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|Investigating the Scope and Implementation of Return to Title IV Funds
Students who receive federal student loan or grant aid and subsequently withdraw may be subject to a "Return of Title IV Funds" (R2T4) calculation, which can require the student or college to pay back unused aid funds to the government. Despite the potential influence of the policy on students, colleges, and the integrity of federal student aid programs, little is known about the policy's scope. Offices within the Department of Education, including Federal Student Aid and the Institute of Education Sciences, collaborated with the Office of Evaluation Sciences at the U.S. General Services Administration to better understand R2T4. The overarching goal of this evaluation is to build foundational, descriptive evidence that documents the scope of R2T4 in terms of students and colleges affected by the policy as well as associated aid amounts due and returned.
|Using Bayesian Meta-Analysis to Explore the Components of Early Literacy Interventions
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released a report that applies two methodological approaches new to the WWC that together aim to improve researchers' understanding of how early literacy interventions may work to improve outcomes for students in grades K-3. First, this report pilots a new taxonomy developed by early literacy experts and intervention developers as part of a larger effort to develop standard nomenclature for the components of literacy interventions. Then, the WWC uses Bayesian meta-analysis—a statistical method to systematically summarize evidence across multiple studies—to estimate the associations between intervention components and intervention impacts.
Twenty-nine studies of 25 early literacy interventions that were previously reviewed by the WWC and met the WWC's rigorous research standards were included in the analysis. This method found that the components examined in this synthesis appear to have a limited role in explaining variation in intervention impacts on alphabetics outcomes, including phonics, phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, and letter identification. This method also identified positive associations between intervention impacts on alphabetics outcomes and components related to using student assessment data to drive decisions, including about how to group students for instruction, and components related to non-academic student supports, including efforts to teach social-emotional learning strategies and outreach to parents and families. This report is exploratory because this synthesis cannot conclude that specific components caused improved alphabetics outcomes.
|Possible Ways of Increasing College Access Among Adults from Underserved Backgrounds: A Study of College Transition Text-Based Messaging
For adults with low incomes and potential first-generation college-goers, enrolling in college can be challenging. The U.S. Department of Education-funded Educational Opportunity Centers (EOCs) provide supports to help navigate some of the barriers to enrollment, including assistance with completing college and financial aid application processes, academic advising, and personal counseling. This study tested a text messaging program provided as a supplement to EOCs' typical services. The program included a set of personalized, automated text messages focused on how to secure financial aid, complete key college enrollment steps, and navigate other potential barriers to college entry. Clients from 18 EOCs were randomly assigned to receive the text messages in addition to typical EOC services or to receive typical EOC services only. The study compared the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion and college enrollment rates of these two groups to determine the effectiveness of the messaging program.
|Evaluating the Federal Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority: Early Implementation and Progress of State Efforts to Develop New Statewide Academic Assessments
Education officials have long hoped that the statewide academic assessments most students take each year could be used not only for accountability, but also to guide instruction. Congress established the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) program in 2015 to help address this goal, offering states temporary flexibility from certain federal testing requirements so that they may more easily make progress toward replacing their current assessments with more innovative ones. However, states approved for IADA must still show that their innovative assessments meet most requirements for federal accountability, and they are expected to implement the new assessments statewide within 5 years. This report describes the progress of the first five IADA systems through the 2020–21 school year. The report is primarily based on an analysis of states' IADA applications and performance reports to the U.S. Department of Education and is part of a broader evaluation of IADA required by Congress.
|Federal Support for Attracting, Training, and Retaining Educators: How Districts Receiving Teacher and School Leader Grants Use Their Funds
Ensuring students' equitable access to talented educators remains a national priority. Congress established the Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Incentive competitive grant program in 2015 to help address this goal, providing financial support to selected school districts to improve their systems for hiring, supporting, and retaining educators, particularly in high-need schools. Grantees can use TSL funds flexibly to improve their basic infrastructure for generating and managing data or on strategies that use these data to improve their educator workforce. This report provides the first comprehensive review of the activities 2017 TSL grantee districts prioritized with their TSL funds and how well these activities aligned with key aspects of the program. The report is based on interviews conducted near the end of the initial 3-year grant period for the 24 districts that were part of the 2017 TSL cohort and is part of a broader evaluation of TSL required by Congress.
|Linking Adult Education to Workforce Development in 2018-19: Early Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act at the Local Level
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 includes new requirements and incentives to strengthen the link between its Title II -- adult education -- and the overall workforce development system. This report from a national evaluation of Title II examines the extent to which local adult education providers’ instructional approaches and coordination with other agencies in 2018-19 reflected this link and highlights the challenges providers reported collecting related performance data. A compendium provides detailed tables supporting the policy report.
|The Effects of an Academic Language Program on Student Reading Outcomes
Helping English learners and economically disadvantaged students read as well as their more advantaged peers is a struggle for many schools. This study tested a promising program to improve fourth- and fifth-grade students' ability to understand the academic language used in school and support their reading achievement. The supplemental program included reading, speaking, and writing activities for students and training for teachers. About 60 schools were randomly assigned to implement the program for one school year or to continue using their typical strategies. The study compared the average reading performance of the two groups to assess the program's effectiveness.
