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 Pub Number  Title  Date
REL 2021014 Continuous Improvement in Education: A Toolkit for Schools and Districts

Continuous improvement processes engage key players within a system to focus on a specific problem of practice and, through a series of iterative cycles, test changes, gather data about the changes, and study the potential influence of these changes on outcomes of interest (Bryk et al., 2015). This practitioner-friendly toolkit is designed to provide an overview of Continuous Improvement processes in education, with a focus on the use of Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles (Langley, Moen, Nolan, Nolan & Norman, 2009). It also offers related tools and resources that educational practitioners can use to implement continuous improvement processes in their own schools, districts, or agencies.

The toolkit includes a customizable workbook, reproducible templates, and short informational videos. The toolkit begins with an introduction to continuous improvement, followed by customizable content for a series of meetings that guide a team of educators through the process of identifying a common problem, generating a series of evidence-based change practices to test and study, testing those change practices, collecting and analyzing data, and reflecting on and using evidence to identify next steps.

The toolkit leads educational practitioners through a series of PDSA cycles, designed explicitly for an educational setting. Real-world case examples illustrate the process in an educational context.

REL 2021034 Are Neighborhood Factors Associated with the Quality of Early Childhood Education in North Carolina?
The purpose of this study was to examine whether and how geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics of the neighborhood (that is, census tract) in which an early childhood education (ECE) site is located within North Carolina is associated with aspects of the quality of these sites, as characterized by their 2017 Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) measures. The study used data on 5,254 licensed early childhood sites from numerous publicly-available data sources, including the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education, the American Community Survey, and the National Center for Education Statistics. The strength of association between neighborhood characteristics and quality rating scores among ECE sites was determined using multilevel structural equation modeling to account for the way in which ECE sites are nested within neighborhoods. After taking into consideration characteristics of the ECE sites themselves, the nature of the neighborhood did not help further explain why some sites earned higher quality rating scores than other sites. Findings suggest that geographic location and the socio-demographic characteristics of a neighborhood need not be seen as impediments to providing or ensuring access to higher quality ECE, as represented by higher scores on the states’ QRIS measures. Neighborhood-related predictors, such as socioeconomic characteristics, were only weakly associated with the quality rating scores. Moreover, the analyses also indicated that high-quality sites are available in most neighborhoods in the state. Some site-level variables, such as accepting child care subsidies and the age groups served by the site, were associated with quality rating scores among ECE sites. Sites that served fewer different age groups had higher quality rating scores, on average. More research is needed to understand what characteristics of sites, and their contexts, may best predict whether an ECE site will be of higher or lower quality.
REL 2021038 Algebra I and College Preparatory Diploma Outcomes among Virginia Students Who Completed Algebra I in Grades 7–9
In Virginia, 52 percent of students graduated from high school with a college preparatory diploma in 2019. However, 31 percent of economically disadvantaged students and 15 percent of English learner students graduated with a college preparatory diploma. Recognizing the importance of mathematics in preparing students for college and careers, Virginia leaders are seeking to improve mathematics instructional programs and associated policy. As one part of their effort, this study was designed to learn more about Algebra I and graduation outcomes among students with similar mathematics proficiency in grade 5 who completed Algebra I in grade 7, 8, or 9 in Virginia. Using data from the Virginia Longitudinal Data System, the study followed a population of 61,200 students who were in Virginia public schools in grade 5 in 2009/10 and who graduated in 2016/17. Results describe students' prior mathematics performance, Algebra I performance, and college preparatory diploma attainment based on the grade level in which they completed Algebra I. The analyses used descriptive statistics and cross-tabulations of the overall study population as well as students identified as economically disadvantaged and English learner students. Fewer than half the students who completed Algebra I in grade 9 earned a college preparatory diploma, even when they earned advanced scores on the grade 5 mathematics assessments. Economically disadvantaged students who scored at the advanced level on the grade 5 mathematics assessment and completed Algebra I in grade 7 had an Algebra I pass rate that was 10 percentage points lower than that of the overall study population, and a rate of earning a college preparatory diploma 18 percentage points lower than that of the overall study population. Similar gaps in performance existed when economically disadvantaged students completed Algebra I in grade 8 or 9.
REL 2021042 A First-Grade Teacher's Guide to Supporting Family Involvement in Foundational Reading Skills
A First Grade Teacher's Guide to Supporting Family Involvement in Foundational Reading Skills will be part of a suite of resources teachers can use with families to encourage and facilitate literacy support for children at home. The suite of resources will include a Teacher Guide, Family Activities, and Family Videos. The information in the Teacher Guide will be designed to assist teachers in sup-porting out-of-school literacy activities that are aligned to classroom instruction, informed by student need, grounded in evidence-based practices (the Foundational Reading Skills Practice Guide), and facilitated by ongoing parent-teacher communication. The Teacher Guide will provide a framework for literacy support activities presented during schools' family literacy nights and parent-teacher conferences.

