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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: 2014-04-17

2013 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?

Tom Loveless
Published on: 
Wed, 03/20/2013

This is the twelfth edition of the Brown Center Report. The structure of the report remains the same from year to year. Part I examines the latest data from state, national, or international assessments. This year the focus is on the latest results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) released in December, 2012. The U.S. did relatively well, posting gains in reading, math, and science. Finland made headlines by registering declines from the last time it took the TIMSS math tests. At both fourth and eighth grades, the scores of Finland and the U.S. are now statistically indistinguishable in math. Part I also looks at the so-called “A+ countries,” named that because they were the top nations on the first TIMSS, given in 1995. The introduction to the 2013 Brown Center Report on American Education appears below. Use the Table of Contents to navigate through the report online or download a PDF of the full report.

Table of Contents

PART I: The Latest TIMSS and PIRLS Scores
PART II: The Resurgence of Ability Grouping and Persistence of Tracking 
PART III: Advanced Math in Eighth Grade

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Athletes and Sleep:Athletes Perform Better With More Sleep

Published on: 
Mon, 03/18/2013

The amount of sleep an athlete gets appears to have a large impact on sports performance.

Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory has been following the sleep patterns and athletic performance of Stanford athletes for years. Her research continues to show that getting more sleep leads to better sports performance for all types of athletes.

One study she authored, published in 2009, followed the Stanford University women's tennis team for five weeks as they attempted to get 10 hours of sleep each night. Those who increased their sleep time ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots than while getting their usual amount of sleep.....Researchers speculate that deep sleep helps improve athletic performance because this is the time when growth hormone is released. Growth hormone stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building and fat burning, and helps athletes recover. Studies show that sleep deprivation slows the release of growth hormone. Sleep is also necessary for learning a new skill, so this phase of sleep may be critical for some athletes.

Juveniles as offenders

Published on: 
Mon, 03/04/2013
  • Juvenile violence peaks in the afterschool hours on school days and in the evenings on nonschool days.
  • On nonschool days, the incidence of juvenile violence increases through the afternoon and early evening hours, peaking between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • The number of school days in a year is essentially equal to the number of nonschool days in a year. Despite this split, most (63%) violent crimes committed by juveniles occur on school days. Nearly one-fifth (19%) of juvenile violent crimes occur in the 4 hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on school days. A smaller proportion of juvenile violent crime (15%) occurs during the standard juvenile curfew hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. (inclusive of both school and nonschool days).
  • The annual number of hours in the curfew period (i.e., 8 hours every day in the year) is 4 times greater than the number of hours in the 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. period on school days (i.e., 4 hours in half of the days in the year). Therefore, the rate of juvenile violence in the afterschool period is 5 times the rate in the juvenile curfew period (inclusive of both school and nonschool days).
  • Consequently, efforts to reduce juvenile crime after school would appear to have greater potential to decrease a community’s violent crime rate than do juvenile curfews.
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Homework or Not? That is the (Research) Question. Weighing the conflicting evidence

Published on: 
Fri, 03/01/2013

Woe unto the administrator who ventures forth into the homework wars.Scale it back, and parents will be at your door complaining about a lack of academic rigor. Dial it up, and you’ll get an earful from other parents about interference with after-school activities and family time.

“Homework has been a hot topic for a number of years now because it affects so many people,” says Robert H. Tai, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education who has researched the topic and conducted a 2012 study, “When Is Homework Worth the Time?” After studying transcripts and data for more than 18,000 sophomore students nationwide, he found no significant relationship between time spent on homework and grades, but did find a positive relationship between homework and performance on standardized tests. “Homework should act as a place where students practice the skills they’ve learned in class,” Tai says. “It shouldn’t be a situation where students spend many hours every night poring over something [new].”

In Favor of Homework

A 2004 national survey conducted by the University of Michigan found that the amount of time spent on homework had risen 51 percent since 1981. Most of this increase was found among younger students, with daily homework for 6- to 8-year-olds increasing, on average, from about 8 minutes in 1981 to 22 minutes in 2003.

