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School-Wide Efforts

Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade

Herzfeldt-Kamprath, R. and Ullrich, R. (January 2016). Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.

This report examines the consistency of children’s access to effective teachers between preschool and third grade—as well as how that access differs by a child’s race/ethnicity and socio-economic status — within three broad factors of teacher effectiveness: qualifications, attitudes, and environment. The analyses presented utilize two nationally representative data sets: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, or ECLS-B, and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11, or ECLS-K: 2011. Results support that the factors that contribute to effective teaching are inherently interconnected and typically accessed at lower rates by African American and Hispanic children, as well as children from low-income households. Furthermore, access to effective teachers varies between the prekindergarten year and the kindergarten through third, or K-3, grades because the standards, expectations, and supports for teachers are different for these two systems. The authors offer policy suggestions to improve Prer-K to Grade 3 alignment and access to quality teachers.

Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform

International Literacy Association (2016) Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform [White paper]. Newark, DE

The central tenet of the white paper is that classroom literacy instruction should be grounded in rigorous, peer-reviewed research — not politics, ideology, or speculation. Rather than settling on a specific reform strategy, the white paper offers frameworks for use in drafting or evaluating reform proposals. The frameworks address four key education sectors: literacy learning and teachers; schools and schooling; student support; and families and communities. For each sector, the white paper offers a list of research-validated approaches to literacy advancement, which is designed to function as a rubric to inform, refine, and assess reform proposals. In addition, each framework includes a detailed list of supporting sources to facilitate exploration into the underlying research base.

Job One: Build Knowledge. ESSA Creates an Opportunity— and an Obligation — to Help Every Child Become a Strong Reader

Hansel, L., Pondiscio, R. (May 2016) Job One: Build Knowledge. ESSA Creates an Opportunity— and an Obligation — to Help Every Child Become a Strong Reader. Knowledge Matters, Issue Brief #4.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), policymakers have the flexibility to incentivize districts and schools to make long-term investments in building students’ knowledge and vocabulary. This brief offers seven flexible, adaptable recommendations that will lead to better reading comprehension. With ESSA, states have the flexibility to rethink how reading test results are used, and to support schools in developing children with both strong word-reading skills (e.g., decoding) and a substantial foundation of academic knowledge and vocabulary. Given the large knowledge and vocabulary gaps that already exist when children enter school, systematically building skills, knowledge, and vocabulary throughout the elementary grades is our best hope for closing the reading achievement gap.

Mobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program

Jacob, R.T., Armstrong, C., and Willard, J.A. Mobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program (March 2015) New York, NY: MDRC.

This study reports on an evaluation of the Reading Partners program, which uses community volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring to struggling readers in underresourced elementary schools. The study showed that after one year of implementation, the program significantly boosted students' reading comprehension, fluency, and sight-word reading — three measures of reading proficiency. These impacts are equivalent to approximately one and a half to two months of additional growth in reading proficiency among the program group relative to the control group.

The Case for Improving and Expanding Time in School

Farbman, D. (February 2015) The Case for Improving and Expanding Time in School: A Review of Key Research and Practice. National Center on Time and Learning: Boston (MA).

Both research and practice indicate that adding time to the school day and/or year can have a meaningfully positive impact on student proficiency and upon a child’s entire educational experience. This survey of the research looks at how high-performing schools are using the extra time, particularly schools that serve large populations of low-income, at-risk students. Instructional time of at least 300 more annual hours than the conventional is one of the strongest predictors of higher achievement.

The Case for a Two-Generation Approach for Educating English Language Learners

Ross, T. (May 2015). The Case for a Two-Generation Approach for Educating English Language Learners. Washington, D.C.: The Center for American Progress.

This report provides an overview of the ELL population in the United States; explains why a two-generation approach is a valuable strategy to improve English proficiency and the economic well-being of families and communities; and presents case studies of promising approaches for educating ELL students and parents while providing critical wraparound services to enhance the learning process.

