Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Jersey’s Principal Evaluation System

A new study finds both strengths and limitations in the measures used for New Jersey’s new principal evaluation system. The study, released by the Institute of Education Sciences today (Aug. 30), was conducted by Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic and focused on the statewide principal evaluation system that was fully implemented by the state of New Jersey during the 2013-14 school year and piloted in 14 districts during the 2012-13 school year.

New Jersey principals were rated on four components: two measures of principal practice and two measures of student achievement. The student achievement measures included goals for school achievement and teachers’ student growth objective averages. Principals of schools with grades 4–8 were also evaluated on school median student growth percentiles, a measure of student achievement growth based on state assessments in math and English language arts.

The study examines four statistical properties of the measures: the variation in ratings across principals; year-to-year stability; the associations between component ratings and student characteristics; and the associations among component ratings. Analyses of statewide and pilot data yield several key findings:

• Nearly all principals received effective or highly effective overall ratings in 2013-14. However, fewer principals evaluated on school median student growth percentiles received highly effective overall ratings;

• Principal practice instrument ratings and school median student growth percentiles were moderately stable across years, providing evidence of reliability; and

• Several of the principal evaluation measures, including the overall rating, were slightly lower at schools with more disadvantaged students.

The findings indicate that additional guidance or alternate measures may be needed to better differentiate principals' performance and to more consistently rate principals who are and are not evaluated on school median student growth percentiles. Further research might investigate the causes of the relationships between principal ratings and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Effect of teacher turnover on achievement depends on quality of leaving teacher

In practice, teacher turnover appears to have negative effects on school quality as measured by student performance. However, some simulations suggest that turnover can instead have large positive effects under a policy regime in which low-performing teachers can be accurately identified and replaced with more effective teachers. 

This study examines this question by evaluating the effects of teacher turnover on student achievement under IMPACT, the unique performance-assessment and incentive system in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). 

Employing a quasi-experimental design based on data from the first years of IMPACT, the study findsthat, on average, DCPS replaced teachers who left with teachers who increased student achievement by 0.08 standard deviation (SD) in math.

When the effects of lower-performing teachers who were induced to leave DCPS for poor performance are  isolated,  that student achievement improves by larger and statistically significant amounts (i.e., 0.14 SD in reading and 0.21 SD in math). In contrast, the effect of exits by teachers not sanctioned under IMPACT is typically negative but not statistically significant. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Scholarship recipients are more likely to earn a graduate degree and to own a home and live in higher-income neighborhoods

Prior research has demonstrated that financial aid can influence both college enrollments and completions, but less is known about its post-college consequences. Even for students whose attainment is unaffected, financial aid may affect post-college outcomes via reductions in both time to degree and debt at graduation.

This study identifies causal effects of the WV PROMISE scholarship, a broad-based state merit aid program, up to 10 years post-college-entry. This study is the first to link college transcripts and financial aid information to credit bureau data later in life, enabling the examination of important outcomes that have not previously been examined, including homeownership, neighborhood characteristics, and financial management (credit risk scores, defaults, and delinquencies).

The study finds that even as graduation impacts fade out over time, impacts on other outcomes emerge: scholarship recipients are more likely to earn a graduate degree, more likely to own a home and live in higher-income neighborhoods, less likely to have adverse credit outcomes, and are more likely to be in better financial health than similar students who did not receive scholarships.

Lead poisoning may be one of the causes of continuing gaps in test scores

This study uses a unique individual-level longitudinal dataset linking preschool blood lead levels with third grade test scores for eight birth cohorts of Rhode Island children born between 1997 and 2005.

Using these data, the study shows that reductions of lead from even historically low levels have significant positive effects on children's reading test scores in third grade

The study's estimates suggest that a one unit decrease in average blood lead levels reduces the probability of being substantially below proficient in reading by 3.1 percentage points (on a baseline of 12 percent). Moreover, poor and minority children are more likely to be exposed to lead, suggesting that lead poisoning may be one of the causes of continuing gaps in test scores between disadvantaged and other children.

Admissions certainty encourages college-ready low-income students to seek more rigorous universities

This study examines the role of information in the college matching behavior of low- and high-income students, exploiting a state automatic admissions policy that provides some students with perfect a priori certainty of college admissions.

