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Research of Interest

Our volunteer FEC Research Watchers have developed a nice list of research articles and papers that support many of the issues we follow. Search by date or tag.
Format: 2014-07-31

Backsliding on Progress: Virginia’s Funding Formula, State Support for K-12 Falling Behind

Laura Goren, Michael J. Cassidy
Published on: 
Mon, 01/13/2014

The state is paying a smaller share of thecost of K-12 education now than it did adecade ago,

short-changing public schools,

driving up the burden on localities, and
hitting poor communities hardest of all.
The biggest piece of school funding in
Virginia is set using a formula called the
Standards of Quality (SOQ). The formula
is supposed to calculate the overall
cost of education, and then the state
pays 55 percent of that cost. Localities
pick up the rest. But the SOQ formula
doesn’t measure the actual cost of K-12
education. Rather, it is a blend of certain
costs selected by the General Assembly.
In response to years of budget shortfalls
legislators have changed the formula
in ways that save the state money and
redefine what constitutes its share. For
example, legislators recently decided to
assume that buses would last longer and
chose to ignore inflation-related cost
increases for things like school utility


The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8

Frances L. Van Voorhis, Michelle Maier, Joyce L. Epstein, Chrishana M. Lloyd
Published on: 
Tue, 11/19/2013


The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8

A Focus on Literacy and Math Achievement Outcomes and Social-Emotional Skills

This report summarizes research conducted primarily over the past 10 years on how families’ involvement in children’s learning and development through activities at home and at school affects the literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills of children ages 3 to 8. A total of 95 studies of family involvement are reviewed. These include both descriptive, nonintervention studies of the actions families take at home and at school and intervention studies of practices that guide families to conduct activities that strengthen young children’s literacy and math learning. The family involvement research studies are divided into four categories:

  • Learning activities at home, including those that parents engage in to promote their child’s literacy and/or math skills outside school
  • Family involvement at school, including the actions and interactions that families have while in the school building
  • School outreach to engage families, including the strategies that schools and teachers use to engage families and make them feel welcome
  • Supportive parenting activities, including the nature and quality of the parent-child relationship and home environment, rule-setting, and caring behaviors

Key Findings

  • Family involvement is important for young children’s literacy and math skills. The majority of studies, including some randomized control trials (RCTs), demonstrate this positive link. A few studies show positive relations with social-emotional skills. The weakest association was between family involvement at school and children’s outcomes.
  • Parents from diverse backgrounds, when given direction, can become more engaged with their children. And when parents are more engaged, children tend to do better.
  • This review also provides recommendations for additional lines of inquiry and implications to guide next steps in both research and practice. While there is still more to learn about how to connect with and support caretakers’ efforts to promote children’s learning, what we already know from extant research can help guide this process.

More children attend preschool and all-day kindergarten than ever before, and educators are being urged by federal, state, and local institutions to use research-based or evidence-based approaches to improve their work with families and families’ involvement with their children and the school. This review strengthens the belief that interventions to boost family involvement may be a critical piece when trying to support children’s early learning.

How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses

Joshua Davis
Published on: 
Tue, 10/29/2013

Evolutionary psychologists have also begun exploring this way of thinking. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College who studies children’s natural ways of learning, argues that human cognitive machinery is fundamentally incompatible with conventional schooling. Gray points out that young children, motivated by curiosity and playfulness, teach themselves a tremendous amount about the world. And yet when they reach school age, we supplant that innate drive to learn with an imposed curriculum. “We’re teaching the child that his questions don’t matter, that what matters are the questions of the curriculum. That’s just not the way natural selection designed us to learn. It designed us to solve problems and figure things out that are part of our real lives.”

Some school systems have begun to adapt to this new philosophy—with outsize results. In the 1990s, Finland pared the country’s elementary math curriculum from about 25 pages to four, reduced the school day by an hour, and focused on independence and active learning. By 2003, Finnish students had climbed from the lower rungs of international performance rankings to first place among developed nations.

Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder of the MIT Media Lab, is taking this approach even further with his One Laptop per Child initiative. Last year the organization delivered 40 tablets to children in two remote villages in Ethiopia. Negroponte’s team didn’t explain how the devices work or even open the boxes. Nonetheless, the children soon learned to play back the alphabet song and taught themselves to write letters. They also figured out how to use the tablet’s camera. This was impressive because the organization had disabled camera usage. “They hacked Android,” Negroponte says.

Follow This Link For Full Article/Paper: 

Five Research-Driven Education Trends At Work in Classrooms

Katrina Schwartz
Published on: 
Tue, 10/29/2013

Increasingly, educators are looking to research about how kids learn to influence teaching practices and tools. What seemed like on-the-fringe experiments, like game-based learning, have turned into real trends, and have gradually made their way into many (though certainly not most) classrooms.


