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 Pub Number  Title  Date
REL 2021075 Evaluating the Implementation of Networked Improvement Communities in Education: An Applied Research Methods Report
The purpose of this study was to develop a framework that can be used to evaluate the implementation of networked improvement communities (NICs) in public prekindergarten (PK)–12 education and to apply this framework to the formative evaluation of the Minnesota Alternative Learning Center Networked Improvement Community (Minnesota ALC NIC), a partnership between Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, the Minnesota Department of Education, and five alternative learning centers (ALCs) in Minnesota. The partnership formed with the goal of improving high school graduation rates among students in ALCs. The evaluation team developed and used research tools aligned with the evaluation framework to gather data from 37 school staff in the five ALCs participating in the Minnesota ALC NIC. Data sources included attendance logs, postmeeting surveys (administered following three NIC sessions), a post–Plan-Do-Study-Act survey, continuous improvement artifacts, and event summaries. The evaluation team used descriptive analyses for quantitative and qualitative data, including frequency tables to summarize survey data and coding artifacts to indicate completion of continuous improvement milestones. Engagement in the Minnesota ALC NIC was strong, as measured by attendance data and post–Plan-Do-Study-Act surveys, but the level of engagement varied by continuous improvement milestones. Based on postmeeting surveys, NIC members typically viewed the NIC as relevant and useful, particularly because of the opportunities to work within teams and develop relationships with staff from other schools. The percentage of meeting attendees agreeing that the NIC increased their knowledge and skills increased over time. Using artifacts from the NIC, the evaluation team determined that most of the teams completed most continuous improvement milestones. Whereas the post–Plan-Do-Study-Act survey completed by NIC members indicated that sharing among different NIC teams was relatively infrequent, contemporaneous meeting notes recorded specific instances of networking among teams. This report illustrates how the evaluation framework and its aligned set of research tools were applied to evaluate the Minnesota ALC NIC. With slight adaptations, these tools can be used to evaluate the implementation of a range of NICs in public PK–12 education settings. The study has several limitations, including low response rates to postmeeting surveys, reliance on retrospective measures of participation in continuous improvement activities, and the availability of extant data on a single Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle. The report includes suggestions for overcoming these limitations when applying the NIC evaluation framework to other NICs in public PK–12 education settings.
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 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 2014038 How Do States Define Alternative Education?
This study provides an overview of similarities and differences in how states and state education agencies define alternative education, as well as which states have alternative education standards and what those standards entail. The study reviewed information on alternative education definitions and programs from state and federal websites and from local school system websites in Maryland. Findings show that 43 states and the District of Columbia have formal definitions of alternative education. The most commonly cited target population for alternative education is students with behavioral problems. The most common services listed in state definitions and policies regarding alternative education programs are regular academic instruction, counseling, social/life skills, job readiness, and behavioral services (e.g., anger management, conflict resolution). The literature suggests that the definition of alternative education should include the target population, services offered, setting (e.g., in school, stand-alone schools), and scheduling (e.g., during school hours, outside of school hours).
REL 2014016 Alternative student growth measures for teacher evaluation: Profiles of early‑adopting districts
States and districts are beginning to use student achievement growth — as measured by state assessments (often using statistical techniques known as value-added models or student growth models) — as part of their teacher evaluation systems. But this approach has limited application in most states, because their assessments are typically administered only in grades 3–8 and only in math and reading. In response, some districts have turned to alternative measures of student growth. These alternative measures include alternative assessment-based value-added models (VAMs) that use the results of end-of-course assessments or commercially available tests in statistical models, and student learning objectives (SLOs), which are determined by individual teachers, approved by principals, and used in evaluations that do not involve sophisticated statistical modeling.

For this report, administrators in eight districts that were early adopters of alternative measures of student growth were interviewed about how they used these measures to evaluate teacher performance. Key findings from the study are:
  • Districts using SLOs chose them as a teacher-guided method of assessing student growth, while those using alternative assessment-based VAMs chose to take advantage of existing assessments.
  • SLOs can be used for teacher evaluation in any grade or subject, but require substantial effort by teachers and principals, and ensuring consistency is challenging.
  • In the four SLO districts, SLOs are required of all teachers across grades K–12, regardless of whether the teachers serve grades or subjects that include district-wide standardized tests.
  • Alternative student assessments used by VAM districts differ by developer, alignment with specific courses, and coverage of grades and subjects.
  • VAMs applied to end-of-course and commercial assessments create consistent districtwide measures but generally require technical support from an outside provider.
NCES 2012046 Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study
The Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study is a congressionally-mandated statistical report that documents the scope and nature of gaps in access and persistence in higher education by sex and race/ethnicity. The report presents 46 indicators grouped under seven main topic areas: (1) demographic context; (2) characteristics of schools; (3) student behaviors and afterschool activities; (4) academic preparation and achievement; (5) college knowledge; (6) postsecondary education; and (7) postsecondary outcomes and employment. In addition, the report contains descriptive multivariate analyses of variables that are associated with male and female postsecondary attendance and attainment.
NCES 2010045 Public-Use Data Files and Documentation (FRSS 96): Alternative Schools and Programs for Public School Students at Risk of Educational Failure, 2007-08
This file contains data from an initial 2008 fast-response survey titled "District Survey of Alternative Schools and Programs: 2007-08" and a short follow-up survey. Together, these surveys provide national estimates on the availability of alternative schools and programs for students at risk of educational failure in public school districts during the 2007–08 school year. The initial survey asked about alternative schools and programs administered by the district. The follow-up survey expanded the coverage by asking about students enrolled in the district who attended alternative schools and programs administered by an entity other than the district. NCES released the results of the initial and follow-up surveys in the First Look report Alternative Schools and Programs for Public School Students At Risk of Educational Failure: 2007–08.

