Are Students Affected by Colleges’ Small Application Barriers?

Commentary authors
Jonathan Smith
Michael Hurwitz
Jessica S. Howell
Summary

Attending college is increasingly both costly and time consuming, and represents one of the largest investments people make in their lives, so one would expect students to engage in a thoughtful and deliberate college choice process. However, there is an increasingly large literature that shows students are not behaving optimally in the college application and enrollment processes.

Reclassification Patterns among Latino English Learner Students in Bilingual, Dual Immersion, and English Immersion Classrooms

Commentary authors
Summary

In California, English learner (EL) students are assessed every year in both English language proficiency and in English language arts (ELA) achievement.  Once EL students have met criteria on both these measures, they are eligible to be “reclassified” from EL status to “reclassified fluent English proficient” (RFEP) status.  Reclassification is a key educational milestone for students learning English. Legally and practically, reclassification results in a change in the educational services student receive.

How Can Schools Help Youth Increase Physical Activity?

An Economic Analysis Comparing School-based Programs
Commentary authors
Susan H. Babey
Shinyi Wu
Deborah Cohen
Summary

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that youth engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity as an integral and routine part of daily life. Regular physical activity in childhood influences health outcomes in adulthood, reducing risk for various chronic illnesses and poor health status. Research also suggests that school-based physical activity is positively associated with academic benefits including better academic achievement, better performance in math, reading and English, and improved attention and concentration. Despite these benefits, few youth meet physical activity recommendations.

The Bridge and the Troll Underneath

Summer Bridge Programs and Degree Completion
Commentary authors
Daniel Douglas
Paul Attewell
Summary

College graduation rates in the United States are low both in real and relative terms. This has left policymakers and leaders of these institutions looking for novel solutions, while perhaps ignoring extant but underused programs. Our research examines the effect on degree completion of “summer bridge” programs, which have students enroll in coursework prior to beginning their first full academic year.

The Influence of Head Start on Parental Education and Employment

Commentary author
Terri Sabol
Summary

Head Start is the oldest and largest federally-funded preschool program in the United States, currently serving more than 1 million children with almost $8 billion dollars appropriated annually. From its inception, Head Start not only provided early childhood education, care, and services for children, but also sought to promote parents’ engagement in their children’s schooling, their childrearing skills, and their own educational progress. Yet, much of the research on Head Start focuses solely on children’s cognitive and social outcomes rather than on parent outcomes.

Designing School Systems to Encourage Data Use and Instructional Improvement

Commentary author
Caitlin Farrell
Summary

Today’s educators are inundated with different forms of data, with the expectation that they will use them routinely and systematically to support instruction in schools. Driving this “educational data movement” are new data management systems, consultants, coaches, data teams, protocols to facilitate data-driven conversations, and advocacy-oriented, “how-to” books. But, despite the press from advocates to incorporate data into decision-making, the research base lags behind. Specifically, what are the important organizational conditions that shape educators’ use of data and their ability to mobilize resources to support this organizational goal?  

Improving the Targeting of Treatment

Evidence From College Remediation
Commentary author
Judith Scott-Clayton
Summary

While there is widespread concern nationwide about low rates of college readiness among our high school graduates—approximately 50 percent of all entering college students take at least one remedial class—little attention is paid to how “college readiness” is actually determined.  Remediating students is expensive: colleges spend $7 billion annually on developmental education, and this estimate does not include opportunity costs for students. Yet at community colleges, where almost half of all students begin college, readiness is almost always determined by scores on relatively short standardized math and English placement tests. Often, these scores alone determine whether students can enroll in college-level courses, or must first go through remediation.

Falling Behind?

Children’s Early Grade Retention After Paternal Incarceration
Commentary author
Kristin Turney
Summary

Approximately 2.6 million children have a parent currently incarcerated in prison or jail in the United States. This number, combined with the number of children who have formerly incarcerated parents, constitutes nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population under age 18. The large number of children exposed to parental incarceration, especially paternal incarceration, has spawned a rapidly growing literature on its deleterious intergenerational consequences. However, despite growing attention to incarceration’s unintended and collateral consequences, relatively little research explores the consequences of paternal incarceration for children’s educational outcomes or for the elementary school-aged children who comprise the majority of children affected by the penal system.

