State Policy and Guidance for Identifying Learning Disabilities in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

Commentary author
Amy Scott
Summary

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), reauthorized in 2004, included language that allowed a response to intervention (RTI) approach to be used to identify students with specific learning disabilities (SLDs) before research had fully validated this approach, particularly for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students. Many of the specific practices and details regarding implementation of an RTI approach were not specified in the federal regulations.

Use of Local Data Monitoring for Special Populations

Implications for Military-connected School Districts
Commentary author
PACE
Summary

During the last decade, local districts, states, and national organizations have started elaborate surveillance systems, indicator systems, local crime mapping programs, and survey modules to monitor student risk and health-related behaviors. Such surveillance is the backbone of the public health approach to promote health, resiliency, and empowerment and prevent risk behaviors. It reveals the magnitude of a problem, tracks it over time, and uses the information gained from monitoring to help shape actions to prevent public health problems. Such monitoring systems have the potential to provide schools and districts with the information required to formulate policies and make program decisions based on local data. Not only are local data monitoring systems critical for entire school/district populations but they are also useful in providing needs assessments for special populations within schools.  

Ethnic Studies in High Schools

Commentary author
Christine E. Sleeter
Summary

On February 14, 2014, Assemblyman Luis Alejo introduced AB 1750 which would require California’s Instructional Quality Commission to “identify model programs, standards, and curricula relating to ethnic studies at the high school level” in order to pave the way for ethnic studies coursework in California’s high schools. For policymakers, this bill raises several questions, including what is ethnic studies, and what kind of impact it makes on students. Three years ago, the National Education Association asked me to review the research on the academic and social impact of ethnic studies on students. Policy makers who are considering implications of this bill may find my report helpful.

Teacher Labor Supply in Chicago’s Public Schools

Commentary author
Mimi Engel
Summary

While we know that disadvantaged students are more likely to be taught by less qualified teachers, we know little about whether this disparity is caused by decisions on the part of teachers or school administrators. It is difficult to parse out the extent to which the unequal distribution of teachers across schools results from supply—teachers’ preferences and decisions to apply to jobs in particular districts or schools—or demand-related factors—principals’ hiring preferences or district rules and regulations.

Do KIPP Schools Boost Student Achievement?

Commentary authors
Philip Gleason
Brian Gill
Christina Clark Tuttle
Summary

KIPP is an expanding network of public charter schools designed to improve educational outcomes among low-income children. The first KIPP schools opened in 1995 and by 2013-2014 there were 141 KIPP schools operating nationally, including 22 schools in California. Prominent elements of KIPP’s educational model include high expectations for student achievement and behavior, and a substantial increase in time in school.

Student Coaching and College Persistence

Commentary author
Rachel Baker
Summary

College graduation rates in the United States lag far behind college attendance rates and this gap is growing, particularly at broad-access four-year and two-year schools.  There are a number of theories as to why students do not complete college: schools fail to provide key information about how to be successful or students fail to act on the information that they have; students are not adequately academically prepared; students lack important non-academic skills such as time management and study skills and schools do not provide enough structured support in these areas; students do not feel integrated into the school community; students struggle in balancing school with career and personal demands.  With such a long and varied list of potentially serious obstacles and an increasingly tight fiscal environment, we’re faced with a difficult policy question: what cost-effective levers can colleges employ for boosting graduation rates?

Classmates with Disabilities and Students’ Non-Cognitive Outcomes

Commentary author
Summary

Recent trends in U.S. schooling have witnessed an increase in the number of students with disabilities being placed in general education classrooms: to date, more than 50 percent of students with disabilities receive over 80 percent of their entire schooling from within the general education classroom. This trend of placing an increasingly greater number students with disabilities in general education classrooms has raised questions among policymakers, practitioners, and parents about the effects that this practice has not only on students with disabilities but also on their classmates without disabilities. These issues arise in dialog for students as early as at school entry. 

Effects of an Out-of-School Program on Urban High School Youth’s Academic Performance

Commentary author
PACE
Summary

There is substantial interest in increasing high school graduations rates, yet youth from low-income families and communities experience greater academic challenges and the achievement gap between children from low- and high- income families has been growing.  Students who live in poverty are significantly more likely to have lower grades, standardized test scores, and high school completion rates than their more affluent peers.  It has been suggested that out-of-school programs can contribute to better educational outcomes but few evaluations at the high school level have been completed. 

Mitigating Summer Melt

Commentary authors
Ben Castleman
Lindsay Page
Summary

With high school graduation only months away, seniors in California may already be eagerly anticipating the relaxation of summer before they transition into college or the workforce. For students who have planned and worked hard to pursue postsecondary education immediately after high school, however, a series of unanticipated financial and procedural hurdles may loom on the horizon that have the potential to derail their college aspirations.  

