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 Pub Number  Title  Date
REL 2021063 Virginia High School Graduates' Career and Technical Education Credentials: Top Credentials Over Time and Across Student Groups
In Virginia, all high school students can earn either a Standard diploma or an Advanced Studies diploma, the latter being a college preparatory diploma. Starting in 2017, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) began requiring students graduating with the Standard diploma to earn a career and technical education (CTE) credential to encourage them to pursue opportunities that enhance their career readiness. This is likely to be particularly important for students graduating with the Standard diploma, as they have been shown to have limited success in postsecondary education.

This study examined the CTE credentials Virginia high school graduates most commonly earned from 2011 through 2017. The five most commonly earned CTE credentials in Virginia remained the same during this time period, but the percentage of students earning the Workplace Readiness Skills (WRS) and W!se Financial Literacy Certification credentials increased. Both of these credentials cover broad skills relevant to a wide range of jobs, as opposed to a specific occupation or industry. Although the new CTE requirement applies only to Standard diploma graduates, there were few differences in the top 10 credentials by diploma type, both in terms of which credentials were most common as well as the rates at which students earned these credentials. Regardless of diploma type, in 2017, 9 of the top 10 credentials were broad credentials that were not narrowly aligned to a specific occupation or industry. This study also looked at the top 10 credentials earned by 2017 Standard diploma graduates across a variety of student subgroups, including English learner students, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and racial/ethnic subgroups. English learner students and students with disabilities earned the top 10 credentials at lower rates than other Standard diploma graduates. Student credential-earning rates differed the most by geographic region, both in terms of which credentials appeared in the top 10 and the percentage of students earning the top 10 credentials.

