Monday, June 27, 2016

Center for Public Education Study Finds the Path to Career Readiness

The following post presents research or analyses from outside KASB and is presented for information purposes.  KASB neither endorses nor refutes the conclusions or recommendations contained herein.
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The National School Board Association's Center for Public Education recently released third installment in a series of reports about non-college goers entitled "Path Least Taken III: RIgor and focus in high school pays dividends in the future." The following are excerpts from their press release. You can find the full report here.

Today’s high school graduates can be ready for both college and the workplace with the right preparation and credentials. Higher education confers many benefits, including a better opportunity of obtaining good jobs with high wages, however, it is not the only path to success.

CPE’s study finds that well-prepared high school graduates can achieve similar and in some cases greater success than college goers. The winning combination is what CPE calls “high credentials,” a mix of academic knowledge and job specific or technical skills developed in high school plus a professional certificate or license.
Earlier installments in the Path Least Taken series found the overall group of high school graduates who did not go to college face the dimmest economic and social prospects at age 26 compared to those who did. The new report shows that students with high credentials, however, achieved higher economic and social outcomes than two-year degree holders and students who don’t complete their college education, and second only to outcomes for four-year degree holders. High credentialed non-college goers earned 39 percent more than non-credentialed non-college goers, and 21 percent more than 2-year degree holders at age 26 ($18.71 per hour compared to $13.42 and $15.43 respectively). The high credentials group trailed the 4-year degree graduates in hourly wage by only 3.4 percent.
The Path Least Taken identifies high credentials as including:
  • A C+ grade point average or above; and
  • A high school diploma;
  • Algebra II and advanced science;
  • An occupational concentration defined as three or more courses in a single labor market area culminating in a professional license or certificate.
“All students must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to reach their full potential,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association. “To better prepare the next generation, school leaders have to look at enhancing educational opportunities for all students, both college bound and career bound, to ensure future readiness for both.”
Using longitudinal data for students in the Class of 2004, CPE found that eight years after graduating from high school, a mere 13 percent had not gone on to either a two- or four-year college. Of the students who entered colleges, however, less than half emerged with a degree. Often burdened with student debt, these non-completers also find themselves with job prospects only slightly better than had they not gone at all. However, CPE’s analysis reveals that high credentials earned in high school makes a big difference for them, too, in terms of higher wages and full-time employment.
“With so many high school graduates going on to college, the focus for high schools has in large part been on college readiness, but at the expense of learning what makes graduates career-ready,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education. “Just as high-level academic courses benefit all students whether they go to college or not, our analyses further show that career education in high school contributes significantly to the future success of all young adults.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Purpose of Education: Truing the Balance Wheel

The following post presents research or analyses from outside KASB and is presented for information purposes.  KASB neither endorses nor refutes the conclusions or recommendations contained herein.
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This month, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) released a policy brief entitled "The Purpose of Education: Truing the Balance Wheel" The report gives a brief explanation of the Center's view of the purpose for education in the U.S. You can read it here.

Citing Thomas Jefferson's assertion that people must be educated in order to be able to govern themselves, and Horace Mann's assertion that education is "the Great Equalizer," NEPC states that the purpose of education is "to build, sustain, and strengthen the society."

The author notes that though great progress has been made in areas such as graduation rates, disparities within the student population are a major concern.

The following are areas that NEPC feels deserve particular attention:
  • Effective teachers and principals: Teachers are the most important “within the school” factor. Sound leadership is essential, most especially in high-poverty and low-performing schools.
  • Appropriate class size: The research evidence is clear that smaller classes yield the greatest gains for poor and minority students.
  • Challenging and culturally relevant curriculum and supportive instructional resources: Tracking and inconsistent access to advanced courses generates unequal educational opportunities.
  • Sufficient quality time for learning and development: Although school days are somewhat uniform, instructional time is considerably less for lower socioeconomic children.
  • Up-to-date facilities and a safe environment: Facilities affect learning, and the neediest children currently endure the most inadequate facilities.

