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 Pub Number  Title  Date
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 2022122 Program Evaluation Toolkit
Program evaluation is important for assessing the implementation and outcomes of local, state, and federal programs. The Program Evaluation Toolkit provides resources and tools to support users in contributing to evaluations of their own programs. The primary audience for the toolkit includes individuals responsible for evaluating and monitoring local, state, or federal programs. The toolkit comprises a series of eight modules that begin at the planning stages of an evaluation and progress to the presentation of findings. Resources in the toolkit will help users create a logic model, develop evaluation questions, identify data sources, develop data collection instruments, conduct basic analyses, and disseminate findings. By using the toolkit, users should develop an evaluation that provides easy-to-understand findings as well as recommendations or possible actions.
10/12/2021
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
NCES 2021476 2017–18 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, Administrative Collection (NPSAS:18-AC): First Look at Student Financial Aid Estimates for 2017–18
This First Look publication provides the first results of the 2017–18 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, Administrative Collection (NPSAS:18-AC), the most comprehensive national study of student financing of postsecondary education in the United States. The study includes information for about 245,000 undergraduate students and 21,000 graduate students attending 1,900 postsecondary institutions in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. NPSAS:18-AC also provides state-level estimates for undergraduate students in 30 states. This report describes the percentages of students receiving various types of financial aid and average amounts received, by type of institution attended and institution state (for undergraduate students), and by type of institution, attendance pattern, graduate program, and income level (for graduate students).
9/16/2021
NCEE 2021004 State and District Strategies to Reduce Dropouts
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) encourages states and districts to support students' transitions from one level of schooling to the next to reduce the risk of their dropping out. This snapshot presents findings from national surveys in 2018. Most states and districts are providing some types of transition and dropout prevention services, such as individualized career plans to help students identify and work toward their long-term goals and course offerings to help students who have fallen behind get back on track for graduation. However, many fewer states and districts have early warning systems designed to proactively identify the students most at-risk and in need of services and target such services.
9/16/2021
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
REL 2021115 The Effect of Discipline Reform Plans on Exclusionary Discipline Outcomes in Minnesota
In 2017 the Minnesota Department of Human Rights identified 43 local education agencies in the state as being in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act for their use of exclusionary discipline practices (suspensions, exclusions, and expulsions) at higher rates for American Indian students, Black students, and students in special education, as well as for their overall use of discipline practices. The department agreed not to pursue legal action against any identified local education agency that created and implemented a plan to reform its discipline practices. This study examined the use of exclusionary discipline practices by Minnesota local education agencies from 2014/15 through 2018/19 and the extent to which the creation of discipline reform plans by identified local education agencies was associated with changes in discipline outcomes. The study found that creating a discipline reform plan was not associated with a statistically significant change in exclusionary discipline actions experienced by students.
9/13/2021
REL 2021093 State-Funded Preschool in the Last Frontier: Alaska's Pre-Elementary Grant Program
Created in 2016, Alaska's Pre-Elementary Grants (PEGs) allow school districts to design, develop, and expand affordable and accessible preschool in their communities. PEGs aim, in particular, to serve historically disadvantaged students. This study aimed to help Alaska stakeholders better understand how districts implemented the grants and what were the characteristics and outcomes of children who participated in PEG programs. Based on analyses of documents, interviews, and administrative data, the study found that PEG districts served a higher proportion of Alaska Native students, English learner students, and students in rural remote schools than did non-PEG districts and that these differences increased between 2016/17 and 2018/19 as more districts received funding. PEG districts used the program’s flexibility primarily to provide or support part-day preschool. In addition, students' participation in state-funded preschool between 2013/14 and 2017/18, including PEG participation, was positively related to kindergarten readiness, kindergarten and grade 2 English language proficiency, kindergarten and grade 1 attendance, and grade 3 assessment scores in math but not to grade 3 assessment scores in reading. The study findings have important implications for Alaska’s efforts to expand preschool and might also be of interest to other predominantly rural states that are considering similar efforts. Specifically, the implementation findings can help practitioners, program directors, and state agency staff members in Alaska provide more targeted support to districts and modify the grant program in future years. The promising findings on the relationship between PEG participation and student outcomes point to the need for more rigorous research on this topic—an effort that would benefit from improved data collection.
8/31/2021
REL 2021097 First-Year Effects of Early Indicator and Intervention Systems in Oregon

