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 Pub Number  Title  Date
REL 2016139 Online credit recovery: Enrollment and passing patterns in Montana Digital Academy courses
Most U.S. school districts (88 percent) offer credit recovery programs that allow students to make up courses that they need to meet graduation requirements. Online credit recovery options are popular, especially in rural states, because they allow schools to serve students in remote areas throughout the year, across a range of subjects, and with few additional resources. Such programs offer students greater flexibility and choice, which results in more opportunities to make up classes and a greater likelihood that they will stay in school and stay on track to graduate. Despite the growing popularity of online credit recovery courses, however, there is still little research about which students take these courses or how well they perform in them. This REL Northwest report addresses that gap by examining 2013/14 data from the Montana Digital Academy (MTDA), the only statewide funded program offering online credit recovery courses in Montana. The report provides a descriptive analysis of course-enrollment and course-completion patterns and also draws on interviews with education leaders across Montana to provide context and to describe other credit recovery strategies in the state. The analysis finds that more boys than girls enroll in MTDA online credit recovery courses, and students in grades 10 and 11 make up a larger proportion of MTDA student enrollment than those in grades 9 or 12. More students enroll in MTDA online credit recovery courses in English language arts than any other subject area. Slightly less than 60 percent of MTDA online credit recovery students receive a passing grade, with passing rates lowest in math (49 percent) and English language arts (52 percent). Also, students who take one MTDA online credit recovery course per semester have lower passing rates (40 percent) than those who take multiple courses in a semester. The report offers educators an early look at the potential of online credit recovery courses to help struggling students get back on track to graduation. It can also help state leaders compare MTDA to other online programs and to identify possible areas for additional investigation or improvement when designing credit recovery options.
6/28/2016
REL 2016146 Ramping up for college readiness in Minnesota high schools: Implementation of a schoolwide program
This study examined whether the Ramp-Up to Readiness program (Ramp-Up) differs from college readiness supports that are typically offered by high schools, whether high schools were able to implement Ramp-Up to Readiness to the developer's satisfaction, and how staff in schools implementing Ramp-Up to Readiness perceive the program. The researchers conducted interviews and focus groups with staff in two groups of schools: (1) a group of 10 schools that were in the first year of implementation of Ramp-Up to Readiness, and (2) a group of 10 other schools that were not implementing the program. The researchers also administered surveys to staff employed by these 20 schools as well as to students in grades 10–12 in these schools. Through these data collection efforts, the researchers obtained information on the types of college readiness programming and supports in the two types of schools, students' perceptions of college-focused staff-student interactions, schools' success at implementing Ramp-Up to Readiness' core components and sub-components, and the opinions of staff in implementing schools about the program. Compared with non-Ramp-Up schools, those implementing Ramp-Up offered more college-oriented structural supports, professional development, and student-staff interactions. Ramp-Up schools also made greater use of postsecondary planning tools. Students in Ramp-Up schools perceived more emphasis on four of five dimensions of college readiness than students in comparison schools. Ramp-Up schools met the program developer's threshold for adequate implementation on four of five program components (structural supports, professional development, curriculum delivery, and curriculum content). However only 2 of the 10 schools met the developer's adequacy threshold for the other component (use of postsecondary planning tools). Staff at Ramp-Up schools generally had favorable perceptions of the program. Schools that implement Ramp-Up were able to offer deeper college readiness support to more students than comparison schools. Schools that adopt Ramp-Up can implement the program as intended by the program developer, but some program components are more challenging to implement than others. Additional studies should be performed to examine whether implementation improves after a second year of implementation and whether Ramp-Up improves the likelihood that students will enroll and succeed in college.
