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 Pub Number  Title  Date
REL 2018290 Impact of providing information to parents in Texas about the role of Algebra II in college admission
This study examines the impact of providing parents with an informational brochure about the role of algebra II in college access on students’ grade 11 algebra II completion rates in Texas. One hundred nine schools, covering all 20 Educational Service Center regions in Texas, participated in the study. Parents in the 54 treatment schools were mailed brochures containing information about the role of algebra II in college access and success, as well as information about the new high school graduation options, while parents in the 55 control schools received brochures only about changes in the high school graduation requirements. The study used data from the Texas Education Agency’s Public Education Information Management System, statewide assessment files, and Texas Academic Performance Report files. A multilevel regression model was used to compare algebra II completion rates during grade 11 for students in participating schools that received information about the role of algebra II in college access and students in participating schools that received the alternate brochure. Interaction terms were included in the model in order to look for differential impacts for high-minority or low-income schools. The study found no statistically significant differences in algebra II completion rates during grade 11 between students in treatment in control schools. However, the study did find a statistically significant interaction between school-level treatment and low-income status. While the estimated impacts of the treatment were not statistically significant for students in low-income schools or for students in non-low-income schools, the interaction suggested a less positive impact in the low-income schools. Additional research could help to parse this out. If parents and guardians of students in schools with and without high percentages of low-income students do respond differently to the two types of brochures, this could help TEA to better design and target informational materials for parents and guardians.
3/1/2018
REL 2018291 Regional Educational Laboratory researcher-practitioner partnerships: Documenting the research alliance experience
This report provides a detailed account of the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Program's experience establishing and supporting research-practice partnerships (called "research alliances") during its 2012–17 contract cycle. The report adds to the growing literature base on researcher-practitioner partnerships by sharing how the RELs reported creating, engaging, and maintaining multiple partnerships, with the purpose of informing future collaborative efforts for researchers and practitioners and for those who wish to support research-practice partnerships. It addresses questions about: how REL research alliances fit within the broader context of research-practice partnerships; what characteristics existed among REL research alliances and how they evolved over time; and what challenges RELs reported experiencing while establishing and supporting research alliances and the strategies RELs employed to address those challenges. Finally, the paper discusses the implications of the REL research alliance experience for other networks of research-practice partnerships.
2/27/2018
REL 2018284 Teacher certification and academic growth among English learner students in the Houston Independent School District
This study assesses whether a teacher’s certification type (that is, being a certified bilingual teacher or a certified English as a second language [ESL] teacher) and route to certification—alternative, postbaccalaureate, traditional, or additional exam—correlate with academic growth and growth in English proficiency among English learner students in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The student sample consisted of HISD students in grades 4 or 5 during the 2005/06–2014/15 school years who were classified as English learner students, participated in HISD's bilingual or ESL program in grades 4 or 5, and had Spanish as their home language. Data from the four most recent cohorts (2011/12–2014/15) were used for the analyses of mathematics and reading outcomes using the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) assessment program. All cohorts were used for the analyses of the English proficiency outcomes using the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System assessment. The corresponding teacher sample consisted of HISD teachers who taught mathematics or reading to the student sample described. The study used student achievement models, sometimes called value-added specifications, to examine whether specific teacher certification types and routes were associated with larger achievement gains.

For math, having a teacher with bilingual certification was associated with higher student growth in achievement in grade 4 but lower growth in achievement in grade 5 compared with having a teacher without bilingual or English as a second language certification. Having a teacher with bilingual certification through the alternative route was associated with the highest growth in achievement in grade 4 math. For reading, having a teacher with bilingual certification was associated with higher student growth in achievement in grade 4 compared with having a teacher without bilingual or English as a second language certification. Having a teacher with bilingual certification through the traditional route was associated with the highest growth in achievement in grade 4 reading. For English proficiency, having a teacher with bilingual certification through the postbaccalaureate route was associated with the highest student growth in grade 4. Having a teacher with bilingual certification through the alternative route was associated with the highest growth in English proficiency in grade 5.