Using Cost-effectiveness Analysis to Make Policy Decisions

Commentary author
Fiona Hollands
Summary

Education policy and program evaluation has largely focused on estimating the effectiveness of educational alternatives to inform policymakers about reforms that produce student gains in learning. Despite the fact that almost one trillion dollars of public funding is spent each year on education in the United States, little attention has been focused on evaluating the costs of interventions. Cost studies are needed in conjunction with effectiveness studies to allow policymakers to examine effectiveness relative to costs.

What is a Summer Job Worth?

The Impact of Summer Youth Employment on Academic Outcomes
Commentary author
Summary

Low school attendance rates and school dropout in many urban high schools present serious hurdles for policy efforts to close the academic achievement gap that exists along socio-economic and racial lines.  At the same time, policymakers and researchers are paying increased attention to how students’ experiences when school is out of session, especially during the summer, influence educational success.  Recent work by Jacob Leos-Urbel provides new evidence regarding the impact of large-scale summer youth employment programs on high school students’ school attendance and academic achievement in the following school year. 

The High School Environment and the Gender Gap in Science and Engineering

Commentary authors
Joscha Legewie
Thomas A. DiPrete
Summary

Despite the striking reversal of the gender gap in educational attainment and the near gender parity in math performance, women still pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees at much lower rates than those of their male peers. Existing explanations of this persisting pattern of gender differences focus on mathematical abilities, beliefs related to gendered expectations about appropriate jobs, considerations about work-family balance, and self-assessment of career-relevant tasks.

Hispanic Student Performance on Advanced Placement Exams

Cause for Concern
Commentary authors
Bevan Koch
John R. Slate
George W. Moore
Summary

Accelerated learning options such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses are represented as exemplars of challenging curricula that prepare students for collegiate coursework.  Although gaps exist in the participation rates of ethnic minority students in accelerated learning options, few researchers have compared the performance of underrepresented student groups in these programs from one state to another. 

Does Segregation Create Winners and Losers?

Residential Segregation and Inequality in Educational Attainment
Commentary author
Summary

Does segregation still matter for educational inequality? Nearly fifty years after the civil rights movement, American neighborhoods and schools remain highly segregated by race and income.  A longstanding concern is that segregation has negative effects on the education of racial minorities and low-income students by concentrating them in the worst schools and neighborhoods.   Correspondingly, a concern of many white or affluent parents when considering residence in racially or economically diverse neighborhood environment is that their child’s education might not be as good as in a more homogenous, advantaged environment.

The Positive Peer Effects of Classroom Diversity

English Language Learner Classmates and Socio-Emotional Skills in Early Elementary School
Commentary author
Summary

As one critical turning point in recent years, many state policies, including Proposition 227 in California, have mandated or induced districts and schools to educate English Language Learner (ELL) students with their non-ELL peers to the maximum extent possible in English-speaking general education classrooms. The proportion of ELL students continues to grow, as does the proportion of ELL students receiving most (if not all) of their instruction in English from within the general education classroom. Therefore, an increasing number of students, both with and without ELL needs, may be affected by the ever-changing context of the general education classroom.

Can We Identify a Successful Teacher Better, Faster, and Cheaper?

Evidence for Innovating Teacher Observation Systems
Commentary authors
John Gargani
Michael Strong
Summary

Teacher evaluation has become a national education phenomenon. It is promoted by philanthropists, mandated by federal policies, and debated by educators. Classroom observations are a crucial part of most evaluation systems—only six states do not use them, alone or in combination, to evaluate teachers. Because of their prominence, the stakes associated with observations are often high.

Consequences of Mandated Mathematics and Science Course Graduation Requirements

Commentary authors
Andrew Plunk
William Tate
Summary

In 1981, the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE) examined the relationship between college admission requirements and student achievement in high school, reporting serious concerns with the preparation of high school graduates for college. Within a year twenty-six states had raised graduation requirements in response to the NCEE report. Mathematics and science were areas of particular concern and by 1989 forty-two states increased high school course graduation requirements (CGRs) in mathematics, science, or both.