This study highlights the need for additional analyses to help CTE stakeholders and policymakers understand the value of different types of CTE credentials. In particular, Virginia and other states might explore the relative value of broad CTE credentials that apply to a wide range of jobs and have become increasingly prevalent in Virginia compared with CTE credentials that are more narrowly aligned with a specific occupation or industry.
1/11/2021
REL 2021056 Exploring Teachers’ Influence on Student Success in an Online Biology Course
This study of an online high school biology course offered by Florida Virtual School examined the amount of variation in course completion, students’ final exam scores, and time to completion that is attributable to the influence of teachers. This study examined three different student outcomes for segment 1 of the course: the rate of course completion, score on the final exam at the end of the course segment, and time taken to complete the segment. Students' end-of-segment exam varied only slightly across teachers, but teachers showed more influence on completion rates and time to completion. As a result, students with the highest- and lowest-performing teachers had notable differences in their time to completion and minor differences in course completion and exam scores.
1/6/2021
REL 2021051 District Changes in Student Achievement and Local Practice under Georgia’s District and School Flexibility Policy
Georgia instituted a flexibility policy in 2007 that provided districts with waivers from state education rules, provisions, and guidelines. Granted waivers and annual accountability targets are agreed upon in district performance contracts with the state. The performance contracts are meant to encourage districts to implement innovative practices to increase achievement for all students in Georgia. Between 2008/09 and 2016/17, 178 of Georgia’s 180 districts entered into performance contracts with the state. The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) asked Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast to analyze how districts’ achievement changed after the start of their performance contracts and factors related to those changes. GaDOE also requested information on districts’ implementation of and experiences with the state’s flexibility policy, focusing on how districts have used their performance contracts to prioritize local innovations in practice. Overall, the study found little evidence of that changes in academic achievement coincided with performance contract adoption but significant variation in changes in achievement across districts, after adjusting for other factors. Changes in achievement were largely unrelated to district characteristics, including urbanicity, timing of performance contract adoption, and district type, as well as features of the performance contract. District leaders indicated prioritizing innovations related to college and career readiness, teacher certification requirements, instructional spending, and funding for school improvement. Leaders perceived broad benefits from the priority innovations they identified, especially in relation to staff and school climate, but they also indicated that, in many cases, waivers were not required to implement the innovations they identified as priorities. Despite the perceived benefits, changes in achievement were largely unrelated to the academic, human resources, and financial innovations that districts indicated prioritizing after implementing their performance contracts.
12/17/2020
REL 2021044 Participation in State-Funded Prekindergarten in Oklahoma
Oklahoma offers state-funded prekindergarten (preK) to all 4-year-old children. The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest Early Childhood Education Research Partnership members in Oklahoma requested more comprehensive evidence on disparities in student participation in state-funded preK by student characteristics and geographic locale. Such disparities in participation can indicate challenges in access to or use of the program. Using administrative records from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, REL Southwest calculated the percentages of first-time public school kindergarten students who participated in Oklahoma’s state-funded preK program in the prior year for five cohorts (2014/15 through 2018/19). In addition to describing unadjusted participation rates, the study also used multivariate statistical models to estimate relationships between student characteristics, the local availability of preK options (measured as estimated travel time), and students’ participation in state-funded preK. Across the five years examined, 74 percent of public school kindergarten students had attended state-funded preK in the prior year. Participation varied across the state, and a substantially greater percentage of students in rural districts participated than students in nonrural (that is, urban or suburban) districts. In addition, the study identified groups of students by student characteristics that participated less often, including students eligible for free lunch, Black/African American students, and Pacific Islander students. The study also examined relationships between participation and geographic measures of access to early learning and care. Students who lived further from a state-funded preK site were less likely to participate, and students who lived further from a Head Start Center were more likely to participate in state-funded preK. The differences in student participation across geographic areas and student characteristics indicate an opportunity for policies and strategies to promote greater awareness of, and enrollment in, state-funded preK or other early learning and care opportunities.
12/16/2020
REL 2021052 An Approach to Using Student and Teacher Data to Understand and Predict Teacher Shortages
Addressing teacher shortages has been a persistent concern among leaders in schools, districts, state education agencies, and the federal government. This report describes an approach to identifying patterns of teacher shortages that was collaboratively developed by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Regional Educational Laboratory Central. The approach is implemented using widely available software. It can be adopted or adapted by education agencies that wish to understand and predict teacher shortages, including shortage trends in content and certification areas, in their own contexts. Education agencies may also use teacher shortage predictions to inform efforts to address inequities in students’ access to excellent educators.
12/15/2020
REL 2021045 Professional Learning Community: Emergent Literacy
REL Southeast developed Professional Learning Community: Emergent Literacy to build the capacity of preschool educators to provide 3–5-year-old children evidence-based emergent literacy instruction. Early childhood teachers can help build the foundation to improve emergent literacy skills related to school readiness outcomes. The goal is to engage preschool teachers in collaborative learning experiences to support implementation of evidence-based language and literacy strategies that, in turn, can benefit children. A facilitator will use the Facilitator Guide and accompanying suite of materials to lead a team of preschool teachers through professional learning community sessions. The materials, developed in collaboration with the REL Southeast School Readiness Partnership, include four modules: 1) Print Knowledge; 2) Phonological Awareness; 3) Vocabulary; and 4) Oral Language. Each module is comprised of three resources:
  • A Facilitator Guide that includes a structured plan to deliver professional learning, slides, and speaker notes.
  • A PowerPoint Presentation that includes slides to project during each PLC session. Authentic Classroom Videos of preschool teachers implementing evidence-based language and literacy instructional practices are embedded in the slides of the PowerPoint presentation.
  • A Participant Guide that includes the emergent literacy content, activities, and resources for participating preschool teachers.
12/14/2020
REL 2021047 Participation in a Professional Development Program on Culturally Responsive Practices in Wisconsin