The study finds that admissions certainty encourages college-ready low-income students to seek more rigorous universities. Low-income students who are less college-ready are not influenced by admissions certainty and are sensitive to college entrance exams scores.

Most students also prefer campuses with students of similar race, income, and high school class rank, but only highly-qualified low-income students choose institutions where they have fewer same-race and same-income peers.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

For teens, feeling safe at school means increased academic success

Parents across North America are prepping their teens to head back to high school, hoping they will study hard to get straight A's. But new research shows that good grades aren't just based on smarts -- high marks also depend on a student's feelings of safety.

The recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health by Carolyn Côté-Lussier of the University of Ottawa's Department of Criminology and Caroline Fitzpatrick, a researcher affiliated with Concordia's PERFORM Centre for preventive health, suggests that high schoolers who feel less safe at school have decreased learning potential and more emotional problems.

The researchers used data from the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development -- an ongoing study that began in 1998 with a cohort of 2,120 five-month-old infants -- to investigate whether feeling unsafe at school interferes with classroom engagement.

They also considered whether this association is expressed through reduced student well-being, including symptoms of depression and aggressive behaviour.

The outcome? Confirmation that being a victim of school violence and feeling unsafe both contribute to symptoms of depression, which are detrimental to students' learning potential.

"We found that students who felt safer were more attentive and efficient in the classroom. These students also reported fewer symptoms of depression, such as feeling unhappy and having difficulty enjoying themselves. Making sure that students are engaged and attentive in the classroom can contribute to long-term success above and beyond intellectual capacities such as reading or math skills," says Fitzpatrick who is also a professor of psychology at Sainte-Anne's University.

However, factors typically linked to feeling unsafe, such as bullying or school violence, only partly explain why students feel less secure.

"We know from some of our previous research that youth who experience chronic poverty and those living in 'bad' neighbourhoods also tend to feel less safe at school," says Côté-Lussier.

"We think that this might be the case because teenagers who live in disorderly, disadvantaged neighbourhoods 'carry' their fears to school every day. The features of the physical environments in which schools are located are also really important. For example, green spaces and well-maintained buildings are likely to make youth feel more at ease," she says.

While dropout rates in the United States and Canada have declined since the early 1990s, the countries' current graduation rates of 76 per cent and 79 per cent respectively suggest that more complex solutions are needed.

Fitzpatrick and Côté-Lussier recommend that in order to increase feelings of safety and to promote classroom engagement, concrete steps must be taken.

"We need increased monitoring of students' reactions and responses to incidences of bullying and violence. Through continued professional education, we can also increase teachers' awareness of the importance of feelings of safety -- as well as their understanding of how the wider school climate can improve engagement, says Fitzpatrick.

"Finally, parents, schools and communities can become advocates for wider environmental interventions that aim to improve the physical features of school and student neighbourhoods."

Head Start positive effects continiue into adulthood

A growing body of rigorous evidence suggests that policy interventions aimed at early childhood bear fruit for decades. For example, reductions in air pollution in the first year of life and more experienced kindergarten teachers are associated with increases in later earnings, while childhood access to food stamps and Medicaid causes better health in adulthood.

Across many studies of several programs, preschool attendance among disadvantaged children has been found to positively impact participants. Research has demonstrated strong long-term impacts of random assignment to high-quality preschool programs from the 1960s and 1970s, including Perry Preschool and the Abecedarian program. Head Start, the large-scale federal preschool program, has also been shown to improve post-preschool outcomes, including high school completion and health outcomes.

This Economic Analysis from the Hamilton Project investigates the impact of Head Start on a new set of long-term outcomes, extending landmark analyses further into adulthood and considering the effect of Head Start on participants’ children.i Among the key takeaways of the analysis are:
  • Consistent with the prior literature, Head Start improves educational outcomes— increasing the probability that participants graduate from high school, attend college, and receive a post-secondary degree, license, or certification.
  • Overall and particularly among African American participants, Head Start also causes social, emotional, and behavioral development that becomes evident in adulthood measures of self-control, self-esteem, and positive parenting practices.
  • Head Start participation increased positive parenting practices for each ethnic group and for participants whose mothers did not have a high school degree when compared with the outcomes of children who went to a preschool other than Head Start.