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 Pub Number  Title  Date
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 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 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 2022132 Career and Technical Education Credentials in Virginia High Schools: Trends in Attainment and College Enrollment Outcomes
In Virginia, there has been a long-term effort to increase the number of graduates who earn career and technical education (CTE) credentials. These CTE credentials are intended to provide high school graduates with additional preparation for college and careers. In 2013, the Virginia Board of Education added a CTE credential requirement to the Standard diploma for students who entered grade 9 for the first time in 2013 or later. Graduates can complete this requirement by passing an approved assessment and do not have to take any CTE courses.

At the request of Virginia CTE leaders, the Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia conducted a descriptive study of attainment rates of CTE credentials, completion rates of CTE programs of study, and college enrollment rates for Standard diploma graduates from 2011 to 2017, the years before and after the policy change. Education stakeholders in Virginia and elsewhere can use the results of this study to inform their CTE policies.

From 2011 to 2017, the percentage of Standard diploma graduates who earned at least one CTE credential increased from 23 percent to 91 percent. A similar increase occurred among Advanced Studies diploma graduates, even though the CTE credential requirement applied only to Standard diploma graduates. The attainment rates of CTE credentials increased for all groups of Standard diploma graduates, including groups based on demographic characteristics, federal program participation, and academic achievement. While the percentages of Standard diploma graduates who earned a CTE credential increased consistently from 2011 to 2017, their college enrollment rates dropped. The percentage of Standard diploma graduates completing a CTE program of study, which requires taking CTE courses that are not required to earn a credential but may still be helpful for later student outcomes, decreased in 2016 and 2017.

