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 Pub Number  Title  Date
REL 2023148 Interpreting Findings from an Early Learning Inventory Pilot Study
This project was part of a larger REL Southwest coaching series to support the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) in using an early learning inventory (ELI) to assess children’s knowledge and skills at kindergarten entry and to improve state-funded early learning programs. The goals of the project were to assist OSDE in (1) preparing to implement an ELI pilot study, (2) preparing for sampling and recruitment for the ELI pilot study, (3) developing data collection measures to collect information during the pilot study about how the ELI is implemented and teacher outcomes, and (4) analyzing and interpreting data from the ELI pilot study. The coaching was delivered over the course of five sessions from fall 2020 to fall 2022. OSDE staff were the primary participants.

The final two sessions of this coaching project included a review of the pilot study findings and methodology. This project equipped OSDE staff with information to make evidence-based decisions about the ELI and to conduct a more rigorous future study with the ELI.
1/23/2023
REL 2023147 The Louisiana Believe and Prepare Educator Preparation Reform: Findings from the Pilot and Early Implementation Years
Believe and Prepare is a teacher preparation reform implemented by the Louisiana Department of Education in collaboration with school systems and teacher preparation programs across the state. It was piloted in the 2014/15 school year and became mandatory in July 2018 for incoming teacher candidates in all 18 institutions of higher education that offer traditional teacher preparation programs. The reform focused on competency-based curricula, extended clinical experiences, and rigorous mentor teacher training. A central requirement of the reform is that teacher candidates must participate in a yearlong residency with a mentor teacher. This replaced the prior shorter-term student teaching requirement, typically six weeks.

To explore the extent to which the reform is contributing to expected improvement in outcomes for early career teachers, this study examined the association between the reform and in-service teacher performance ratings, teacher retention, student test scores, teacher competency, and the likelihood of three placement outcomes (being placed in the school where the teacher completed a residency, filling a teaching position in a shortage area, and being placed in a rural school). Teachers who completed a program that had implemented Believe and Prepare were 2 percentage points more likely than teachers who completed a program that had not implemented it to stay in Louisiana for at least one year and 7 percentage points more likely to stay in the same school district for at least three years. Grade 4–8 students whose teachers completed a preparation program that had implemented Believe and Prepare during the pilot years scored 0.04 standard deviation lower on English language arts tests than students whose teachers completed a program that had not implemented it. Other teacher outcomes such as in-service performance ratings, competency as measured by Praxis II scores, school placement, and job assignment were not statistically different between teachers who completed a program that had implemented Believe and Prepare and teachers who completed other programs.
12/12/2022
REL 2023143 Encouraging Families to Visit a Literacy Website: A Randomized Study of the Impact of Email and Text Message Communications
The Arkansas Department of Education partnered with the Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest to study the feasibility and effectiveness of using brief email and text message communications to increase the number of parent and guardian visits to the Reading Initiative for Student Excellence (R.I.S.E.) state literacy website.

In November 2021, the department sent test messages to families to determine the percentage of households with children in kindergarten–grade 6 in Arkansas public schools that had a working email address or cell phone number and whether the percentage differed by school locale (rural or nonrural) or demographic composition (percentage of economically disadvantaged students, Black students and Hispanic students, or English learner students). Subsequently, the study team randomly assigned 700 Arkansas public elementary schools to one of eight conditions, which varied the mode of communication (email only or email and text message), the presentation of information (no graphic or with a graphic), and the type of sender (generic sender or known sender). In January 2022 households with children in these schools were sent three rounds of communications with information about literacy and a link to the R.I.S.E. website. The study examined the impact of these communications on whether parents and guardians clicked the link to visit the website (click rate) and conducted an exploratory analysis of differences in how long they spent on the website (time on page).