|Study of Training in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavior: Impacts on Elementary School Students' Outcomes
To prevent and address students’ problem behaviors and support their learning, the Department of Education and many states have promoted the use of multi-tiered systems of support for behavior (MTSS-B). This study evaluated one promising, intensive program of MTSS-B training and technical assistance. The MTSS-B approach seeks to change the school learning environment by consistently teaching and reinforcing good behavior for all students and identifying and providing supplemental support to students who need it. About 90 elementary schools were randomly assigned either to participate in the program or to continue with their usual strategies for supporting student behavior. The study compared student and teacher experiences in the two sets of schools to measure the effectiveness of the program.
|Study of Teacher Coaching Based on Classroom Videos: Impacts on Student Achievement and Teachers' Practices
Helping teachers become more effective in the classroom is a high priority for school leaders and policymakers. This study examined one promising strategy for improving teachers’ effectiveness: providing individualized coaching using videos of teachers’ instruction for reflection, practice, and feedback. The coaching focused on general, rather than subject specific, teaching practices. About 100 elementary schools were randomly divided into three groups: one where teachers received five highly structured cycles of focused, professional coaching during a single school year, one where teachers received more coaching (eight cycles), and one that continued with its usual strategies for supporting teachers. The study compared teachers’ experiences and their students’ achievement across the three groups to determine the effectiveness of the two versions of the coaching.
|Study of Enhanced College Advising in Upward Bound: Impacts on Where and How long Students Attend College
Decisions about whether and where to go to college can make a difference in students' later success. However, many students from low-income families "undermatch"—they do not enroll at all or not in the most selective college they likely could attend. This report examined whether promising advising strategies, bundled in a package called Find the Fit, could improve college choices and persistence for rising high school seniors in the federal college access program Upward Bound.
|State and District Use of Title II, Part A Funds in 2019–20
Title II, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides over $2 billion per year to states and districts to support effective instruction through the preparation, recruitment, and training of educators. This report provides a national picture of state and district priorities for Title II-A funds in the 2019–20 school year. The report finds that half of the states and a quarter of districts used the new flexibility provided in the 2015 reauthorization. Districts most often used Title II-A funds to provide professional development. Other common uses included reducing class sizes and recruiting and retaining effective teachers and principals.
|Study of College Transition Messaging in GEAR UP: Impacts on Enrolling and Staying in College
Text-message-based college advising is a popular strategy to get students timely information and support, including among states and districts that participate in the federal college access program Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). In this study, about 4,800 college-intending seniors in high-need GEAR UP high schools across the country were randomly divided into two groups: one received their regular GEAR UP supports in the summer before and during their first year of college, and the other group received these regular supports along with 37 text messages customized to their college and the option to communicate with an advisor. The study found that students sent text messages were no more likely to enroll or persist in college than were students not sent messages. The messages also did not affect whether students completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
|The Effects of Expanding Pell Grant Eligibility for Short Occupational Training Programs: Results from the Experimental Sites Initiative
Pell Grants are the cornerstone of federal financial aid for low-income students enrolled in postsecondary education. Between 2012 and 2017, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) conducted pilots of two experimental expansions to Pell Grant eligibility. The first experiment allowed income-eligible students with a bachelor’s degree, not normally eligible for Pell Grants, to obtain them for short-term occupational training programs. The second experiment allowed income-eligible students to obtain Pell Grants for very short-term programs lasting as little as eight weeks, under the normal minimum of 15 weeks of instruction. This report presents the findings from a study that tested whether these experimental expansions to Pell Grant eligibility were effective. Both pilots improved enrollment in and completion of postsecondary programs, a first step toward improving individuals’ success in the labor market. However, the labor market returns from the two experiments and how these compare to the cost of expanding Pell Grant eligibility—about $1,800 per student in this study—remain important open questions for the future.
|The Transition to ESSA: State and District Approaches to Implementing Title I and Title II-A in 2017-18
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) retained certain K-12 schooling federal requirements under prior law while shifting many decisions to states and districts. This report, based on national surveys administered in 2018, describes state and district policies and practices in the law’s core areas of content standards and assessments, identification of and support for low-performing schools, and educator effectiveness (Title I and II-A). The report also compares the policies and practices in 2018 to 2014, prior to ESSA. Between 2014 and 2018, most states made few substantive changes to their content standards while broadening the measures used to identify low-performing schools and increasingly using performance data to support effective teaching. Districts increasingly provided supports to implement state content standards, and a larger share of districts reported specific improvement activities in their low-performing schools in 2018 compared to 2014. Districts also increasingly used performance measures such as evaluation results to identify and support low-performing teachers.
|Can Texting Parents Improve Attendance in Elementary School? A Test of an Adaptive Messaging Strategy
Chronic absence is a nationwide problem, even among young students. This report presents findings from a study that tested four versions of an adaptive text messaging strategy to see which, if any, would reduce chronic absence and improve achievement among 26,000 elementary school students. All four versions of the adaptive text messaging strategy reduced chronic absence but did not improve achievement after one school year.
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