The study findings suggest a need to examine workforce outcomes for Standard diploma graduates to fully understand whether this policy is meeting its intended goals. In addition, the findings suggest a need to consider other methods to address outcomes for Virginia’s Standard diploma graduates, such as support for implementing practices with rigorous evidence of effectiveness for improving college and career outcomes.
12/27/2021
REL 2022129 Principal Retention Patterns in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah
The departure of an effective school leader can influence staff turnover and student achievement for several years. With school systems facing an unprecedented public health crisis due to COVID-19, principal retention is a key area of concern for many local and state education agencies. The Regional Educational Laboratory West undertook this study of principal retention rates to help leaders in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah better understand principal retention patterns in their state, so that their new statewide leadership support initiatives could identify areas where support could be most effective. Findings showed that fewer than half of principals in each of these states remained at the same school from fall 2016 to fall 2020 (four-year retention). The study also found that principals who changed jobs (but remained in the principalship) tended to move to a new school in the same local education agency rather than to a new school in another local education agency. Principal retention patterns varied by state according to grade span, school locale type, and student demographic characteristics. In addition, across the three states, proportionally fewer principals remained at schools with lower average proficiency rates on standardized tests in math and English language arts than at schools with higher average proficiency rates from fall 2016 to fall 2019 (three-year retention).
12/6/2021
REL 2022131 Estimating Changes to Student Learning in Illinois Following Extended School Building Closures due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the education of students in Illinois and around the nation. Leaders at the Illinois State Board of Education and in Illinois public school districts want to better understand how student learning changed during the pandemic. This study examines data from 17 Illinois districts over five years, including four years prior to the pandemic, to measure how student learning changed in fall 2020 relative to fall terms prior to the pandemic. The study demonstrates how learning changed in both mathematics and reading for students in grades 3–8, as well as how these changes varied across student characteristics and district size. The study found that students in grades 4–8 scored lower than expected in mathematics following the onset of the pandemic, after adjusting for other factors. The magnitude varied by grade level. Larger estimated changes in learning occurred in grades 6–8 than in grades 4 and 5. Students in grades 3–8 did not experience any statistically significant changes in learning in reading. A further analysis of learning in mathematics showed that changes in learning varied across students with different characteristics but were unrelated to district size. The study findings should be interpreted with caution, especially when generalizing to the population of Illinois districts and students. The study includes a small number of districts, and the students in these districts differ from the statewide population of students.
12/1/2021
REL 2022109 Teacher Shortages in New York State: New Teachers' Certification Pathways, Certification Areas, District of Employment, and Retention in the Same District
New York State is experiencing teacher shortages in specific subject areas. One way to address these shortages is through the certification and placement of new teachers. This study explored the pathways through which new teachers between 2015/16 and 2017/18 earned certificates, their certification areas, and their subsequent placement and retention in districts across the state, particularly high-need districts. While the majority of new teachers earned certificates through the traditional in-state pathway, this varied somewhat by certification area. The proportion of teachers who earned certificates through the individual evaluation pathway was higher for the shortage certification area of career and technical education than for other certification areas. The most frequent certification area was the shortage certification area of special education, while the shortage certification areas of career and technical education and bilingual special education were among the least frequent. New York City district schools employed new teachers who earned certificates through the alternative in-state pathway at a higher rate than other types of high-need districts (rural, large city—not New York City, and other urban/suburban) as well as average- and low-need districts. New teachers employed in high-need districts had higher rates of retention in the same district for a second year than new teachers employed in average- and low-need districts. Just 5 percent of new teachers in New York State were uncertified.
11/30/2021
REL 2022110 Additional Certification for Teachers in New York State: Teachers’ Experience and Employment Location, Certification Pathways, and Certification Areas
New York State is experiencing teacher shortages in specific subject areas. One way to address these shortages is for certified teachers to earn additional certificates qualifying them to fill positions in shortage areas. This study explored patterns in how experienced teachers (those with at least one year of teaching experience in New York State public schools) in 2015/16 earned additional certificates between October 2015 and October 2017. These patterns included which teachers earned additional certificates, their certification pathways, and their additional certification areas. The study found that about 5 percent of teachers in New York State in 2015/16 earned additional certificates during the two-year period. A larger proportion of teachers who earned additional certificates during that period were employed in New York City district schools and charter schools than in other types of districts or schools. Teachers who earned additional certificates were less experienced than those who did not earn additional certificates. More teachers earned additional certificates in shortage areas than in nonshortage areas, except for administration, a nonteaching certification area. Special education was the most common shortage certification area in which experienced teachers earned additional certificates. More than half of teachers who earned additional certificates did so through the traditional in-state pathway, while about a third did so through the individual evaluation pathway.
11/30/2021
REL 2022127 Education and Career Planning in High School: A National Study of School and Student Characteristics and College-Going Behaviors
A large proportion of high schools across the country have adopted education and career planning requirements intended to help students prepare for postsecondary education and to facilitate successful transitions to the labor market. This study used student and counselor survey responses from a nationally representative longitudinal dataset to examine the relationships between students’ participation in three core elements of education and career planning during high school and their application, coursetaking, and enrollment behaviors associated with the transition to college. Students who developed an education or career plan upon first entering high school in grade 9 were no more or less likely to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, complete a college preparatory curriculum, apply to college, or enroll in college than students who did not develop a plan. However, for students who received support from a teacher or a parent to develop their plan and for students who met with an adult in school to review the plan at least once a year, developing a plan was significantly associated with several college-going behaviors.
11/29/2021
REL 2022130 Exploring Early Implementation of Pennsylvania's Innovative Teacher and Principal Residency Grants

To improve educator diversity and address educator shortages, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) awards grants to universities in the state to develop and implement teacher and principal residency preparation programs. The programs must offer aspiring teachers and principals a residency of at least a year, consisting of clinical practice in schools with trained mentors, aligned coursework, and financial aid. The programs must focus on improving diversity and must partner with districts with chronic teacher or principal shortages, high proportions of students of color or in poverty, or that have been identified for state support.

This study examines eight residency programs that received grants for the 2019/20 school year. The study interviewed program staff, collected program data, and conducted focus groups with residents and mentors. The study sought to provide preliminary information early in the implementation of the programs on how well they were preparing teachers and principals, where the teachers and principals were getting jobs after completing the programs, whether the programs were improving diversity, and how they could be improved.

Four key findings emerged from the study. First, recruiting diverse candidates was difficult. Teacher residents were mostly White, although more than a third of participants in one of the programs were people of color. Principal residents were more diverse. Second, for five of the six programs with available employment data, at least half of the residents were hired in high-need districts after completing the programs. Third, residents and mentors felt the residents were prepared for most teaching or school leadership responsibilities, although principal mentors felt some principal residents were not as well prepared. Finally, program staff, residents, and mentors described several lessons learned, including that communication and the balance of the time commitment between the coursework and the residency could be improved.

The findings will inform PDE’s plans for future grants and help the funded programs improve. The findings may also be relevant to other states, districts, or preparation programs that are developing residency programs.

11/8/2021
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