Questionnaires and cover letters for the initial study were mailed to the superintendent of each sampled school district in August 2008. The weighted response rate was 96 percent. Questionnaires and cover letters for the follow-up study were mailed in April 2009 to all respondents who completed the initial 2007–08 survey. Completed questionnaires were received from 99 percent of districts that responded to the initial 2007–08 survey.

The initial survey asked respondents to report on the availability and number of district-administered alternative schools and programs. The initial survey also asked about enrollment in district-administered alternative schools and programs, entry and exit procedures, and curriculum and services offered. The follow-up survey asked whether any students enrolled in the district attended an alternative school or program administered by an entity other than the district. The follow-up survey also requested the number of students enrolled in the district who attended alternative schools and programs administered by an entity other than the district and the type of entity that administered the alternative school or program. For both the initial and follow-up surveys, alternative schools and programs were defined as those that are designed to address the needs of students that typically cannot be met in regular schools. The students who attend alternative schools and programs are typically at risk of educational failure (as indicated by poor grades, truancy, disruptive behavior, pregnancy, or similar factors associated with temporary or permanent withdrawal from school).
NCES 2010026 Alternative Schools and Programs for Public School Students At Risk of Educational Failure: 2007-08
This First Look report presents data from a recent district Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) survey about alternative schools and programs available to students during the 2007-08 school year. Alternative schools and programs are specifically designed to address the educational needs of students at risk of school failure in a setting apart from that of the regular public school. They can be administered by the district or an entity other than the district. The study includes information on the availability and number of alternative schools and programs, the number of students enrolled in alternative schools and program, and district policy on returning students to a regular school.
REL 2009074 Examining Independent Study High Schools in California
This examination of California's independent study high schools--alternative schools in which 75 percent or more of students in grades 9-12 are enrolled in full-time independent study--describes enrollment trends since 2001/02 and the number and characteristics of schools and students as well as teacher qualifications in 2006/07.
WWC IRDPMC07 Middle College High School
Middle College High Schools are alternative high schools located on college campuses that aim to help at-risk students complete high school and encourage them to attend college. The schools offer a project-centered, interdisciplinary curriculum, with an emphasis on team teaching, individualized attention, and development of critical thinking skills. Students are also offered support services, including specialized counseling, peer support, and career experience opportunities.
NCES 2003053 District Survey of Alternative Schools and Programs (FRSS 76): Public Use Data Files
This file contains data from a 2001 quick-response survey, “District Survey of Alternative Schools and Programs” (FRSS 76). The survey was completed by district-level personnel most knowledgeable about alternative schools and programs. These officials were asked about availability of public alternative schools and programs, enrollment, staffing, and services for students at risk of educational failure. Questions covered location of programs, enrollment, procedures for handling exceeded capacity, exit and entry policies and procedures, staffing, curriculum and services offered, and district background information.
NCES 2002004 Public Alternative Schools and Programs for Students At Risk of Education Failure: 2000-01
In the past two decades, public concern about violence, weapons, and drugs on elementary and secondary school campuses, balanced with concern about sending disruptive and potentially dangerous students “out on the streets,” has spawned an increased interest in alternative schools and programs. Yet, little research has so far been conducted on alternative education on a national basis. The 2001 “District Survey of Alternative Schools and Programs,” conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) through its Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), is the first national study of public alternative schools and programs to provide data on topics related to the availability of public alternative schools and programs, enrollment, staffing, and services. The focus of the study is on alternative schools and programs that serve students who are at risk of educational failure, as indicated by poor grades, truancy, disruptive behavior, suspension, pregnancy, or similar factors associated with early withdrawal from school. The study presents a snapshot of alternative schools and programs for at-risk students during the 2000–01 school year.
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