Links between State Language Acquisition Policy and Science Achievement

Evidence from NAEP
Commentary authors
Elizabeth McEneaney
Francesca López
Martina Nieswandt
Summary

The failure of many U.S. schools to close achievement gaps along various socioeconomic dimensions continues to concern educators and policymakers.  The educational needs of new immigrants who are English learners (ELs) are often overlooked, particularly in subjects that appear to involve less reliance on fluency in English, such as science and mathematics. Cummins asserts that regardless of subject area, academic fluency in one’s native language is a prerequisite for acquiring academic fluency in a second language. This theory may help explain why some studies have found bilingual education to be more effective than English immersion strategies.

Measuring the Impact of High School Counselors on College Enrollment

Commentary authors
Michael Hurwitz
Jessica S. Howell
Summary

When school districts’ financial resources are strained and they are cornered into dismissing staff, school counselors are among the first personnel to lose their jobs. Recent budget cuts have led to mass layoffs of counselors across many districts and states, particularly in California where, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the student-to-counselor ratio is now the highest in the country; more than 1,000 students per school counselor.

'Spreading the Wealth'

Populating Classrooms in the Age of Performance-based Accountability
Commentary authors
La’Tara Osborne-Lampkin
Lora Cohen-Vogel
Summary

Performance-based accountability (PBA) has provided educational leaders with incentives to use achievement data to plan for school improvement.  In fact, there is evidence that they are using test score data for decisions about everything from the curriculum to what is served for lunch.  In the article, “Staffing to the Test,” we previously documented that staffing too is data-driven, with administrators moving to tested grades and subjects teachers whose students make substantive learning gains.  But, what are the implications of PBA for the assignment of students?

Effectiveness of Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT)

A Tool for Evaluating English-Language Arts Teacher Candidates’ Skills and Knowledge to Teach
Commentary author
Lasisi Ajayi
Summary

Concerned with improving teacher preparation (TEP) in California, the state Legislature enacted Senate Bill 2042, which required candidates to pass standardized performance assessments before certification. As a result, the CTC developed policy on the Teacher Performance Assessments (TPAs). A consortium of universities later developed the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT) and was approved by the CTC as one TPA for use in California. A crucial test for PACT is whether it can adequately assess English-Language Arts (ELA) teacher candidates on how they connect teaching to linguistic, social, and cultural context of schooling, and purposes of education in rural border schools.

How Teacher Evaluation Methods Matter for Accountability

Commentary author
William Kyle Ingle
Summary

Policymakers are revolutionizing teacher evaluation by placing greater focus on student test scores and classroom observations of practice and by increasing the stakes attached to evaluations. The federal program, Race to the Top, requires participating states and school districts to measure and reward teachers and school leaders based on contributions to student achievement, or “value-added.” These evaluations are the basis for high-stakes decisions about promotion, tenure, dismissal, and compensation for both the teachers and principals.

Does Education Pay for Youth Formerly in Foster Care?

Comparisons of Employment Outcomes with a National Sample
Commentary authors
Nathanael J. Okpych
Mark E. Courtney
Summary

Over the past 15 years, several federal and California state laws have been enacted to support older adolescents in foster care with completing a high school credential and gaining access to higher education.  Promoting educational attainment is particularly important for these young people.  Since they often do not have the same level of family support and resources to rely on as they enter adulthood, completing a high school or college degree could be a deciding factor in finding stable employment and establishing self-sufficiency. 

Rural Outmigration and Youth Aspirations

How Perceptions of Local Economic Conditions Drive Rural Youth Decision-Making About Future Residence
Commentary authors
Robert A. Petrin
Kai A. Schafft
Summary

Over the past several decades demographers have consistently documented the outmigration of younger residents from rural areas.  This is especially the case in economically-lagging rural places where local labor markets disproportionately offer part-time, temporary and contract work, often with limited or no benefits. 

Teacher Education Research and Policy

Commentary author
Christine E. Sleeter
Summary

There is national concern about improving teacher education, but fairly little consensus about how to do that. While some dispute its value, concern is greater regarding how to strengthen it at both preservice and professional development levels. But policy makers need research evidence to do so. Currently, high profile but flawed research drives much discussion.