The Family Activities will contain evidence-based literacy activities that the teacher can give to the parent during family literacy night or at parent-teacher conferences for the parents to do at home with their child. Each activity will use family-friendly language and include a user-friendly format. Materials needed (e.g., letter cards) for each activity will be included.

The Family Videos will depict families using the activities to support children's literacy at home. The videos can be shown at the school's literacy night or during parent-teacher conferences to illustrate family involvement in first grade literacy.

Similar guides for kindergarten and grades 2 and 3 will also be available.
REL 2021050 Examining high school career and technical education programs and the postsecondary outcomes of career and technical education students in the Round Rock Independent School District
This study investigated the percentage of Round Rock Independent School District (ISD) graduates from 2012/13 through 2017/18 who completed one or more career and technical education (CTE) programs of study and attained outcomes after high school graduation including college enrollment, degree or certificate attainment, and employment. The study also examined the alignment of CTE programs of study in Round Rock ISD and 41 other Central Texas districts with high-wage, in-demand career pathways in Central Texas, and the percentages of graduates who completed programs of study aligned with those high-wage, in-demand career pathways. The study used longitudinal student-level administrative high school, postsecondary education, and employment data, as well as Texas labor market information. The percentage of Round Rock ISD students who graduated with one or more CTE programs of study increased substantially across the six graduating cohorts to 47 percent for the 2017/18 cohort. More than 80 percent of Round Rock ISD CTE graduates from each cohort enrolled in two- or four-year colleges or were employed within one year of high school graduation. Seventy-six percent of 2015/16 through 2017/18 Round Rock ISD CTE graduates completed course requirements in the 13 programs of study aligned with regional high-wage, in-demand career pathways in the Central Texas labor market. Round Rock ISD leaders could use findings to encourage participation in CTE by all student groups. They also could use the results regarding CTE programs of study completed by graduates and the alignment of those programs to high-wage, in-demand career pathways in Central Texas to refine the CTE programs of study offered. To encourage postsecondary enrollment and completion, Round Rock ISD leaders could demonstrate for students and families which colleges and universities in the region have credentials in high-wage, in-demand programs of study. Finally, findings from the study provide information to inform Round Rock ISD leaders as they consider opening a CTE high school. Expanding CTE through an additional high school may expand opportunities for students to enroll in postsecondary education and engage in occupations related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
WWC 2021001 Success Boston Coaching Intervention Reports
This What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) intervention report summarizes the research on Success Boston Coaching, a coaching intervention for students who are traditionally underrepresented in college to help them transition from high school to college. Students are paired with a dedicated coach starting as early as the spring of their senior year of high school and receive coaching through their first two years in college. As Boston’s citywide college completion initiative, Success Boston partners with existing nonprofit organizations focused on coaching and mentoring to deliver these one-on-one coaching services. Nonprofit coaching partners may also provide students with other direct services such as tutoring and career readiness support, and financial support that includes scholarships, transportation subsidies, and funding for school-related materials and supplies. Based on the research, the WWC found that Success Boston Coaching has potentially positive effects on progressing in college and potentially positive effects on academic achievement for college students.
REL 2021049 Why school accountability systems disproportionately identify middle schools' SWD subgroups for TSI
The purpose of this study was to understand why middle schools in two mid-Atlantic states were apparently disproportionately identified for targeted support and improvement (TSI) based on the performance of their students with disabilities (SWD) subgroups. The study used publicly available data to examine differences across school levels – elementary, middle, and high – and between all students and SWDs. It is relevant to compare all students to SWDs because accountability systems designate TSI schools as those with subgroups of students that perform poorly relative to all students. The study focused on two aspects of school accountability systems: (1) the number of schools in each school level in which enough SWDs took state assessments for the school to be held accountable for the academic proficiency of its SWD subgroup, and (2) the average performance on accountability indicators, by school level and subgroup. In both states, SWDs in middle schools were over 20 percentage points more likely to take state assessments than were SWDs in elementary or high schools, meaning that middle schools’ SWD subgroups were substantially more likely to meet states’ minimum sample size requirements for including academic performance in accountability scores. Also, SWD subgroups across school levels consistently performed worse than all students on academic proficiency accountability indicators. Taken together, these findings suggest that middle schools’ SWD subgroups are more likely than elementary or high school SWD subgroups to be identified for TSI because their accountability scores are more likely to include academic proficiency indicator scores – which tend to be substantially lower than the all students group’s academic proficiency indicator scores. This research suggests that when designing school accountability systems, state education agencies may wish to consider how sample size affects estimates of subgroups’ performance, and in particular how sample size exclusions may mask poor performance for small subgroups.
REL 2020022 Investigating the Relationship between Adherence to Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program Requirements and Teacher Retention
This study examined data from Connecticut’s induction and mentoring program for beginning teachers, called the Teacher Education and Mentoring (TEAM) Program. The TEAM Program requires beginning teachers to complete five instructional modules, submit reflection papers, and meet with a mentor. This study explored fidelity of implementation of the TEAM Program, how fidelity of implementation varied across schools and districts, and examined relationships between fidelity of implementation and teacher retention. Fidelity of implementation refers to the extent to which the program was delivered as planned. Researchers calculated fidelity scores for beginning teachers based on whether they completed essential TEAM Program requirements. The sample consisted of 7,708 teachers from four cohorts of beginning teachers in the 170 Connecticut districts who entered TEAM between school years 2012/13 and 2015/16. Researchers used statistical models to examine the relationship between fidelity of implementation and one- and three-year teacher retention. Fidelity of implementation varied across the six TEAM requirements studied, which were grouped into three types: hours of contact between the teacher and mentor, module completion, and reflection paper submission. Fidelity was highest for module completion. Fidelity was lowest for documented contact hours between teachers and mentors. The state’s 30 lowest performing districts had higher fidelity on two out of six requirements of the TEAM Program than higher performing districts in the state; the two requirements were documented contact hours between teachers and mentors and completing five modules. Teachers who completed TEAM requirements with higher fidelity were more likely to stay in the same district and in the Connecticut public school system.
REL 2020036 Are State Policy Reforms in Oregon Associated with Fewer School Suspensions and Expulsions?
In 2013 and 2015, Oregon enacted legislation that shifted school discipline policies from a zero-tolerance approach to one that emphasizes preventing behavioral problems and reducing unnecessary suspensions and expulsions. These types of discipline are often referred to as exclusionary because they remove students from classroom instruction. This study examines the association between state-level policies and suspension and expulsion rates in Oregon.

