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|REL 2019011||The postsecondary education and employment pathways of Minnesota public high school graduates: Investigating opportunity gaps
In Minnesota, as in many other states, not all students have access to the types of educational experiences in high school that are likely to lead to high-paying jobs. If Minnesota policymakers and practitioners are to be well positioned to reduce achievement gaps that lead to different career and college outcomes, they must have reliable data on the postsecondary pathways Minnesota public high school graduates take, as well as information about differences in pathways and outcomes for different groups of students. Members of the Midwest Career Readiness Research Alliance collaborated with Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest to conduct a study that describes the postsecondary pathways of Minnesota public high school graduates, including the pathways graduates take within one year of high school graduation and their degree attainment and employment outcomes six years later. The study also examined differences in initial pathways, degree attainment, and employment outcomes for students with different characteristics. Using data from the Minnesota Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System, the study examined the initial postsecondary pathways of Minnesota public high school students who graduated from high school between 2008 and 2015. The study also examined the college certificate and degree attainment and employment outcomes of Minnesota public high school students who graduated from high school between 2008 and 2010. The study describes differences in initial postsecondary pathways, college certificate and degree attainment, and employment for students from different groups. The study found that within one year of high school graduation, nearly all Minnesota public high school graduates were enrolled in college or employed. There were differences in initial postsecondary pathway by student characteristics but not by rurality. Graduates who had disabilities, graduates who had limited English proficiency, Hispanic graduates, and American Indian/Alaska Native graduates were the most likely to be neither employed nor enrolled in college within one year of high school graduation. Six years after high school graduation, 48 percent of graduates had not earned a college certificate or degree. Thirty-seven percent of graduates had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, 11 percent of graduates had earned an associate’s degree, and 4 percent of graduates had earned a college certificate. In addition, six years after high school graduation, 71 percent of graduates were employed, and their median annual earnings were $22,717. Finally, there were differences in college certificate and degree attainment, employment, and earnings by student characteristics. These differences remained when comparing graduates who participated in the same initial postsecondary pathway.
|REL 2019004||Technology use in instruction and teacher perceptions of school support for technology use in Iowa high schools
A growing national consensus shows the need for educational systems to prepare students to succeed in working environments and society of the 21st century. Recognizing this need, Iowa school districts have invested in technology to assist in addressing the expectations of the Iowa Core Standards related to 21st century skills. The rural districts served by the Central Rivers Area Education Agency (Central Rivers AEA) and three high schools formed the Iowa Learning and Technology Networked Improvement Community (Iowa NIC) to promote effective use of these technology resources. To inform these improvement efforts, the Iowa NIC requested that REL Midwest conduct a descriptive research study to describe the extent to which teachers are using technology to support the development of 21st century skills and describe teacher perceptions and school supports related to technology integration. The study team obtained teacher survey data and school data from Central Rivers AEA. The study examined proportion of teachers emphasizing each of the four 21st century skills (that is, collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking). In addition, the study performed tests to determine which groups of teachers (for example, by subject area taught) differed in their responses for a given topic area. The proportions of teachers asking students to use technology to support the development of 21st century skills differed across the four skills, as well as across subject areas taught and teacher experience. Specifically, half or nearly half of the teachers emphasized the use of technology for collaboration or critical thinking at least monthly. By contrast, less than a fourth of the teachers emphasized the use of technology for communication or creativity at least monthly.
|REL 2019001||Teacher retention, mobility, and attrition in Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota
This report describes rural and nonrural teacher movement within and out of public school systems in Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. All four states have high proportions of rural districts and schools. The authors used administrative data provided by state education agencies to examine the percentages of teachers who stayed in the same school, moved to a different school or district, or left a teaching position. Results suggest that the proportions of stayers, movers, and leavers in these states were similar to national statistics and varied substantially across districts within states.
