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 Pub Number  Title  Date
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
REL 2022123 Academic Mindsets and Behaviors, Prior Achievement, and the Transition to Middle School

Middle school is an important crossroad in a student’s academic journey. As students enter middle school, their academic achievement and engagement frequently declines. This is true particularly for Black and Latinx students. Poor middle school grades are often a harbinger of poor performance in high school and beyond. In particular, having a grade point average (GPA) below 2.0 is a strong signal of continuing negative academic outcomes. Previous research has found that academic outcomes around the transition to middle school are related to, and might even be driven by, academic mindsets, including growth mindsets (such as beliefs about the malleability of academic ability and the payoff to effort) and performance avoidance (fears of failure and the desire to avoid academic effort), and resulting academic behaviors (such as completing homework).

This study examined the relationship between 2016/17 grade 5 student responses to a Clark County School District (Nevada) survey on levels of academic mindsets and behaviors and the predicted probability of earning a low GPA (below 2.0) at the end of the first semester of grade 6 (the first year of middle school) in 2017/18. Grade 5 students who reported high levels of growth mindset and academic behavior and low levels of performance avoidance had a lower predicted probability of having a GPA below 2.0 in the first semester of grade 6. Once student scores on grade 5 state standardized math and English language arts achievement exams were accounted for, levels of academic mindsets and behaviors among grade 5 students with scores at or above the district median did not predict meaningful differences in the probability of having a GPA below 2.0 in the first semester of grade 6. However, among grade 5 students with prior academic achievement below the district median, students who reported high levels of growth mindset and academic behaviors and low levels of performance avoidance had a lower predicted probability of having a GPA below 2.0 in the first semester of grade 6, even after differences in individual grade 5 prior academic achievement were accounted for. These patterns were essentially the same for all racial/ethnic groups as well as for both English learner students and non–English learner students.

10/25/2021
REL 2022125 Schools' Experiences with 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. In exchange, schools must meet academic performance targets. The performance contracts are meant to encourage schools and 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 each school’s achievement changed after the start of their district’s performance contracts and the factors related to those changes. GaDOE also requested information on schools’ implementation of and experiences with the state’s flexibility policy, focusing on how schools have prioritized local innovations in practice. Overall, the study found positive but small changes in achievement for grades 3–8 English language arts and math and found significant variation in changes in achievement across schools within districts, after adjusting for other factors. Changes in achievement after performance contracts were implemented were related to schools’ demographic composition and prior achievement. In response to a survey, school leaders reported prioritizing innovations related to use of data to identify early intervention needs, formative assessments used to guide instruction, supplemental programs for low-performing students, and personalized learning for students. Leaders in schools with larger proportions of students eligible for the national school lunch program, Black students, and English learner students reported prioritizing innovations related to online and/or blended curricula more frequently than schools with smaller proportions of these students. School leaders also reported a great deal of school-level influence over decisions about priority innovations.
10/18/2021
REL 2022124 Predicting Early Fall Student Enrollment in the School District of Philadelphia
Predicting incoming enrollment is an ongoing concern for the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) and similar districts with school choice systems, substantial student mobility, or both. Inaccurate predictions can disrupt learning as districts adjust to enrollment fluctuations by reshuffling teachers and students well into the fall semester. This study compared the accuracy of four statistical techniques for predicting fall enrollment at the school-by-grade level, using data from prior years, to assess which approach might be the most useful for planning school staffing in SDP. The predictions differ little in accuracy: predicted cohort size differs from actual cohort size by roughly six students across all methods The statistical techniques leave much student mobility unaccounted for. Even under the best prediction approach, students and teachers in 22 percent of incoming grade levels within schools might have to be reassigned because of unexpected student mobility and district rules on maximum class size. Predictive accuracy is not meaningfully different in schools with larger proportions of Black students, economically disadvantaged students, or English learner students. Of the 259 predictors analyzed, 4 stand out as the most important: prior cohort sizes, in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, and absences.
10/12/2021
REL 2021226 Identifying Students At Risk Using Prior Performance Versus a Machine Learning Algorithm

This report provides information for administrators in local education agencies who are considering early warning systems to identify at-risk students. Districts use early warning systems to target resources to the most at-risk students and intervene before students drop out. Schools want to ensure the early warning system accurately identifies the students that need support to make the best use of available resources. The report compares the accuracy of using simple flags based on prior academic problems in school (prior performance early warning system) to an algorithm using a range of in- and out-of-school data to estimate the specific risk of each academic problem for each student in each quarter. Schools can use one or more risk-score cutoffs from the algorithm to create low- and high-risk groups. This study compares a prior performance early warning system to two risk-score cutoff options: a cutoff that identifies the same percentage of students as the prior performance early warning system, and a cutoff that identifies the 10 percent of students most at risk.