Given the inconsistent results, there are no clear implications for practice. Additional research might investigate alternate methods for identifying which teachers are effective.
2/13/2018
REL 2018289 Trends in Algebra II completion and failure rates for students entering Texas public high schools
The purpose of this study was to examine Algebra II completion and failure rates in Texas for high school students in the grade 9 cohorts of 2007/08 through 2014/15. This period spans (1) the point at which Texas began implementing the 4x4 curriculum that required four courses each in English, math (including Algebra II), science, and social studies and (2) when the state moved to the new Foundation High School Program—which eliminates Algebra II as a math requirement—with the 2014/15 cohort. Using longitudinal student- and district-level administrative data from the Texas Education Agency and district-level responses to a statewide online survey administered during spring 2015, the research team examined Algebra II completion and failure rates, and determined how districts were communicating with parents about the new graduation requirements and whether they would be offering the new Algebra II replacement courses during the first year of implementation. Results indicate that approximately 37 percent of districts reported requiring students to complete Algebra II to graduate from high school. Fewer than half of districts reported that they planned to offer the alternative math courses in the first year of implementing the new graduation requirements. Overall, Algebra II completion and failure rates for the 2014/15 cohort followed the same trend as seen for the seven cohorts graduating under the previous graduation requirements. This study suggests that the third high school math course students took was not immediately influenced by the new graduation requirements. Future research could continue to track additional cohorts of students to determine if student change their course-taking in response to additional changes districts may make in implementing the new graduation requirements or if the increased flexibility in course selection is related to other student outcomes such as dropout rates.
2/6/2018
REL 2018288 Special education enrollment and classification in Louisiana charter schools and traditional schools
This study is an exploratory analysis of the enrollment rates of students with individualized education programs (IEPs) in the charter school and traditional school sectors. It also examines factors associated with variation in classification and enrollment rates of students with IEPs across these school sectors in the four educational regions of Louisiana with three or more charter schools. Those areas are Region 1, which includes New Orleans; Region 3, which includes Jefferson and five other parishes near New Orleans; Region 5, which includes Ouachita and five surrounding parishes in the northeast corner of the state; and Region 8, which includes Baton Rouge. In the 2013/14 school year, 77 percent of charter students in Louisiana attended school in one of these four regions.

The study found that the enrollment rate of students with IEPs was lower in public charter schools than traditional public schools in the four Louisiana educational regions in the study from 2010/11 through 2013/14. This gap, however, declined from 2.5 percentage points in 2010/11 to 0.5 percentage points in 2013/14. For three of the four study years the gap was largest in schools serving grades K–5, and for all four study years it was smallest in schools serving grades 9–12. In 2013/14 the special education enrollment rate was higher for charter schools than traditional schools at the high school level (a 2.0 percentage point difference). The gap varied by disability type, as enrollments were higher in charter schools for students with emotional disturbance but higher in traditional schools for students with most other disabilities. Charter school enrollment was not clearly associated with the likelihood of being newly classified as requiring an IEP. However, charter school enrollment was associated with an increased likelihood of being declassified as requiring an IEP, though less than 1 percent of students with an IEP in both charter schools and traditional schools were declassified over the study period. The gap in the declassification rate of 0.04 percentage points favoring charter school declassifications over the four years of the study was too small to explain the 2 percentage point reduction in the charter school special education enrollment gap.

The exploratory results signal that, by the 2013/14 school year, charter schools in Louisiana were serving students with IEPs in the high school grades at rates similar to or higher than traditional schools in the state. The findings suggest that public charter schools are less successful at attracting and enrolling students with IEPs into their schools in the early elementary grades. Finally, these findings confirm those of prior studies that charter schools declassify students as no longer requiring special education services at higher rates than do traditional schools, but those rates of declassification remain less than 1 percent over a four-year period.
