for Testing

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Research & Testing

About this time last year, I was puzzling over the presence of a strange phantom statistic quoted by NEA in the wake of the annual PDK/Gallup national education poll. The statistic was eventually released weeks after the rest of the poll, which means NEA didn’t lie about it. They did, however, get special access to an unverifiable number that happened to support their very strong push against evaluation systems that include student growth. No one can easily refute poll results without, you know, having the poll results, so NEA got some good mileage out of that one.

But there’s no use crying over spilled statistics. Besides, the main reason I was interested in that number in the first place was the fact that it stood in stark contrast with data gathered by another nationally representative poll conducted by Education Next—data showing clear public support for the use of student performance when making teacher tenure decisions. This year, though, the polls appear to mostly agree with one another on testing issues. Not that NEA or AFT are very keen on sharing that fact.

The 2015 version of the annual Education Next poll and its associated report have been in the wild for some time now. The PDK/Gallup results have also been released. I strongly encourage you to dig through both polls, as there is very interesting stuff in each, much of which is broken out by subgroups that show important (and illuminating) differences. Highlights include some fascinating data on declining support for Common Core, as well interesting insights into the role the federal government ought to have in education. But perhaps the most interesting results of the polls have to do with public support for testing. Continue Reading »

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25th 2015
What’s New? PDK/Gallup Survey Flubs School Choice Question Once More

Posted under Journalism & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

For being so young, it feels like I’ve really had to repeat myself a lot lately. Not “Get off my lawn”-type of repetition, but still… it gets a little annoying sometimes. Just in the last couple weeks, the theme applies to Colorado’s need for course choice and the same old results for our state from the Parent Power Index.

Thankfully for you and me both, this one will be short, sweet, and to the point. It relates to the continued bias of an important question in the PDK/Gallup annual public education survey. A couple of years ago (when I was still 5), I pointed out how the following wording fell well short of reasonable expectations of objective answers: Continue Reading »

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21st 2015
Meet Colorado’s New PPI Report Card, Same as the Old PPI Report Card

Posted under Research & School Accountability & School Choice & Tax Credits

It’s Friday again, my friends, and that means it’s time for a more colorful look at education policy as we head into the weekend. I really wanted to highlight the American Federation for Children’s “Education Revolution” video, which was released a couple months ago but only just made it to my desk. But you’ll have to watch that on your own. We have colorful interactive maps to play with!

The Center for Education Reform (CER) recently released its 2015 Parent Power Index. It is absolutely stuffed with colorful, clickable goodies that are entirely too much fun to be considered education policy. But I’ll leave you to play with the report on your own time. We have important business to discuss!

If you’ll remember, Colorado came in 12th in the country last year, which was a very slight improvement from 13th in 2013. At the time, CER described Colorado this way:

Parents here are an active lot but have often been rebuffed at the legislative level when trying to expand their choices. That said, there is a strong charter law here. Many elements of digital learning are offered. The citizens of Colorado get to vote in school board elections when they go to the polls for other races. That fact, plus teacher quality measured at average levels, puts the Centennial State higher than average on giving parents power, but not high enough to put it in the top ten.

Not an unfair description. Colorado does have strong public school choice laws, a strong accountability system despite serious efforts to dismantle the system instead of working to improve it, and a very high level of transparency in education. What we don’t have is a lot of progress. Continue Reading »

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20th 2015
Eddie’s Crazy Idea: More Colo. Districts Should Pursue Student-Based Budgeting

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea! Why not have school districts base their budgeting on students like me (or any student, for that matter)? It just makes sense to do it that way, right? Especially since the whole K-12 education enterprise is supposed to be about the kids.

It’s not that simple, however, and it’s not usually the case. Things like staffing formulas and seniority rules — not to mention bureaucratic traditions and old-fashioned accounting systems — generally rule the day. But in Colorado, the practice of Student-Based Budgeting is on the rise:

Through student-based budgeting (SBB), six school districts have prioritized student need over administrative convenience with a cost-effective approach that places more funds under individual school control.

This is from one of those long issue papers by my Education Policy Center friends that little me may never get around to reading cover to cover. SBB isn’t terribly glamorous, nor (like any other reform) is it a silver bullet. Even so, I’ve learned just enough to know that it’s something that very much should be on your radar. Plus, it has a fun and inspiring cover: Continue Reading »

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18th 2015
New York Charter Success: You Know How to Spell It

Posted under Elementary School & learning & math & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Choice & Testing & Urban Schools

It’s often been said “you can’t argue with success” (or Success). But that doesn’t stop some from trying.

Last year, I pointed out the collective jaw-dropping that took place when test results came back from students in the Harlem Success Academies, a New York City charter network that overwhelmingly serves poor and disadvantaged families. Just to revisit for the record:

Seven out of the state’s 15 top-scoring schools on math proficiency tests this year were Success Academy charter schools….An astounding 93.9 percent of Success students passed the Common Core math exam and 64.5 percent passed the English proficiency test….

After a closer look at the results, all that critics and skeptics were left to stand on was the suggestion that the astounding, off-the-chart scores for poor kids in the Big Apple must have been some kind of a fluke. With the release of the latest achievement scores, as reported by Reason blogger Jim Epstein, that line just became a lot harder to defend. Continue Reading »

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