Topic: Rural Education
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Principal Investigator: Dr. Thomas Farmer
National Research Center on Rural Education Support
The National Research Center on Rural Education Support merges a focus on professional development and teacher quality with the use of technology in rural schools and the establishment of model programs to support students during key school transitions. The overarching aim is to establish broadly generalizable and scientifically validated strategies to improve the learning and academic achievement of all rural students including those who are at risk of poor outcomes and truncated levels of educational attainment.
Rural schools face several challenges that affect academic performance including high rates of child poverty, limited resources for educational materials and professional development, an inability to attract and retain highly qualified teachers who have appropriate training and credentials, and the combined impact of distance and sparse populations on schools' abilities to staff classes according to student need. While each of these problems is formidable, collectively they can significantly constrain the educational achievement of all youth served in such settings and may limit the attainment of even the most promising students. Efforts to improve rural education and to meet the needs of students served in rural schools are likely to have only a modest impact if they focus on any one of these problems in isolation and do not adequately intervene with the synergistic forces of these multiple issues.
The center is designed to address the collective impact of such constraints by systematically focusing on the interplay between student characteristics, teachers' professional development needs, and the limited resources available to rural schools. The center will evaluate:
- a model of professional development and ongoing support for rural elementary and middle school teachers;
- the impact of whole school and targeted interventions on academic achievement particularly during key transitions (i.e., into school, into middle school);
- the web-based delivery of the professional development model;
- the impact of the web-based model on student outcomes; and
- the use of distance learning programs to provide advanced coursework to rural high school students.
For the first three years, the National Center on Rural Education Support is working with rural schools in central North Carolina and the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. In Years 4 and 5, the enhanced web-based and intervention specialist model will be evaluated in rural schools in Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, and two additional states in the West and Midwest. In addition, a supplemental research program will be developed to evaluate the use of distance learning models to provide advanced coursework to rural high school students in these five states.
Topic: Low Achieving Schools
Johns Hopkins University
Principal Investigator: Dr. Robert Slavin
Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education
The Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education is developing and rigorously evaluating state, district, and school-level strategies to enhance student achievement and move all schools to adequate yearly progress. The strategies being evaluated bridge the data-driven decision making movement and school-based comprehensive school and classroom reform to create an integrated, coherent approach to large-scale reform of low-achieving schools.
The Center is creating and evaluating, and ultimately will scale-up, replicable district-wide reform strategies designed to help districts analyze and track data on children's progress, use data to select and implement rigorously evaluated programs to remedy identified problems, and then monitor the implementation and outcomes of these interventions. The Center is developing and providing to districts state-specific quarterly benchmark assessments in reading, writing, and mathematics, which will be able to statistically predict children's scores on state assessments. The goal is to provide districts with leadership training, data interpretation training, and information on well-evaluated programs for identified problems, and information on scientifically-based interventions drawn from existing comprehensive reform models and from programs with evidence of effectiveness as determined by the What Works Clearinghouse.
To evaluate this district-wide strategy, Center researchers are randomly assigning districts to implement the model immediately or one year later. Twenty districts are being phased into the design each year for three years. Interrupted time series and multiple baseline designs are also being used to analyze student achievement gains over time, and detailed analyses are conducted to determine factors that contribute to school and district success for each subgroup. In addition, randomized evaluations of program components, qualitative studies of program implementation, and scientific reviews of research on issues of importance to low achieving schools are being conducted to enrich the information available to researchers, policy makers, and educators.
Topic: Innovation in Education Reform
Principal Investigator: Dr. Kenneth Wong
National Research and Development Center on School Choice, Competition, and Achievement
The National Center on School Choice, Competition, and Achievement is conducting comprehensive investigations of the individual and systemic effects of school choice and competition. The Center exercises national leadership in coordinating efforts of multiple disciplines, methodologies, and substantive issues that are associated with the design, implementation, and effects of school choice.
The Center is examining both the individual and systemic aspects of school choice through coordinated, multidisciplinary research initiatives. The Center is conducting a randomized field trial to examine the effects of charter schools on student achievement and on parental satisfaction and involvement in school. In this project, Center researchers are also studying school policies, teacher recruitment, teacher quality, curriculum, and instruction. In addition, the Center takes advantage of existing data by conducting new analyses of the nation's largest longitudinal database on lottery-based student voucher assignments.
The second initiative uses existing state and district data on accountability and existing student achievement data to describe what happens in surrounding schools when opportunities for school choice become available in a district or state and to examine the interplay between community resources and schooling choice. This project will utilize data from Milwaukee, Florida, and the Growth Research Database housed at the Northwest Evaluation Association. The third initiative is examining the conditions within which school choice programs are legislated, implemented, financed, and carried out.