|REL 2018289||Trends in Algebra II completion and failure rates for students entering Texas public high schools
The purpose of this study was to examine Algebra II completion and failure rates in Texas for high school students in the grade 9 cohorts of 2007/08 through 2014/15. This period spans (1) the point at which Texas began implementing the 4x4 curriculum that required four courses each in English, math (including Algebra II), science, and social studies and (2) when the state moved to the new Foundation High School Program—which eliminates Algebra II as a math requirement—with the 2014/15 cohort. Using longitudinal student- and district-level administrative data from the Texas Education Agency and district-level responses to a statewide online survey administered during spring 2015, the research team examined Algebra II completion and failure rates, and determined how districts were communicating with parents about the new graduation requirements and whether they would be offering the new Algebra II replacement courses during the first year of implementation. Results indicate that approximately 37 percent of districts reported requiring students to complete Algebra II to graduate from high school. Fewer than half of districts reported that they planned to offer the alternative math courses in the first year of implementing the new graduation requirements. Overall, Algebra II completion and failure rates for the 2014/15 cohort followed the same trend as seen for the seven cohorts graduating under the previous graduation requirements. This study suggests that the third high school math course students took was not immediately influenced by the new graduation requirements. Future research could continue to track additional cohorts of students to determine if student change their course-taking in response to additional changes districts may make in implementing the new graduation requirements or if the increased flexibility in course selection is related to other student outcomes such as dropout rates.
|REL 2018286||Initial Spanish proficiency and English language development among Spanish-speaking English learner students in New Mexico
The purpose of this study was to understand whether differences in initial kindergarten Spanish proficiency for English learner students were linked to disparities in attaining English proficiency and academic achievement in reading and math by grades 4 and 5. The study followed two cohorts of Spanish-speaking English learner students from four districts in New Mexico from kindergarten through grades 4 and 5. The 2010 cohort included students enrolled in kindergarten in 2009/10 and followed through grade 5, and represented 25 percent of the Spanish-speaking English learner students enrolled in bilingual programs in the state. The 2011 cohort included students enrolled in kindergarten in 2010/11 and followed through grade 4, and represented 35 percent of the Spanish-speaking English learner students enrolled in bilingual programs in the state. The descriptive study examined cumulative rates of English learner students progressing toward fluent English proficiency. The study also examined students’ demonstration of grade-level readiness on standardized academic assessments in math and English language arts in grades 4 and 5, particularly for those students who were successfully reclassified to fluent English proficient, and how they compared to state averages at the same grade level. Results were reported out according to three different levels of initial kindergarten Spanish proficiency: low, medium and high. The study found that a considerable portion of English learner students in both cohorts started kindergarten at the lowest English proficiency level, but that results favored students who started kindergarten with high Spanish proficiency. Results also indicated that grade-level readiness for grades 4 and 5 on NMPARCC English language arts and math scores for students who achieved English proficiency in grades 4 and 5 were generally lower than statewide averages for all students. However, students with high kindergarten Spanish proficiency were more likely to have higher English proficiency in kindergarten, to be reclassified to fluent English proficient by grades 4 or 5, and to be demonstrate grade-level readiness in English language arts and math in grades 4 and 5 compared to students with low or medium kindergarten Spanish proficiency levels. Results suggest that differentiated annual targets for English language proficiency progress based on results from the kindergarten Spanish proficiency assessment might produce more accurate annual growth targets for English learner students, and that those Spanish proficiency assessments could serve as a flag for targeting students with a higher risk of struggling to gain English and academic proficiency in elementary school.
|REL 2018283||Trends in teacher mobility in Texas and associations with teacher, student, and school characteristics
This study provides updated information regarding teacher mobility—defined as teachers moving schools or leaving the public-school system—for Texas public schools during the 2011/12 through 2015/16 school years. Descriptive information on mobility rates is presented at the regional and state levels for each school year. Mobility rates are disaggregated further into destination proportions to describe the proportion of teacher mobility due to within-district movement, between-district movement, and leaving Texas public schools. This study leverages data collected by the Texas Education Agency during the pilot of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) in 57 school districts in 2014/15. Analyses examine how components of the T-TESS observation rubric are related to school-level teacher mobility rates. During the 2011/12 school year, about 18.7 percent of Texas teachers moved schools within a district, moved between districts, or left the Texas Public School system. By 2015/16, this mobility rate had increased to 22.0 percent. Moving between districts was the primary driver of the increase in mobility rates. Results indicate significant links between mobility and teacher, student, and school demographic characteristics. Teachers with special education certifications left Texas public schools at nearly twice the rate of teachers with other teaching certifications. School-level mobility rates showed significant positive correlations with the proportion of special education, economically disadvantaged, low-performing, and minority students. School-level mobility rates were negatively correlated with the proportion of English learner students. Schools with higher overall observation ratings on the T-TESS rubric tended to have lower mobility rates. Findings from this study will provide state and district policymakers in Texas with updated information about trends and correlates of mobility in the teaching workforce, and offer a systematic baseline for monitoring and planning for future changes. Informed by these findings, policymakers can formulate a more strategic and targeted approach for recruiting and retaining teachers. For instance, instead of using generic approaches to enhance the overall supply of teachers or improve recruitment, more targeted efforts to attract and retain teachers in specific subject areas (for example, special education), in certain stages of their career (for example, novice teachers), and in certain geographic areas are likely to be more productive. Moreover, this analysis may enrich the existing knowledge base about schools’ teacher retention and mobility in relation to the quality of their teaching force, or may inform policy discussions about the importance of a stable teaching force for teaching effectiveness.
