ESE Research Update, February 2018- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office of Planning and Research
ESE Research Update, February 2018
Research and Reports from ESE
In August 2017, the UMass Donahue Institute released a report on the impact of the Advancing STEM AP program on participation and performance in AP courses from 2010-2011 through 2015-2016. The researchers analyzed the average change from one year before schools started the program through one year after implementation. The study compared 31 participating schools with 208 non-participating schools with similar demographics. Compared to the non-participating schools, the program increased the percentage of students taking AP courses by 4.7 points and the percentage passing AP courses by 5.1 points.
In a policy brief from October 2017, the Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research presented findings from a study of teacher effectiveness in Massachusetts. The researchers found that students assigned to the top 40 percent of teachers (as measured by their students' improvement on MCAS) experienced four more weeks of learning each year than those assigned to a teacher at the 50th percentile. Students assigned to teachers with an exemplary evaluation rating learned around eight to ten weeks more those assigned to a proficient teacher. Low-income students are 31 percent more likely to be assigned to teachers with less than three years of experience and more than twice as likely to be assigned to a teacher with an evaluation rating of needs improvement or unsatisfactory.
In December 2017, Abt Associates released initial findings from their multi-year study of statewide implementation of the Candidate Assessment of Performance (CAP). On a 2017 survey, 85 percent of teacher candidates (out of 796 respondents) agreed that their supervising practitioners provided helpful feedback, and 65 percent of supervising practitioners (out of 898 respondents) reported that CAP helped prepare candidates for their first year of teaching.
In a related issue brief, Abt summarized findings from interviews on CAP implementation at Clark University, Fitchburg State University, and Lesley University. The researchers found that CAP had substantially changed the role of supervising practitioners from mentor to evaluator, consistent with CAP's goals. Candidates and supervisors also reported that CAP was easier to understand and better organized than the previous Pre-service Performance Assessment.
In December 2017, researchers at New York University, Syracuse, and Tufts published a policy brief on class size and resource allocation. The brief includes a critical review of existing research, including the Tennessee STAR experiment and more recent studies. The researchers also analyzed Massachusetts class size data. In the Commonwealth during 2016-2017, median class size by grade for ELA and mathematics was around 20 to 21 students, small relative to those studied in prior research and relative to other states. Class sizes did not vary much by grade, though high school classes tended to be somewhat smaller, with medians around 18 to 20 students. Districts with lower enrollment, larger numbers of schools, and higher per pupil spending generally had smaller class sizes, after controlling for student and district characteristics.
In a December 2017 report , John Hansen presented findings from a study of dual-enrolling students—those who take college courses from an institution of higher education while still enrolled in high school. Almost 7 percent of Massachusetts public high school students—more than 5,000 per year—dual-enroll, mainly (70%) at community colleges. Most dual-enrollers took courses for college credit, with less than 10 percent taking a remedial course. However, among students dual-enrolling in mathematics, 40 percent took a remedial course; in English language arts, the figure was 17 percent. This suggests that dual enrollment is used not just by above-average students earning college credit, but also as a credit recovery strategy for students off a four-year high school graduation timeline.
Research on Massachusetts Education Policy
An October 2017 report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center examines English language learners' (ELL) academic performance, as well as how the state funds education for ELLs. On the legacy MCAS ELA exam, proficiency rates for both ELLs and former ELLs increased from 30 to 36 percent between 2009 and 2014 but still fell far short of the statewide proficiency rates of approximately 68 percent. The report also highlights how foundation budget rates for ELLs compared with rates for other students.