Not Getting Our Money’s Worth

Clifford, K., Christeson, B., O'Connor, J. (2015) Not Getting Our Money’s Worth: An Outdated School Schedule Is Costing New York $2.3 Billion a Year. Washington, D.C.: ReadyNation.

This report spotlights the many reasons why six-hour school days and nine-month school years were better suited to the nation's agrarian past than to the 21st century's demands and opportunities. U.S. schools are losing an estimated $21 billion each year because of summer learning loss among children from lower-income families. The report advocates adding more and higher quality learning time, with an emphasis on improved curriculum, more effective teaching, more enrichment activities, and better accountability.

Mapping the Early Attendance Gap

Chang, H., Jordan, P., Davis, R., Bishop, M., and Mays, A. (September 2015). Mapping the Early Attendance Gap: Charting a Course for School Success. Attendance Works (San Francisco, CA) and Healthy Schools Campaign (Chicago, IL).

This report shows how disparities in school attendance rates starting as early as preschool and kindergarten are contributing to achievement gaps and high school dropout rates across the country. The report also highlights connection between health and attendance and the power of states to tackle absenteeism by tapping key champions, leveraging data, and learning from places that have improved attendance despite challenging conditions.

Building Strong Readers in Minnesota

Lieberman, A., Bornfreund, L. Building Strong Readers in Minnesota: PreK-3rd Grade Policies That Support Children's Literacy Development (September 2015). New America Foundation: Washington, D.C.

An examination of state policies and local initiatives in Minnesota that aim to improve literacy outcomes for all students by shaping their learning trajectories from a young age. Intentional alignment of education systems from pre-K and into the early grades of elementary school — a ‘PreK–3rd grade’ framework — can help narrow opportunity and achievement gaps. In this report, the researchers explore how Minnesota’s early learning policies are helping or hindering the ability of school districts, schools, and teachers to ensure that all children are on track to read on grade level by the end of third grade.

The Power of a Good Idea: How the San Francisco School District Is Building a PreK-3rd Grade Bridge

Nyhan, P. (2015). The power of a good idea: How the San Francisco school district is building a prek-3rd grade bridge. Washington, DC: New America Foundation.

This report tells the story of the San Francisco Unified School District's transformative shift to a PreK-3rd grade approach in an effort to shrink the achievement gap. The district rethought its approach to PreK-3 by strengthening its public pre-K program, aligning curricula, professional development, assessments, and even classroom layouts. The district's successes and struggles over the last six years have much to teach other school districts in California and around the nation.

Early Reading Proficiency in the United States

Early Reading Proficiency in the United States (2014) The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Children who are proficient readers by the end of third grade are more likely to graduate from high school and to be economically successful in adulthood. This KIDS COUNT data snapshot finds 80 percent of fourth-graders from low-income families and 66 percent of all fourth-graders are not reading at grade level. While improvements have been made in the past decade, reading proficiency levels remain low. Given the critical nature of reading to children’s individual achievement and the nation’s future economic success, the Casey Foundation offers recommendations for communities and policymakers to support early reading. Early reading proficiency rates for the nation and each state are provided.

Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation

David A. Farbman, David J. Goldberg, and Tiffany D. Miller (2014) Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation. Center for American Progress and the National Center on Time and Learning.

Redesigning schools with significantly more time for both student learning and teacher professional development and collaboration is one significant way to make certain that Common Core implementation is successful. Americans’ willingness to break out of the box of the 180-day, 6.5 hours-per-day school schedule can help with the transition to the Common Core State Standards, especially when targeting schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students. This report offers policy and strategy recommendations to support expanded learning time and help meet the demands associated with the Common Core.

Leading In and Beyond the Library

Wolf, M.A., Jones, R., and Gilbert, D. (2014) Leading In and Beyond the Library. Alliance for Excellent Education, January 2014.
This paper explains the key role that school librarians and libraries should play in state- and districtwide efforts to transition to digital learning, or the effective use of technology to improve teaching and learning. The report calls for district and school leaders, policymakers, and boards of education to support, encourage, and fund the evolving role of librarians and libraries as facilitators of content creation, personalized learning, and professional development.

Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers

Claire Kaplan, Roy Chan, David A. Farbman, and Ami Novoryta (2014) Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers. National Center on Time and Learning and Teach Plus.

This report examines 17 high-performing and fast-improving schools around the country that have taken advantage of expanded school schedules to provide students with more time for engaging academic and enrichment classes and teachers with more time to collaborate with colleagues, analyze students data, create new lesson plans, and develop new skills. On average, U.S. teachers spend approximately 80 percent of their time on instruction, while the international average for countries is 67 percent. Meanwhile, teachers in the schools featured in Time for Teachers spend 60 percent of their expanded school schedule on direct instruction with 40 percent of their time on collaboration, coaching, one-on-one support, and other activities.

PreK-3rd: Getting Literacy Instruction Right

Lesaux, Nonie K. PreK-3rd: Getting Literacy Instruction Right. New York: Foundation for Child Development, 2013.
This brief outlines the elements of strong PreK-3rd literacy instruction including: what high-quality instruction looks like,what supports enable teachers to carry out strong literacy instruction, and what policies enable schools to carry out strong PreK-3rd reading instruction. High-quality, coordinated PreK-3rd literacy instruction expands children’s cognitive capacities, develops language and vocabulary, and prepares them to read advanced texts. These skills provide a sturdy foundation for school success and expanded life opportunities.

Student Center Activities Aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects K-5

Verhagen, C. (2012). Student center activities aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects K-5. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

The Center on Instruction released a publication to help educators create differentiated reading instruction experiences for their students by showing the relationship between two distinct resources: Student Center Activities (SCAs) created by the Florida Center for Reading Research for K-5 classroom teachers as differentiated reading activities for use in small student groups, and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It contains crosswalks that map the relationships between each SCA and corresponding, grade-specific standards in CCSS in English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects K-5 (ELA-literacy). These resources provide support in the alignment of instruction in schools that are implementing School Improvement Grants (SIG) and/or College and Career Ready Standards (including Common Core State Standards).

Using Instructional Routines to Differentiate Instruction: A Guide for Teachers

Kosanovich, M. (2012). Using Instructional Routines to differentiate instruction. A guide for teachers. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

The Center on Instruction released a publication to help educators plan differentiated instruction using 72 formatted activities called Instructional Routines, which provide a structure for teaching specific foundational reading skills. Included is a table which displays the alignment between the Instructional Routines and the Common Core State Standards organized by the five reading components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). This resource provides support in the alignment of instruction in schools that are implementing School Improvement Grants (SIG) and/or College and Career Ready Standards (including Common Core State Standards).

Transforming Family Engagement in an Era of Data Driven Reform

Weiss, H.B., Lopez, M.E., & Stark, D.R. (2011) Breaking new ground: Data systems transform family engagement in education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.

A new policy brief from the Harvard Family Research Project and the National PTA highlights ways that data can be used to engage families and improve parent–teacher communication. The brief describes three key elements of a data system (access, understanding, and action) and cites six case studies demonstrating how early childhood programs and school districts are using data systems to improve family engagement. One example: a pre-K program in Colorado that uses children's drawings as data, allowing early childhood teachers and parents to track a child’s developmental progress.

Family-School-Community Partnerships 2.0: Collaborative Strategies to Advance Student Learning

Henderson, Ann. Family-School-Community Partnerships 2.0: Collaborative Strategies to Advance Student Learning (2011). National Education Association: Washington DC.

This report identifies and describes key partnerships that National Education Association members have forged in 16 communities to help close achievement gaps, improve low-performing schools, and transform relationships between schools and their communities. Part I of this report reviews recent research on school and family collaboration and presents 10 key strategies for creating effective family- school-community partnerships that are focused on advancing student learning. It also includes recommendations for moving this important work forward. Part II contains profiles for each of the 16 partnership programs. In many cases, Association members have been catalysts for or taken on key roles in these effective programs. These profiles demonstrate very clearly that family-school-community partnerships with a central focus on advancing student learning can have a powerful impact.

