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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: 2014-04-24

Non-Cognitive Ability, Test Scores, and Teacher Quality: Evidence from 9th Grade Teachers in North Carolina

Published on: 
Mon, 12/17/2012

This paper presents a model where students have cognitive and non-cognitive ability and a teacher’s effect on long-run outcomes is a combination of her effect on both ability types. Conditional on cognitive scores, an underlying non-cognitive factor associated with student absences, suspensions, grades, and grade progression, is strongly correlated with long-run educational attainment, arrests, and earnings in survey data. In administrative data teachers have meaningful causal effects on both test-scores and this non-cognitive factor. Calculations indicate that teacher effects based on test scores alone fail to identify many excellent teachers, and may greatly understate the importance of teachers on adult outcomes.

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Strategies for Smarter Budgets and Smarter Schools

Published on: 
Mon, 12/17/2012

The reading instruction discussion in this policy brief echoes recommendations that have been made by FEC board member Sheree Brown-Kaplan. FEC does not endorse District Management Council as an organization. 

This policy brief by Nathan Levenson, Managing Director at the District Management Council and former superintendent of the Arlington (MA) Public Schools, offers informed advice to school districts seeking to provide a well-rounded, quality education to all children in a time of strained budgets. Levenson recommends three strategies:

1.     Prioritize both achievement and cost-efficiency.

Allocating scarce resources effectively means funding what works and obtaining ample information before making funding decisions, including information about what drives achievement—and drives  it cost-effectively.

2.     Make staffing decisions based on student needs, not adult preferences.

Districts should establish guidelines for what constitutes a full and fair workload for staff members, then staff accordingly. This may include “trading down” to less-expensive services of equivalent quality,  considering alternatives to maintaining class sizes, and closely monitoring insurance eligibility.

3.     Manage special education spending for better outcomes and greater cost-effectiveness.

How money is spent matters more than how much is spent; that’s true for special education, too. Districts can reduce their special-education costs by ensuring that all children read at grade level; hiring a few behaviorists in lieu of many paraprofessionals; and staffing according to service hours, rather than numbers of students served.


U.S. Math, Science Achievement Exceeds World Average

Published on: 
Tue, 12/11/2012

The math and science achievement of U.S. students continues to surpass the global average for nations taking part in a prominent assessment, results issued Tuesday show, but several East Asian countries and jurisdictions far outpace the United States, especially in mathematics.

The most striking contrast comes in the 8th grade, where nearly half of all students tested in South Korea, Singapore, and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) reached the “advanced” level in math, compared with only 7 percent of American test-takers, according to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, for 2011.

“One obvious stark takeaway of some concern in a global environment is the huge gap that the Asian countries have achieved in mathematics,” said Ina V.S. Mullis, the co-executive director of the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College. “This is a gap that has its roots in 1995 [when TIMSS was first administered], and the gap has not narrowed over the years. And in some cases, such as [South] Korea, it’s even widening.”

For gifted children with learning disabilities, homework can be torture

Published on: 
Mon, 12/03/2012

Too many educators here, according to numerous parent witnesses, share a stubborn blind spot about disabilities that can be mistaken for sloth or carelessness.

Beavers’s children attended the Montgomery County schools, which appear no worse by this measure than other local districts. Dana Tofig, a Montgomery schools spokesman, said specialists are training teachers on this issue. Beavers briefly enrolled her daughter in a well-regarded private school to see whether that would make a difference. It didn’t.

The Power of Academic Parent-Teacher Teams

Published on: 
Fri, 11/30/2012

Academic Parent-Teacher Teams can help parents learn to work with teachers to support their children, writes Anne O'Brien, deputy director of the Learning First Alliance. Under the model, a classroom team is formed, including the teacher and parents, who meet as a group, O'Brien writes. Teachers also hold at least one 30-minute conference each year with students and their families to discuss the student's performance and establish plans for improvement. The model has grown from one Phoenix school district to five states and Washington, D.C. O'Brien's blog (11/26)

Study: Homework Doesn’t Mean Better Grades, But Maybe Better Standardized Test Scores

Published on: 
Thu, 11/29/2012

The time students spend on math and science homework doesn’t necessarily mean better grades, but it could lead to better performance on standardized tests, a new study finds.