6/28/2016
REL 2016131 State policies for intervening in chronically low-performing schools: A 50-state scan
Recent federal initiatives such as School Improvement Grants and Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility emphasize the role of state education agencies (SEAs) in improving our nation’s lowest performing schools. However, the actions that SEAs can take are limited by the policies in place in their states. This report provides a summary of current policies in all 50 states related to state interventions with chronically underperforming schools. Laws and regulations were classified into six broad categories of interventions related to: school improvement plans, staffing, closing a school, financial incentives or interventions, the day-to-day operation of the school, and the entity that governs or operates a school. State policies show a great deal of consistency in approaches to supporting the lowest-performing schools, perhaps because many of the interventions align closely with federal guidance for improving chronically low-performing schools. Despite strong alignment of state policies with federal guidance, state policies vary in terms of the breadth of interventions they allow states to implement. About a third of states have policies related to all six categories of interventions. Seven states have policies allowing interventions falling into only two or three of the six categories. State policies also vary in the specific interventions allowed within each category. This report can help state education leaders and policymakers learn how other states are approaching the challenge of turning around their lowest-performing schools, which can facilitate communication among states considering similar approaches.
6/28/2016
REL 2016149 Using computer-adaptive assessments of literacy to monitor the progress of English learner students
The purpose of this study was to examine (a) how teachers and school staff individually administer computer-adaptive assessments of literacy to English learner students in grades 3–5, and (b) how they use the assessments to monitor students' growth. Because adaptive assessments maximize precision of information while minimizing time spent gaining it, they are particularly valuable for students whose performance is outside typical grade-level norms such as English learner students. Three elementary schools with high proportions of English learner students participated in the study. Participating students were at the two lowest levels on the state oral language proficiency measure. At the beginning of the year there were 117 participating students and by the end of the year 102 remained at the same school. To address the first question, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southeast staff observed the September training and the fall, winter, and spring administration of the Florida Center for Reading Research Reading Assessment (FRA). To address the second question, teachers and school staff individually administered the FRA to participating students in the fall, winter, and spring. They discussed their observations of students' performance during test administration and students' score reports with REL staff after each assessment period. Findings indicated that teachers in grades 3–5 can be trained to individually administer computer-adaptive assessments of literacy to their English learner students three times a year and to participate in data chats after each assessment period to discuss translation of scores to instruction. The report provides recommendations that may aid districts in implementing such adaptive assessments of literacy to monitor the progress of English learner students.
6/28/2016
REL 2016136 The implementation of dual credit programs in six nonurban Kentucky school districts
A key strategy of the Kentucky Department of Education's and Council on Postsecondary Education's College and Career Readiness Delivery plan is to provide opportunities for high school students to earn college credit. Districts across Kentucky are implementing dual credit programs, but there is little sharing of information about the implementation of these programs. REL Appalachia researchers identified six districts in consultation with Kentucky College and Career Readiness Alliance representatives. Profiles describing each district's dual credit programming were created using data from 45 individual interviews conducted with seven distinct stakeholder groups. Each of the six districts offered dual credit programs, with variations in configuration, course offerings, costs, and student supports. Each of the six districts partners with at least one two-year and one four-year postsecondary institution to offer dual enrollment courses. The most prevalent configuration of courses is where courses are offered at a high school and taught by credentialed high school teachers. In cases where high schools are located near postsecondary institutions, this geographic proximity enhances the ability of school districts to offer a variety of courses and program configurations. Assurance of program quality was limited and varied across postsecondary institutions. Dual credit programs offer students the opportunity to earn college credit at reduced costs, but costs and funding support vary by district, postsecondary institution, and program design. Dual credit programs were viewed favorably and heavily promoted in each district, but their expansion is limited by key challenges. These challenges include needing to (1) increase the number of instructors credentialed to teach dual credit courses; (2) increase access to dual credit opportunities, especially in remote, rural locations; (3) ensure student readiness for college coursework; (4) make dual credit programs affordable for all eligible students across the state; (5) ensure course quality; and (6) provide adequate staffing to effectively manage dual credit programs.
