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Publications By Year

Center on Education Policy Publications

Making Research More Useful in Policy and in the Classroom

Author(s): CEP
Published: April 30, 2015

On April 30, 2015, the Center on Education Policy convened a roundtable discussion of national education leaders on the use of research-based evidence to inform education policy and practice. Sponsored by the William T. Grant Foundation, the discussion covered the use of evidence and research partnerships at the state and local levels; the role of intermediaries in producing, promoting, and interpreting evidence; putting research evidence in context, and creating the conditions that allow educators to access the right research at the right time.

 

Download files:

Agenda and bios (DOCX format, 33.7 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Handout%20AgendaBio%5FSP%2Edocx

As policymakers consider a reauthorized ESEA, let’s try using what we know about federal policies for school improvement.

Author(s): Jennifer McMurrer, Diane Stark Rentner, and Nancy Kober
Published: April 14, 2015

 

What, if anything, can the federal government do to improve persistently low-performing schools and ensure that all students attend effective schools? Congressional efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reveal deep differences on this central question. Many Congressional Republicans say the answer is to substantially reduce the federal role and increase state and local control of education, a philosophy embodied in the Student Success Act reported by the House education committee. Key Congressional Democrats disagree, as do civil rights organizations, the Secretary of Education, and some business leaders; these groups emphasize the importance of maintaining federal protections and tracking achievement for disadvantaged students and providing targeted funding to high-poverty schools. Senate education committee leaders have introduced a bipartisan bill that would retain some federal requirements but give states more latitude in how they hold schools accountable. The bill would also pass responsibility to states and school districts to determine how to improve low-performing schools.

To inform this debate, policymakers of diverse viewpoints can look to a body of research conducted over the past 13 years by the Center on Education Policy. Since 2002, CEP has studied implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, particularly federal policies to improve low-performing schools and raise student achievement. This research includes state and local surveys, case studies, and analyses of test score trends. Summarized below are the main lessons learned from this body of work about the federal role in school improvement. These are by no means the only lessons from this research; all of the study reports on NCLB and school improvement are available for free at www.cep-dc.org.

  1. Allow some flexibility in the use of school improvement funds. School improvement is often a complex, iterative, and evolving process in which school and community context influences choices and implementation. Until very recently, the Obama Administration’s rules for federal School Improvement Grants (SIGs) required recipients to use funds to implement one of four specific reform models. But the one-size fits all approach did not work for many grantees participating in CEP’s research, especially schools in rural areas. It will be important to build some flexibility into any federal role in assisting states and districts with improving schools.
  1. Recognize that even with a more flexible approach, some structure can be helpful in planning and implementing reforms. The federal school reform models, though flawed, did provide a process and a structure that encouraged many low-performing schools to analyze data, consider how they were doing things, and determine how they might improve. For example, by virtue of having to respond to federal requirements to expand learning time, schools often ended up making better use of instructional time in the school day and finding more time for teacher development, planning, and collaboration.
  1. Provide dedicated funding for school and district reform. Federal SIGs were often a welcome source of extra funding because they allowed district and school leaders to try new approaches for improving student learning. Typically, other funding streams received by district and schools were not realistic sources of support for school reform because they were already obligated for salaries and other expenses.
  1. Target a portion of federal dollars on improving the capacity of states and districts to help low-achieving schools. Often state education agencies lack sufficient staff to provide technical assistance on school improvement, while districts lack staff to fashion reform plans and to identify academic, curricular, staffing, or other issues that affect school performance. Although money for improvement is needed at the school level, it’s just as important that federal funds are available to build state and local staffing capacity and expertise to help struggling schools.
  1. Recognize that real change may take longer than a three- or five-year grant cycle. There is a tendency among policymakers to declare a program or a policy a failure if it does not show immediate positive results. It takes time, however, to bring about systemic change and increase student achievement in schools that educate large proportions of low-income and disadvantaged students. For example, many schools that received federal SIGs funds focused the first year or more of their grant on improving school safety, attendance, parent involvement, and other aspects of school climate, which they viewed as a necessary precondition to improving achievement.
  1. Sustain funding for improvement activities. SIGs are provided for a limited number of years on the theory that local or state funds will gradually replace the federal dollars to sustain activities. CEP’s research shows, however, that more often than not when the federal money goes away, so does the reform effort, no matter how promising.
  1. Study and report on school improvement efforts. Although the U.S. Department of Education has released some data on the impact of SIGs, there is much more to be learned about the state, district, and school roles in planning and implementing school improvement. For example, which approaches worked and did not work for states and schools to improve student achievement? And what were the conditions that contributed to the successes and obstacles of these approaches? What is needed is a sustained, multi-tiered federal approach to study school improvement efforts that are underway; this should include funds for localized, timely, and actionable research as well as larger federal data collection and analysis across multiple sites.

CEP’s research points to the need for a balanced federal role in school improvement that reduces some requirements but still provides a degree of structure; that provides dedicated funding for schools, districts, and states to carry out their respective responsibilities; and that allows for sustained support over a sufficient period of time.

Thoughtful policymaking requires attention to lessons from the past, continued attention to emerging information in the present, and a candid discussion of how the past and present can inform the future. We hope that the House and Senate education committee members will take into consideration the valuable research done by CEP and other groups when crafting an ESEA policy on the federal role in improving low-performing schools.