State and school district leaders in Wisconsin are interested in improving educational outcomes among Black students across the state. Implementing culturally responsive practices aims to improve the academic achievement and behavioral outcomes of minority students. Through continued support from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, a professional development training program for culturally responsive practices, Building Culturally Responsive Systems, has been one of the primary models to inform culturally responsive practices. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and education stakeholders in Wisconsin have asked for more comprehensive information about schools’ participation in this program. Using data from the 2012/13–2018/19 school years, this study examined the program’s uptake and reach across the state and its relationship to school outcomes. The study used data on Wisconsin school characteristics from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data. Also, the study used data on attendance at the professional development training program for culturally responsive practices and data on implementation of culturally responsive practices from the Wisconsin Response to Intervention Center. The study team calculated descriptive statistics to examine the number and percentage of schools that participated in the program and to compare school characteristics between schools that participated in the program and schools that did not participate. The study team examined the relationship between participation in the program and school outcomes. The study found that 4 percent of schools in Wisconsin sent teachers and administrators to participate in the professional development program for culturally responsive practices. Among the schools that participated in the program, only 17.2 percent reported implementing culturally responsive practices in reading instruction. Schools that participated in the program had larger school enrollment, were more likely to be eligible for Title I funds, were more often from cities and suburbs, and had similar percentages of Black students than schools that did not participate in the program.
11/25/2020
REL 2021041 The Association between Teachers’ Use of Formative Assessment Practices and Students’ Use of Self-Regulated Learning Strategies
Three Arizona school districts surveyed more than 1,200 teachers and more than 24,000 students in grades 3–12 in spring 2019 to better understand the relationship between their teachers’ use of formative assessment practices and their students’ use of self-regulated learning strategies, to help shape related teacher development efforts moving forward. Descriptive results indicated that students regularly track their own progress but less frequently solicit feedback from teachers or peers. On the other hand, teachers regularly give students feedback but less frequently provide occasions for students to provide feedback to one another. There was only a small, positive association between the number of formative assessment practices teachers used and the average number of self-regulated learning strategies among their students. The correlation was stronger in elementary classrooms and in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classrooms than in others. Some of teachers’ least-used formative assessment practices—facilitating student peer feedback and student self-assessment—had the strongest, positive associations with the average number of self-regulated learning strategies their students used. The more that teachers reported using these particular practices, the more self-regulated learning strategies their students reported using.
11/24/2020
REL 2021043 College Enrollment and Completion among Texas High School Graduates with a Disability
Higher education stakeholders often have limited information about the extent to which their institutions serve students with different types of disabilities and the pipeline of students with disabilities from high school to college entry and completion. This study used longitudinal administrative data from Texas to examine college enrollment and completion among four statewide cohorts of Texas public high school graduates (2006/07 through 2009/10) by disability status in high school, type of disability, and other student characteristics. The population included 106,736 high school graduates with disabilities and 902,672 graduates without disabilities. The findings demonstrate that 30.6 percent of graduates with designated disabilities in grade 12 enrolled in a Texas institution of higher education within two years. A large majority of the high school graduates with disabilities who enrolled in higher education (90.2 percent) initially enrolled in a public two-year institution. Enrollment in four-year institutions was substantially lower for graduates with disabilities than for graduates without disabilities. Within four years of initial enrollment in a two-year institution, 16.5 percent of the graduates with disabilities who enrolled had attained a certificate or associate degree, or transferred to a four-year university. Within seven years of initial enrollment in a two-year or four-year institution, 15.6 percent of the high school graduates with disabilities who enrolled had attained a baccalaureate degree. Attainment of college credentials and degrees was substantially lower for graduates with disabilities than for graduates without disabilities, particularly for baccalaureate degrees. College enrollment and attainment among high school graduates with disabilities was substantially lower for students eligible for the federal school lunch program and substantially lower for Hispanic and Black students compared to White students. College enrollment and attainment also varied by type of primary disability, higher for students with auditory, speech, visual, orthopedic and other health impairments than for students with intellectual and learning disabilities. These findings can inform efforts to identify students with disabilities in college and explore providing different services to support transition from high school and college success, particularly at two-year institutions, where most of the Texas students with disabilities enrolled.
11/23/2020
REL 2021040 Supply and Demand for Middle‑Skill Occupations in Rural California in 2018–20
The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which the workforce supply in four rural California regions aligned with the occupational demand in "middle-skill" jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor's degree from 2017-2020. The study team used historical degrees and certificate awards to calculate the average annual number of credential completions between 2017 and 2020 and projected occupational demand during this period by using data from the Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) data system. The report includes analysis at the regional level and across all four regions. The report found that 83,756 middle-skill workers annually are needed to fill available jobs in the four rural regions, but education institutions granted credentials to meet only 24 percent of the employer demand. The study also found that most of the available "middle skill" jobs pay a living wage at the entry level, and that the demand for most middle-skill occupations in rural California are projected to increase over time. The authors recommend that educational institutions identify opportunities to prepare more students for credentials in the programs that are aligned with in-demand occupations, such as expanding existing programs or starting new ones. They also recommend that local government, workforce investment boards, and chambers of commerce identify alternate sources of qualified labor to fill open positions such as "overqualified" local workers or qualified workers from outside each region.
11/17/2020
REL 2021048 Creating and Using Performance Assessments: An Online Course for Practitioners
This self-paced, online course provides educators with detailed information on performance assessment. Through five modules, practitioners, instructional leaders, and administrators will learn foundational concepts of assessment literacy and how to develop, score, and use performance assessments. They will also learn about the role of performance assessment within a comprehensive assessment system. Each module will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, with additional time needed to complete the related tasks, such as creating a performance assessment and rubric. Participants will be provided with a certificate of completion upon finishing the course.
11/2/2020
REL 2021014 Continuous Improvement in Education: A Toolkit for Schools and Districts