The study finds that the prior performance early warning system and the algorithm using the same-percentage risk score cutoffs are similarly accurate. Both approaches successfully identify most of the students who ultimately are chronically absent, have a low grade point average, or fail a course. In contrast, the algorithm with 10-percent cutoffs is good at targeting the students who are most likely to experience an academic problem; this approach has the advantage in predicting suspensions, which are rarer and harder to predict than the other outcomes. Both the prior performance flags and the algorithm are less accurate when predicting outcomes for students who are Black.

The findings suggest clear tradeoffs between the options. The prior performance early warning system is just as accurate as the algorithm for some purposes and is cheaper and easier to set up, but it does not provide fine-grained information that could be used to identify the students who are at greatest risk. The algorithm can distinguish degrees of risk among students, enabling a district to set cutoffs that vary depending on the prevalence of different outcomes, the harms of over-identifying versus under-identifying students at risk, and the resources available to support interventions.

9/28/2021
REL 2021118 Variations in District Strategies for Remote Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented and abrupt stoppage of in-person learning in schools across the country. State education agency leaders in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming needed information on proposed strategies in districts’ remote learning plans to ensure continuity and better support remote learning in their states. This study used document analysis to examine proposed strategies related to infrastructure; strategies and supports for instruction; and supports for teachers, students, and parents. Findings are presented separately by district Internet connectivity level, district poverty quartile, and district locale. These findings represent variations in district remote learning plans across the four states included in the study.

The study found that proposed remote learning strategies varied considerably and were often related to district characteristics. For instance, a higher percentage of districts with higher Internet connectivity before the pandemic proposed support for home-based Internet; full student access to devices; technology support; and additional supports for teachers, students, and parents. In addition, a higher percentage of nonrural districts and high-poverty districts proposed supports for students and parents, such as one-on-one meetings between students and teachers and resources for parents on remote learning.

Although district capacity to implement remote learning has likely improved since the start of the pandemic, state education agency leaders can use the findings in this report to consider providing more support to districts with persistent Internet connectivity challenges. Leaders can also use the report to inform additional data collection to examine how remote learning strategies have evolved and to help determine the implications of the shift on student learning.

9/27/2021
REL 2021116 Factors Associated with Grade 3 Reading Outcomes of Students in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System
Few elementary students on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are scoring at grade level or higher on the ACT Aspire reading assessment. To better understand factors associated with the reading proficiency of CNMI grade 3 students, stakeholders there asked the Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific to examine the demographic characteristics and education experiences of students who demonstrated reading proficiency by grade 3. The study focused on grade 3 students who were enrolled in CNMI public schools from 2014/15 to 2018/19. It found that female students, students who did not receive free or reduced-priced lunch, students who were older at the time of kindergarten entry, Filipino students, and students who did not change schools were more likely to demonstrate reading proficiency in grade 3 than other students. There was no difference in grade 3 reading proficiency between students who had enrolled in Head Start and students who had not.
9/21/2021
REL 2021108 Supports Associated with Teacher Retention in Michigan

Statewide teacher shortages are hindering Michigan’s efforts to ensure that all students have equitable access to qualified teachers. Implementing teacher supports—which may be policies, practices, or programs—to increase teacher retention offers a way to alleviate shortages. This study identified supports implemented by local education agencies (traditional school districts and charter schools) that are associated with teacher retention. The study examined local teacher retention rates from 2013/14 to 2018/19 and teachers' responses to a survey about teacher supports in their local agencies and their perceptions of those supports.

Average annual teacher retention rates among Michigan’s local education agencies ranged from 33 percent to 100 percent in the six-year period. The likelihood that teachers would remain teaching in their local education agency was higher in local education agencies that served lower percentages of students who were economically disadvantaged, higher percentages of students who were White, and higher percentages of students proficient in English language arts. And the likelihood was higher in agencies that had regular supportive communication between new teachers and school leaders, implemented mentoring programs, provided new teachers with an orientation to their school, allowed teachers to set goals in their evaluations, and provided teachers with sufficient instructional resources. The study also found that supports associated with teacher retention varied by the type of local education agency and the percentage of students who were economically disadvantaged. Findings from this study can help education agencies in Michigan prioritize which of 30 teacher supports examined merit more rigorous investigation.