Although Oregon has made recent gains in its overall high school graduation rate, 21 percent of public school students entering grade 9 in 2014 did not graduate within four years, by 2018. To improve graduation rates, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 98 in 2016 to fund dropout prevention and college and career readiness initiatives in high schools. Many districts used the funding to adopt an early indicator and intervention system (EIIS) to identify students who are not on track to graduate on time by monitoring related indicators, such as chronic absenteeism, disciplinary infractions, course progression, and academic performance, through a frequently updated data system. Districts can tailor the system by setting their own on-track thresholds for each indicator to identify students at risk of not graduating on time, assigning those students to interventions, and monitoring student response to the interventions.

This study took advantage of the additional funding being offered to districts across the state to look at first-year effects on chronic absenteeism, disciplinary infractions, course progression, and academic performance by comparing the outcomes in 65 districts that adopted an EIIS to the outcomes in a set of similar districts that used the additional funding for other dropout prevention or college and career readiness initiatives. The study offers insight into the effectiveness of early efforts to scale up EIISs, a popular school-level intervention. EIIS adoption appears to have reduced the percentage of students who were chronically absent by 3.9 percentage points but does not appear to have had positive effects on the three other student outcomes during the first year: the percentage of students with disciplinary infractions, the percentage of grade 10 students who had acquired enough credits by the end of grade 9 to be considered on track for on-time graduation, or the percentage of grade 11 students meeting or exceeding proficiency standards on state math and English language arts tests. The findings offer the Oregon Department of Education information on the early effects of its efforts to promote EIIS across Oregon. The findings can also be used by other state and district education leaders to inform their considerations to scale up EIIS or other similar programs.

8/30/2021
REL 2021111 Professional Development Incentives for Oregon's Early Childhood Education Workforce: A Randomized Study
Many states seek to increase the education levels of their early childhood education (ECE) workforce to improve the quality of care for children. Oregon encourages all ECE workforce members to sign up for a career lattice, a career pathway system that helps them determine goals related to increasing their education. The state also offers incentives for reaching specific steps in the career lattice and scholarships for college credit and community-based training. This study used two randomized controlled trials in 2018 and 2019 to test whether sending emails and offering different financial incentives to Oregon ECE workforce members increased career lattice sign-up and increased education and training levels or workplace retention. The study found that sending emails encouraging career lattice sign-up had no detectable impact on career lattice sign-up or workplace retention. Sending emails offering a monetary incentive at an earlier-than-usual step on the career lattice had a positive impact on training hours recorded but no detectable impact on career lattice movement, college credit hours earned, or workplace retention. Sending emails about automatic enrollment in a scholarship program had no detectable impact on scholarship use, career lattice movement, college credit hours earned, or workplace retention. Lastly, after participants were randomly assigned to study groups, the email campaigns were implemented as planned, reaching all intended participants, although the interventions ended sooner than planned because of a state policy change. The findings suggest that low-touch interventions such as emails have promise for increasing training hours but are not sufficient to induce changes in career lattice sign-up, continuing postsecondary education, or workplace retention for Oregon ECE workforce members. These results have implications for future research, in addition to demonstrating how better messaging and supports can mitigate barriers to further education and training and how email campaigns can be leveraged for workforce communication efforts. This information is particularly relevant for state agencies and education and training providers.
8/24/2021
REL 2021107 Characteristics and Performance of High School Equivalency Exam Takers in New Jersey
Since 2014 the New Jersey Department of Education has offered three high school equivalency (HSE) exams for nongraduates seeking credentials: the GED, the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET), and the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC). This study used data on exam takers who had been grade 8 students in a New Jersey public school between 2008/09 and 2013/14 and who had attempted at least one HSE exam in New Jersey between March 2014 and December 2018. It analyzed how the characteristics of exam takers differ across exams and from the characteristics of non–exam takers, how the performance of exam takers with similar backgrounds varies, and how a recent reduction in the passing threshold for two of the exams affected passing rates. Among all students who had been grade 8 students in a New Jersey public school during the study years, HSE exam takers completed fewer years of school, were more likely to have been eligible for the national school lunch program in grade 8, and were more likely to identify as Black or Hispanic than non–exam takers. GED takers had received higher grade 8 standardized test scores, were more likely to identify as White, and were less likely to have been eligible for the national school lunch program in grade 8 than HiSET and TASC takers. Under the New Jersey Department of Education's original passing thresholds, exam takers in the study sample were more likely to pass the HiSET and TASC than the GED on the first attempt (after grade 8 standardized test scores were controlled for). However, after the reduction in passing thresholds, the first-attempt passing rate was similar across the three exams. Under the new passing thresholds, two-thirds of GED takers and more than half of HiSET and TASC takers passed on the first attempt, and—when all exam attempts are included—three-quarters of all exam takers ever passed each exam.
8/23/2021
REL 2021106 The reliability of shorter assessments in New Jersey for group-level inferences
Education policymakers must balance the reliability of assessments to measure academic knowledge and skills with the burdens that assessments place upon students, teachers, and schools. In 2019, New Jersey began using the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA), shorter assessments based on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Regional Educational Laboratory researchers examined the reliability of test results for the NJSLA by comparing results at the school, test, and subgroup levels from 2016 to 2019. The findings indicated a high degree of reliability across most measures the researchers examined; during the transition to the NJSLA, the reliability did not decrease for any test results—except the Algebra 2 test—reported by the New Jersey Department of Education. The instability of the Algebra 2 results was most likely not attributable to changes in the assessment but instead to changes in the student population that was required to take the test following a change in the state’s testing requirements .
7/20/2021
REL 2021095 Examination of the Validity and Reliability of the Kansas Clinical Assessment Tool

