Thursday, April 27, 2017

Negative Impacts of the DC Private School Voucher Program

A new study finds that the nation’s only federally-funded private school voucher program for low-income parents had negative impacts on student achievement. However, the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) did have positive impacts on parents’ perceptions of safety at their child’s school.

The Institute of Education Sciences released a report today (April, 27th) entitled: Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After One Year. The report, from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), assesses the program’s effects on test scores and other outcomes measured a year after about 1,800 eligible applicants entered lotteries in 2012, 2013, or 2014 to determine who received a private school scholarship.

Key findings include:

•    The OSP had a negative impact on mathematics achievement after one year. Math scores were lower for students who were offered or used OSP scholarships, compared to students that applied for but were not offered scholarships. There were no statistically significant impacts on reading scores overall or on reading or math scores for students applying from low-performing schools, to whom the federal act establishing the scholarships gave priority. However, there were negative impacts on both math and reading scores for students who were not applying from low-performing schools and for students in grades K–5.

•    The program did not have an impact on parents’ or students’ general satisfaction with the school the child attended in that first year. The percent of parents giving their child’s school a grade of A or B was not statistically different when comparing parents of students who were offered or used OSP scholarships with the parents of students not selected for the scholarship offer. There were also no statistically significant differences when looking at student satisfaction with schools.

•    The program had a positive impact on parents’ perceptions of safety at the school their child attended in that first year. Parents of students who were offered or used OSP scholarships were more likely to indicate that their child’s school was “very safe,” compared with the parents of students not selected for the scholarship offer. Student perceptions of school safety were not significantly different between the groups.

•    The OSP did not have an impact on parent involvement in education overall. However, for parents of students in grades 6–12, the program had statistically significant positive impacts on involvement in education-related activities and events at home after one year.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Teenagers can become disruptive if teachers use psychological pressure

A study by researchers at the University of Kent is expected to help teachers identify specific reasons for different types of pupil withdrawal in the classroom.

The study, which was led by Stephen Earl from the University's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, discovered that psychological pressure from teachers can contribute to disengagement amongst teenage pupils under 14. Active disengagement behaviours include talking and making noise, with daydreaming in class amongst the more passive disengagement behaviours.

It also discovered that although most teachers may pressurise pupils with the well-meaning intention of engaging them, it may have the opposite effect and actually promote disengagement. Such pressure includes threats of punishment or controlling language -- e.g. 'do this because I say so' -- without providing any explanation.

Other findings from the study, which was conducted across three secondary schools in Kent, include:

  • pupils who were made to feel incapable of being successful reported less energy in class and were rated as passively disengaged by teachers
  • pupils who felt forced to do activities in class were reported to disengage either actively or passively
The research is published in the journal Learning and Instruction as 'Autonomy and competence frustration in young adolescent classrooms: Different associations with active and passive disengagement' (Stephen R. Earl, Carla Meijen and Louis Passfield, University of Kent; Ian M. Taylor, Loughborough University).

Promoting higher STEM motivation among first-grade girls

The gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) engagement is large and persistent. This gap is significantly larger in technological fields such as computer science and engi- neering than in math and science. Gender gaps begin early; young girls report less interest and self-efficacy in technology compared with boys in elementary school. 

A new study (N = 96),  assessed 6-year-old children’s stereotypes about STEM fields and tested an intervention to develop girls’ STEM motivation despite these stereotypes. 

First-grade children held stereotypes that boys were better than girls at robotics and programming but did not hold these stereotypes about math and science. Girls with stronger stereotypes about robotics and programming reported lower interest and self-efficacy in these domains. 

The reserchers experimentally tested whether positive experience with programming robots would lead to greater interest and self-efficacy among girls despite these stereotypes. Children were randomly assigned either to a treatment group that was given experience in programming a robot using a smartphone or to control groups (no activity or other activity). Girls given programming experience reported higher technology interest and self-efficacy compared with girls without this experience and did not exhibit a significant gender gap relative to boys’ interest and self-efficacy. 

These findings show that children’s views mirror current American cultural messages about who excels at computer science and engineering and show the benefit of provid- ing young girls with chances to experience technological activities. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Getting Students on Track for Graduation: Impacts of the Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System after One Year

A study by Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest examines the impacts of the Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System (EWIMS), a systematic approach to early identification and intervention with students at risk of not graduating on time. The study randomly assigned 73 schools to use EWIMS or to continue with their usual practices for supporting at-risk students.
Early warning systems that use research-based warning signs to identify students at risk of dropping out of high school have emerged as one strategy for improving graduation rates. This study tested the impact of one early warning system, the Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System (EWIMS), on 37,671 students in grades 9 and 10 and their schools after one year of implementation. Seventy-three high schools were randomly assigned to implement EWIMS during the 2014/15 school year or to continue their usual practices for identifying and supporting students at risk of not graduating on time. 
Impact findings show that EWIMS reduced the percentage of students with risk indicators related to chronic absence and course failure but not related to low grade point averages, suspensions, or insufficient credits to graduate. At the school level, EWIMS did not have a detectable impact on school data culture, that is, the ways in which schools use data to make decisions and identify students in need of additional support. 
Findings suggest that overall implementation of the EWIMS seven-step process was low in nearly all EWIMS schools, and that implementation of EWIMS was challenging for participating schools. The authors hypothesize that other school-level processes, unmeasured in this study, also may have contributed to impacts on students. For example, effects might have emerged for chronic absence and course failure if schools prioritized encouraging students to show up and participate in their courses, even if they did not have a sophisticated set of interventions. 
Further research is needed to better understand the mechanisms through which EWIMS had an impact on chronic absence and course failure. This report provides rigorous, initial evidence that even with limited implementation during the first year of adoption, use of a comprehensive early warning system such as EWIMS can reduce the percentage of students who are chronically absent or who fail one or more courses. These short-term results are promising because chronic absence and course failures in grades 9 and 10 are two key indicators that students are off track for graduation.
After a year of limited implementation, EWIMS reduced chronic absence and course failures, but did not reduce the percentage of students with low grade point averages, suspensions, or insufficient credits for graduation.