Study findings suggest that the policy shift has led to some short-term progress on two of the state’s main goals: reducing unnecessary removal of students from classroom instruction for disciplinary reasons and reducing exclusionary discipline for weapons offenses that do not involve firearms. Across all grade spans, the use of exclusionary discipline declined from 2008/09 to 2016/17 in Oregon schools, with higher reductions in the secondary grades. The declining rates of exclusionary discipline indicate progress, but growth in out-of-school suspensions in recent years suggests the need for further monitoring and additional support. For example, strengthening efforts to reduce suspensions for minor infractions, especially in secondary grades, could help reduce unnecessary suspensions overall&mdash:a priority of Oregon’s school discipline policy reforms.
REL 2020032 Guide to Conducting a Needs Assessment for American Indian Students
American Indian communities often bring a deep sense of connection, relationships, and knowledge to their children’s education. However, education research has repeatedly shown that American Indian students trail their peers in achievement, attendance, and postsecondary readiness. Regional Educational Laboratory Central, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, and educators across North Dakota collaboratively developed needs assessment surveys for the state. These surveys are a primary focus of this tool which can be adapted for use in other state and local education agencies across the nation. These surveys can be used to identify and monitor the needs and successes of schools serving American Indian students. Survey development involved rigorous processes to ensure that the surveys were technically sound and culturally appropriate. The surveys provide a means to evaluate different characteristics of schools and the resulting data can guide focused supports for American Indian students. For example, state and local education agency staff may use the information from the surveys to identify target areas of need in order to provide additional resources, such as professional development activities, curricular materials, instructional strategies, and research articles, to schools. As education agencies begin to implement strategies and programs, the surveys can be readministered to monitor progress toward goals. The tool also provides guidance on administering the surveys and analyzing and interpreting the resulting data.
REL 2020037 Teacher Turnover and Access to Effective Teachers in the School District of Philadelphia
Concerned about the expense of teacher turnover, its disruption to schools and students, and its potential effect on students' access to effective teachers, the School District of Philadelphia partnered with the Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic to better understand students' access to effective teachers and the factors related to teacher turnover. This analysis of differences in teacher effectiveness between and within schools in the district found that teachers of economically disadvantaged, Black, and Hispanic students had lower evaluation scores than teachers of non–economically disadvantaged and White students but similar value-added scores (a measure of teacher effectiveness based on student academic growth). The study also found that each year from 2010/11 through 2016/17, an average of 25 percent of the district’s teachers left their school and 8 percent left the district. During the first five years of teaching, 77 percent of teachers left their school and 45 percent left the district. Turnover rates were highest for teachers who taught middle school grades, teachers who missed more than 10 days of school a year, teachers who identified as Black, teachers who had previously changed schools, and teachers who had low evaluation ratings. Teacher turnover was higher in schools where teachers had a less positive view of the school climate. School climate mattered more for teachers with higher evaluation ratings than for teachers with lower evaluation ratings.
REL 2020029 Teacher Preparation and Employment Outcomes of Beginning Teachers in Rhode Island
Many states want to better understand the extent to which teachers move across schools or leave the state's public school system, as teacher turnover can have adverse effects on student achievement and local education budgets (Guin, 2004). Leaders at the Rhode Island Department of Education are specifically interested in understanding factors related to teacher mobility, retention, and attrition. This study examines these employment outcomes among 1,164 teachers in Rhode Island who completed a teacher preparation program in the state between 2012/13 and 2016/17, and went on to teach for at least one year in the state’s public school system by the 2017/18 academic year. Researchers compared teacher retention, mobility, and attrition rates across different types of preparation programs and used statistical models to examine relationships between the teacher preparation institution and the employment outcomes of interest. After three years, about one-third of beginning teachers were still teaching in their first school. Another third had changed schools, and a third were no longer teaching in Rhode Island public schools. These rates varied by teacher preparation area and field of certification. There was no relationship between the program in which a beginning teacher was prepared in Rhode Island and that teacher's mobility, retention, attrition, and out-of-field teaching status, except for teachers prepared in alternative programs, who were more likely than teachers prepared in other programs to stay in their school after one year and more likely to leave after three years. Stakeholders can use the information in this report to inform policies and supports for beginning teachers, especially those identified in fields with higher rates of attrition or prepared in alternative programs.