There is a positive relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes, according to a 2006 study by Harris Cooper, director of Duke University’s Program in Education, which analyzed and combined the results of dozens of homework studies. The studies found that students who had homework performed better on class tests compared to those who did not. Twelve studies linking the amount of homework to achievement and controlling for other factors, such as socioeconomic status, also found a positive link. Of 35 studies that simply correlated homework and achievement, with no attempt to control for student differences, about 77 percent also found a positive link between time on homework and achievement.

However, says Cooper, there was one group in the study for which homework was not correlated with achievement: elementary school students. For these children, the report states that “the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero,” or no relationship. This may be because younger students have less-developed study habits and are less able to tune out distractions at home, Cooper says.

The Case for Less

Other research has yielded other interpretations about the usefulness of homework. The authors of “Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) evaluated homework research and concluded that it does not significantly impact achievement— and can even be detrimental. One study from Penn State that analyzed data from the late 1990s found that, in countries with high homework demands, student performance on the international test of achievement known as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study was poorer than those with less rigorous after-school assignments. The authors, both professors at Australian universities, do not call for a homework ban, but they do recommend less homework, as well as homework assignments of a higher quality, rather than large amounts of drill and practice work.

Further, Tai and colleagues’ study, “When Is Homework Worth the Time?” also found that sophomores who spent more time on after-school assignments did not fare any better or worse with grades, but did perform better on standardized tests. “Based on our research, it appears that the most effective use of homework may be to help students sharpen their skills with things that they already know how to do, rather than trying to use homework as an extension of class time,” Tai says. Issues often arise when students and parents do not understand the aim of the homework assignments, Tai adds, and it is imperative for teachers to make the purpose clear.

Online Learning in the Virginia Community College System

Published on: 
Mon, 02/25/2013
In January 2001, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) released a
distance learning strategic plan that endorsed taking a student-centered approach to
online learning as well as providing support services to promote faculty development and
student success. The current study was commissioned by VCCS to investigate student
outcomes for the 2004 student cohort by examining:(1) patterns of online course taking
among Virginia community college students; (2) college-ready and underprepared
students’ retention and performance in online versus face-to-face courses; and (3)subsequent educational outcomes for underprepared and college-ready students whoparticipate in online learning.
Results indicate that nearlyhalf of Virginia communitycollege students enrolled in an online course across the period of study, with online enrollments increasing dramatically over four years. However, few students enrolled in an entirely online curriculum in a given term, even by the time the study concluded in 2008. In general,
students with stronger academic preparation were more likely to enroll in online courses.
Regardless of their initial levelof preparation, however, students were more likely to fail
or withdraw from online courses than from face-to-face courses. In addition, students
who took online coursework in early semesters were slightly less
likely to return toschool in subsequent semesters, and students who took a higher proportion of credits
online were slightly less likely to attain an educational award or transfer to a four-year
institution. Additional analyses with a new cohort of students entering in 2008 were

consistent with the results of the 2004 cohort.

RETHINKING SCHOOL LUNCH: A planning framework from the Center for Ecoliteracy

Published on: 
Tue, 02/19/2013

By the time today’s kindergartner finishes high school, she may have eaten well over 4,000 school
meals—4,000 opportunities to strengthen her body
and mind, introduce food pleasures that will make her
a lifelong healthy eater, and deepen her engagement with the natural world.
The more than 5.5 billion lunches and nearly 2 billion
breakfasts served yearly in school programs, along
with complementary education programs, can have a
profound effect on issues of public health, academic performance, economics, justice, national security, the environment, and community well-being.
Recognizing the importance of improving school
food and its potential role in enriching education
is one thing. Changing complex food systems is
quite another. Rethinking School Lunch, a planning framework for this endeavor, is the outcome of more than a decade of work with school food systems
by the Center for Ecoliteracy, a public foundation dedicated to education for sustainable living.

