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Program and policy effects
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) grants states unprecedented discretion in implementing many of the federal law’s requirements concerning the needs of the nation’s educationally disadvantaged students. This theoretical paper addresses a void in the policy implementation literature on why ESEA reform efforts have not been more effectively sustained. It synthesizes previous research on ESEA by proposing the use of multiple political science frames to guide new empirical research on ESSA’s impacts. These alternative models—ESSA’s Legal Framework, Institutional Actors, and Stakeholder Bargaining—can inform the law’s national impacts on equity for disadvantaged students and the key conditions affecting differences in state responses to the equity challenge ESSA presents.
This paper identifies the achievement impact of installing air filters in classrooms for the first time. To do so, I leverage a unique setting arising from the largest gas leak in United States history, whereby the offending gas company installed air filters in every classroom, office and common area for all schools within five miles of the leak (but not beyond). This variation allows me to compare student achievement in schools receiving air filters relative to those that did not using a spatial regression discontinuity design. I find substantial improvements in student achievement: air filter exposure led to a 0.20 standard deviation increase in mathematics and English scores, with test score improvements persisting into the following year. Air testing conducted inside schools during the leak (but before air filters were installed) showed no presence of natural gas pollutants, implying that the effectiveness of air filters came from removing common air pollutants and so these results should extend to other settings. The results indicate that air filter installation is a highly cost-effective policy to raise student achievement and, given that underprivileged students attend schools in highly polluted areas, one that can reduce the pervasive test score gaps that plague public education.
Most racial and ethnic segregation—and most financial inequities—in American public schools occur between, not within, school districts. Solving these problems often requires interdistrict solutions based on cooperation within regions. This report uses three examples (Boston, MA; Hartford, CT; and Omaha, NE) to explore how interdistrict desegregation plans with innovative funding strategies have been designed, financed, and implemented. The report describes programs’ academic and social outcomes and identifies four lessons for policymakers: Secure a metropolitan-wide agreement; establish a clear vision for educational equity; sustain efforts with equitable resources; and create a strong data and evaluation plan.
Newly emerging teacher residency programs offer an innovative approach to recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers for hard-to-staff schools. This report summarizes the features of these programs and research about their practices and outcomes. These programs create a vehicle to recruit teachers for high-needs fields and locations; offer recruits strong content and clinical preparation specifically for the kinds of schools in which they will teach; connect new teachers to early career mentoring that will keep them in the profession; and provide financial incentives that will keep teachers in the districts that have invested in them.
Recent research demonstrates that, when more money is spent on education for students from low-income families, achievement and graduation rates improve. So, too, do life outcomes such as employment, wages, and reduced poverty rates. Investments in instruction, especially high-quality teachers, appear to leverage the largest marginal gains in performance. School funding reforms in several states have created the conditions for stronger educational outcomes. These reforms funded schools more equitably and provided access to well-prepared and well-supported teachers; standards, curriculum, and assessments focused on 21st-century learning goals; schools organized productively for student and teacher learning; and supportive early learning environments. This report examines these efforts in four states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Their experiences demonstrate that, in the U.S., equity-focused changes can yield results for students but also require steady work.
Research illustrates the importance of greater teacher diversity because of the substantial benefits teachers of color provide to all students, and to students of color in particular. Studies also show that policies must focus more effectively on retention of teachers of color, if diversity in the teaching profession is to be sustained. While more teachers of color are being recruited than in years past, their turnover rates are high, in part due to inadequate preparation and mentoring, poor teaching conditions, and displacement from the high-need schools in which they teach. Increasing the number of teachers of color in the workforce requires building high-retention pathways into the field that offer high-quality preparation and financial supports, including service scholarships, loan forgiveness programs, teacher residencies, Grow Your Own programs, ongoing mentorship, and other policies and strategies that improve teacher licensure, hiring, professional growth, and teaching conditions for current and aspiring teachers of color.
Recent media reports of teacher shortages across the country are confirmed by the analysis of several national data sets reported in this paper. Shortages are particularly severe in special education, mathematics, science, and bilingual/English learner education, and in locations with lower wages and poorer working conditions. Shortages are projected to grow based on declines in teacher education enrollments, coupled with student enrollment growth, efforts to reduce pupil-teacher ratios, and ongoing high attrition rates. If attrition were reduced by half to rates comparable to those in high-achieving nations, shortages would largely disappear. We describe evidence-based policies that could create competitive, equitable compensation packages for teachers; enhance the supply of qualified teachers for high-need fields and locations; improve retention, especially in hard-to-staff schools; and develop a national teacher supply market.
Teacher professional learning is of increasing interest as one way to support the increasingly complex skills students need to succeed in the 21st century. However, many teacher professional development initiatives appear ineffective in supporting changes in teacher practices and student learning. To identify the features of effective professional development, this paper reviews 35 methodologically rigorous studies that have demonstrated a positive link between teacher professional development, teaching practices, and student outcomes. It identifies features of these approaches and offers descriptions of these models to inform those seeking to understand how to foster successful strategies.
This study examines the extent and sources of the minority teacher shortage—the low proportion of minority teachers in comparison to the increasing numbers of minority students in the school system. Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey/Teacher Follow-Up Survey, we found that efforts over recent decades to recruit more minority teachers and place them in disadvantaged schools have been very successful. But these efforts have been undermined by the high turnover rates of minority teachers—largely because of poor working conditions in their schools. The conditions most strongly related to minority teacher turnover were the degree of teachers’ classroom autonomy and input into school decisions—both increasingly important when coupled with accountability pressures.
Much is known about how to attract, develop, and retain a strong and stable teacher workforce, and states across the country are taking action to address their teacher shortages in ways that strengthen their overall teacher workforce. This report highlights research on six evidence-based policies that have been used to address teacher shortages and boost teacher recruitment and retention: service scholarships and loan forgiveness, high-retention pathways into teaching, mentoring and induction for new teachers, developing high-quality school principals, competitive compensation, and recruitment policies to expand the pool of qualified educators.