1/23/2018
REL 2018286 Initial Spanish proficiency and English language development among Spanish-speaking English learner students in New Mexico
The purpose of this study was to understand whether differences in initial kindergarten Spanish proficiency for English learner students were linked to disparities in attaining English proficiency and academic achievement in reading and math by grades 4 and 5. The study followed two cohorts of Spanish-speaking English learner students from four districts in New Mexico from kindergarten through grades 4 and 5. The 2010 cohort included students enrolled in kindergarten in 2009/10 and followed through grade 5, and represented 25 percent of the Spanish-speaking English learner students enrolled in bilingual programs in the state. The 2011 cohort included students enrolled in kindergarten in 2010/11 and followed through grade 4, and represented 35 percent of the Spanish-speaking English learner students enrolled in bilingual programs in the state. The descriptive study examined cumulative rates of English learner students progressing toward fluent English proficiency. The study also examined students’ demonstration of grade-level readiness on standardized academic assessments in math and English language arts in grades 4 and 5, particularly for those students who were successfully reclassified to fluent English proficient, and how they compared to state averages at the same grade level. Results were reported out according to three different levels of initial kindergarten Spanish proficiency: low, medium and high. The study found that a considerable portion of English learner students in both cohorts started kindergarten at the lowest English proficiency level, but that results favored students who started kindergarten with high Spanish proficiency. Results also indicated that grade-level readiness for grades 4 and 5 on NMPARCC English language arts and math scores for students who achieved English proficiency in grades 4 and 5 were generally lower than statewide averages for all students. However, students with high kindergarten Spanish proficiency were more likely to have higher English proficiency in kindergarten, to be reclassified to fluent English proficient by grades 4 or 5, and to be demonstrate grade-level readiness in English language arts and math in grades 4 and 5 compared to students with low or medium kindergarten Spanish proficiency levels. Results suggest that differentiated annual targets for English language proficiency progress based on results from the kindergarten Spanish proficiency assessment might produce more accurate annual growth targets for English learner students, and that those Spanish proficiency assessments could serve as a flag for targeting students with a higher risk of struggling to gain English and academic proficiency in elementary school.
1/23/2018
REL 2018285 Impact of a checklist on principal–teacher feedback conferences following classroom observations
In partnership with the New Mexico Public Education Department, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest researchers conducted a statewide experiment in school year 2015/16 to test impacts of a checklist on the feedback conferences principals had with teachers after formal classroom observations. Of the 336 participating schools in New Mexico, the REL Southwest researchers selected half at random in fall 2015 as the treatment group. All school leaders in the treatment group received the checklist as an email attachment, plus a hyperlink to a three-minute principal testimonial video. School leaders in the control group received an email attachment with a guide that reprised the five tips about feedback included in the mandatory New Mexico Public Education Department-sponsored professional development. As of one year later, the checklist had few clear impacts on the quality of feedback, professional development outcomes, instructional practice, and student achievement. The exceptions are that teachers who received the checklist reported that their principals were less likely to dominate the feedback conferences, and reported that they were more likely to follow their principals’ professional development recommendation. The overall usage of the feedback checklist was moderate, with about three-quarters of principals who were encouraged to use the checklist reporting that they saw it, and 58 percent reported using it in post-observation feedback sessions with at least a few teachers. This study suggests that if school districts or state departments of education wish to change school leaders’ feedback conferences with teachers, they need to invest in more substantial training for their school leaders.
1/23/2018
REL 2018287 An exploratory analysis of features of New Orleans charter schools associated with student achievement growth
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the number of charter schools in New Orleans has rapidly expanded. During the 2012/13 school year—the period covered by this study, of the 85 public schools in New Orleans, 75 were chartered, enrolling more than 84 percent of all public school students in the city in 92 different school campuses. This study explored organizational, operational, and instructional features of New Orleans charter schools serving grades 3–8 that are potential indicators of student achievement growth in English language arts (ELA), math, and science. The organizational characteristic of kindergarten provided as an entry grade was associated with higher levels of VAM on the ELA test. The operational characteristic of an extended school year also was associated with higher levels of ELA VAM. The instructional characteristics of a lower percentage of teachers with graduate degrees, more experienced teachers, and a lower student/teacher ratio were associated with higher levels of ELA VAM. The analysis revealed fewer potential key indicators of charter school effectiveness regarding VAM in math and science. The inclusion of kindergarten as an entry grade was the only school feature that was statistically significant in its association with math VAM; schools with kindergarten were correlated with higher math VAM scores. Having a lower student/teacher ratio and fewer staff in student support roles were the only school features that were statistically significant in their association with higher science VAM scores. None of these associations between potential key indicators and math and science VAM scores remained statistically significant when estimated using 2013/14 outcome data, indicating that the results are not robust to such an additional analysis. Offering kindergarten as an entry grade and having a lower teacher/student ratio were the only potential key indicators with statistically significant associations with more than one VAM outcome. Having kindergarten as an entry grade was positively associated with ELA and math VAM. Having a lower teacher/student ratio was associated with higher ELA and science VAM.