The Rethinking School Lunch framework identifies
10 aspects of school operations that relate to food
change—10 pathways that educators, parents, and
concerned citizens can follow as they plan for
innovation and change in school food. Rethinking
School Lunch is based on the realization that change

can begin at any of several points, depending on
resources, interests, and opportunities. The change process will eventually lead to the other areas. This Guide is designed to provide an introduction to these
10 pathways, to suggest questions to ask in order to
begin thinking about them, and to show how planning
in one area can be connected to planning in others.
School food programs touch every community. About 60 percent of students enrolled in U.S. schools
participate in the National School Lunch Program;
participation has grown from about 7.1 million
children in its first year, 1946, to more than 31.5 million children a day now. About 11 million children participate in the National School Breakfast Program.

School food is implicated in many of the most
pressing issues we face today.
The current crisis in diet-related illness has been well
documented. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, poor diet and physical
inactivity are responsible for as many premature
deaths as is tobacco. Obesity increases the risk
of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes,
hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, and many cancers.
(See Food and Health, pp. 10–15.)

Head Start Advantages Mostly Gone by 3rd Grade, Study Finds

Published on: 
Sun, 02/10/2013

While Head Start participation benefited children's learning and development during their time in the federally funded preschool program, those advantages had mostly vanished by the end of 3rd grade, a new federal study finds.

In the final phase of a large-scale randomized, controlled study of nearly 5,000 children, researchers found that the positive impacts on literacy and language development demonstrated by children who entered Head Start at age 4 had dissipated by the end of 3rd grade, and that they were, on average, academically indistinguishable from their peers who had not participated in Head Start. The new findings, released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are consistent with an earlier phase of the study which showed that many of the positive impacts of Head Start participation had faded by the end of 1st grade.

The $8 billion Head Start program serves nearly 1 million low-income children.

Researchers examined a nationally representative sample of Head Start programs. Study participants were children who were eligible for the preschool services based on family income. The children were assigned by lottery to a group that had access to Head Start services or a control group that did not have access to Head Start, but could enroll in other early-childhood programs.....

"The idea that one or two years of preschool is a silver bullet really needs to be stripped from our minds," she said. "The impact study from two years ago and this one now reminds us that the quality of the learning experience in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade really matters too."

Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study: Final Report

Published on: 
Tue, 02/05/2013

Report of the Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study, a nationally representative evaluation of the federal Head Start program. The evaluation studied children who entered the program in the fall of 2002. The report presents impacts on children and families through the children's third grade year, as well as impacts on subgroups of children and families.

What we did — and didn’t — learn from education research in 2012

Published on: 
Thu, 01/17/2013

School reformers this year had something of a banner year, moving ahead with key initiatives such as using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, expanding charter schools and establishing voucher programs that permitted the use of public funds to be used to pay religious school tuition. But is any of this grounded in research? Here’s a look at the year in ed research from Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C. This post originally appeared on the institute’s blog.

Measures of Effective Teaching Project Releases Final Research Report: Findings Help Inform Design and Implementation of High-Quality Feedback and Evaluation Systems

Published on: 
Wed, 01/09/2013

Student standardized test scores can accurately identify effective teachers, along with other performance measures such as classroom observations and pupil surveys, according to a major national study released Tuesday, January 8, 2013.

Here is alink to the full study:

Here is a link to the web site with information on the study in general:The Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, a three-year study designed to determine how to best identify and promote great teaching, today released its third and final research report.

The project brought together 3,000 teacher volunteers in six different school districts with dozens of education experts and researchers. The MET project's goal was to build and test measures of effective teaching to find out how evaluation methods could best be used to tell teachers more about the skills that make them most effective and to help districts identify and develop great teaching.

Over the past three years, the MET project has provided practical insights and tools that continue to benefit teachers and students in classrooms today. These insights have been shared widely with practitioners and researchers in the hope that they offer support for school districts that are creating and designing their own evaluation systems.

Every teacher knows that preparing students for success takes passion, dedication and skill. The MET project's goal was to attempt to break down and measure those qualities so that other teachers can learn from those who do it best.

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