12/7/2022
REL 2023001 Stabilizing subgroup proficiency results to improve identification of low-performing schools
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to identify schools with low-performing student subgroups for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) or Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI). Random differences between students’ true abilities and their test scores, also called measurement error, reduce the statistical reliability of the performance measures used to identify schools for these categorizations. Measurement error introduces a risk that the identified schools are unlucky rather than truly low performing. Using data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), the study team used Bayesian hierarchical modeling to improve the reliability of subgroup proficiency measures, allowing PDE to target the schools and students that most need additional support. PDE plans to incorporate stabilization as a “safe harbor” alternative in its 2022 accountability calculations. The study also shows that Bayesian stabilization produces reliable results for subgroups as small as 10 students—suggesting that states could choose to reduce minimum counts used in subgroup calculations (typically now around 20 students), promoting accountability for all subgroups without increasing random error. Findings could be relevant to states across the country, all of which face the same need to identify schools for TSI and ATSI, and the same tension between accountability and reliability, which Bayesian stabilization could help to resolve.
12/5/2022
REL 2023146 Indicators of School Performance in Texas
The School Improvement Division of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) identifies, monitors, and supports low-performing schools. To identify low-performing schools, TEA assigns annual academic accountability ratings to its districts and schools, but these ratings are only provided once per year and are vulnerable to disruptions in the assessment system. Schools that receive low accountability ratings do not meet accountability expectations and are considered low-performing.
12/5/2022
REL 2023140 Biliteracy Seals in a Large Urban District in New Mexico: Who Earns Them and How Do They Impact College Outcomes?
New Mexico is one of 48 states that offer a biliteracy seal to high school graduates to recognize their proficiency in a non-English language. The Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest English Learners Research Partnership collaborated with a large urban district in New Mexico to study the characteristics and college readiness of students who earn different types of biliteracy seals (state, district, and global seals) and whether earning a seal improves college outcomes. The study used data from three cohorts of students who graduated from high school in the district from 2017/18 to 2019/20. The study examined the characteristics and college readiness of students who earned different types of seals, the number of students who met some requirements for a seal but did not earn one, and the effect of earning a seal on college outcomes.
12/1/2022
REL 2023145 Examining student group differences in Arkansas’ indicators of postsecondary readiness and success
Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest partnered with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to examine Arkansas’s middle and high school indicators of postsecondary readiness and success, building on an earlier study of these indicators (Hester et al., 2021). Academic indicators include attaining proficiency on state achievement tests, grade point average, enrollment in advanced courses, and community service learning. Behavioral indicators include attendance, suspension, and expulsion. Using data on statewide grade 6 cohorts from 2008/09 and 2009/10, the study examined the percentages of students who attained the readiness and success indicators and the percentages of students who attained postsecondary readiness and success outcomes by gender, race/ethnicity, eligibility for the National School Lunch Program, English learner student status, disability status, age, and district locale. The study also examined whether the predictive accuracy, specificity, and strength of the indicators varied by these student groups.

Three key findings emerged. First, the attainment of indicators of postsecondary readiness and success differed substantially for nearly all student groups, with the number of substantial differences on academic indicators exceeding those on behavioral indicators. The largest number of substantial differences in the attainment of academic indicators were between Black and White students, between students eligible and ineligible for the National School Lunch Program (an indicator of economic disadvantage), and between students who entered grade 6 before and after age 13. Second, attainment of postsecondary readiness and success outcomes varied substantially across student groups, with the largest differences between students with and without a disability. Third, predictive accuracy (the percentage of students with the same predicted and actual outcomes) and strength (the relative importance of a single indicator) were similar across student groups in most cases.

Leaders at ADE and in Arkansas districts can use these findings to identify appropriate indicators of postsecondary readiness and success and to target supports toward student groups who most need them. These findings can help leaders identify and address disparities such as inequitable access to resources and supportive learning environments.
