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Turnaround schools and districts that were charged with making rapid and dramatic improvements before the COVID-19 pandemic struck faced considerable challenges carrying out improvement efforts during pandemic schooling. Using survey and administrative data collected during the pandemic, we document some of the ways in which students and educators in Michigan’s turnaround schools and districts experienced the pandemic. We show that the communities in which turnaround schools are located were hardest hit by the pandemic and school and district operations were substantially disrupted. By extension, turnaround districts and especially the lowest performing schools in those districts that were targeted for school-level turnaround experienced high rates of student absenteeism, low student and parent engagement, and, ultimately, significantly smaller gains on math and reading benchmark assessments than in non-turnaround districts. Our findings have implications for policy as states amplify school and district turnaround efforts that were disrupted by the pandemic.
The extent to which pandemic-induced public school enrollment declines will persist is unclear. Student-level data from Michigan through fall 2021 yields three relevant findings. First, relative to pre-pandemic trends, fall 2021 enrollment had partially recovered for low-income, Black, and Hispanic students, but had declined further for non-low-income, White, and Asian students. Second, annual public school exit rates remained elevated for elementary students and accelerated further for middle school students. Third, public school exit is sticky and varies by chosen alternative. Only 21 percent of those who left for private schools in fall 2020 had returned by fall 2021, while 50 percent of those who left for homeschooling had returned. These findings suggest that pandemic-driven public school enrollment declines may persist, and more so among higher income families.
Teacher turnover is a perennial concern that became more salient during the COVID-19 pandemic as teacher-reported intentions to leave teaching escalated. The extent to which these teacher reports may translate into actual turnover remains an open question—especially given the pandemic context. Using unique survey data from teachers in 35 districts in Michigan linked to statewide administrative data, we examine the extent to which teacher-reported intentions are predictive of actually leaving. We measure behavior one, two, and three years following reported intent. We find intent is a significant predictor of turnover and becomes increasingly predictive over time. We also find organizational commitment and school organizational conditions are important factors in teachers’ intent and, to a lesser degree, actual turnover behavior.
Over the last twenty years, education researchers have increasingly conducted randomised experiments with the goal of informing the decisions of educators and policymakers. Such experiments have generally employed broad, consequential, standardised outcome measures in the hope that this would allow decisionmakers to compare effectiveness of different approaches. However, a combination of small effect sizes, wide confidence intervals, and treatment effect heterogeneity means that researchers have largely failed to achieve this goal. We argue that quasiexperimental methods and multi-site trials will often be superior for informing educators’ decisions on the grounds that they can achieve greater precision and better address heterogeneity. Experimental research remains valuable in applied education research. However, it should primarily be used to test theoretical models, which can in turn inform educators’ mental models, rather than attempting to directly inform decision making. Since comparable effect size estimates are not of interest when testing educational theory, researchers can and should improve the power of theory-informing experiments by using more closely aligned (i.e., valid) outcome measures. We argue that this approach would reduce wasteful research spending and make the research that does go ahead more statistically informative, thus improving the return on investment in educational research.
Tutoring has emerged as an especially promising strategy for supporting students academically. This study synthesizes 33 articles on the implementation of tutoring, defined as one-to-one or small-group instruction in which a human tutor supports students grades K-12 in an academic subject, to better understand the facilitators and barriers to program success. We find that policies influenced tutoring implementation through the allocation of federal funding and stipulation of program design. Tutoring program launch has often been facilitated by strategic relationships between schools and external tutoring providers and strengthened by transparent assessments of program quality and effectiveness. Successful implementation hinged on the support of school leaders with the power to direct school funding, space, and time. Tutoring setting and schedule, recruitment and training, and curriculum influenced whether students are able to access quality tutoring and instruction. Ultimately, evidence suggests that tutoring was most meaningful when tutors fostered positive student-tutor relationships which they drew upon to target instruction toward students’ strengths and needs.
Middle school transitions are increasingly required, despite documented negative effects on general education students (GENs). We explore if and how the move to middle school differentially affects students with disabilities (SWDs), a large and low-performing group of students. Using an instrumental variables strategy and NYC data on nine cohorts of students, we find the middle school transition causes a 0.29 standard deviation decline in SWD math performance, a 0.16 standard deviation decline in ELA performance, and a one percentage point increase in grade retention. However, after accounting for potential mediators (e.g. peer cohort stability) effects are similar for SWDs and GENs, suggesting the need to ease the middle school transition for all students.
The number of English learners enrolled in public schools has grown substantially in the United States over the past two decades. The growth is especially large in states in the South and Midwest that have not been traditional destinations for recent immigrants. In this study, we examine the effects of an influx of new English learners on students in receiving schools in Delaware, which is one of the so-called “new destination” states. We find significant positive spillover effects in the short term of new English learners on the test scores of the other students in the receiving schools. The positive effects are mainly concentrated among current and former English learners.
Not all students who could benefit from college apply. With novel data on over 1.2 million high schoolers, we show that nearly 25% start but never complete a college application. We use descriptive techniques, data visualizations, and fixed effects models to explore this population of college-interested “non-submitters” to observe application behaviors; document differences across individual, school, and community contexts; and identify factors most predictive of non-submission. We find large gaps by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and education-career plans, as well as by school type and community features. We also find that early application tasks and engagement strongly predict non-submission. This study breaks ground for future research into this unexplored group and informs strategies to support those at risk of non-submission.
School climate is critical to school effectiveness, but there is limited large-scale data available to examine the magnitude and nature of the relationship between school climate and school improvement. Drawing on statewide administrative data linked with unique teacher survey data in Michigan, we examine whether school climate appeared to play a role in the effects of a state-level school turnaround intervention. Using comparative interrupted time series models and descriptive mediation analysis, we find that students in schools with more positive school climate appeared to fare better than their peers in schools with less positive climate. Certain elements of climate—relational trust and school leadership—also mediated the effect of turnaround on student achievement. Our findings have implications for school improvement planning, for the design of evaluations of school turnaround initiatives, and for data collection by states aiming to improve their lowest performing schools.