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|REL 2016110||Professional Experiences of Online Teachers in Wisconsin: Results from a Survey About Training and Challenges
REL Midwest, in partnership with the Midwest Virtual Education Research Alliance, analyzed the results of a survey administered to Wisconsin Virtual School teachers about the training in which they participated related to online instruction, the challenges they encounter while teaching online, and the type of training they thought would help them address those challenges. REL Midwest researchers and Virtual Education Research Alliance members collaborated to develop the survey based on items from the Going Virtual! survey (Dawley et al., 2010; Rice & Dawley, 2007; Rice et al., 2008). Wisconsin Virtual School administered the survey to its 54 teachers, and 49 (91 percent) responded to the survey. The responses of the 48 teachers who indicated that they taught an online course during the 2013/14 or 2014/15 school year were analyzed for the report. Results indicate that all Wisconsin Virtual School teachers reported participating in training or professional development related to online instruction and that more teachers reported participating in training that occurred while teaching online than prior to teaching online or during preservice education. The teachers most frequently reported challenges related to students’ perseverance and engagement and indicated that they preferred unstructured professional development to structured professional development to help them address those challenges. Further research is needed to determine what types of professional development and training are most effective in improving teaching practice, especially related to student engagement and perseverance.
|REL 2016101||Stated Briefly: Redesigning Teacher Evaluations: Lessons from a Pilot Implementation
This “Stated Briefly” report is a companion piece that summarizes the results of another report of the same name. REL Northeast and Islands, in collaboration with the Northeast Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance and the New Hampshire Department of Education conducted a study of the implementation of new teacher evaluation systems in New Hampshire’s School Improvement Grant schools. While the basic system features are similar across district plans, the specifics of these features vary considerably by district. Further, district fidelity to the plans, as measured by the exposure of teachers to different features of the evaluation system, ranged from moderate to high. Finally, researchers identified several factors related to implementation: (1) capacity of administrators to conduct evaluations; (2) initial and on-going evaluator training; (3) the introduction and design of student learning objectives; (4) the professional climate of schools, including the support of the new system by teachers and evaluators.
|REL 2016102||A Descriptive Study of the Pilot Implementation of Student Learning Objectives in Arizona and Utah
Approximately 30 states are now adopting teacher evaluation policies that include student learning objectives (SLOs), which are classroom-specific student test growth targets set by teachers and approved (and scored) by principals. Today state and district leaders are trying to determine the appropriate level of guidance and oversight to provide in support of this work. This study describes results of the pilot implementation of SLOs in two states—Arizona (with 363 teachers) and Utah (with 82 teachers)—that were implementing SLOs with the same aims: to positively affect student achievement and to fulfill the state's required student-accountability component for teacher evaluations. Findings indicated that, in their SLOs, Arizona teachers tended to target student proficiency growth on vendor-developed tests, without including any specifics about instructional strategies, while Utah's pilot teachers (over half of them special education teachers) tended to define their own SLO-focused instructional strategies and/or use their own classroom-level tests or rubrics, with goals geared toward students demonstrating knowledge (through project completion) or a physical skill. Arizona teachers' end-of-year SLO scores from their principals varied, distinguishing high- and low-performing teachers, and teachers with higher SLO scores were also rated higher on classroom observations and student surveys. Conversely, SLO scores varied little in Utah's pilot, with 89 percent of teachers meeting expectations." (Utah's pilot teachers were not rated on other measures.) On end-of-year surveys, Utah pilot teachers generally perceived the SLO process as worthwhile and beneficial to their students and to their own professional growth; however, they did not perceive the SLO pilot as positively affecting their instruction or their knowledge of effective ways to assess students. (A low response rate precluded parallel survey analysis in Arizona.)