Many educators are using researchers’ insights into how children best learn to inform their teaching practices. Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s research on encouraging children to develop a growth-mindset continues to grow in popularity, as educators try to praise effort, not outcomes. Dweck writes that if children believe their abilities are fixed — that either that they’re smart or they’re not — they approach the world in different ways and aren’t as able to face adversity. When they believe skills and abilities can grow throughout one’s lifetime, they’re better able to rise to challenges.

Brainology, Dweck’s program, is just one of many such school-based programs that teachers can use in classrooms, as is Brainworks.

Educators are also teaching learning strategies, helping students find out the best ways to not just learn content, but how to learn. Ideas like remembering facts when they are set to music. This practice has been employed since the days of oral storytelling, but teachers are reviving it to help students in modern classrooms. Recent studies show that adults learn new languages more easily when they are set to a beat. Some educators are even experimenting with breaking up classical literature into bite sized raps.

There are plenty more examples of brain-based research on learning making its way into classroom practices.

School Finance 101

Bruce D. Baker
Published on: 
Thu, 10/17/2013

In case you hadn’t noticed evidence is mounting of a massive value-added and growth score train wreck. I’ve pointed out previously on this blog that there exist some pretty substantial differences in the models and estimates of teacher and school effectiveness being developed in practice across states for actual use in rating, ranking, tenuring and firing teachers – and rating teacher prep programs – versus the models and data that have been used in high profile research studies. This is not to suggest that the models and data used in high profile research studies are ready for prime time in high stakes personnel decisions.  They are not. They reveal numerous problems of their own. But many if not most well-estimated, carefully vetted value-added models used in research studies a) test alternative specifications including use of additional covariates at the classroom and school level, or include various “fixed effects” to better wash away potential bias and b) through this process, end up using substantially reduced samples of teachers for whom data on substantial samples of students across multiple sections/classes within year and across years are available (see, for example: ). Constraints imposed in research to achieve higher quality analyses often result in loss of large numbers of cases, and result potentially in clearer findings, which makes similar approaches infeasible where the goal is not to produce the most valid research but instead to evaluate the largest possible number of teachers or principals (where seemingly, validity should be an even greater concern).

Notably, even where these far cleaner data and  far richer models are applied, critical evaluators of the research on the usefulness of these value-added models suggest that… well… there’s just not much there.

Relationships Among Reading, Mathematics, and Science Achievement at the Fourth Grade—Implications for Early Learning

Published on: 
Thu, 10/17/2013

This report from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement and the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College presents data from fourth grade students in 34 countries that took both the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) assessments in 2011. Home environment information was also available because the PIRLS assessment includes a parent questionnaire. In total, over 180,000 students, 170,000 parents, 14,000 teachers, and 6,000 school principals participated in these two studies worldwide.

According to the authors, their analyses of the data suggest that, across countries, there are a number of school and home factors that can positively affect student achievement in reading, mathematics, and science at the fourth grade level. For example, they say that when parents engage children in early literacy activities, it can help children develop both literacy and numeracy skills. The early literacy actives they mention include reading books, telling stories, singing songs, playing with alphabet toys, talking about things you've done or have read, playing word games, writing letters or words, and reading aloud signs and labels. 

5 Things to Know about School Readiness

Kelly Maxwell, Tamara Halle, and Nicole Forry
Published on: 
Wed, 09/25/2013

This year, nearly 4 million kindergartners across the country are getting ready to start school for the first time. (Find a detailed profile of these students here.) Over the last few decades, policymakers, researchers, and practitioners have talked a lot about "school readiness." When this term was first coined, the question was often, "Will children be ready to learn?" Today, we realize that children are born ready to learn, so the questions are really: "Will they be ready to succeed in school, and how best can we support their success?"


Child Trends offers 5 things to know about school readiness, based on its work with state policymakers and a review of existing literature on the topic.

Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement

Elaine Weiss
Published on: 
Wed, 09/25/2013


Lack of time, resources and tools to address opportunity gaps put lofty state goals out of reach.
Follow This Link For Full Article/Paper: 

Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S.

Published on: 
Wed, 09/04/2013

If you could make one change to improve science education in the United States, what would it be? Science Times asked that question of 19 Americans — scientists, educators, students — with a stake in the answer. Their responses follow.

A Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Different Types of Parental Involvement Programs for Urban Students

William Jeynes
Published on: 
Mon, 08/19/2013

This meta-analysis of 51 studies examines the relationship between various kinds of parental involvement programs and the academic achievement of pre-kindergarten-12th-grade school children. Analyses determined the effect sizes for various parental involvement programs overall and subcategories of involvement. Results indicate a significant relationship between parental involvement programs overall and academic achievement, both for younger (preelementary and elementary school) and older (secondary school) students as well as for four types of parental involvement programs. Parental involvement programs, as a whole, were associated with higher academic achievement by .3 of a standard deviation unit. The significance of these results is discussed.

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