Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Teacher encouragement has greatest influence on less advantaged children

Schoolchildren who receive words of encouragement from a teacher are significantly more likely to continue their education beyond the age of 16 than those who do not, a new study suggests.

The influence of teacher encouragement appears to be much greater on students whose own parents never progressed past compulsory education -- an important indicator of a less advantaged background.

For students from these backgrounds, encouragement increased entry into post-16 education from just over half to around two-thirds.

The research also found that encouragement from a teacher has the greatest influence on those students most likely to be on the margin for university attendance.

The University of Cambridge study used 'big data' techniques to look at the long-term impact of student-teacher rapport, and is the first to analyse the role it plays in university access.

The findings, published in the journal Research in Higher Education, show that further education and social mobility policymaking might benefit from increased focus on the "relational aspects" of interactions between teachers and students.

"Teachers are often relegated to course deliverers and classroom managers in the policy discussions around further education. However, it's clear that teachers have more forms of influencing inequality than is currently appreciated," said study author Dr Ben Alcott from Cambridge's Faculty of Education.

"When people speak of a positive school experience, they frequently cite a personal relationship with a teacher, and the encouragement they were given. Our research helps quantify that impact and show its significance, particularly for addressing social mobility.

"The importance of that teacher-student connection can get lost in the midst of exam statistics or heat of political debate."

Some 4,300 adolescents in England were tracked from the age of thirteen onwards, completing a detailed questionnaire every year for the next seven years. During their last year of compulsory education, the students were asked whether a teacher had encouraged them to stay on in full-time education.

Dr Alcott used mathematical modelling to "match" and compare students with similar attainment, experience and life histories -- helping control for the effects these differences had. This makes it possible for the influence of teacher encouragement alone to be measured.

"This approach brings us plausibly close to reading the long-term effect of encouragement from teachers with the data we currently have available," Alcott said.

He found that, on average across all backgrounds and abilities, rates of entry into post-16 education were eight percentage points higher in students that reported receiving encouragement (74%) over those that said they did not (66%).

Based on previous examination scores (the UK's SATs), teacher encouragement made the most difference for students with average academic achievement -- those often on the verge of going either way when it comes to further education.

For Year 11 (or 10th grade) students in the middle third of results rankings, encouragement was linked to a 10 percentage-point increase in the likelihood of university entry, yet had no observable impact on students in the upper and lower thirds.

The effect of teacher encouragement on students varied considerably depending on background -- with the greatest difference seen for students with lower levels of parental education.

For students with parents who lacked any formal qualification, post-16 education enrolment increased 12 percentage points amongst those who received teacher encouragement (64%) compared with those who didn't (52%).

This effect appeared to last into higher education, with that initial encouragement increasing the likelihood of university entry by 10 percentage points -- one-fifth higher than students from similar backgrounds who did not report being encouraged.

Students whose parents had some qualifications, but none past compulsory education, saw encouragement from teachers boost post-16 education by 13 percentage points (67% compared to 54%) and university entry by seven percentage points.

For those with parents who held university degrees, however, teacher encouragement mattered much less: increasing continued education by just six percentage points and making no difference at all to university attendance.

However, Alcott found that students from more advantaged backgrounds were likelier to report being encouraged by a teacher to stay in education.

For example, 22% of students receiving encouragement had a parent with a university degree, compared to 15% of those who did not. Similarly, students who do not report encouragement are a third more likely to have an unemployed parent (12% versus 9%).

Alcott, who formerly taught in a London academy school himself, says: "These results suggest that teachers themselves and the relationships they develop with students are real engines for social mobility.

"Many teachers take the initiative to encourage students in the hope they will progress in education long after they have left the classroom. It's important that teachers know the effect their efforts have, and the children likely to benefit most."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Impacts of school choice on segregation