|REL 2016112||Stated Briefly: Suspension, Expulsion, and Achievement of English Learner Students in Six Oregon Districts
The "Stated Briefly" report is a companion piece that summarizes the results of another report of the same name. This study examines the rates of exclusionary discipline (i.e., suspensions and expulsions) among English learners and non-English learners in six diverse Oregon districts that serve a third of the state's English learner students. Using 2011/12 databases from the Oregon Department of Education, the study found that differences in suspension and expulsion rates between English learners and non-English learners were much larger in middle school and high school than in elementary school. Approximately 3 percent of English learners and non-English learners were suspended or expelled in elementary school. In middle school, 18 percent of English learners and 11 percent of non-English learners were suspended or expelled, while in high school 14 percent of English learners and 8 percent of non-English learners were suspended or expelled. In addition, English learners in high school were suspended for almost a full day more than non-English learners. Overall, the findings suggest that educators, parents, and community members should examine discipline policies and practices to see if they are being applied inequitably and consider extra supports for any student who is expelled or suspended.
|REL 2016100||The Examining Evaluator Feedback Survey
This report presents a survey tool, developed by REL Central at Marzano Research, designed to gather information from teachers about their perceptions of and responses to evaluator feedback. District or state administrators can use this survey to systematically collect teacher perceptions on five key aspects of evaluation feedback: (1) feedback usefulness, (2) feedback accuracy, (3) evaluator credibility, (4) access to resources related to feedback, and (5) teacher response to feedback. The survey tool was developed using an iterative process that included expert review, cognitive interviews, and a pilot study. Evidence regarding the reliability and validity of the survey tool is also reported.
|REL 2016099||Advanced Course Completion in Magnet and Comprehensive High Schools: A Study in Nevada's Clark County School District
The purpose of the study reported here was to explore the relationship between the type of high school attended (magnet versus comprehensive) and the likelihood of graduates having completed an advanced course, after accounting for students' prior achievement. In addition, the study examined the relationship between students' prior achievement and the likelihood of students completing an advanced course, and whether the nature of this relationship differs between different types of high schools. The REL West study team conducted a series of logistic regressions using records for 26,529 Clark County School District (CCSD) graduates from 43 high schools in 2011 and 2012. Student achievement prior to entering high school was measured using each student’s grade 8 ELA and mathematics scores from Nevada's Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT).
The results indicate that among students with similar levels of prior achievement, students have a greater likelihood of completing an honors English language arts course if they attend a magnet high school than if they attend a comprehensive high school, but there is no statistical difference between school types in the likelihood of students completing an honors mathematics course. Also, there is a stronger relationship between past achievement and the likelihood of completing an Advanced Placement course for students in the comprehensive high schools compared to those in magnet high schools. However, this was not the case for the relationship between past achievement and the likelihood of completing an honors course.
|REL 2015098||The Achievement Progress of English Learner Students in Arizona
To understand the learning trajectories of the growing numbers of English learner students in the West, especially those who struggle to pass state English language arts and math content tests, this study followed three cohorts of English learner students in Arizona over six school years, 2006/07 through 2011/12, to assess their progress in English proficiency and their academic progress in English language arts and math content knowledge. Key findings from this study include: More than 90 percent of Arizona’s English learner students scored at or above the required level for reclassification as fluent English proficient students over a period of six school years. Their cumulative passing rate was highest for the English language proficiency test, followed by academic tests in English language arts and math. English learner students who were eligible for special education services had the lowest passing rates on all three tests. In general, English learner students in higher grades had lower cumulative passing rates on all three tests than students in lower grades. Educators might consider devoting additional attention to improving teaching practices and support services to help the English learner student subgroups with the poorest performance: students in higher grades, students eligible for special education services, students eligible for school lunch programs, and male students.