9/20/2021
REL 2021100 Variation in Mentoring Practices and Retention across New Teacher Demographic Characteristics under a Large Urban District's New Teacher Mentoring Program
A large urban school district wanted to understand how its first-year teacher mentoring program might better support the district goals of increasing retention and maintaining a diverse workforce. This study investigated new teachers' participation in that program; how participation varied across teacher characteristics, especially how participation varied by the racial/ethnic makeup of new teacher–mentor pairs; and how participation in various aspects of the program was related to new teacher retention after the first year. The study found that over 40 percent of new teachers spent at least 10 hours a month meeting with their mentor but that more than 25 percent spent less than half that much time in mentoring meetings. There were also large differences by race/ethnicity in the proportions of new teachers who reported spending time on specific topics: White new teachers were almost twice as likely as Black new teachers to report spending substantial time on classroom management. New teacher retention was related to the amount of time new teachers spent meeting with their mentor, to whether new teachers reported spending substantial time with their mentor addressing classroom management, and to the racial/ethnic alignment of new teacher–mentor pairs.
9/16/2021
REL 2021113 Using Enhanced Coaching of Teachers to Improve Reading Achievement in Grades PreK–2 in Chicago Public Schools
Chicago Public Schools is working to improve early literacy outcomes through a multiyear professional development initiative for preK–2 teachers. The P–2 Balanced Literacy Initiative aims to improve literacy instruction by training teachers to implement effective early literacy instruction balancing systematic foundational skills instruction with reading and writing instruction involving rich, complex texts. The initiative began in 2016/17 and served 23 percent of all district elementary schools by 2018/19. The district designated 26 of the 115 elementary schools implementing the initiative in 2018/19 to receive enhanced supports, including intensive, site-based coaching, to support students’ independent reading. This study compared the reading achievement of students who attended schools that received the enhanced supports (priority schools) with the reading achievement of students who attended similar schools that received only the initiative’s standard supports (nonpriority schools). It also examined differences between priority and nonpriority schools in teachers’ and administrators’ participation in professional development sessions and looked at the successes and challenges of implementation. The study found that one year after implementation of the initiative, attending a priority school did not lead to higher end-of-year reading achievement than attending a nonpriority school after other factors were adjusted for. Teachers and administrators in priority schools were more likely than those in nonpriority schools to participate in the initiative’s core professional development sessions. Interviews with select district, network, and school leaders; instructional support coaches; and teachers suggest that several aspects of the initiative’s professional development were valuable, most notably the opportunities for teachers to deepen their understanding of the initiative’s professional development, receive feedback through observation and school-based coaching, and learn from one another. But instructional support coaches’ limited capacity, due to competing responsibilities, was a challenge. District leaders might consider increasing the number of coaches available and limiting their competing priorities so they can focus on the initiative.
9/15/2021
REL 2021099 Exploring Implementation of Attendance Supports to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism in the Providence Public School District
In recent years Rhode Island’s Providence Public School District (PPSD) has put initiatives in place to reduce high chronic absenteeism. This study explored attendance supports aimed at reducing chronic absenteeism that PPSD schools implemented in the 2018/19 school year. Although some schools had attendance supports in place before 2018/19, in 2018 the district added new requirements for schools to address chronic absenteeism. The study investigated what attendance supports were most commonly implemented with fidelity in 2018/19 by schools in which chronic absenteeism decreased between 2017/18 and 2018/19. Schools in which chronic absenteeism decreased implemented text messaging, phone calls, and mentorship programs with fidelity more frequently than schools in which chronic absenteeism increased. The study also looked more closely at one support in particular—text messaging to parents and guardians of students—to examine how implementation varied across schools. Some schools used a targeted approach for contacting parents and guardians of students who might be at risk for chronic absenteeism, translating content to reach parents and guardians in their preferred language; this could create opportunities to reach parents and guardians in ways that other attendance supports do not. Descriptive analyses showed that during the 2018/19 school year the use of attendance-related text messaging increased more quickly in schools in which chronic absenteeism decreased between 2017/18 and 2018/19 than in schools in which chronic absenteeism increased, where the use of attendance-related text messaging remained flat.
9/14/2021
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