Diversity in schools is important for students' experiences and outcomes in schools and beyond, reducing prejudices and ensuring the likelihood of living and working in integrated environments as adults. Penn State researchers are exploring how school choice is affecting racial composition and segregation in Pennsylvania schools.
According to lead researcher Erica Frankenberg, associate professor of education and Population Research Institute associate at Penn State, this is one of the first studies to explore how charter schools could be affecting the racial composition of public schools.
"It is critical to assess how student movement from charter schools affects school segregation during this time of persisting neighborhood segregation, and to see what choices students and parents make when or if more integrative options exist," said Frankenberg.
Using student data from Pennsylvania, the researchers focused on approximately 8,000 students transferring from public schools to charter schools in ten metropolitan areas where there was more than one potential brick-and-mortar charter school option, to see how access to more racially diverse schools affected school choice.
"Although other studies have used individual data to examine charter school racial composition and segregation," Frankenberg explained, "this project considered student enrollment decisions when presented with schools of differing racial composition,"
They also assessed the racial composition of charter schools that students enrolled in and compared them to the racial composition of public schools from which the students transferred. "We found that black and Latino students tended to move into charter schools that were more racially isolated than the public schools they left," said Frankenberg.
The researchers found that factors such as distance to the chosen school was a factor but was not the determining factor of school choice. In fact, they found that the average distance to a chosen charter school was at least twice as far as the nearest charter school for black and Latino students, regardless of their age group.
While Frankenberg and her team weren't surprised by this discovery, as previous research points to higher segregation in charter schools than traditional public schools, especially among black students, they were surprised by other findings.
"We found that white students in Philadelphia metropolitan areas more often transferred to charter schools that had a higher percentage of white students, while white students in non-Philadelphia metropolitan areas moved to slightly more diverse charter schools than the public schools they left," said Frankenberg.
The findings raise critical questions regarding educational equity, and the effects of educational reform and school-choice policy on fostering racially diverse schools. It is important, said Frankenberg, because research confirms the importance of attending diverse schools for students of all racial groups.
"Minority students in more diverse school settings have higher short-term and long-term academic outcomes than those who attend racially isolated minority schools," she said. "Meanwhile, benefits to white students as well as students of color include reduced prejudice and a higher likelihood of living and working in diverse environments as adults."
This research illuminates the rapidly growing number of students transferring to charters in Pennsylvania who are making choices that are more segregative. "In the future, I would like to research the factors that influence school choice, as well as the impacts of other types of school choice, such as cyber schools, on traditional public school racial composition, and look at other states to see how they differ from Pennsylvania."

Characteristics and Experiences of Special Education Students in High School

Secondary school youth who receive special education services feel positive about school, but are more likely than their peers to struggle academically, be suspended, and lag behind in taking key steps towards postsecondary education and jobs. Among youth with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), those with autism, deaf-blindness, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and orthopedic impairments are most at-risk for not transitioning successfully beyond high school.

The Institute of Education Sciences released a report today (March 28) from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012 (NLTS 2012), the third in the NLTS series commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education over several decades. The multi-volume report from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), entitled Preparing for Life after High School: The Characteristics and Experiences of Youth in Special Education, presents updated information on secondary school youth with disabilities across the country. Volume 1 compares youth with an IEP to their non-IEP peers, and Volume 2 compares youth across disability groups. The study is being conducted as part of the congressionally-mandated National Assessment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and the report volumes are intended to inform discussions regarding this important legislation and efforts to address reauthorization of this important legislation.

NLTS 2012 includes a nationally representative set of nearly 13,000 youth with and without an IEP who were ages 13-21 when selected for the study. Among youth with an IEP are students who represent each of the disability categories recognized by IDEA 2004, and among youth without an IEP are students with a plan developed under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Both youth and their parent/guardian were surveyed in 2012-2013.

Key findings from the multi-volume report suggest:

•    Youth with an IEP, particularly those with intellectual disability and emotional disturbance, are more likely than their peers to be socioeconomically disadvantaged. Youth with an IEP are 12 percentage points more likely to live in low-income households and are less likely to have parents who are employed or have a college education. Among disability groups, youth with intellectual disability and youth with emotional disturbance are more socioeconomically disadvantaged and more likely to attend a lower-performing school than youth with an IEP overall. In contrast, youth with autism and youth with speech or language impairments are less socioeconomically disadvantaged and less likely to attend a lower-performing school than youth with an IEP overall.

•    The vast majority of youth with and without an IEP feel positive about school, but those with an IEP experience bullying and are suspended at higher rates. Like their peers, more than 80 percent of youth in special education report that they are happy with school and with school staff. However, not only do youth with an IEP more commonly experience some types of bullying (e.g., being teased or called names) but, according to parent reports, they are more than twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school. Among the disability groups, youth with emotional disturbance are most likely to report being teased and are suspended, expelled, and arrested at more than twice the rates of youth with an IEP on average.

•    Youth with an IEP are more likely than other youth to struggle academically, yet less likely to receive some forms of school-based support. Half of all youth with an IEP report they have trouble with their classes, about 15 percentage points more than reported by their peers.

Report Promotes Reforms to Teacher Education Programs but Ignores Past Research and Present Context

A recent Bellwether Education Partners’ report begins with the reasonable assumption that in order to improve teacher quality, the field must first improve teacher preparation program design. It then asserts that teacher-education programs are “blindly swinging from one popular reform to the next” and that decades of input- and outcome-based research has failed to improve teacher education.