Study Links Academic Setbacks to Middle School Transition

Schwerdt, G. and West, M. (2011). The Impact of Alternative Grade Configurations on Student Outcomes Through Middle and High School. IZA Discussion Paper No. 6208.

While policymakers and researchers alike have focused on improving students' transition into high school, a new study of Florida schools suggests the critical transition problem may happen years before, when students enter middle school.

The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood

Chetty, R., Friedman, J.N. and Rockoff, J. (2011), The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood, NBER Working Paper 17699.

Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students' standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students' lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years. This study shows that great teachers create great value — perhaps several times their annual salaries — and that test score impacts are helpful in identifying such teachers. Nevertheless, it is clear that improving the quality of teaching — whether using value-added or other tools — is likely to have large economic and social returns.

Creating Schools that Support Success for English Language Learners

Stepanek , J, Raphael , J, Autio, E, Deussen, T, & Thomps, L. (2010). Creating schools that support success for english language learners. Lessons Learned, 1(2), Education Northwest.

Lessons derived from Education Northwest's research, evaluation, and technical assistance experiences are intended to address questions that administrators may have about how to mitigate barriers to the linguistic and academic achievement of ELLs. They will also help leaders provide better support to teachers as they learn and implement evidence-based instructional practices for ELLs.

The Positive Effects of Literacy Collaborative on Teaching and Student Learning

Literacy Collaborative. (2009). The Positive Effects of Literacy Collaborative on Teaching and Student Learning. Cambridge, MA: Literacy Collaborative.

New results from a four-year longitudinal study of 17 schools in the East Coast suggests that in-school literacy coaches can help boost student reading skills by as much as 32 percent in three years. Teacher expertise increased substantially, and the more coaching a teacher received the stronger the growth. Additional benefits: communication among teachers increased and the literacy coordinators became more involved in the critical conversations.

Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making

Hamilton, L., Halverson, R., Jackson, S., Mandinach, E., Supovitz, J., & Wayman, J. (2009). Using student achievement data to support instructional decision making (NCEE 2009-4067). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/practiceguides/.

This guide offers five recommendations to help educators effectively use data to monitor students' academic progress and evaluate instructional practices. The guide recommends that schools set a clear vision for schoolwide data use, develop a data-driven culture, and make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement. The guide also recommends teaching students how to use their own data to set learning goals.

iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category on Apple's App Store

Shuler, C. (2009). iLearn; A Content Analysis of the iTunes App Store's Education Section. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

This week, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop released iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category of Apple's App Store, an examination of nearly 200 top-selling education category apps for Apple's iPad and iPhone with the goal of understanding this market's dynamics and trends. The analysis highlights industry best practices and future opportunities for developers, educators and researchers to influence this important, but under-scrutinized category by closely examining the content of children's apps within the education category.

Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce

National Center on Education and the Economy. (2007). Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Jossey-Bass: Hoboken, NJ.

America's approach to education has lagged behind as industry and technology has continued to advance. To truly prepare student's for the 21st century workforce, and to remain competitive in the global economy, the National Center on Education and the Economy has ten policy recommendations for America's schools.

America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future

Kirsch, I., Braun, H. Yamamoto, K and Sum, A. (2007) America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

This report from ETS says we are in the midst of a perfect storm, a confluence of three powerful forces: divergent skill distributions, the changing economy and demographic trends. It projects the impact of these interactions upon the nation 25 years into the future, and sets out the challenges facing schools in America with up-to-date statistical info and comparisons with other developed countries.