|REL 2015095||Comparing Success Rates for General and Credit Recovery Courses Online and Face to Face: Results for Florida High School Courses
This report describes the results of a REL Southeast study comparing student success in online credit recovery and general courses taken online compared to traditional face-to-face courses. Credit recovery occurs when a student fails a course and then retakes the same course to earn high school credit. This research question was motivated by the high use of online learning in the Southeast, particularly as a method to help students engage in credit recovery. The data for this study covered all high school courses taken between 2007/08 and 2010/11 in Florida (excluding Driver’s and Physical Education). The study compares the likelihood of a student earning a C or better in an online course as compared to a face-to-face course. Comparisons for both general and online courses include those courses taken for the first time and credit recovery courses. The results show that the likelihood of a student earning a grade of C or better was higher when a course was taken online than when taken face-to-face, both for general courses and credit recovery courses. Most subgroups of students also had higher likelihood of success in online courses compared to face-to-face courses, except that English language learners showed no difference in outcomes when taking credit recovery courses online. However, it is not possible to determine whether these consistent differences in course outcomes are attributable to greater student learning, other factors such as differences in student characteristics, or differences in grading standards.
|REL 2015097||Development and Examination of an Alternative School Performance Index in South Carolina
The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which the measures that make up each of the three separate accountability indices of school performance in South Carolina could be used to create an overall, reliable index of school performance. Data from public elementary, middle, and high schools in 2012/13 were used in confirmatory factor analysis models designed to estimate the relations between the measures under different specifications. Four different factor models were compared at each school level, beginning with a one-factor model and ending with a bi-factor model. Results from the study suggest that the measures which currently are combined into three separate indices of school performance can instead be combined into a single index of school performance using a bi-factor model. The reliability of the school performance general factor estimated by the bi-factor model ranged from .89 to .95. Using this alternative school performance rating, the study found that approximately 3 percent of elementary schools, 2 percent of middle schools, and 3 percent of high schools were observed to statistically outperform their predicted performance when accounting for the school’s demographic characteristics. These schools, referred to as schools beating the odds, were found in most of the demographic profiles which represent South Carolina schools. The results of this study can inform decisions related to the development of new accountability indices in South Carolina and other states with similar models.
|REL 2015092||Time to Reclassification: How Long Does It Take English Language Learners in the Washington Road Map School Districts To Develop English Proficiency?
Seven high-poverty, diverse districts in Seattle (WA) and South King County are seeking to increase academic proficiency and graduation rates of their English language learner (ELL) students. To meet that goal, the districts have joined together in Road Map for Education Results, which is working with REL Northwest to better understand the needs of their ELL populations. Road Map members specifically want to know how long it takes ELL students in their districts to be reclassified as former ELLs, as well as how this varies by students’ grade level, English proficiency at entry into the U.S. school system, and other student characteristics.
|REL 2015094||Suspension, Expulsion, and Achievement of English Learner Students in Six Oregon Districts
States and districts are increasingly concerned about how exclusionary discipline (i.e., suspensions and expulsions) and lost instructional time impacts student outcomes. Also, there is concern about whether there are disparities in exclusionary discipline rates between students from different subgroups and their peers. This study examines data from six Oregon school districts to discern patterns of exclusionary discipline and the association of exclusionary discipline with achievement on state assessments in reading and mathematics for English language learner (ELL) students, who are a large, growing, and challenging population in Oregon schools. The districts will use the results to develop specific plans for making their disciplinary practices both fair and effective.
|REL 2015093||Alternative Student Growth Measures for Teacher Evaluation: Implementation Experiences of Early-Adopting Districts
State requirements to include student achievement growth in teacher evaluations are prompting the development of alternative ways to measure growth in grades and subjects not covered by state assessments. These alternative growth measures use two primary approaches: (1) value-added models (VAMs) applied to end-of-course and commercial assessments; and (2) student learning objectives (SLOs) selected by teachers with the approval of their principals. Information is limited, however, on how these alternative growth measures can be used to evaluate teachers and on their costs and benefits. REL Mid-Atlantic sought to develop new information by conducting case studies to examine the implementation experiences of eight districts that were early adopters of alternative measures of student growth. District administrators, principals, teachers, and teachers' union representatives were interviewed for the study.
