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Office of Planning and Research to Close Proficiency Gaps

ESE Research Update, February 2010

Research from ESE

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School District Consolidation in Massachusetts
This policy brief explores issues that prevent regionalization. For example, many small districts offer only elementary or secondary grades and have existing contractual agreements to provide students a K-12 education. Also, a new regional district is required by statute to use the highest salary schedule of the group, sometimes a prohibitive cost. The brief recommends that ESE support regionalization by addressing policy-level issues rather than individual cases.

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Regional Planning Study Results
This report summarizes 2009 planning studies by 15 groups of districts considering consolidation by regionalizing. It documents current perceptions of opportunities and obstacles presented by regionalization and finds common obstacles that cannot be addressed by districts without state action. Few of the studies resulted in recommendations to proceed with a vote on regionalizing.

A Study of Central Office Capacity in Regional Districts
The Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS) conducted a survey of regional district superintendents on central office positions and functions. The data validates the common assertion that administrators in small districts are spread thin and have less time for instructional supervision. State data indicates, however, that central office FTEs vary widely even among the smallest districts.

Reports from ESE

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School Improvement Regional Grant Evaluation
This evaluative case study by RMC Corporation covers four district groups that received pilot grants to develop shared professional development initiatives. All planned to continue the relationships and initiatives beyond the grant. Two groups worked with an educational collaborative and valued the partnership. Administrators in rural districts found networking's time constraints and multiple responsibilities challenging.

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Intermediate Outcomes of the Commonwealth Pilot Schools Model: A Summary of School-Level Changes at Commonwealth Pilot Schools
The UMass Donahue Institute presents detailed school by school observations of changes in school characteristics and operations, school-level outcomes, and impacts of the initiative on school improvement. General findings are presented in the following report.

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An Evaluation of the Commonwealth Pilot Schools Initiative: Key Findings Following Two Years of Implementation
UMass Donahue Institute's policy brief finds a need for stronger diagnostic tools and assessment protocols to build tailored strategies for successful school change. Although the initiative highlighted school autonomy, the brief concludes that district capacity and planning are critical to success. Co-mingling of financial resources from several initiatives created disruptions for the school reform process.

Research on Massachusetts Education Policy

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Putting Children First: The History of Charter Public Schools in Massachusetts
This white paper from the Pioneer Institute makes a case for lifting the charter school cap based on the Massachusetts model being well-developed and successful. While the state's cap on charter schools meant that proposals received careful screening, now that the system is well-established the state will be able to review more proposals in the future while maintaining high standards.

Analyzing performance by grade 10 Hispanic high school students on the Massachusetts state assessment
The Regional Education Laboratory-Northeast and Islands analyzed data for MA ESE, including correlations of student performance with student and school-level characteristics. At the student level country of birth was significant, with US-born Hispanic students generally scoring higher than foreign-born students, except for South American-born students' mathematics performance. The only school-level variable with a statistically significant association with student performance was attendance.

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Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers: The Role of Practice-Based Teacher Preparation Programs in Massachusetts
This report from the Rennie Center caps a year-long review of alternative teacher preparation programs in MA. It notes that existing practice-based programs do not keep good data on completers over time, so it is difficult to assess their success. A better typology of practice-based programs and more access to state data systems would facilitate research on their results.

Last Updated: February 25, 2010
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