The findings provide initial, rigorous evidence that EWIMS is a promising strategy for reducing rates of chronic absence and course failures, two key indicators that students are not on track for graduation. Even with these promising findings, EWIMS was challenging to implement in the first year and did not have an impact on other outcomes at the student or school level.

Results from 2016 NAEP Arts Assessment

Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Arts are unchanged from the last time the test was given, in 2008, according to assessment results released today (April 25). Survey results show that the percentage of Grade 8 students taking a music or visual arts course in school is also unchanged from 2008, but participation in the arts outside of school has declined in several areas.

The National Center for Educational Statistics released results for the 2016 NAEP Arts assessment, which measures students' knowledge and skills in the arts disciplines of music and visual arts. The assessment was administered to a nationally representative sample of 8,800 Grade 8 students in 280 public and private schools across the country. Approximately half of the students took the music assessment and the other half took the visual arts assessment.

On the Music assessment, students were asked to analyze, interpret, or critique a piece of music that they listened to or describe the social, historical, or cultural context of a piece of music. Other “creating” questions asked students to use musical notation to apply their musical ideas after evaluating written or recorded pieces of music. In Visual Arts, students were asked to analyze, describe, or judge works of art and design to show understanding of form, aesthetics, and cultural or historical context. Creating questions asked students to use form, media, or techniques to create original works of art and design to communicate an idea.

Among the assessment results:

• On a scale of 0-300 points, students scored a 147 on the music assessment and 149 on the visual arts assessment;

• While overall scores were statistically unchanged from 2008, the gap in scores between White and Hispanic students narrowed in music from 32 points to 23 points. In visual arts, the White-Hispanic gap narrowed from 26 points in 2008 to 19 points in 2016;

• Female students scored higher than male students on both the music and visual arts assessments (15 and 14 points, respectively), although the gaps were not different from 2008; and

• Private school students scored higher than public school students on both the music and visual arts assessments (14 and 16 points, respectively), although the gaps were not differently from 2008.

Participation in the Arts 
Students who took the Arts NAEP were also asked survey questions about their participation in the arts inside and outside of school. Among the findings:

• The percentage of students taking music and visual arts courses wasn’t statistically different from 2008. About 63 percent of students said they took a music class at school and 42 percent said they took a visual arts course;

• About 35 percent of Grade 8 students said they played a musical instrument on their own, which is lower than 2008, and 14 percent took private music lessons, which is statistically unchanged from 2008. About two-thirds of the students (67 percent) said they listened to a musical performance in a theater, which is lower than 2008;

• About 25 percent of the students said they went to art museums or exhibits, which is statistically unchanged from 2008. The percentage of students who reported taking art classes outside of school (13 percent) and making artwork on their own (56 percent) was lower than 2008, but the percentage who said they kept an art journal/sketchbook on their own (43 percent) was higher.

Insufficient data hinders report’s comparison of relative effectiveness across Wisconsin school sectors.

"The Current State of Scientific Knowledgeon Pre-Kindergarten Effects

In “Puzzling it out: The current state of scientific knowledge on pre-kindergarten effects” (PDF), a task force comprised of social scientists from Brookings and Duke University lists six consensus statements on what we know about the effects of pre-K and highlights the importance of gathering further evidence to answer three important questions:
  • What features of pre-K programs, specifically, put children on a positive developmental trajectory? What’s the best way to scale up small pre-K programs to a school-district or state-wide level? 
  • How can we use evaluations of an earlier generation of programs to guide the development of today’s pre-K programs? 

The consensus statement is part of a broader report titled “The current state of scientific knowledge on pre-kindergarten effects” (PDF).

The Task Force includes Deborah A. Phillips of Georgetown University, Mark W. Lipsey of Vanderbilt University, Kenneth A. Dodge of Duke University, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia, Margaret R. Burchinal of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Greg J. Duncan of the University of California-Irvine, Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution, Katherine A. Magnuson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Christina Weiland of the University of Michigan.

All members of the Task Force agreed on six consensus statements, which include:
  • Children’s early learning trajectories depend on the quality of their learning experiences not only before and during their pre-K year, but also following the pre-K year;
  • There is often greater improvement for economically disadvantaged children and dual-language learners after a year of per-k than there is for more advantaged and English-proficient children;
  • Among the effectiveness factors that may make a difference are curricula that build foundational skills, professional development and coaching for teachers, and organized and engaging classrooms;
  • Convincing evidence on the longer-term impacts of contemporary scaled-up pre-K programs on academic outcomes and school progress is sparse, precluding broad conclusions.