The study found that alternative growth measures have been used for many purposes other than teacher evaluation, but SLOs are unique in their use to adapt and improve instruction. Although the alternative measures show a wider range of teacher performance relative to previous evaluation systems without measures of student growth, evidence on the reliability and validity of alternative measures--especially SLOs--is limited. Districts implementing SLOs most often reported increased collaboration as a benefit, while alternative assessment-based VAMs were perceived as fairer than SLOs for making comparisons among teachers. Both types of alternative growth measures come with costs and implementation challenges. SLOs are substantially more labor-intensive relative to alternative-assessment based VAMs. More research is needed on the statistical properties of the alternative measures, the approaches districts are taking to offset implementation costs, and innovative solutions to overcome implementation challenges.
|REL 2015086||Identifying and Supporting English Learner Students with Learning Disabilities: Key Issues in the Literature and State Practice
While the literature on learning disabilities and on second-language acquisition is relatively extensive within the field of education, less is known about the specific characteristics and representation of English learner students with learning disabilities. Because there are no definitive resources and processes for identifying and determining best placement for English learner students with learning disabilities, schools, districts, and states struggle with this issue. As a result, English learner students who may or may not have learning disabilities are both over- and underrepresented in special education. This report aims to inform policymakers interested in developing procedures, including the use of guidelines and protocols, for identifying, assessing, and placing English learner students who may or may not have learning disabilities. The report describes 1) the key issues discussed in the research literature and 2) current state procedures for the 20 states with the largest English learner populations.
|REL 2015096||The Effects of the Elevate Math Summer Program on Math Achievement and Algebra Readiness
This randomized trial examined the effects of the Elevate Math summer program on math achievement and algebra readiness, as well as math interest and self-efficacy, among rising 8th grade students in California's Silicon Valley. The Elevate Math summer math program targets students who score in the range between "high basic" and "low proficient" on state math tests. It consists of 19 days of mathematics instruction, consisting of three hours per day in traditional classroom instruction and one hour per day using Khan Academy (a free online learning system).
During summer 2014, students were randomly assigned to a treatment group that received access to the program at the beginning of the summer or to a control group that received access to the program later in the summer. End-of-program test scores and survey responses of students in the treatment group were compared with those of students in the control group prior to their exposure to the program. Treatment group students scored significantly higher than the control group (4 points or 0.7 standard deviation) on a test of algebra readiness. They were also significantly more likely (29 percent versus 12 percent) to reach achievement thresholds associated with success in algebra I. However, treatment and control groups did not show significant differences in terms of math interest or self-efficacy.
The results show that the Elevate Math summer program can significantly improve student math achievement and algebra readiness; however, 70 percent of program participants were still not ready for algebra I content. This suggests that summer math programs such as Elevate Math's may be important tools for improving math achievement among rising eighth grade students, but most targeted students will need additional support in order to ensure success in algebra.
|REL 2015105||Professional learning communities facilitator's guide for the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide: Teaching academic content and literacy to English learners in elementary and middle school
The Professional Learning Communities Facilitator's Guide is designed to assist teams of educators in applying the evidence-based strategies presented in the Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School educator's practice guide, produced by the What Works Clearinghouse. Through this collaborative learning experience, educators will expand their knowledge base as they read, discuss, share, and apply key ideas and strategies to help K–8 English learners acquire the language and literacy skills needed to succeed academically.
The facilitator's guide employs a five-step cycle that encourages professional learning communities to debrief, define, explore, experiment, and reflect and plan. This cycle is supplemented with activities, handouts, readings, and videos. Participants will develop a working knowledge of some of the best practices in the English learner practice guide through analysis of teaching vignettes and other interactive activities. Included in the toolkit of materials are activities along with 31 handouts and 23 videos. Four of the videos provide a narrative overview of each of the four recommendations in the practice guide, and the remaining videos show actual classrooms from three different grade levels putting the recommendations into practice.