America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future

Kirsch, I., Braun, H. Yamamoto, K and Sum, A. (2007) America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

This report from ETS says we are in the midst of a perfect storm, a confluence of three powerful forces: divergent skill distributions, the changing economy and demographic trends. It projects the impact of these interactions upon the nation 25 years into the future, and sets out the challenges facing schools in America with up-to-date statistical info and comparisons with other developed countries.

Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades

Gersten, R., Baker, S.K., Shanahan, T., Linan-Thompson, S., Collins, P., & Scarcella, R. (2007). Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades: A Practice Guide (NCEE 2007-4011). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/practiceguides.

The target audience for this guide is a broad spectrum of school practitioners such as administrators, curriculum specialists, coaches, staff development specialists and teachers who face the challenge of providing effective literacy instruction for English language learners in the elementary grades. The guide also aims to reach district-level administrators who develop practice and policy options for their schools.

Leading After-School Learning Communities

National Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals. (2006). Leading After-School Learning Communities: What Principals Should Know and Be Able to Do. Washington DC: National Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals.

By collaborating with afterschool programs and accepting them as vital partners in education, principals can strengthen their schools and move closer to the overriding, common goal of maximizing learning for every child.

Raising Achievement Test Scores of Early Elementary School Students Through Comprehensive School Counseling Programs

Sink, C.A., and Stroh, H.R. (2003). Raising Achievement Test Scores of Early Elementary School Students Through Comprehensive School Counseling Programs. Professional School Counseling, 6(5), 350-364.

This study shows that early elementary-age students enrolled for several years in schools with well-established comprehensive school counseling programs produce higher achievement test scores over and above those continuously enrolled children in non-CSCP schools.

Effective Schools and Accomplished Teachers: Lessons About Primary-Grade Reading Instruction in Low-Income Schools

Taylor, B.M., Pearson, P.D., Clark, K.M., & Walpole, S. (2000). Effective schools and accomplished teachers: Lessons about primary-grade reading instruction in low-income schools. The Elementary School Journal, 101, 121-165.

This study investigated school and classroom factors related to primary-grade reading achievement in schools with moderate to high numbers of students on subsidized lunch. Fourteen schools across the U.S. and two teachers in each of grades K-3 participated. A combination of school and teacher factors, many of which were intertwined, was found to be important in the most effective schools. Statistically significant school factors included strong links to parents, systematic assessment of pupil progress, and strong building communication and collaboration. A collaborative model for the delivery of reading instruction, including early reading interventions, was a hallmark of the most effective schools. Statistically significant teacher factors included time spent in small-group instruction, time spent in independent reading, high levels of student on-task behavior, and strong home communication. More of the most accomplished teachers and teachers in the most effective schools supplemented explicit phonics instruction with coaching in which they taught students strategies for applying phonics to their everyday reading. Additionally, more of the most accomplished teachers and teachers in the most effective schools employed higher-level questions in discussions of text, and the most accomplished teachers were more likely to ask students to write in response to reading. In all of the most effective schools, reading was clearly a priority at both the school and classroom levels.

Beating the Odds in Teaching All Children to Read

Taylor, B., Pearson, P., Clark, K., & Walpole, S. (1999). Beating the odds in teaching all children to read. CIERA Report 2-006. University of Michigan: Ann Arbor.

What schoolwide practices characterize schools in which at-risk learners are beating the odds? What instructional practices are used by the most accomplished primary-grade teachers and by teachers in the most effective schools? The authors used quantitative and descriptive methods to investigate school and classroom factors related to primary-grade reading achievement. Fourteen schools across the U.S. with moderate to high numbers of students on subsidized lunch were identified as most, moderately, or least effective based on several measures of reading achievement in the primary grades. A combination of school and teacher factors, many of which were intertwined, was found to be important in the most effective schools. Statistically significant school factors included strong links to parents, systematic assessment of pupil progress, strong building communication, and a collaborative model for the delivery of reading instruction, including early reading interventions. In all of the most effective schools, reading was clearly a priority at both the building and classroom level.

"Writing is thinking on paper. " — William Zinsser