This report, A New Agenda: Research to Build a Better Teacher Preparation Program, was reviewed by a group of scholars and practitioners who are members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform). The team was led by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, the Hawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College, along with Stephani Burton, Molly Cummings Carney, Juan Gabriel Sánchez, and Andrew F. Miller.

The review is published by the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

The report calls for a “rational” and “rigorous” research agenda for teacher education. Regrettably, the reviewers note, the report’s depiction of past research includes mischaracterizations and also omits a wide swath of relevant literature about teacher education.

The report also recommends “rapid cycle evaluations,” but it does not adequately explain what these evaluations would entail or how they would work to improve teacher preparation program design. Nor does it offer a research foundation for this approach.

The New Agenda report also fails to recognize the socio-political context of teacher education, wherein programs are often left scrambling to meet competing accountability expectations. It leaves practical questions unanswered, muddies the waters about promising research avenues, and ignores important bodies of literature in teacher education.

Ultimately, the reviewers conclude, the recommendations A New Agenda offers, though not necessarily bad, are overly general and offer little useful evidence-based guidance to either policymakers or institutions.

Success for All Shows Positive Effects in Alphabetics for Early Readers

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has reviewed the latest research on Success for All® (SFA®) and its effects on students in grades K-4. The results are summarized in an intervention report released by the Institute of Education Sciences today (March 28).

SFA® is a whole-school reform model for students in grades pre-K–8 and includes a literacy program that emphasizes phonics for beginning readers and comprehension for all students. Teachers provide reading instruction to students grouped by reading ability for 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, certified teachers or paraprofessionals provide daily tutoring to students who have difficulty reading at the same level as their classmates.

This report in the WWC’s Literacy topic area, includes the research examined in a 2009 SFA® report and reviews of 111 additional studies. Based on this research, the WWC found SFA® to have positive effects on alphabetics, potentially positive effects on reading fluency, and mixed effects on comprehension and general reading achievement for beginning readers.

The Literacy topic area has more reviews on programs and methods that aim to improve literacy.

Extended School Days: More reading instruction, student success

Under state law, Florida’s 300 lowest performing elementary schools in reading are required to extend the school day by one hour. A new Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast study looks at the characteristics of the schools that implemented this law and how they used the required extra hour.
Since the 2012-13 school year, Florida law has required the 100 lowest performing elementary schools in reading to extend the school day by one hour to provide supplemental reading instruction.

In 2014, the law was broadened to include the 300 elementary schools with the lowest reading performance. A previous study of the state’s first two cohorts of 100 lowest performing schools found that observed growth in school reading performance after one to two years of implementing the extended school day policy did not exceed what would have been expected because of natural variation.

The new study follows up on that report by describing the 300 lowest performing schools and analyzing how they implemented the extended school day policy. This study provides preliminary evidence that schools provided more reading instruction, more staff, and more professional development and complied with the extended school day policy. Interviewees attributed student success to changes that accompanied the additional hour such as curricular and pedagogical changes.

U.S. Children's Nonparental Care Arrangements

About 60 percent of children, ages 0-5 and not yet in kindergarten, participate in nonparental care arrangements, according to a new report released today (March 28). The report also indicates that parents paid more for child care arrangements in 2012 than they did in 2001, even after adjusting for inflation.

The National Center for Education Statistics released The Years Before School: Children's Nonparental Care Arrangements From 2001 to 2012. This Statistics in Brief examines the nonparental care arrangements of children in the United States, from birth through age 5, who are not yet enrolled in kindergarten. The report describes children's relative, nonrelative, and center-based care arrangements and provides a discussion of overall trends regarding children's participation in types of nonparental care arrangements, the number of hours that children spend in their nonparental care arrangements each week, and the average out-of-pocket hourly expenses that households bear when caring for their young children.

Key findings include:

  • Children's overall participation in nonparental care arrangements (60 percent) was statistically unchanged from 2001 to 2012;
  • From 2001 to 2012, the percentage of children who participated only in relative care increased from 14 to 16 percent. Meanwhile, 12 percent of children participated in more than one type of care arrangement in 2012 (an increase from 10 percent in 2001);
  • From 2001 to 2012, the number of hours that children spent per week in their primary care arrangement declined by 3 hours for relative care, 2 hours for nonrelative care, and 2 hours for center-based care; and
  • After adjusting for inflation, out-of-pocket hourly expenses for care were higher in 2012 than they were in 2001 for children in relative ($4.18 vs. $2.66), nonrelative ($5.28 vs. $4.23), and center-based ($6.70 vs. $4.23) care arrangements in 2012 dollars.
The data for this report come from the Early Childhood Program Participation (ECPP) survey of the 2001, 2005, and 2012 National Home Education Survey.