6/22/2016
REL 2016137 Dual Enrollment Courses in Kentucky: High School Students' Participation and Completion Rates
Kentucky is using dual enrollment as one strategy to improve access to postsecondary education for its high school students, particularly after passage of Kentucky Senate Bill 1 in 2009, which focused on improving college and career readiness. The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia undertook a descriptive study of participation in and completion of dual enrollment courses for Kentucky students in grades 11 and 12 from 2009/10 through 2012/13. The findings describe the characteristics of students participating in and completing dual enrollment courses, as well as how participation and course completion rates differ based on student, school, and postsecondary characteristics. About 20 percent of the state's public high school students in grades 11 and 12 pursued this opportunity at public postsecondary institutions with about 85 percent of the dual enrollment courses attempted being completed for credit. Participation rates varied by student characteristics, with higher participation rates for students in grade 12, female students, White students, students who were not English language learners, students not eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch, and those students with the highest grade point averages and ACT scores. Course completion rates varied by student characteristics, with lower completion rates for Black students, students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, students with C grade point averages or below, and students with low ACT scores. The findings raise important questions about differential course participation rates for students of different race/ethnicities, genders, and family incomes. In addition, online dual enrollment courses were increasingly attempted by students in grades 11 and 12 over time. The increase in students attempting courses online has important implications for the state as staff consider how best to provide access to dual enrollment courses in rural and remote locations where students may have limited access to online services.
6/22/2016
REL 2016141 School reading performance and the extended school day policy in Florida
Beginning with the 2012/13 school year, Florida law required that the 100 lowest-performing elementary schools in reading extend the school day. This study examined how the lowest performing schools implemented the extended school day policy and the trends in school reading performance among the lowest performing schools and other elementary schools. The lowest-performing schools were located throughout Florida and on average, were smaller but served higher proportions of minorities and higher proportions of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch compared to other elementary schools. The lowest-performing schools reported increasing the number of minutes of reading instruction provided to students, increasing staff, and providing different instruction in the extra hour than during other reading instructional blocks. An increase in reading performance was observed for the lowest-performing schools the year the extended school day was implemented. However, this increase did not exceed what would have been expected in the absence of the required increase in reading instruction.
6/16/2016
REL 2016158 Getting It Right: Reference Guides for Registering Students With Non-English Names
Getting a student’s name right is the first step in welcoming him or her to school. Incorrectly entering student names can mean that the same student is listed in different databases in various ways and often with incomplete records. Consequently, students who are eligible for services (for example, English learner support) can be unidentified or overlooked. This set of naming conventions guides can serve as a reference for accurately and consistently entering students’ names in school, district, and state databases as well as address and greet parents and other family members in a culturally responsive and respectful way. The guides are available for students with home languages of Cantonese, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
6/14/2016
REL 2016159 Stated Briefly: Examining changes to Michigan's early childhood quality rating and improvement system (QRIS)
This "Stated Briefly" report is a companion piece that summarizes the results of another report of the same name. Documenting and improving early childhood program quality is a national priority, leading to a rapid expansion of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRISs). QRISs document and improve the quality of early childhood education programs and provide clear information to families about their child care choices. This study described how early childhood programs were rated in Michigan's QRIS and examined how alternative approaches to calculating ratings affected the number of programs rated at each quality level. Using extant data from 2,390 early childhood education programs that voluntarily participated in Michigan's QRIS, the study found that programs in Michigan self-rated at low quality (level 1) and high quality (level 5) more often than at moderate quality (levels 2 through 4). The study also found that programs with both a self-rating and an independent observation of quality generally had higher self-ratings than observational ratings. The study used simulated data to compare the distributions of ratings in the original QRIS, the newly revised QRIS with relaxed domain requirements, and an approach that only used programs' overall scores. Findings revealed that in the new relaxed system and the total score approach, programs were rated at higher levels of quality when compared to the original QRIS. Implications of changes to the calculation systems in QRIS are discussed in terms of program ratings and financial implications for states.