In order to focus on the needs of disadvantaged students, NEPC recommends the following changes to the scope of education:
  • Extended time for learning and development: The summer academic loss of less affluent children is a clear indicator of the difference in the quality of informal learning experiences. “Students from more affluent backgrounds are exposed to learning resources including books, computers, museum visits, and other social, cultural, and academic experiences.”
  • High quality early childhood education and services: Perhaps the highest return on investment in education comes from universal, publicly funded, high-quality preschool.
  • Community schools and wrap-around services: “School-based programs that offer medical and dental care, psychological support, recreational activities, and social services for all children have long been shown to significantly impact students’ ability to benefit from educational offerings.”

Finally, NEPC recommends the following for policymakers:
  • Embrace the broad goals of education, including civic responsibility, democratic values, economic self-sufficiency, cultural competency and awareness, and social and economic opportunity.
  • Ensure that all schools have the fundamental educational resources they need to promote student success: effective teachers and principals, appropriate class sizes, challenging and culturally relevant curriculum and supportive instructional resources, sufficient quality time for learning and development, up-to-date facilities and a safe environment.
  • Expand the scope of schools in high-poverty neighborhoods to provide wrap-around services including nutritional supports, health clinics, parental education, extended learning time, recreational programs, and other services needed to meet the social, physical, cognitive, and economic needs of both students and families.
  • Promote a policy context that is supportive of equal opportunity: focus testing on formative rather than high-stakes purposes, prevent or repeal policies that allow for school resegregation, and renew the public commitment to public education.
The author concludes with the following quote from John Dewey in 1912:

"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Effectiveness of Class Size Reduction

The following post presents research or analyses from outside KASB and is presented for information purposes.  KASB neither endorses nor refutes the conclusions or recommendations contained herein.
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This month, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) released a research review entitled "The Effectiveness of Class Size Reduction" The report gives a very good review of the research related to class size and student outcomes. You can read it here.

The report indicates that nationally teacher pay and benefits account for about 80% of the country's school budgets. This is consistent with research KASB has done indicating that as of 2015, 77.8% of school expenditures went to salaries, benefits, and purchased (or contract) services. You can read KASB's research here.

As early as 1979, there was research showing that once class size fell below 15 or so, "learning increased progressively as class size became smaller." Further, the gains made by students in smaller classes lasted; as students in smaller classes early on were more likely to graduate, go to college, and get a college degree.

Critics including Eric Hanushek claim that class size is only relevant for certain groups of students, subjects, and teachers, that teacher quality is more important than class size, and that reducing student teacher ratios is very expensive and not demonstrably more effective than less expensive strategies.

Despite this criticism, based on the existing research as a whole, the author concludes that "the literature on class size reduction is clear and positive. The 'overwhelming majority' of peer-reviewed papers find it an effective strategy." He goes on to present the following recommendations:
  • Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, lowering class sizes will improve student outcomes.
  • The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children.  Conversely, increases in class size are likely to be especially harmful to these populations -- who are already more likely to be subjected to large classes.
  • While lowering class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall particularly for disadvantaged students. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will likely result in additional substantial social and educational costs in the future.
  • Generally, class sizes of between 15 and 18 are recommended but variations are indicated. For example, band and physical education may require large classes while special education and some laboratory classes may require less. 
It is worth noting that KASB research has found that the average student-teacher ratio in Kansas, which is roughly analogous to class size, is approximately 18 students per regular teacher, and 9 students per direct educator. You can read more about Kansas student to staff ratios here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

NEPC answers the question "Does Money Matter?"

The following post presents research or analyses from outside KASB and is presented for information purposes.  KASB neither endorses nor refutes the conclusions or recommendations contained herein.
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This month, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) released a research review entitled "Does Money Matter?" The report gives a very good review of the debate related to the connection between school funding and student outcomes. You can read it here.