|REL 2018276||Advanced course offerings and completion in science, technology, engineering, and math in Texas public high schools
The purpose of this study was to explore advanced STEM course offerings in Texas high schools and advanced STEM course taking among high school students to investigate variation in availability and enrollment for different school contexts and student groups. Using statewide longitudinal student records from 2007/08 to 2013/14 the research team examined patterns of course offerings using descriptive statistics from more than 1,500 public high schools in Texas, and student course completion patterns for close to one million students. Analyses revealed that access to advanced STEM courses in Texas has increased over this time period for schools in all locales, for schools with high and low proportions of economically disadvantaged students, and for schools with high proportions of minority students. High schools in urban and suburban areas and schools serving the highest proportions of Black and Hispanic students offered the greatest number of advanced STEM courses. In fact, a larger proportion of Hispanic and Black students in the state attended schools with the highest number of advanced STEM course offerings, compared to White students. However, despite this access to advanced STEM coursework, smaller proportions of Hispanic and Black students completed three or more advanced STEM courses than their White counterparts, even among a subgroup of high performing students based on math state standardized test scores in 8th grade. The findings from this study show that while Hispanic and Black students do lag White students in advanced STEM course completion, it is likely not because of lesser access to these courses. These findings point to a need for increasing Hispanic and Black student enrollment in those advanced courses and identifying mechanisms other than increasing course offerings to do so.
|REL 2018278||Advanced course completion rates among New Mexico high school students following changes in graduation requirements
In an effort to promote college and career readiness, the state of New Mexico passed a law in 2008 requiring high school students to complete at least one unit of advanced coursework (for example, Advanced Placement [AP], gifted and talented, honors, and International Baccalaureate courses) in order to graduate. The purpose of this was to study examine the completion of advanced coursework during the period following the legislative change for all high school students in New Mexico who were freshmen in 2009/10, 2010/11, and 2011/12 and were in a New Mexico high school for four years. Descriptive statistics were used to examine differences by student subgroups (White, Hispanic, and American Indian students) and other characteristics (student performance on the 8th grade standards-based exam, free-reduced price lunch status, and English learner status), and by school characteristics (school size, school performance rating, Title I status, and urbanicity). The study finds that over 56 percent of students in New Mexico completed one or more advanced courses in high school. Results indicate that a higher percentage of White students completed one or more advanced courses than Hispanic and American Indian students. This gap in course completion across racial and ethnic groups was smaller, though persisted, when examining high-performing students. Results show that a higher percentage of students in larger schools completed one or more advanced courses than in smaller schools, and this gap persisted even when examining high-performing students. Education agencies could improve supports aimed at increasing advanced course access (for example, staff development efforts, teacher quality, and paying AP exam fees) and the supply of advanced course offerings in schools with low advanced course completion rates in order to help improve advanced course participation and completion rates.