6/14/2016
REL 2016143 Development and implementation of quality rating and improvement systems in Midwest Region states
Recent federal and state policies that recognize the benefits of high-quality early childhood education and care, such as the Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge and the Preschool for All initiative, have led to a rapid expansion of quality rating and improvement systems (QRISs). Although 49 states implement a QRIS in some form, each system differs in its approach to defining, rating, supporting, and communicating program quality. This study examined QRISs in use across the Midwest Region to describe approaches that states use in developing and implementing a QRIS. The purpose was to create a resource for QRIS administrators to use as they refine their systems over time. Researchers used qualitative techniques, including a review of existing documents and semistructured interviews with state officials in the Midwest Region to document the unique and common approaches to QRIS implementation. Findings suggest that the process of applying for a Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge grant helped advance the development of a QRIS system, even in states that were not awarded funding. Also, all seven states in the Midwest Region use a variety of direct observations in classrooms to measure quality within each QRIS, despite the logistical and financial burdens associated with observational assessment. Five of the states in the Midwest Region use alternate pathways to rate certain early childhood education programs in their QRIS, most commonly for accredited or state prekindergarten programs. Finally, linking state subsidies and other early childhood education funding to QRIS participation encouraged early childhood education providers to participate in a QRIS. Developing and refining a QRIS is an ongoing process for all states in the Midwest Region and systems are continually evolving. Ongoing changes require policymakers, researchers, providers, and families to periodically relearn the exact requirements of their QRISs, but if changes are based on evidence in the field of changing needs of children and families, revised QRISs may better measure quality and better serve the public. Findings from this report can help inform the decisions of state QRIS administrators as they expand and refine their systems.
6/1/2016
REL 2016135 Examining the validity of ratings from a classroom observation instrument for use in a district's teacher evaluation system
The purpose of this study was to examine the validity of teacher evaluation scores that are derived from an observation tool, adapted from Danielson's Framework for Teaching, designed to assess 22 teaching components from four teaching domains. The study analyzed principals' observations of 713 elementary, middle, and high school teachers in Washoe County School District (Reno, NV). The findings support the use of a single, summative score to evaluate teachers, one that is derived by totaling or averaging all 22 ratings. The findings do not support using domain- or component-level scores to evaluate teachers' skills, because there was little evidence that these scores measure distinct aspects of teaching. The information that the total score provides predicts the learning of teachers' students. While the relationship is moderate, it is evidence to support interpreting the observation score as an indicator of teachers' effectiveness in promoting learning.
5/31/2016
REL 2016150 Stated Briefly: College enrollment patterns for rural Indiana high school graduates
This "Stated Briefly" report is a companion piece that summarizes the results of another report of the same name. This study examined 1) average distances traveled to attend college, (2) presumptive college eligibility, (3) differences between two-year and four-year college enrollment, (4) differences in enrollment related to differences in colleges' selectivity, and (5) degree of "undermatching" (i.e., enrolling in a college less selective than one's presumptive eligibility suggested) for rural and nonrural graduates among Indiana's 2010 high school graduates. "Presumptive eligibility" refers to the highest level of college selectivity for which a student is presumed eligible for admission, as determined by academic qualifications. The researchers obtained student-level, school-level, and university-related data from Indiana's state longitudinal data system on the 64,534 students who graduated from high school in 2010. Of the original sample, 30,624 graduates entered a public two-year or four-year college in the fall immediately after high school graduation. Data were analyzed using Chi-square tests, GIS analysis, and hierarchical generalized linear models. Rural and nonrural graduates enrolled in college at similar rates, but rural graduates enrolled more frequently in two-year colleges than nonrural graduates. About one third of rural graduates enrolled in colleges that were less selective than colleges for which they were presumptively eligible. Rural graduates travel farther to attend both two-year and less selective four-year colleges than nonrural graduates.
5/24/2016
REL 2016142 How are teacher evaluation data used in five Arizona districts?
