ESE Research Update, April 2017- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office of Planning and Research
ESE Research Update, April 2017
Research and Reports from ESE
In November 2016, AIR and the Institute for Strategic Leadership and Learning published a Turnaround Practices Field Guide that details common elements of effective turnaround efforts. The researchers selected four schools, differing in size and student demographics. The four schools had all exited Level 4 and continued to improve academic performance after exiting, and they exhibited one or more aspects of the four Turnaround Practices . Several themes emerged from their improvement stories, including "highly consistent, aligned, and rigorous instructional practices." The guide also distilled strategic lessons from how effective turnaround efforts proceeded during their first 100 days, such as "establish collaborative teaming structures to improve instruction" and "hir[e] a proven principal, who in turn has the autonomy to bring in an administrative team and hire teachers."
ESE commissioned the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute (UMDI) to conduct an evaluation of the Advancing STEM AP program, where ESE has partnered with Mass Insight Education to increase access, participation, and performance in AP science and math courses. In February 2017, UMDI released a report based on a 2016 educator survey . Through the program, AP math, science, and English educators participated in professional development intended to help them improve teaching in their AP courses. In total, 229 educators responded to the survey. Around 80 percent of teachers reported that they moderately or substantially improved their content knowledge or pedagogical skills through the program. About 60 percent said that they moderately or substantially improved their ability to serve underrepresented students.
In February 2017, the Department published a Low-Income Student Calculation Study . The report explored the impact of the Commonwealth's recent shift in how it measures student poverty. Previously, data on students' low income status was collected locally via individual paper forms. Now the Department identifies students as "economically disadvantaged" if they can be matched electronically as enrolled in select state assistance programs. Although the new approach identified fewer students in poverty than the previous one, the Legislature adjusted state budget rates for fiscal year 2017 to accommodate for the decreased counts. The new measure also identified recent immigrants-likely disproportionately refugees and undocumented immigrants-at lower rates than the previous approach, causing changes in the share of state aid allocated to districts that serve those students. The report recommends improvements to the matching process and additional research to address the underrepresentation of immigrants in the current measure.
Research on Massachusetts Education Policy
In January 2017, the MassInc Polling Group and the MassInc Gateway Cities Innovation Institute published The Public's Take on Education Accountability based on results from a telephone poll of 1,006 registered voters in Massachusetts. Eighty-five percent of respondents said that they were not very familiar with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), though most believed that specific accountability requirements in ESSA would have a somewhat or very positive impact. For example, 73 percent reported that annual math and English assessments would have a positive impact, and 69 percent agreed that state intervention in some schools or districts would be positive. The survey also asked voters to identify elements of a high quality school from a limited list of options. Virtually all respondents (97 percent) said that "advising programs that help prepare students for college" were somewhat or very important, while around three-fourths reported that "high scores on state tests" were important.
Also in January 2017, the Pioneer Institute released Attrition, Dropout, and Student Mobility in District and Charter Schools: A Demographic Report. The authors analyzed ESE data to compare rates of dropout and mobility across Boston charter schools, Boston non-charter schools, and the state as a whole. From 2011 to 2015, the Boston charter schools generally had lower dropout rates than non-charter schools, through both had higher dropout rates than the overall state. Across the state, student attrition-students not returning to schools after the summer break- generally decreased over this five-year period to 7.5 percent, though attrition rates were more stable for Boston charter and non-charter schools. By 2015, the student attrition rate in Boston charter schools was much lower (9.3 percent) than for non-charter schools (14.2 percent).
In the March 2017 report, Suspended Education in Massachusetts: Using Days of Lost Instruction Due to Suspension to Evaluate Our Schools, the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project presented findings from their analysis of state discipline data from 2015-16. The authors calculated the total days of lost instruction per 100 enrolled students. Schools typically experienced around 16 days missed per 100 students. However, a small proportion of schools-around 2 percent, or 39 schools-experienced more than 100 days of missed instruction per 100 students. For students with disabilities, the rate was higher. Over 6 percent of schools experienced 100 or more days missed per 100 students with disabilities. The authors recommended that Massachusetts include this "days of missed instruction" measure in its school accountability system.
In April 2017, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) published The "City of Firsts" Charts a New Path Forward, describing recent turnaround efforts led by the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP). The partnership runs nine schools in the district. A SEZP board comprised of district officials and ESE appointees oversees the schools and holds principals accountable. Supported by a new collective bargaining agreement between the local teacher's union and the district, the board also gives school leaders substantial control over many aspects of school operations including budgeting and hiring. Schools can also select from several national and local partners to help meet their needs for professional development and school improvement. Student achievement results were mixed after the first year, but it is likely too soon to tell what the impact of the partnership will ultimately be.