Science Instructional Time Is Declining in Elementary Schools

What are the Implications for Student Achievement and Closing the Gap?
Commentary author
PACE
Summary

American education policymakers have been strongly advised of the need for more graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and U.S. federal policy has focused on improving and increasing STEM education as a national priority for education over a number of years. However, data on the performance of American students shows that many students are not well prepared in STEM fields at high school graduation.

Does Greater Principal Autonomy Improve School Achievement?

Commentary author
Matthew Steinberg
Summary

A recent trend in school reform efforts is the transfer of decision-making authority in many large, urban districts to individual schools, giving principals greater control over how they meet performance targets. In California, two of the state’s largest districts, San Francisco and Los Angeles, have shifted decision-making authority to a small but growing number of schools; similarly, Oakland has allowed some schools to opt out of many district-wide mandates. Beyond California’s borders, Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York City, Seattle, and St. Paul have implemented school-based autonomy programs in the last ten years.

Educational Accommodations for Youth with Behavioral Challenges

Commentary authors
Judith R. Harrison
Nora Bunford
Steven W. Evans
Julie S. Owens
Summary

Educating youth with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD) or with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) costs school districts three times as much/$5,007 more, respectively, than educating students without EBD or ADHD. Much of this cost is related to provision of services, including accommodations, modifications, and interventions, mandated by federal law. The goal is for all students to demonstrate proficiency on core academic standards. Thus, these costs would seem justified if these services were improving student outcomes. However, youth with EBD and ADHD are suspended more often than typical peers, score below “proficient” on high stakes assessments, and leave high school prior to graduation.

Traditional vs Alternative Teacher Certification

What Policymakers Need to Know
Commentary authors
Julie Trivitt
James V. Shuls
Summary

Studies consistently show that teachers are the most important in-school factor for improving student achievement. It makes sense then, that policymakers would seek to create policies that help improve the overall quality of educators. They have often attempted to do so by raising barriers to entry. That is, politicians put in place licensure requirements in an effort to keep low-performing individuals from entering the classroom. But are current licensure requirements effective screens? Do they actually keep ineffective teachers from entering the classroom?

Is Charter School Competition Associated with Increased Organization and Achievement in Traditional Public Schools?

Commentary author
Tomeka Davis
Summary

Proponents of market models of education assert that providing families with the power to choose schools will significantly improve the American educational system, in part because choice will generate competition among schools that will force poorly performing schools to improve their academic practices. Indeed, embedded in the market model of education is the assumption that competition leads to institutional isomorphism among service providers in the educational marketplace that would compel traditional public schools to mimic charter schools or similar models of education reform that are believed to be more effective.  However, some have criticized this model, arguing that choice and market reform do little to enhance achievement or ameliorate educational inequality.

Impacts of Strategic Involuntary Teacher Transfers on Equity and Teacher Productivity

Commentary author
Summary

District policymakers often argue that rules in teacher contracts and collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), that limit their ability to transfer teachers to different schools unless the teacher initiates the move, handcuff them in achieving the right mix of teachers across the district. In many districts in California, for example, CBAs prevent districts from involuntarily transferring teachers except when schools lose teaching positions, and even then, seniority often governs which teachers can be moved. Could loosening those restrictions benefit students? On the one hand, maybe so. Districts could, for example, use transfers to move ineffective teachers out of disadvantaged schools or match teachers to positions where their skills could have a more positive impact.

How School-Healthy is California?

Commentary author
PACE
Summary

School health programs and policies may be one of the most efficient ways to prevent or reduce health-risk behaviors among students, which in turn, can prevent serious health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued science-based guidelines that identify policies and practices schools can implement to improve critical student health-risk behaviors. In addition, CDC has released tools designed to help schools implement effective health promotion and safety policies and practices identified in its guidelines.

Postsecondary Co-Enrollment and Baccalaureate Completion

Commentary authors
Xueli Wang
Kelly Wickersham
Summary

In recent years, postsecondary co-enrollment has become a noteworthy attendance pattern among many college students. Co-enrollment at the postsecondary level refers to simultaneous enrollment in two or more colleges during the same academic term. Many colleges and universities now offer such co-enrollment programs and options. In California, for example, if students decide to attend any of the state’s community or four-year colleges, they can enroll simultaneously at any UC or CSU campus without going through a typical admissions process. This means that undergraduate students at UC-Riverside may enroll at another UC institution during the same academic session as long as they meet UCR's college enrollment and academic performance requirements.