The report notes the 1966 Coleman Report, which found that outside-of-school factors had a much higher impact on student outcomes than school-level factors, marks the beginning of the current debate. Eric Hanushek's 1986 article which asserted "variations in school expenditures are not systematically related to variations in student performance" is reported as a widely cited and influential. Others, including Hedges, Laine, Greenwald, Baker, and Welner have published work that contradicts this finding.

By the 90's, the author states, the debate moved from "does money matter" to how much and where money matters. He indicates the following as conclusions and recommendations:

  • Adequate and equitable distributions of school financial resources are a necessary underlying condition for maintaining democracy, improving school quality and equality of outcomes.
  • While specific results vary from place to place, in general, money does matter and it matters most for economically deprived children.
  • Gains from investing in education are found in test scores, later earnings, and graduation rates.
  • The largest gains in achievement have been in states that have undertaken fundamental financial reforms.
  • In any case, money must be spent wisely. In some cases, necessary expenditures (facilities, administration, etc.) will not be reflected in academic gains.
  • Among the most productive investments resulting from increased spending are
    • High-quality preschool
    • Small class sizes – particularly in lower grades and for economically deprived children.
    • Teacher pay
    • Additional learning time has a positive effect on academic motivation and low - performing students.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Diplomas Count report shows Kansas continues to exceed national graduation rates

Education Week recently released its final edition of Diplomas Count; a report showing graduation rate information by state and student subgroup.  They have been producing this annual report since 2006, but indicated that they will no longer be doing so because "thanks to... advances in state and federal reporting practices, the need for the type of uniform, independent analysis provided by Diplomas Count has become less urgent."  You can find the report here.

The report relies on the Public high school 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate data provided by NCES.  Data is reported for all students, by race/ethnicity, and by participation in certain school programs.  You can find the data here (from EdWeek) or here (from NCES).

The following table shows the percents for the U.S. and for Kansas from 2014 along with Kansas's rank on each measure:

2014 U.S. Kansas
Rate Rate Rank
All Students 82.3       85.7 21
American Indian / Alaska Native 69.6       76.0 21
Asian / Pacific Islander 89.4       90.0 16
Hispanic 76.3       78.7 16
Black 72.5       77.0 19
White 87.2       88.3 22
Economically disadvantaged 74.6       76.9 22
Limited English proficiency 62.6       75.0 6
Students with disabilities 63.1       76.7 4

As the data shows, Kansas has a higher graduation rate than the rest of the country across all categories.  In addition, Kansas ranks very high in terms of graduation rates for students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency, fairly high in terms of graduation rates for Asian / Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and Black students, and above average for all students, American Indian / Alaska Native, White, and economically disadvantaged students.

However, comparing this data to the same statistics from 2011 (the first year it was available), we can see that Kansas has gone from 12th to 21st among the states in terms of the graduation rate for all students.  Kansas's ranks for the rate for Hispanic students, students with limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities have all gone up, but Kansas's ranks for the graduation rate of all other groups have gone down.

2011 U.S. Kansas
Rate Rate Rank
All Students 79       83 12
American Indian / Alaska Native 65       72 18
Asian / Pacific Islander 87       88 14
Hispanic 71       73 17
Black 67       72 18
White 84       86 17
Economically disadvantaged 70       73 14
Limited English proficiency 57       70 8
Students with disabilities 59       73 3

The actual graduation rates for Kansas have increased across all categories, but Kansas appears to be losing its advantage; as the U.S. graduation rates appear to be increasing at a higher rate than the Kansas rates.  