Although national assessments for evaluating teacher candidates are available, some state education agencies and education preparation programs have developed their own assessments. These locally developed assessments are based on observations of teaching and other artifacts such as lesson plans and student assignments. However, local assessment developers often lack information about the validity and reliability of data collected with their assessments. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) has provided guidance for demonstrating the validity and reliability of locally developed teacher candidate assessments, yet few educator preparation programs have the capacity to generate this evidence.

The Regional Educational Laboratory Central partnered with educator preparation programs in Kansas to examine the validity and reliability of the Kansas Clinical Assessment Tool (K-CAT), a newly developed tool for assessing the performance of teacher candidates. The study was designed to align with CAEP guidance. The study found that cooperating teachers reported that the K-CAT accurately represented existing teaching performance standards (face validity). Two skilled raters found that the content of the K-CAT was mostly aligned to existing teaching performance standards (content validity). In addition, K-CAT scores for the same teacher candidate, provided by cooperating teachers and supervising faculty, were positively related (convergent validity). K-CAT indicator scores showed internal consistency, or correlations among related indicators, for standards and for the tool overall (reliability). K-CAT scores showed small relationships with teacher candidate scores on other measures of teaching performance (criterion-related validity).

7/7/2021
REL 2021094 Pathways to Teaching: Teacher Diversity, Testing, Certification, and Employment in Washington State
The number and percentage of students of color are growing in Washington state, yet the teacher workforce remains largely White (non-Hispanic). This means that few students of color have teachers who share their race or ethnicity, which could have consequences for student achievement and wellbeing. To better understand the state’s shortage of teachers of color, this study investigated six steps in the teacher preparation and career pathway at which teacher candidates and teachers are likely to drop out or leave the profession: three teacher preparation tests, certification, employment, and retention. Among all teacher candidates who took at least one of these steps during 2010-19, Hispanic candidates and non-Hispanic candidates of color were less likely than White candidates to complete each step, took longer to complete each step, and were less likely to become a certificated educator in a Washington K-12 public school. The descriptive findings suggest that education policymakers consider revising policies and programs to increase the number of teachers of color. The state has already made changes, such as revising testing requirements for teacher candidates.
6/21/2021
NCEE 2021011 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.
6/9/2021
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