“When Is Homework Worth The Time?” was recently published by lead investigator Adam Maltese, assistant professor of science education at Indiana University, and co-authors Robert H. Tai, associate professor of science education at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, and Xitao Fan, dean of education at the University of Macau. Maltese is a Curry alumnus, and Fan is a former Curry faculty member.

The authors examined survey and transcript data of more than 18,000 10th-grade students to uncover explanations for academic performance. The data focused on individual classes, examining student outcomes through the transcripts from two nationwide samples collected in 1990 and 2002 by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Contrary to much published research, a regression analysis of time spent on homework and the final class grade found no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not. But the analysis found a positive association between student performance on standardized tests and the time they spent on homework.

“Our results hint that maybe homework is not being used as well as it could be,” Maltese said.

Tai said that homework assignments cannot replace good teaching.

How Much Time Do Teachers Spend Teaching?

Published on: 
Tue, 11/27/2012

Although statutory working hours and teaching hours only partly determine teachers’ actual
workload, they do give valuable insight into the demands placed on teachers in different countries.
Together with teachers’ salaries (see Indicator D3) and average class size (see Indicator D2), this
indicator presents some key measures regarding the working lives of teachers. Teaching hours and
the extent of non-teaching duties may also affect the attractiveness of the teaching profession.
The proportion of working time spent teaching provides information on the amount of time
available for activities such as lesson preparation, correction, in-service training and staff
meetings. A large proportion of working time spent teaching may indicate that less time is
devoted to tasks such as student assessment and lesson preparation.
In addition to class size and the ratio of students to teaching staff (see Indicator D2), students’
hours of instruction (see Indicator D1) and teachers’ salaries (see Indicator D3), the amount of
time teachers spend teaching also affects the financial resources countries need to allocate to education (see Indicator B7).

Empowering Students with Digital Reading

Published on: 
Tue, 11/27/2012

New products are designed to improve aptitude, fulfill Common Core State Standards, provide unlimited access to
online libraries and bring 21st-century learning into the classroom. School districts today
have a range of choices and specific services to meet the various needs of students. [There] is also the issue of the digital divide. Wealthier districts have the funds and freedom toexperiment with new programs, while districts in low-income areas are limited.

Effective Reading Programs for Spanish-Dominant English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Elementary Grades A Synthesis of Research

Published on: 
Sat, 11/24/2012



Quality of instruction is more important than the language used

A review published in Review of Educational Research synthesizes research on English reading outcomes for Spanish-dominant English language learners (ELLs) in elementary schools. The review is in two parts. The first looks at studies of language of instruction, while the second reviews reading approaches for ELLs while keeping the language of instruction constant. A total of 13 studies met the inclusion criteria for language of instruction. While the overall findings indicate a positive effect (effect size = .21) for bilingual education, the largest and longest evaluations found that, by the end of elementary school, there was no difference in outcomes for those children who were taught in Spanish and transitioned to English or who were taught only in English. 

The review also identified whole-school and whole-class interventions with good evidence of effectiveness for ELLs. These include Success for All, cooperative learning, Direct Instruction, and ELLA. There were also positive effects for struggling ELL readers from those programs that use phonetic small-group or one-to-one tutoring. The most promising interventions share the use of extensive professional development, coaching, and cooperative learning. The findings support a conclusion that the quality of instruction is more important than the language of instruction.


Lessons from abroad: International review of primary languages

Published on: 
Sat, 11/24/2012

CfBT Education Trust has published a report into the teaching of foreign languages. It looks both at the research evidence on early language learning and the policy implications. The report considers the research evidence on the cognitive benefits of learning a second language, and finds that these are found in young foreign language learners as well as for bilinguals. There is also evidence of the ways in which studying another language helps with literacy in a child's first language, and provides opportunities to study language in general. The report finds that the research evidence is less clear about when a child should start to learn a foreign language. An early start alone is not a guarantee of success - the amount and quality of teaching, as well as continuity of learning into high school, are important.

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