Download files:

Blog post (PDF format, 129 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=McMurrerRentnerKober%5FBlog%5FSchoolImprovementLessons%5F04132015%2Epdf

Building a Better Relationship between Education and Data

Author(s): Center on Education Policy
Published: February 19, 2015

Empowering Educators to Lead the Way on Data Use

Despite the presence of technology and data in almost every aspect of our lives, the K-12 education sector is still grappling with how to effectively use data to support instruction and student learning.  While some important progress has been made, many educators still need support--including time, training and resources--on how to manage and use data.

On  March 17, 2015, the Center on Education Policy (CEP), in collaboration with Renaissance Learning and the Data Quality Campaign, convened a conversation on the campus of the George Washington University about empowering educators to lead the way in using data to improve classroom instruction and student learning. The conversation looked at state and local leadership on data use, including the benefits and challenges associated with new technologies that process and organize school data. Issues covered include:

  • Data and assessment literacy: Empowering teachers and administrators
  • State leadership: Creating the conditions and culture for effective data use
  • More than just numbers: The power and potential of data visualization

 

Rebecca Thessin, Ed.D., a panelist at this event wrote a paper called The Need to Use Evidence in School-Based K-12 Improvement Efforts:  When data is used as part of an ongoing cycle of improvement that involves the regular collection and systematic analysis of evidence, teachers can change their instructional practice to improve student achievement. To do so, the school leader must share leadership of a schoolwide process of improvement with teachers. Most critically, central office must give priority to developing the skills of principals to lead the difficult but rewarding work of improving instruction and schools.  Rebecca Thessin, Assistant Professor of Educational Administration at the George Washington University shares her thoughts and experience on how to empower teachers to use data effectively and how schools and districts can engage in the systematic collection and analysis of evidence as part of an ongoing school improvement cycle. Dr. Thessin identifies four steps that school leaders, supported by their central office, can take to launch and implement this work effectively and sustain it over time to lead to improvement.

You can view the video of the event and download Rebecca Thessin's full paper below:

Video of the webcast

Thessin Paper

 

Download files:

Agenda and Bios (PDF format, 132 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=AgendaBio%2Epdf
Thessin Paper (PDF format, 236 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Thessin%5FPaper%5FNeedEvidenceK12Improvement%5F5%2E5%2E15%2Epdf

A Compendium of Research on the Common Core State Standards

Author(s): Matthew Frizzell and Tara Dunderdale
Published: February 10, 2015

This updated compendium includes over 85 research studies focused on the Common Core State Standards, and encompasses research from multiple sources, such as government entities, independent organizations, and peer-reviewed publications from academic journals and other outlets. Each study in the compendium has been summarized and categorized across nine topic areas. A URL link to the original research is also provided when possible. The compendium is presented below both as a single document as well as individual PDFs of the nine topic areas. The compendium will be updated regularly as the body of CCSS-related research grows. This latest version is updated as of February 10, 2015.

Download files:

Full Compendium (PDF format, 1267 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FFullReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5F021315%2Epdf
Communications & Public Opinion (PDF format, 901 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FCommPubOp%5F021015%2Epdf
Comparison of CCSS Content to Wide-Scale Assessments (PDF format, 751 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FComparison%5F021015%2Epdf
Content, Curriculum, & Alignment (PDF format, 943 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FContent%5F021015%2Epdf
Cost Analysis (PDF format, 764 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FCost%5F021015%2Epdf
Governance & Leadership (PDF format, 921 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FGovLead%5F021015%2Epdf
Implementation (PDF format, 1018 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FImplementation%5F021015%2Epdf
Teacher Preparation (PDF format, 766 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FTeachPrep%5F021015%2Epdf
Teaching & Professional Development (PDF format, 789 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FTeachProfDev%5F021015%2Epdf
Testing & Assessment (PDF format, 868 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=Frizzell%5FReport%5FCCSSCompendium%5FTestAssess%5F021015%2Epdf

Expanded Learning Time: A Summary of Findings from Case Studies in Four States

Author(s): Jennifer McMurrer, Matthew Frizzell, Nanami Yoshioka, Caitlin Scott, and Nora Ostler
Published: January 13, 2015

This summary report describes the strategies being used by case study sites to meet federal requirements and encouragements for increased or expanded learning time, and the challenges, successes, and impacts associated with this implementation process.  The report is based on the findings of a series of case studies of 17 low-performing schools within 11 school districts in four geographically dispersed states—Connecticut, Colorado, Oregon and Virginia.  CEP interviewed 49 education leaders at the state, district, and school-levels to collect data for the study.  Also available on this site are detailed reports for each of the four states and 11 districts with the 17 case study schools and a webinar presentation of the key findings.

Case Study Reports

Webinar

Download files:

Summary of Findings from Case Studies in Four States (PDF format, 433 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=McMurrerFrizzellYoshioka%5FSummaryReport%5FExpandedLearningTime%5F011315%2Epdf
Press Release (PDF format, 169 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=PressRelease%5FELT%5F011315%2Epdf
Appendix A – Key Provisions of School Improvement Grants and ESEA Waivers (PDF format, 188 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=AppendixA%5FELT%5F011315%2Epdf
Appendix B – Summary of ELT Strategies and General Information about Case Study Districts and Schools (PDF format, 184 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=AppendixB%5FELT%5F011315%2Epdf
Appendix C – Study Methods (PDF format, 175 KB) * Direct link: http://www.cep-dc.org/cfcontent_file.cfm?Attachment=AppendixC%5FELT%5F011315%2Epdf
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