1/3/2018
REL 2018283 Trends in teacher mobility in Texas and associations with teacher, student, and school characteristics
This study provides updated information regarding teacher mobility—defined as teachers moving schools or leaving the public-school system—for Texas public schools during the 2011/12 through 2015/16 school years. Descriptive information on mobility rates is presented at the regional and state levels for each school year. Mobility rates are disaggregated further into destination proportions to describe the proportion of teacher mobility due to within-district movement, between-district movement, and leaving Texas public schools. This study leverages data collected by the Texas Education Agency during the pilot of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) in 57 school districts in 2014/15. Analyses examine how components of the T-TESS observation rubric are related to school-level teacher mobility rates. During the 2011/12 school year, about 18.7 percent of Texas teachers moved schools within a district, moved between districts, or left the Texas Public School system. By 2015/16, this mobility rate had increased to 22.0 percent. Moving between districts was the primary driver of the increase in mobility rates. Results indicate significant links between mobility and teacher, student, and school demographic characteristics. Teachers with special education certifications left Texas public schools at nearly twice the rate of teachers with other teaching certifications. School-level mobility rates showed significant positive correlations with the proportion of special education, economically disadvantaged, low-performing, and minority students. School-level mobility rates were negatively correlated with the proportion of English learner students. Schools with higher overall observation ratings on the T-TESS rubric tended to have lower mobility rates. Findings from this study will provide state and district policymakers in Texas with updated information about trends and correlates of mobility in the teaching workforce, and offer a systematic baseline for monitoring and planning for future changes. Informed by these findings, policymakers can formulate a more strategic and targeted approach for recruiting and retaining teachers. For instance, instead of using generic approaches to enhance the overall supply of teachers or improve recruitment, more targeted efforts to attract and retain teachers in specific subject areas (for example, special education), in certain stages of their career (for example, novice teachers), and in certain geographic areas are likely to be more productive. Moreover, this analysis may enrich the existing knowledge base about schools’ teacher retention and mobility in relation to the quality of their teaching force, or may inform policy discussions about the importance of a stable teaching force for teaching effectiveness.
12/19/2017
REL 2018282 Understanding the role of noncognitive skills and school environments in students' transitions to high school
The purpose of this study was to: examine differences in students' perceptions of their noncognitive skills and school environments by race/ethnicity, and explore whether students’ perceptions of their noncognitive skills and school environments were related to three outcomes that have been identified in the research as mattering most for a success transition to high school—grade 9 GPA, grade 9 absences, and grade 9 course failures. The study used administrative and survey data from students in 14 high schools in New Mexico. Regression analyses were used to investigate differences in students' responses on scales measuring their perceptions of their noncognitive skills and school environments. Structural equation modeling was used to assess relationships between students' perceptions of their noncognitive skills and school environments and their grade 9 outcomes. The results of this study revealed significant differences in students' perceptions of their noncognitive skills and school environment by race/ethnicity. The results also suggest that students' perceptions of their noncognitive factors and school environments are associated with the grade 9 outcomes. Although no casual relationships can be derived from this study, the results can help schools or districts to determine where they might want to focus some of their efforts with regard to helping students to make successful transitions to high school. Given that Hispanic and Native American students have lower graduation rates, improving the noncognitive skills or school environment factors that are strongly related to grade 9 performance for these groups may well provide a substantial return on investment in dropout prevention.