This data echos others KASB has reported recently because it shows that, though Kansas still does better than average, recent trends indicate we are not staying as far ahead of the crowd as we used to.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

Promises and Pitfalls of Using NAEP Data

The following post presents research or analyses from outside KASB and is presented for information purposes.  KASB neither endorses nor refutes the conclusions or recommendations contained herein.
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“Breaking the Curve:  Promises and Pitfalls of Using NAEP Data to Assess the State Role in Student Achievement”

Matthew Chingos, of the Urban Institute in D.C., published a study in October 2015 that examined the appropriateness of using NAEP data to indicate the impact of state-level education system changes.  You can find the study here.  Using student-level data from 2003 through 2013, he found:

  • Kansas ranks 15th in state performance on the NAEP in 2013.  When adjusting for the following list of student factors, the rank goes to 11th:
    • Gender
    • Race and ethnicity
    • Eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch
    • Limited English proficient
    • Special education
    • Age
    • Accommodations on the NAEP exam
    • Amenities in the student’s home (computer, internet, own room, dishwasher, clothes dryer, etc.)
    • Number of books in the home
    • Language spoken at home
    • Family structure (two-parent, single-parent, foster, etc.)
  • Kansas ranks 32nd in terms of changes to NAEP state performance from 2003 to 2013.  When adjusting for the factors listed above, the rank goes to 28th.
  • Overall, “similar students vary significant in their test performance,” meaning the demographic characteristics listed above are only some of the factors that impact student performance.
  • The states where students perform better than their demographic peers are often not the states with high scores overall.
  • “NAEP scores in all 50 states have increased more than would be expected based on demographic shifts between 2003 and 2013.”
  • Any state comparison using NAEP results needs to consider the demographic differences in students across states.  

In the study, Chingos cited an earlier study that found “63 percent of the variance in achievement was at the student level, 5 percent at the teacher level, 3 percent at the school level, and 2 percent at the district level.”  He goes on to indicate that the role the state and local government play would be even further removed.  However, he indicates that even if the state and federal policies and procedures account for a small percent of overall change, the impact of that small percent can have large impacts when looking across all students in the state or across states.  

The findings that Kansas ranks would be higher if adjusted for student demographic characteristics is contrary to claims made by some in the past that Kansas has students who are “easier to educate” than many states.

The finding that those states where students perform better than predicted based on demographic characteristics echos what KASB found when looking at “Higher Impact” states, as described in this previous blog post.

The author concluded his study with the following:

NAEP scores will become more useful for making comparisons across states if the underlying data include more detailed information on the characteristics of students and their families… Education researchers, policymakers, and practitioners are hungry for information on what works in education...   Coupling principles of sound research design with the use of NAEP data is critical to maximizing the positive impact of this vital resource.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Effects of School Spending on Education and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms

The following post presents research or analyses from outside KASB and is presented for information purposes.  KASB neither endorses nor refutes the conclusions or recommendations contained herein.for your consideration.gif

“The Effects of School Spending on Education and Economic Outcomes:  Evidence from School Finance Reforms”

In January, a working paper with the title above was released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  You can find it here.  

The paper described an analysis conducted by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of California to determine the impact of court-mandated school finance reforms.  They looked at “nationally-representative data on children board between 1955 and 1985 and followed through 2011” to see how the type and timing of school funding reform impacted the adult outcomes for these students.  

The authors noted that national studies that correlated school resources with student outcomes usually find little association, so they wanted to do a more targeted analysis to specifically determine how school funding reforms impact outcomes for students.  

The study found that “a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all twelve years of public school leads to 0.27 more completed years of education, 7.25 percent higher wages, and a 3.67 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty.”  They further found that these effects were “much more pronounced for children from low-income families.”

The authors also found that “exogenous spending increases were associated with sizeable improvements in measured school quality, including reductions in student-to-teacher ratios, increases in teacher salaries, and longer school years.”

So what does this mean?  The authors conclude the study with the following:

...many have questioned whether money matters, and whether increased school spending can improve the lifetime outcomes of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Our findings indicate that state school finance reform policies can improve student outcomes and help reduce the intergenerational transmission of poverty.  Money alone may not be sufficient, but our findings indicate that provision of adequate funding may be a necessary condition.  Importantly, we find that how the money is spend may be important.  As such, to be most effective it is likely that spending increases should be coupled with systems that help ensure spending is allocated toward the most productive uses.