Continuous improvement processes engage key players within a system to focus on a specific problem of practice and, through a series of iterative cycles, test changes, gather data about the changes, and study the potential influence of these changes on outcomes of interest (Bryk et al., 2015). This practitioner-friendly toolkit is designed to provide an overview of Continuous Improvement processes in education, with a focus on the use of Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles (Langley, Moen, Nolan, Nolan & Norman, 2009). It also offers related tools and resources that educational practitioners can use to implement continuous improvement processes in their own schools, districts, or agencies.

The toolkit includes a customizable workbook, reproducible templates, and short informational videos. The toolkit begins with an introduction to continuous improvement, followed by customizable content for a series of meetings that guide a team of educators through the process of identifying a common problem, generating a series of evidence-based change practices to test and study, testing those change practices, collecting and analyzing data, and reflecting on and using evidence to identify next steps.

The toolkit leads educational practitioners through a series of PDSA cycles, designed explicitly for an educational setting. Real-world case examples illustrate the process in an educational context.

10/26/2020
REL 2021034 Are Neighborhood Factors Associated with the Quality of Early Childhood Education in North Carolina?
The purpose of this study was to examine whether and how geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics of the neighborhood (that is, census tract) in which an early childhood education (ECE) site is located within North Carolina is associated with aspects of the quality of these sites, as characterized by their 2017 Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) measures. The study used data on 5,254 licensed early childhood sites from numerous publicly-available data sources, including the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education, the American Community Survey, and the National Center for Education Statistics. The strength of association between neighborhood characteristics and quality rating scores among ECE sites was determined using multilevel structural equation modeling to account for the way in which ECE sites are nested within neighborhoods. After taking into consideration characteristics of the ECE sites themselves, the nature of the neighborhood did not help further explain why some sites earned higher quality rating scores than other sites. Findings suggest that geographic location and the socio-demographic characteristics of a neighborhood need not be seen as impediments to providing or ensuring access to higher quality ECE, as represented by higher scores on the states’ QRIS measures. Neighborhood-related predictors, such as socioeconomic characteristics, were only weakly associated with the quality rating scores. Moreover, the analyses also indicated that high-quality sites are available in most neighborhoods in the state. Some site-level variables, such as accepting child care subsidies and the age groups served by the site, were associated with quality rating scores among ECE sites. Sites that served fewer different age groups had higher quality rating scores, on average. More research is needed to understand what characteristics of sites, and their contexts, may best predict whether an ECE site will be of higher or lower quality.
10/23/2020
REL 2021038 Algebra I and College Preparatory Diploma Outcomes among Virginia Students Who Completed Algebra I in Grades 7–9
In Virginia, 52 percent of students graduated from high school with a college preparatory diploma in 2019. However, 31 percent of economically disadvantaged students and 15 percent of English learner students graduated with a college preparatory diploma. Recognizing the importance of mathematics in preparing students for college and careers, Virginia leaders are seeking to improve mathematics instructional programs and associated policy. As one part of their effort, this study was designed to learn more about Algebra I and graduation outcomes among students with similar mathematics proficiency in grade 5 who completed Algebra I in grade 7, 8, or 9 in Virginia. Using data from the Virginia Longitudinal Data System, the study followed a population of 61,200 students who were in Virginia public schools in grade 5 in 2009/10 and who graduated in 2016/17. Results describe students' prior mathematics performance, Algebra I performance, and college preparatory diploma attainment based on the grade level in which they completed Algebra I. The analyses used descriptive statistics and cross-tabulations of the overall study population as well as students identified as economically disadvantaged and English learner students. Fewer than half the students who completed Algebra I in grade 9 earned a college preparatory diploma, even when they earned advanced scores on the grade 5 mathematics assessments. Economically disadvantaged students who scored at the advanced level on the grade 5 mathematics assessment and completed Algebra I in grade 7 had an Algebra I pass rate that was 10 percentage points lower than that of the overall study population, and a rate of earning a college preparatory diploma 18 percentage points lower than that of the overall study population. Similar gaps in performance existed when economically disadvantaged students completed Algebra I in grade 8 or 9.
10/20/2020
REL 2021042 A First-Grade Teacher's Guide to Supporting Family Involvement in Foundational Reading Skills
A First Grade Teacher's Guide to Supporting Family Involvement in Foundational Reading Skills will be part of a suite of resources teachers can use with families to encourage and facilitate literacy support for children at home. The suite of resources will include a Teacher Guide, Family Activities, and Family Videos. The information in the Teacher Guide will be designed to assist teachers in sup-porting out-of-school literacy activities that are aligned to classroom instruction, informed by student need, grounded in evidence-based practices (the Foundational Reading Skills Practice Guide), and facilitated by ongoing parent-teacher communication. The Teacher Guide will provide a framework for literacy support activities presented during schools' family literacy nights and parent-teacher conferences.

The Family Activities will contain evidence-based literacy activities that the teacher can give to the parent during family literacy night or at parent-teacher conferences for the parents to do at home with their child. Each activity will use family-friendly language and include a user-friendly format. Materials needed (e.g., letter cards) for each activity will be included.

The Family Videos will depict families using the activities to support children's literacy at home. The videos can be shown at the school's literacy night or during parent-teacher conferences to illustrate family involvement in first grade literacy.

Similar guides for kindergarten and grades 2 and 3 will also be available.
10/14/2020
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