Education Week - June 20, 2018 - 11
Research-Practice Project Dissects the Move to 9th Grade
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9
Adie Simmons, who oversees the
Seattle district's "engaging families
in high school success" initiative and
supervises the "family-engagement
teams" at the schools participating
in the research study.
In reflecting on the family-engagement projects they've tried,
many middle and high schools have
noticed that they're still having difficulty reaching families of color
and immigrant families, Simmons
said. A few schools have responded
to that by deploying teachers, counselors, or school secretaries to make
personal phone calls to families in
their primary languages, she said.
...We need to show
these things are
working and if
not, let them go."
Director, Strategic Data Project
Librarian Deborah Gallaher
talks with incoming
freshmen and their
families during a family
at Seattle's Nathan Hale
The efforts in Seattle to better engage
families in students' transition from
middle school to high school is one of six
research-and-development efforts funded
by the federal Institute of Education
Sciences in 2015 and 2014 that focus on
continuous improvement approaches in
education. Other projects are:
"Changing the Odds: A Short-Cycle
Approach to Improving Students' LongTerm Mathematics Outcomes"
Principal Investigator: Julian Betts,
University of California, San Diego
Partners: San Diego Unified School District;
University of California, San Diego; San Diego
Education Research Alliance
Purpose: In an effort to address the problem of
weak math achievement among middle school
students, researchers will implement, adapt, and
Leaders from Jane Addams and
Nathan Hale began planning this
past May's joint family event in
January, with team meetings and
discussion, Tudor said. They had "a
big debrief" at the central office with
Simmons in October and identified
what changes they needed to make
for next year's event.
They realized, for instance, that
they needed to stop using a sign-in
sheet, because it created a long line
of parents waiting to get into the
event, Tudor said.
Those kinds of revisions may seem
intuitive, but they're often skipped
in the relentless push of obligations
schools must meet, said Joyce L.
Epstein, the director of school, family, and community partnerships at
Johns Hopkins University and a lead
revise a math instruction intervention with four
high-poverty middle schools in California.
"Coaching to Improve Common CoreAligned Mathematics Instruction in
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Russell,
University of Pittsburgh
Partners: The Learning Research and
Development Center and the Institute for
Learning at the University of Pittsburgh;
Tennessee Department of Education
Purpose: To better prepare teachers to teach
the Common Core State Standards in math,
researchers are working with teachers to build
a network of highly trained coaches that can be
expanded over time to reach across Tennessee
and carry out future improvement work.
"Continuous Improvement of a What
Works Clearinghouse-Rated Early
Principal Investigator: Prentice Starkey,
researcher on the Seattle project.
Schools often use pieces of the plando-study-act cycle, she said, but not
systematically or with a team.
Without a clear system in place for
thinking, discussing, planning, doing,
and evaluating, ideas can "disappear
in the ionosphere" without taking root
or getting better, Epstein said.
Steven B. Sheldon, another Johns
Hopkins researcher on the project,
said the process helps move schools
away from the "annual checklist"
mentality, where they put an idea or
activity aside for a year until it's time
for them to tackle it again.
There have been big challenges in
the family-engagement work, research
team members said. In many schools,
the core idea of the project seemed to
contradict a key idea of middle and
Partners: WestEd, Pasadena Unified School
District, Rialto Unified School District, Tehama
Department of Education, and Compton Unified
Purpose: Researchers are working with
elementary schools in California to improve and
sustain the implementation of a curriculum
called Pre-K Mathematics so that it meets
the learning needs of low-income students
attending these schools. Although the program
has led to significant gains in randomized trials,
researchers and district administrators have
noted that implementation often fades after the
evaluation is over.
"Continuous Improvement Research
to Support the Implementation of a
Statewide Reform to Postsecondary
Principal Investigator: Trey Miller, RAND
Partners: RAND, Texas Higher Education
Purpose: This partnership aims to help
six Texas community colleges develop and
Coverage of continuous-improvement
strategies in education is supported in part
by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation at www.gatesfoundation.
org. Education Week retains sole editorial
control over the content of this coverage.
implement effective responses to a new state
initiative focused on ensuring that more
students who take remedial classes move
onto-and succeed in-credit-bearing courses.
"Montana Continuous Improvement
in Education Research to Improve
Secondary School Literacy Outcomes"
Principal Investigator: Ellen Schiller, SRI
Partners: SRI International, Montana Office of
Purpose: To better meet the needs of middle
and high school students with weak reading
and writing skills, researchers are working
with educators to revise and adapt core
aspects of the Montana Striving Readers
Program and boost the capacity
of schools across Montana
to implement that
SOURCE: Institute of
Some schools have embraced phone
apps that send parents texts-in 30plus languages-about transitionrelated school events or deadlines.
A few schools are trying homework assignments to reach parents.
Designed by the Johns Hopkins
researchers, the assignments are
packets that 8th graders take home
and work with their parents to complete. They require students to lead
their parents through discussions
about the importance of attending
school regularly and completing assignments and they include discussions about students' dreams about
their high school years.
Schools use the continuous-improvement process to hatch their
ideas and track them as they unfold.
With coaching from Simmons, they
learn to use a plan-do-study-act
approach, identifying the problem,
coming up with a possible solution,
planning it, executing it, and then
evaluating how it went.
They learn to focus on specific questions during their discussions, such
as: What specifically are we trying to
accomplish? What changes might we
make and why? How will we know a
change is an improvement?
Ian Bates for Education Week
Tweaks and New Strategies
high school culture: that young adolescents should take on more responsibility and lean less on their parents.
"When I asked our middle and high
schools what they did for parents [in
the transition to high school], I got
blank stares," she said.
Some schools didn't participate in
the project fully because their principals never fully bought into the importance of family engagement. Some
schools left the work of family engagement entirely to their parent-teacher
associations, which didn't typically
reach all parents, Simmons said.
Simmons believes in the idea that
parent support for attendance and
homework completion can make a
huge difference in 9th grade success,
and she holds out hope that the data
will show improvements.
Greenberg said the continuous-improvement process offers a powerful
tool for schools to get better, but only if
they use real evidence to evaluate and
change their work.
"I worry that continuous improvement could be just the fad du jour," she
said. "But if we take it seriously, it can
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