11/21/2022
REL 2023144 English learner proficiency in Texas before and during the COVID-19 pandemic
This study examined levels of English proficiency before and during the COVID-19 pandemic among English learner students in grades 3–12 in Texas. In 2020/21, nearly 750,000 students in grades 3–12—approximately one in five Texas students—were English learner students. In accordance with Texas state law and the Every Student Succeeds Act, English proficiency is measured annually using a statewide assessment, the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS), which assesses English learner students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English. This study focused on TELPAS scores among students who took the test in 2020/21 and compared those scores with a matched cohort of similar students from 2018/19. The study found that, despite missing data because of pandemic-related disruptions to testing, students who took the TELPAS were representative of the overall Texas English learner student population in the years prior to and during the pandemic. The study also found that rates of reclassification from an English learner student to an English proficient student declined between 2017/18 and 2020/21, and trends in the characteristics of reclassified students changed, with lower percentages of students in major urban areas, eligible for the National School Lunch Program, who spoke Spanish at home, and who identified as Hispanic reclassified in 2020/21 than in 2017/18. On average, during the pandemic, English learner students in elementary grades earned meaningfully lower scores on the listening, speaking, and reading domains of the TELPAS than similar students earned before the pandemic, particularly in speaking. The findings for secondary grades were mixed; middle school students earned lower scores in listening and high school students earned higher scores in speaking. Finally, the study did not find evidence that English learner student program models, such as dual-language immersion or content-based English as a second language, were meaningfully associated with English proficiency in 2020/21. Leaders at the Texas Education Agency and Texas school districts could consider focusing recovery resources on elementary schools and to some degree on middle schools and identifying and supporting evidence-based strategies to cultivate proficiency. The Texas Education Agency may consider studying the effect of program models on language proficiency and the relationship between reclassification, shifting English proficiency levels, and changing reclassification standards.
11/3/2022
REL 2023142 An Examination of the Costs of Texas Community Colleges
Policymakers in Texas want to understand the funding levels necessary for community colleges to meet their promise of providing an affordable and accessible pathway to a postsecondary certificate or degree. Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest conducted this study to help leaders at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board better understand the extent to which Texas community colleges have adequate funding for reaching the desired levels of student success, as measured by success points milestones used in the state’s performance-based funding system. The study involved three types of analyses: a needs analysis, an equity analysis, and a cost function analysis. The needs analysis found that community colleges with higher percentages of first-generation college students, students who are economically disadvantaged, students who are academically disadvantaged, students older than 24 years, and English learner students earn fewer success points milestones per full-time equivalent student. The equity analysis found that community colleges with higher percentages of students who are academically disadvantaged spent less per full-time equivalent student, suggesting that there may be resource inequities for these students. The cost function analysis found that spending was not high enough to cover the cost of providing an equal opportunity for first-generation college students, students who are economically disadvantaged, students older than 24 years, and English learner students to achieve the same level of outcomes as students without these needs. The findings from this study can inform Texas policymakers’ efforts to distribute funding for community colleges to support equitable opportunities for all students to succeed in college.
10/26/2022
REL 2023141 Early Progress and Outcomes of a Grow Your Own Grant Program for High School Students and Paraprofessionals in Texas
The Texas Education Agency launched the Grow Your Own (GYO) grant program in 2018 to encourage districts to develop or expand existing high-quality education and training courses for high school students and to support district-employed paraprofessionals (including instructional aides and long-term substitute teachers) to pursue certifications that would allow them to enter full-time teaching roles. This study aimed to help state education leaders in Texas understand the progress of districts in implementing the GYO program and the early outcomes of participants. This study analyzed data from 2015/16 through 2020/21 for districts that received GYO funding in the first two grant cycles and districts in the same geographic locales within the same regions that did not receive GYO funding (comparison districts). The study found that the majority of districts awarded a GYO grant were in rural areas and small towns. GYO districts were more likely to have a smaller enrollment and had a higher average percentage of Hispanic students than comparison districts. The findings suggest that the program appeared to meet the Texas Education Agency’s goal of providing opportunities to students and paraprofessionals in rural and small school settings and students of color to participate in GYO activities. The study also found that the percentage of students completing education and training courses in GYO districts was low (about 10 percent) during the grant years, and the percentage was similar in comparison districts before and after the grant awards. A disproportionate share of students who completed education and training courses in GYO districts were female. Although it is too soon to tell whether the GYO program will, over time, increase the size and diversity of the state’s teacher pool, leaders at the Texas Education Agency can use these early findings to both understand the progress of districts in achieving the GYO grant program aims and help identify aspects of the program that might need further investigation.