12/19/2017
REL 2018281 Scientific evidence for the validity of the New Mexico Kindergarten Observation Tool
The purpose of this study was to determine whether there was scientific support for using the New Mexico Kindergarten Observation Tool (KOT) to measure distinct domains of children's knowledge and skills at kindergarten entry. The research team conducted exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses to identify the latent constructs (or domains) measured in the 2015 KOT field test. In addition, internal consistency analyses were conducted and Rasch modeling was applied to examine item functioning and differential item functioning among student subgroups. Correlational analyses were conducted to examine patterns of associations between validated KOT domains and an independent kindergarten assessment—the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). Finally, the research team examined the proportion of classroom-level variance in children's KOT scores by calculating the variance partition coefficient after fitting four-level unconditional models. Factor analyses provided support for a two-domain structure measuring children's knowledge and skills in two distinct areas: (1) cognitive school readiness (or academic knowledge and skills) and (2) noncognitive school readiness (or learning and social skills) as well as support for a one-domain structure measuring children's general school readiness. In addition, these KOT domains were moderately correlated with the DIBELS; the KOT cognitive domain was more strongly correlated with DIBELS than the KOT noncognitive domain. For each of the 26 KOT items, rating scale categories functioned appropriately. Three KOT items demonstrated differential item functioning for student subgroups, which signals potential bias for these items. Additional work is required to determine whether those items are truly unfair to certain student subgroups. Finally, classroom-level variation in children's KOT ratings was found. Although there was not scientific support for generating KOT scores based on the state's six intended domains (Physical Development, Health, and Well-Being; Literacy; Numeracy; Scientific Conceptual Understanding; Self, Family, and Community; Approaches to Learning), the 2015 KOT field test produced valid and reliable measures of children's knowledge and skills across two distinct domains and for one overall score that kindergarten teachers can use to better understand and plan for individual children's knowledge and skills at the beginning of kindergarten. Recommended next steps for New Mexico include replication of construct validity analyses with the most recent version of the KOT, consultation with a content expert review panel to investigate further the three items flagged for potential item bias, and further investigation of the sources of classroom-level variance.
12/5/2017
REL 2018279 Associations between predictive indicators and postsecondary science, technology, engineering, and math success among Hispanic students in Texas
This study sought to identify factors that predict positive STEM-related postsecondary outcomes for students in Texas, and to determine whether the association between predictive factors and outcomes differs between Hispanic and non-Hispanic White students. The research team linked K–12 student academic data to college enrollment data for Texas public high school students who enrolled in colleges and universities in Texas during a period from the 2004/05 to the 2010/11 school years (seven cohorts). Regression models examined relationships between possible indicators (e.g., number and level of math or science classes completed) with the outcomes of interest (declaring a STEM major, persisting in a STEM major, and completing a STEM degree), while controlling for nonmalleable student and school factors as well as for cohort fixed effects. Interaction terms added to the models provided a separate estimate, for Hispanic, Black, non-Hispanic White, and Other ethnicity students, of the association of each indicator with each postsecondary outcome. Measures of academic experiences and performance in math and science during high school were strongly associated with postsecondary STEM outcomes. These associations were generally consistent for Hispanic and non-Hispanic White students. Statistically significant indicators of positive postsecondary STEM outcomes included number of math and science courses completed, number of Advanced Placement courses taken, highest-level math or science course taken, and state assessment scores. This study demonstrates that Hispanic students reap the same benefits of taking higher-level math and science courses in high school as do non-Hispanic White students. Future studies should consider possible factors influencing the academic experiences of Hispanic students in high school science and math, such as access to rigorous courses.