|REL 2018277||Graduation exam participation and performance, graduation rates, and advanced course-taking following changes in New Mexico graduation requirements, 2011–15
New Mexico students who were in grade 9 in 2009/10 and were expected to graduate in 2013 were the first cohort to be required to meet increased math and science course requirements and to take a new graduation exam. The purpose of this study was to describe graduation exam performance of the 2011–2015 cohorts, enrollment in Algebra II and lab science for the 2014–2015 cohorts, and the relationship of exam performance and enrollment with graduation outcomes. Grade 11 and 12 exam results for five cohorts of students–2011 cohort through 2015 are compared. Among students who took an exam in grade 11, the percentages who scored proficient or above on the reading, math, and science components of the exams by grade 12 are compared across cohorts and by gender, race/ethnicity, free or reduced-price lunch eligibility status, and English learner status. Percentages of student subgroups in cohort 2014 and cohort 2015 who took Algebra II and two lab sciences are also compared. The report describes the percentage of students in different subgroups who go on to graduate for those with various levels of performance on the exams and for those who are and are not taking Algebra II and two lab science courses. The results indicate that among students who stayed in school to grade 11, more scored proficient or higher on the math and science components of the graduation exam than before the change in requirements. The increase in proficiency rates for reading, math, and science between 2011 and 2015 was particularly large for Hispanic students and low for Native American students. Among those who stayed in school for four years, the percentage of students enrolling in Algebra II and two lab science courses increased between the 2014 cohort and the 2015 cohort, and Native American students in these cohorts had the highest rates of enrollment in these courses. Students who were proficient in more sections of the exam and students who took Algebra II and two lab science courses had higher rates of graduation than other students. The overall direction of change is positive on these measures, but differences were found in exam performance, course enrollment, and related graduation outcomes by subgroups. These differences may have implications for targeting resources and services for students most in need of support for staying in school and fulfilling requirements necessary to graduate.
|REL 2017273||Opportunities for teacher professional development in Oklahoma rural and nonrural schools
The purpose of this study was to fill the gap in statewide information about teacher professional development opportunities in Oklahoma and compare the opportunities in rural and nonrural schools. The Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest, along with members of the Oklahoma Rural Schools Research Alliance, developed a survey that measured how professional development is structured, how it is planned, and what supports and barriers teachers may face in accessing professional development. The sampling frame was obtained from the website of the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Principals from 1,609 public elementary and secondary schools in Oklahoma were invited to participate in the online universe survey. The Office of Educational Quality and Accountability administered the survey in spring 2016, and 51.3 percent of the principals completed the survey. A nonresponse bias analysis was conducted, and nonresponse weights were created. All the results were adjusted by the nonresponse weights. In the descriptive results, Oklahoma schools are divided into rural versus nonrural schools using the urban-centric locale classification in the 2013/14 Common Core Data. The results report differences between rural and nonrural schools if they are significant at the p < .05 level based on a t-test and if the difference is at least 5 percentage points. Results indicate that the majority of rural schools in Oklahoma offer multiple types of professional development structures for teachers, such as conferences and workshops. However, rural schools offer fewer types than do nonrural schools. The biggest barrier that keeps both rural and nonrural teachers from attending any type of professional development is scheduling conflicts with other school or professional activities, and the barrier is more prevalent for rural teachers. The findings of this study show that rural schools provide a substantial amount of support for their teachers’ professional development, but the support is less likely in rural schools than in nonrural schools to be provided by peers (e.g., common planning and collaboration time, teacher-led coaching and mentoring, and collaborative learning). Rural schools could look for ways to increase collaborative learning between teachers so that teachers can support and mentor each other. Taking greater advantage of online resources could help rural schools supplement local, in-person professional development.
|REL 2017269||Comparing enrollment, characteristics, and academic outcomes of students in developmental courses and those in credit-bearing courses at Northern Marianas College
This study reports on the academic outcomes of full-time first time freshman seeking associate degrees who entered Northern Marianas College from fall semester 2008 through fall semester 2010. In English, 80.1 percent of these students enrolled in developmental courses; in math, 91 percent enrolled in developmental courses. To determine their academic outcomes, these students were tracked for eight semesters after their first year in college. The study found that students who initially enrolled in credit-bearing English or math classes had consistently more positive outcomes than students who initially enrolled in non-credit developmental English or math courses.