School-based Accountability and the Distribution of Teacher Quality Across Grades in Elementary School

Commentary authors
Helen F. Ladd
Sarah C. Fuller
Summary

Research consistently shows that schools serving large proportions of disadvantaged students tend to have teachers with weaker credentials.  Because teacher credentials, such as more years of experience, higher licensure test scores, and National Board Certification, are predictive of higher student achievement, this uneven distribution of teachers across schools is detrimental to the learning of disadvantaged students.

What Constitutes an Arts-rich School?

Commentary author
M. Kathleen Thomas
Summary

Access to education in visual art, music, theatre, and dance is varied and unequal across public schools in the United States. Yet the extent of this inequality is largely undocumented. In a recent report from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the committee concluded that policymakers lack a basic understanding of access to arts education because there is no required data collection of the courses schools offer. We know that the students with the least opportunity to study the arts are low-income students or students of color, but how access varies from state to state remains unclear.

Is There Empirical Evidence Consistent with the Claim that Charter Schools 'Push Out' Low-Performing Students?

Commentary authors
Ron Zimmer
Summary

A major concern among opponents to charter schools is whether these schools will serve all students. Some have raised concerns that charter schools will “push out” low-performing students in hopes of improving the schools’ academic profile while minimizing costs by educating fewer challenging students  In an article published in the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis journal, we used data from an anonymous major urban school district with a large number of charter schools to examine whether we see exit patterns consistent with the claim that charter schools are more likely to push out low-achieving students than are traditional public schools.

Reading Preparation of Secondary ELA Teachers

Are California’s Teachers Ready for the Common Core?
Commentary author
Gail Lovette
Summary

Sobering statistics have repeatedly shown that many middle and high school students in the U. S. struggle with reading, prompting the declaration of an adolescent literacy crisis.  The role teacher preparation can play in addressing the crisis remains unclear; however, there is intensifying demand for secondary preservice teachers to be knowledgeable of and prepared for the extensive and varied developmental reading needs of adolescents. The instructional focus in secondary English Language Arts (ELA) classrooms shifts from mastering literacy skills to mastering literature concepts, despite rising concern with the reading achievement of adolescents.  The ELA classroom experience is crucial to an adolescent’s literacy development and yet research has suggested that secondary teachers are often unprepared, or even averse, to addressing the developmental reading differences present in their classrooms

The Efficacy of Private Sector Providers in Improving Public Educational Outcomes

Commentary authors
Carolyn Heinrich
Hiren Nisar
Summary

School districts are spending millions on tutoring outside regular school day hours to increase the achievement of economically and academically disadvantaged students. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act sought to introduce greater choice, flexibility and accountability in public education by allowing parents of children in persistently low-performing schools to choose providers of out-of-school-time tutoring (known as Supplemental Educational Services or SES) for their children.  Importantly, the law also required state and local educational agencies to assess provider effectiveness in increasing student achievement and to use this information to withdraw approval from ineffective SES providers. The benefits of choice in a competitive market can only be realized, however, if the purchasers (i.e., parents) also have sufficient information to make good choices of providers for their children.   

Reducing School Mobility with a Relationship-Building Intervention

Commentary author
PACE
Summary

It is quite common for children in the United States to change schools.  School changes result from many factors, including grade-to-grade transitions, residential moves associated with financial or family upheaval, or dissatisfaction with the current school.  Changing schools can be stressful and disruptive for mobile students as well as their peers, teachers, and schools, so mobility is often problematic.  Furthermore, because mobility is most prevalent among low-income students, racial/ethnic minorities, and those with limited English proficiency, it contributes to educational inequality.

Measuring Student Academic Growth

Existing Models May Not Serve English Learner Students or Their Teachers
Commentary author
PACE
Summary

More than a decade ago, states began using “student proficiency” classifications as a primary method of holding schools accountable for providing high-quality instruction. In recent years, many states have moved beyond considering student proficiency at a single point in time and started using “growth models” to show whether students are making progress towards greater academic proficiency from grade to grade. There are several models currently in use by various states to capture this growth. Although the validity and fairness of these growth models have been evaluated for the general population, the impact of the models for English learner (EL) students had not been previously studied.

High School Socioeconomic Segregation and Student Attainment

Commentary author
Gregory Palardy
Summary

The impact of school socioeconomic segregation on educational equity has been documented by research dating at least as far back as 1966 when the Coleman Report found the socioeconomic composition (SEC) of the student body at schools had the strongest association with student achievement of any school factor.  Since then, a substantial body of research has accumulated mostly supporting Coleman’s findings on student achievement.  In comparison, very little research has examined the effects of school segregation on student attainment outcomes, such as high school graduation and college enrollment.  This gap in the research literature is particularly noteworthy because attainment is associated with many important life outcomes such as economic prosperity, health, and participation in society.