10/24/2022
REL 2023139 Practical Measurement for Continuous Improvement in the Classroom: A Toolkit for Educators
This toolkit is designed to guide educators in developing and improving practical measurement instruments for use in networked improvement communities (NICs) and other education contexts in which principles of continuous improvement are applied. Continuous improvement includes distinct repeating processes: understanding the problem, identifying specific targets for improvement, determining the change to introduce, implementing the change, and evaluating if and how the change led to improvements. This toolkit is intended for a team of educators who have already identified specific student learning needs and strategies to improve instruction to address those needs and are ready to test these strategies using continuous improvement processes. The toolkit aims to help the team with the final step in the cycle, which includes collecting data to measure implementation of changes and intended outcomes and using those data to inform future action. Measures for continuous improvement should be closely aligned to student learning goals and implementation of instructional strategies driving the continuous improvement effort, and they should be practical to use in a classroom setting. A team of educators can use this toolkit to proceed through a series of steps to identify what to measure, consider existing instruments, draft instruments, evaluate and refine instruments, plan data collection routines, and plan for data discussions to interpret the data and inform action. Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest developed the resources in the toolkit in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Education team working with the Oklahoma Excel NICs.
10/11/2022
REL 2022138 Effects of Reclassifying English Learner Students on Student Achievement in New Mexico
This study examined how attaining English proficiency and being reclassified as fluent English proficient affected achievement in English language arts and math in the first year after student reclassification in grades 3–8 in New Mexico. State policy in New Mexico bases student reclassification decisions on whether students attain a minimum overall English language proficiency level score of 5.0 on the ACCESS for ELLs (ACCESS) assessment. The study focused on achievement among English learner students in 2014/15–2018/19, a time when the ACCESS underwent a standards setting process to better align its language proficiency scoring scale with the expectations of college- and career-ready standards. After the standards setting, a smaller percentage of English learner students in New Mexico attained English proficiency and were reclassified each year. At the same time, students who scored near the English proficiency level required for reclassification performed above the statewide average in English language arts and math and were more likely to meet state content proficiency standards. However, the study found no effects of reclassification on student achievement either before or after the ACCESS standards setting. In addition, the study found no effect of reclassification on next-year English language arts and math achievement among most groups of students with different characteristics and among most districts in the study. Leaders at the New Mexico Public Education Department could use the findings of this study to consider maintaining the current reclassification threshold. In addition, the state and its districts might want to identify opportunities to strengthen the supports provided to English learner students. This could begin by collecting more systematic information on the education services and supports that English learner students receive leading up to and after they attain English proficiency.
9/1/2022
REL 2022135 English Language Development Among American Indian English Learner Students in New Mexico
New Mexico’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan set the goal for all English learner students to attain English proficiency within five years. The Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest English Learners Research Partnership conducted this study to better understand progress toward English proficiency among American Indian English learner students. The study examined two statewide cohorts of American Indian students identified as English learner students at initial kindergarten entry in 2013/14 or 2014/15 in New Mexico public schools. The study found that most American Indian English learner students were not reclassified as English proficient within five years. Similarly, most American Indian English learner students did not meet grade-level standards on New Mexico state assessments in English language arts and math in grades 3 and 4, regardless of whether they attained English proficiency and were reclassified within five years. However, considerably higher percentages of American Indian English learner students who were reclassified as English proficient met grade-level standards in both English language arts and math compared with students who were not reclassified. Finally, students who attended a school with a bilingual multicultural education program (BMEP) for at least four years were reclassified as English proficient and met grade-level standards on state assessments in English language arts and math at higher rates than students who never attended a school with a BMEP. Staff at the New Mexico Public Education Department, district and school leaders, and teachers can use the findings from this study to determine how best to support English language development among American Indian English learner students.
