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 Pub Number  Title  Date
REL 2016157 Stated Briefly An analysis of student engagement patterns and online course outcomes in Wisconsin
This "Stated Briefly" report is a companion piece that summarizes the results of another report of the same name. The purpose of the study was to identify distinct patterns—or trajectories—of students' engagement within their online courses over time and examine whether these patterns were associated with their academic outcomes in the online course. The study used data collected by Wisconsin Virtual School's learning management system and student information system, including 1,512 student enrollments in 109 online elective, core, and Advanced Placement high school courses. Group-based trajectory modeling was employed to estimate the number and shapes of engagement patterns evident in the sample, and hierarchical linear modeling assessed the associations between engagement group membership and course outcomes, controlling for demographic characteristics. Analyses revealed six distinct patterns of student engagement in online courses. Students with relatively low but steady engagement had better outcomes than students with similar initial engagement that diminished throughout the course. Overall, students engaging two or more hours per week had better online course outcomes than students who engaged less than two hours per week.
7/6/2016
REL 2016147 An analysis of student engagement patterns and online course outcomes in Wisconsin
Student enrollment in online courses has increased over the past 15 years and continues to grow. However, there is much that is not known about students' educational experiences and outcomes in online courses. The purpose of the study conducted by REL Midwest in partnership with the Virtual Education Research Alliance was to identify distinct patterns—or trajectories—of students' engagement within their online courses over time and examine whether these patterns were associated with their academic outcomes in the online course. The study used data collected by Wisconsin Virtual School's learning management system and student information system, including 1,512 student enrollments in 109 online elective, core, and Advanced Placement high school courses. Group-based trajectory modeling was employed to estimate the number and shapes of engagement patterns evident in the sample, and hierarchical linear modeling assessed the associations between engagement group membership and course outcomes, controlling for demographic characteristics. Analyses revealed six distinct patterns of student engagement in online courses: Initial 1.5 Hours with Decrease, Steady 1.5 Hours, Initial 2 Hours with Spike, Steady 2.5 Hours, 4+ Hours, and 6+ Hours. Students with relatively low but steady engagement had better outcomes than students with similar initial engagement that diminished throughout the course. Overall, students engaging two or more hours per week had better online course outcomes than students who engaged less than two hours per week. Wisconsin Virtual School directors and directors of other online learning programs can use information from this study to consider the supports they implement to help students successfully complete their courses, especially students who display engagement patterns that are associated with poorer course outcomes. Other online learning programs across the country can use the results of this project as a framework for investigating the data they have available in their learning management systems and student information systems.
7/6/2016
REL 2016145 Understanding field experiences in traditional teacher preparation programs in Missouri
The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics of field experiences in traditional teacher preparation programs completed by first-year teachers in Missouri and how experiences vary by teaching certificate type. This descriptive study is based on data from a survey administered in early 2015 to first-year teachers in Missouri public schools who completed traditional teacher preparation programs. Findings show that first-year teachers had field experiences that varied substantially in duration and diversity and that experiences varied for teachers with different types of teaching certificates. Most first-year teachers reported that their student teaching experiences aligned with their career teaching plans and first teaching assignments. Perceptions of the quality of resources and support in field experience schools were generally positive and first-year teachers reported frequent professional collaboration. Parent and community interaction during field experiences was less frequent. Observation and feedback activities during field experiences were frequent and first-year teachers engaged in a variety of instructional activities. Findings suggest that state and program administrators in Missouri and elsewhere may wish to monitor field experiences closely to ensure that expectations are met. Survey data suggest potential areas of focus including interaction with parents and community during field experiences; selection, training, and expectations of teacher candidate mentors; connections between course pedagogy to field experiences; and collaboration between teacher preparation programs and preK–12 schools. The survey developed for this study provides a data collection tool that can be adopted or adapted by state and teacher preparation program administrators and used as part of a system for monitoring program implementation. Detailed information about the implementation of teacher preparation programs may be used in future research on aspects of teacher preparation that are associated with more positive outcomes for program completers and their preK–12 students.
7/6/2016
REL 2016118 Identifying early warning indicators in three Ohio school districts
The purpose of this study was to identify a set of data elements for students in grades 8 and 9 in three Ohio school districts that could serve as accurate early warning indicators of their failure to graduate high school on time and to comparatively examine the accuracy of those indicators. In order to identify the set of indicators with the optimal accuracy for each district, the research team collected student-level data on two cohorts of grade 8 and 9 students in each school district. Datasets used in the analyses included students’ four-year graduation status (the outcome) and 8th and 9th grade data on attendance, coursework, suspensions, and test score records (the candidate early warning indicators). Logistic regression and Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve analyses were used to identify the candidate indicators that were the consistent predictors of students’ failure to graduate on time in each district and to identify the cut points on the original scales that most accurately distinguish students who were at risk of not graduating on time from those who did graduate on time. The analyses were restricted to students who were first-time freshmen within the districts in 2006/07 or 2007/08, and excluded students who entered the district after grade 9. Students in the 2006/07 cohort graduated in 2010, and students in the 2007/08 cohort graduated in 2011. The three districts included in the study varied in size, demographic composition, and locale. Results show that the optimal cut point for classifying students as at risk varied significantly across districts for five of the eight candidate indicators included in the study. Across the three districts and two grades, different indicators were identified as the most accurate predictors of students’ failure to graduate on time. End-of-year attendance rate was the only indicator that was a consistent predictor for both grades in all three districts. The most accurate indicators in both grade 8 and grade 9 were based on coursework (GPAs and course credits). Consistent with prior literature, failing more than one class and earning one or more suspensions also were strong predictors of failure to graduate on time. On average, indicators were more accurate in grade 9 than in grade 8. Findings illustrate why it is important for districts to conduct local validation using their own data to verify that indicators selected for their early warning systems accurately predict students’ failure to graduate on time. The methods laid out in this study can be used to help districts identify the best off-track indicators, and indicator cut points, for their particular early warning systems.
7/6/2016
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
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