Recent teacher evaluation reforms instituted across the country have sought to yield richer information about educators' strengths and limitations and guide decisions about targeted opportunities for professional growth. This study describes how results from new multiple-measure teacher evaluations were being used in 2014/15 in five school districts in Arizona (according to interviews with district leaders and instructional coaches and surveys of school principals and teachers), with each district administering its own local evaluation system developed to align with the overarching state evaluation regulations passed in 2011. Findings from a majority of the study districts indicated that online data platforms are facilitating observation-based feedback, with evaluation results reportedly influencing subsequent professional development for teachers—in particular shaping the work of instructional coaches and/or the support opportunities that are suggested for teachers within the district's online system. However, responding teachers in the five study districts expressed some skepticism about the relevance of school- and district-level professional development offerings, and viewed themselves as responsible for their own professional growth activities. In addition, respondents indicated that the timing of the release of standardized state test data renders those data less useful for professional development decisions than observation results. Meanwhile, teacher evaluation data are reportedly being less systematically used in talent management decisions, including to identify teacher leaders or to assign teachers to schools or classrooms. Regarding evaluation's impact, principals and teachers in a majority of study districts agreed that their new teacher evaluations have improved teachers' instructional practice, but teachers in all five study districts were less likely than principals to agree that evaluations have benefitted students. Together, these findings are suggestive of positive benefits from organizational structures that support the review of data during the school year, such as standards-based observation frameworks, benchmark assessments, professional learning communities, and instructional coaching and feedback. However, skepticism among teachers (particularly high school teachers) suggests that they may not yet perceive their evaluations as entirely credible and relevant to their work.
5/19/2016
REL 2016107 Reshaping rural schools in the Northwest Region: Lessons from federal School Improvement Grant implementation
This study examines implementation of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) transformation model in rural regions, exploring challenges in implementation and technical assistance to support these efforts. This study is not part of the federal evaluation of the SIG, which provides more comprehensive information about SIG schools. Leaders participating in research alliances with REL Northwest and other regional stakeholders requested this study to learn more about how implementation of the SIG transformation model has played out in rural schools across the nation.

Researchers used data from the first cohort of the U.S. Department of Education's SIG baseline database to administer a survey addressing four research questions: 1) How did principals of rural SIG transformation schools rate their school's implementation of the requirements of the transformation model?; 2) To what extent do principals report challenges to implementation of the transformation model?; 3) To what extent do principals report their school received technical assistance for the implementation of the transformation model?; and 4) To what extent are principals' reports of challenges and technical assistance related to implementation? The survey was sent to all cohort 1 SIG principals of rural schools using the transformation model—a group that represented 42 states and Bureau of Indian Education schools. The final sample size was 135 principals (67 percent of the 201 schools where staff members who worked under SIG were still present). All surveyed principals worked in schools that were similar in size and student characteristics to the total sample.

Principal responses highlight challenges in both implementation and technical assistance. The results confirm previous research, by finding that certain elements of the transformation model are challenging for rural schools to implement—particularly, those related to ensuring high-quality staff and family and community engagement. The study also finds that principals are more likely to implement strategies for which they receive technical assistance; at the same time, they implement fewer strategies that present challenges. This suggests that rural schools working on improvement strategies need help beyond just grant funding.
5/18/2016
REL 2016123 Developmental education and college readiness at the University of Alaska
This study examines the postsecondary readiness of first-time students who enrolled in the University of Alaska system over a four-year period. The study calculates the proportion of students considered academically underprepared for college and how placement rates for developmental education (that is, non–credit-bearing courses) vary for different groups of students. The study also determines the proportion of students placed in developmental education who eventually enrolled in and passed college English and math. Finally, the analysis looks at whether high school grades, rather than exam performance, are a better predictor of success in college-level courses.

Results show that developmental education rates were higher in math than English for students pursuing any degree type and increased as the gap between high school exit and college entry grew. Among students pursuing a bachelor's degree, developmental placement rates were highest for Black students from urban areas of the state (in math) and Alaska Native students from rural areas (in English) compared to all other student groups. Almost half (47 percent) of students placed in developmental courses eventually passed college English and almost a quarter (23 percent) passed college math. For students who enrolled directly in college, high school grade point average was a stronger predictor of college-level English and math performance than were SAT, ACT, and ACCUPLACER scores. Secondary and postsecondary stakeholders can use the findings to help identify students in need of support to be college-ready and to consider further conversation and additional research regarding whether and how to use high school grade point average as part of the placement process.
5/17/2016
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