5/16/2022
REL 2022134 California’s Special Education Local Plan Areas: Funding Patterns, Inclusion Rates, and Student Outcomes
California requires each school district to belong to a Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) for special education planning and governance. The California Department of Education (CDE) and the State Board of Education (SBE) are interested in the impact on the surrounding small and midsized districts when large districts become single-district SELPAs. Given one of the original motivations of SELPAs was economies of scale, the state wanted to examine the association between different SELPA types and district configurations and outcomes, including SELPA funding patterns, inclusion rates of students receiving special education services in the general education environment, and academic outcomes for students receiving special education services. This study examined those differences using publicly available data. The findings provide mixed evidence for the possible implications of large districts leaving multidistrict SELPAs to form single-district SELPAs. The study found no meaningful association between different SELPA and district configurations and academic outcomes for students with disabilities—including graduation and dropout rates—and proficiency rates in math and English language arts and on the alternative assessment. Several meaningful differences with regard to funding and inclusion were found. For example, when comparing multidistrict SELPAs with and multidistrict SELPAs without a large district, multidistrict SELPAs without a large district received larger per pupil apportionments and had higher inclusion rates. Also, when comparing small districts in multidistrict SELPAs with and multidistrict SELPAs without a large district, inclusion rates were higher for preK students and lower for K–12 students in SELPAs without a large district. The larger amount of per pupil special education funding in multidistrict SELPAs without a large district may help to alleviate some concern about the impact of large districts separating from surrounding small and midsized districts to become their own SELPAs. The CDE and the SBE may want to further examine which regionalized programs are implemented by SELPAs of different compositions and how they benefit small districts. Further research could consider more complex analyses to better understand the outcomes that may be due specifically to membership in a single-district versus a multidistrict SELPA.
12/27/2021
REL 2022121 Examining the implementation and impact of full-day kindergarten in Oregon
Many states and districts offer full-day kindergarten (FDK) to provide additional time for student learning in the hope that it will improve student outcomes. Prior research has shown an association between FDK and gains in student outcomes such as math and reading standardized assessment scores. In 2015/16, through a policy shift, Oregon changed its funding structure for kindergarten enrollment, which created incentives for districts to offer FDK. This study examines three aspects of FDK in Oregon. First, the study looked at the characteristics of Oregon districts that offered FDK in 2013/14 and 2014/15 (the two years before the policy shift) and how those FDK programs were structured. Next, the study estimated the impact of attending FDK in one large Oregon school district in 2013/14 and 2014/15 on academic and non-academic outcomes. Lastly, the study explored how FDK programs were implemented in 2017/18 (after the policy shift).

Examining how FDK programs were implemented after the policy shift, only 22 percent of teachers responded to a survey, and those respondents reported a focus on teacher-directed activities and limited use of kindergarten entry assessment data in 2017/18. These findings cannot be generalized to all FDK teachers in Oregon and only apply to teachers who responded. In the same year, the 42 percent of principals who responded to the survey reported that a small number of FDK students only received a half day of instruction and that there was a lack of curricular and professional development alignment between preschool and kindergarten. Again, these findings cannot be generalized to all schools with FDK. The study’s mixed findings indicate that FDK may slightly improve student attendance in early elementary grades for some student groups and in settings that are similar to the large district examined in this study. The study also reveals a need for more research on the barriers to offering, accessing, and implementing FDK, as well as the variation in the impact of FDK on student outcomes. Finally, the study points to a need for additional state guidance and support on how to implement high-quality FDK programs.
12/27/2021
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