11/21/2017
REL 2018280 Time to proficiency for Hispanic English learner students in Texas
This study examined the time it took for English learner students in Texas public schools to reach key educational outcomes for the first time, including attaining English proficiency and satisfactory performance on reading and mathematics state assessments. The study also estimated the probability of attaining these outcomes based on several student characteristics (e.g., initial English language proficiency, receipt of special education services, and being overaged at grade 1 entry) and educational experiences (e.g., the type of English learner program: English as a Second Language or bilingual). Historical data from the Texas Education Agency was used to construct a cohort of Hispanic students who entered Texas public schools in grade 1 as English learner students in the 2005/06 school year (85,611 students). Students were followed for up to eight years, through the 2012/13 school year, including while classified as English learner students and after exit from English learner status. Discrete-time survival analyses were used to estimate the probability of attaining outcomes over time.
11/3/2017
REL 2018276 Advanced course offerings and completion in science, technology, engineering, and math in Texas public high schools
The purpose of this study was to explore advanced STEM course offerings in Texas high schools and advanced STEM course taking among high school students to investigate variation in availability and enrollment for different school contexts and student groups. Using statewide longitudinal student records from 2007/08 to 2013/14 the research team examined patterns of course offerings using descriptive statistics from more than 1,500 public high schools in Texas, and student course completion patterns for close to one million students. Analyses revealed that access to advanced STEM courses in Texas has increased over this time period for schools in all locales, for schools with high and low proportions of economically disadvantaged students, and for schools with high proportions of minority students. High schools in urban and suburban areas and schools serving the highest proportions of Black and Hispanic students offered the greatest number of advanced STEM courses. In fact, a larger proportion of Hispanic and Black students in the state attended schools with the highest number of advanced STEM course offerings, compared to White students. However, despite this access to advanced STEM coursework, smaller proportions of Hispanic and Black students completed three or more advanced STEM courses than their White counterparts, even among a subgroup of high performing students based on math state standardized test scores in 8th grade. The findings from this study show that while Hispanic and Black students do lag White students in advanced STEM course completion, it is likely not because of lesser access to these courses. These findings point to a need for increasing Hispanic and Black student enrollment in those advanced courses and identifying mechanisms other than increasing course offerings to do so.
10/25/2017
REL 2018274 The Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System rubric: Properties and association with school characteristics
The purpose of this study was to examine the data from the 2014/15 pilot implementation of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) in order to understand certain properties of the T-TESS rubric, which consists of 16 dimensions classified within 4 domains of teacher effectiveness. The dataset included over 8000 teachers across 251 schools and 51 districts that participated in the pilot. Descriptive statistics were reviewed to assess the extent to which the T-TESS rubric ratings differentiate teacher effectiveness. Correlational analysis was performed to determine the internal consistency of the rubric. Uniqueness values, which resulted from a factor analysis of T-TESS’s 16 dimensions, were examined to determine whether each dimension makes some unique contribution. Lastly, regression analysis was conducted to explore the relationships between T-TESS performance ratings and school characteristics. Results indicate that in the 2014/15 pilot of T-TESS, 1.6 percent of teachers were rated as improvement needed, 24.9 percent as developing, 68.3 percent as proficient, 3.7 percent as accomplished, and 1.5 percent as distinguished based on the T-TESS rubric for teacher effectiveness. The T-TESS rubric is internally consistent at both the domain and dimension levels. All dimension-to-dimension within domains and domain-to-domain correlations are positive, suggesting that none of the domains or dimensions stand out as unrelated or contradictory to the rest of the system. Findings also suggest that the T-TESS rubric is efficient. None of the domains or dimensions are clearly redundant, as supported by findings that no correlation is close to one. In addition, an analysis of uniqueness reveals that each dimension makes some unique contribution. Although statistically significant relationships are found between observation ratings and school characteristics, the combination of observed student and school characteristics explains, at most, approximately 8 percent of the variation in overall observation ratings for high schools, and explains even less for elementary and middle schools. One area for future research is the validation of the ratings with other measures of teacher effectiveness, such as student growth. However, the validity of a teacher evaluation system itself may not necessarily translate into improvements in teacher effectiveness or into long-term outcomes, such as teacher retention and greater student achievement. Therefore, further research could explore whether the implementation of such systems do in fact relate to the more distal measures.
10/24/2017
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