NCEE 2020006 Can Texting Parents Improve Attendance in Elementary School? A Test of an Adaptive Messaging Strategy
Chronic absence is a nationwide problem, even among young students. This report presents findings from a study that tested four versions of an adaptive text messaging strategy to see which, if any, would reduce chronic absence and improve achievement among 26,000 elementary school students. All four versions of the adaptive text messaging strategy reduced chronic absence but did not improve achievement after one school year.
REL 2020039 The Reliability and Consequential Validity of Two Teacher-Administered Student Mathematics Diagnostic Assessments
Several school districts in Georgia currently use two teacher-administered diagnostic assessments of student mathematical knowledge as part of their multi-tiered system of support in grades K-8. These assessments are the Global Strategy Stage (GloSS; New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2012) and the Individual Knowledge Assessment of Number (IKAN; New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2011). However, little is known about the inter-assessor reliability and consequential validity of these assessments. Inter-assessor reliability indicates whether two teachers obtain the same score for a student after administering the test on two occasions, and consequential validity explores perceptions of the value of using the assessments. Rather than rely on occasional testimonials from the field, decisions about using diagnostic assessments across the state should be based on psychometric data from an external source. Districts not currently using the GloSS and IKAN have indicated that they would consider using them to assess students’ current level of mathematical understanding and determine appropriate levels of instruction and intervention, if they were proven to be reliable and valid diagnostic assessments. This study found that the inter-assessor reliability for the GloSS measure and the IKAN Counting Interview is adequate. The inter-assessor reliability for the IKAN Written Assessment (one of the two components of the IKAN) is inadequate, and additional attention must be directed toward improving training for this measure so that reliability can be established. Teachers indicated that they found the data from the GloSS and IKAN assessments more useful than screening data currently in use for guiding decisions about how to provide intervention. Although teachers interviewed in the study’s focus groups expressed strong support for using both assessments, they reported in the study survey that the GloSS is more useful than the IKAN because it addresses students' solution strategies, which most other mathematics measures do not assess. Teachers did express some criticisms of both assessments; for example, they felt the IKAN Written Assessment should be untimed and that the GloSS should include familiar vocabulary.
REL 2020026 Relationships between Schoolwide Instructional Observation Scores and Student Academic Achievement and Growth in Low‑Performing Schools in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), like other state education agencies and districts, recognizes that a key lever to turning around low-performing schools is the quality of instruction (Hill & Harvey, 2004; Hopkins, Harris, Watling, & Beresford, 1999). As part of the annual monitoring of state-designated low-performing schools, DESE’s external low-performing school monitors use Teachstone’s Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) tool to conduct observations. DESE’ external monitors rated low-performing schools on three domains of instruction—Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support. This paper examines the relationships between these observation scores and academic growth and achievement within a school, after adjusting for the percentage of students with low incomes and the grade levels in these low-performing schools. Results show statistically significant positive relationships between schoolwide average observation scores for each instructional domain and school-level academic growth in both English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. On a 7-point scale, a 1-point increase in a school’s overall observation rating was associated with an increase in student growth of 4.4 percentile points of growth in ELA and 5.1 percentile points of growth in mathematics. For schoolwide achievement, which is measured by the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations on the state assessment, results show a significant positive relationship between the classroom organization domain and ELA schoolwide achievement. There was no significant relationship between observation scores and schoolwide achievement in ELA for any other domain or for mathematics schoolwide achievement. The relationship between observation scores and current achievement levels may be weak because achievement levels may be influenced by many other factors including students’ prior achievement and the economic and social challenges their families face.
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