|REL 2017268||Using high school data to understand college readiness in the Northern Mariana Islands
This report examines the college readiness of public high school graduates in the Northern Mariana Islands as measured by whether the graduates were placed in developmental college courses or credit bearing college courses at Northern Marianas College. The study examined the high school records of recent graduates of the public school system in the Northern Mariana Islands who entered Northern Marianas College from fall semester 2010 through spring semester 2014. Demographic information was available about students' gender, ethnicity, primary language spoken at home, and economic need (based on whether or not students received Pell grants). The study found that 19.6 percent of students placed into credit-bearing English courses. Nearly 23 percent of female students, compared to about 16 percent of male students, placed into credit-bearing English courses. In math, 7.8 percent of students placed into credit-bearing courses. Students who did not receive Pell grants were more likely to place into credit-bearing math courses.
|REL 2017226||Growth mindset, performance avoidance, and academic behaviors in Clark County School District
Previous research strongly suggests that beliefs regarding the nature of ability and the payoff to effort (academic mindsets) and the related actions (academic behaviors) play an important role in supporting student success. Not much is known about the distribution of these beliefs among teachers and students in different academic contexts. This study examined the distribution of reported academic mindsets and behaviors in Nevada’s Clark County School District. The analysis revealed that most students reported beliefs that are largely consistent with a growth mindset. However, reported beliefs and behaviors differed significantly depending on students' English learner status, race/ethnicity, grade level and prior achievement. For example, Black and Hispanic students reported lower levels of growth mindset than White students. English learner students reported significantly lower levels of growth mindset and higher levels of performance avoidance than their non-English learner counter parts. Lower achieving students reported significantly lower levels of growth mindset and significantly higher levels of performance avoidance than their higher achieving peers. Teachers reported greater beliefs in growth mindset than students, and their beliefs regarding growth mindset did not, for the most part, vary significantly depending on the characteristics of the students attending their schools.
|REL 2017264||Establishing and sustaining networked improvement communities: Lessons from Michigan and Minnesota
The purpose of this report is to share lessons learned by Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest researchers as they worked with educators in Michigan and Minnesota to establish and sustain two networked improvement communities (NICs). A NIC is a type of collaborative research partnership that uses principles of improvement science within networks to learn from variation across contexts. At the request of the Michigan Department of Education, REL Midwest worked with educators at the school, district, intermediate school district, and state levels to establish the Michigan Focus NIC, with the goal of reducing disparities in student achievement within schools. At the request of the Minnesota Department of Education, REL Midwest worked with educators at the state and regional levels to establish the Minnesota Statewide System of Support NIC. This NIC aimed to improve the supports that the Minnesota Department of Education provides to its six Regional Centers of Excellence, which implement school improvement strategies in the schools in the state with the lowest performance and largest achievement gaps. Although there is practical guidance for how NICs should structure their work, few published accounts describe the process of forming a NIC. Through its experience working with educators to form two NICs, REL Midwest learned that it is important to: build a cohesive team with members representing different types of expertise; reduce uncertainty by clarifying what participation would entail; build engagement by aligning work with ongoing efforts; use activities that are grounded in daily practice to narrow the problem of practice to one that is high leverage and actionable; and embed capacity building into NICs to build additional expertise for using continuous improvement research to address problems of practice. This report offers guidance to researchers and educators as they work to establish and sustain NICs. The lessons learned come from efforts to establish NICs in two specific contexts and therefore may not be generalizable to other contexts.
|REL 2017262||Reflections from a professional learning community for researchers working in research alliances
The purpose of this project was to share the lessons learned about the common challenges that Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest researchers brought to a professional learning community, the strategies they identified to address the challenges, and the tools used to ultimately overcome those shared challenges. The lessons highlighted in this document are observations made by the professional learning community members and senior REL Midwest staff during the 2012-2017 REL contract. Researchers experienced three common challenges: adjusting to changing roles and additional responsibilities; planning for and engaging in consistent, meaningful interactions with practitioner partners; and developing products that speak directly to their intended audience. To overcome these challenges, researchers developed and carried out three strategies: built a shared understanding of the roles and responsibilities that they and their practitioner partners' needed to play; honed communication and facilitation skills; and co-developed plans with their practitioner partners for how to communicate about the partnership and its projects. Several tools were developed to support the implementation of these strategies. These lessons come from one professional learning community's experience and therefore may not be generalizable to all researchers. However, the intent is to inform others as they work to support researchers’ efforts to engage in authentic collaboration with their practitioner partners.