Education Week - October 17, 2012 - (Page 10)

10 EDUCATION WEEK I OCTOBER 17, 2012 I IES to Start ‘Continuous Improvement’ Study Program By Sarah D. Sparks Washington It can be tough to translate evidence into action in education research. A principal or superintendent might sift through academic journals or vendors’ pamphlets for an effective reading program, but even a seal of approval from the federal What Works Clearinghouse is no guarantee that what helped students in one district will be successful with another. To better inform that knowledge base, the Institute of Education Sciences is crafting a new research program, called “continuous improvement research in education,” to go beyond “what works” and add more context to education findings. “Knowing what works plays a very important role in school improvement, but alone it’s not enough,” said John Q. Easton , the director of the IES , the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. “There are questions about building the capacity to implement what works, building the capacity to measure, check, and adapt to changes.” The initiative, expected to be launched in 2014, would award four-year grants of up to $1.5 million each, though there’s no word yet on how many would be awarded. The IES wants researchers to focus on supportive school climates, high school transitions, or access to postsecondary education. The initiative would build in part on a slew of new research models. They include “design-based implementation research”—being developed at Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools, in Nashville, Tenn., and SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning, in Menlo which advises the IES and discussed the proposed initiative at a meeting here in Washington on Oct. 5. Mr. Easton said the initiative would focus on cycles of improvement, in which researchers de- Knowing what works plays a very important role in school improvement, but alone it’s not enough.” JOHN Q. EASTON Institute of Education Sciences “ methods themselves.” The projects would also focus on systemwide interventions, “examining how components of systems work together to generate desired outcomes,” according to the draft request for proposals. Prior federal research has pointed to local context as a sticking point for scaling up successful educational interventions. Recent federal longitudinal studies of school improvement found district policies and supports can mean the difference between schools that turn around and those that struggle. Careful Collaboration velop, test, and tweak interventions in the classroom or school context. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 2011.) For example, NBES member Hirokazu Yoshikawa, the academic dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said he used rapid prototyping, which includes 90-day, intervention-testing cycles, to adapt a teacher professional-development program in Chile. The method was, Mr. Yoshikawa said, “spectacularly successful in achieving buy-in and local ownership, but also, from a scientific standpoint, getting to a part of the science that I don’t think we’d ever gotten to, which is how do you track the day-to-day or week-toweek improvement process?” “It creates local tests of change,” he said, “and it’s the practitioners who develop those Anthony S. Bryk , an NBES member and the president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, likened continuous-improvement research to the Toyota auto company’s famed “total quality management” system, in which any worker can stop the factory line if he spots a problem. “What is the problem we’re trying to solve, what and why is the change we’re putting in place, and how will we know if that change is an improvement?” Mr. Bryk said, describing the approach continuous-improvement research takes. “That’s a very different way of thinking about the work,” he said. “It’s seeing improvement as a learning journey, rather than the way most districts see it as, ‘Well, we have this new idea, I have to roll it out fast, implement it at scale, and most of my attention is Park, Calif.—and the “rapid prototyping” models tested at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, in Stanford, Calif., and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, in Cambridge, Mass. In both models, researchers and districts work together over years to identify and test solutions for specific problems. ‘Iterative’ Research “[In] a typical research project, here’s my research question; I’m going to answer my research question. This is much more iterative, developed collaboratively, and you’re not sure how it’s going to go or what the time frame is,” said Bridget T. Long, a Harvard University education economist and the president of the National Board for Education Sciences, on crisis intervention.’ ” Barbara Means, the director of SRI International, cautioned that the federal research agency will have to structure the grants to force educators and researchers to be equal collaborators, in which “neither can totally steer the ship, but both must be accountable.” The IES has already been building up the supply of research partnerships that might be capable of taking up the work. The new network of federally financed regional educational laboratories has developed some 70 research alliances involving states, districts, and researchers. “What’s become really clear is this is really hard work,” said Ruth C. Neild, the commissioner of the National Center on Education Evaluation, part of the IES. “Engaging over a sustained time is harder for researchers, harder for districts and states, but we think the rewards will be greater.” If successful, said NBES member Robert Granger, the president of the New York City-based William T. Grant Foundation, the initiative could produce a new goldstandard model for education research, akin to the IES’ original focus on randomized controlled trials, but “where the gold standard isn’t to run a trial; the gold standard is seeing consistent results across a number of conditions.” Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to comment on “Continuous Improvement Research in Education.” BLOGS of the WEEK | NEWS | K-12 Parents and the Public “family social capital” —such as parents’ checking homework and attending school events—and “school social capital”—like teacher morale and student participation in extracurricular activities—discovering that even in schools that had low social capital, students were more likely to excel if their family social-capital scores were high. —MICHELE MOLNAR Study: Parents Influential In Academic Success Parents who want their children to succeed academically in school have more influence over that outcome than the schools themselves, according to a study by researchers from three universities. “The effort that parents are putting in at home in terms of checking homework, reinforcing the importance of school, and stressing the importance of academic achievement is ultimately very important to their children’s academic achievement,” said Toby Parcel, professor of sociology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., and a co-author of the study. To arrive at their findings, researchers used National Education Longitudinal Study data to evaluate social capital at home and at school. Parcel said her group evaluated results from 10,000 12th graders, taking into account their composite test scores in math, reading, science, and history to measure achievement levels. Researchers compared measures of | NEWS | Inside School Research Brain Research Targets Reading Development Could a brain scan be added to the developmental measures children receive at the pediatrician’s office before starting school? Jason D. Yeatman, a psychologist at the Stanford University Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging, hopes researchers will soon be able to identify biological indicators for reading development, just like height and weight. Yeatman and fellow researchers from Stanford and Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, found that in order to learn to read, a young child’s brain must be developed enough to process the information, but still capable of fast growth, according to a new longitudinal study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers tracked development of reading skills and brain growth in 55 children ages 7 to 12 during a three-year period. Two separate processes are hard at work in a child’s developing brain during this time, Yeatman explained. Learning and practicing a skill creates and strengthens the neural pathways connecting the associated parts of the brain, represented by white matter. At the same time, however, unneeded connections deteriorate over time. “In good readers, they are balanced and going at the same time and being influenced by the child’s experience,” Yeatman said. “In the poor readers, the growth process has already stopped, and you only see the pruning process.” —SARAH D. SPARKS | NEWS | Digital Education Report: Teachers Need Ready Access to More Data Digital Learning Now! has released its second report in a series that aims to provide guidance for states on implementing common-core standards while transitioning to a digital learning environment. This report focuses on the sharing of student information and data. Most teachers know little about the students they receive at the start of the school year, the report says, which prevents them from being able to personalize learning. The report suggests creating data backpacks and learner profiles that would follow each student from year to year. The digital backpacks would store demographic information, state testing data, and any student supports, as well as an electronic portfolio of student work, attendance and behavior records, end-of-course grades, and learning gains tied to standards. Learner profiles would focus on the overall progress students are making toward college and career readiness. With the data, teachers would have a much more well-rounded and holistic picture of each student before they even set foot in the classroom, says the report. Such fluid and flexible sharing of information has its challenges. For one, schools will have to put safeguards in place to comply with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. No such platform currently exists that would meet the demands of what the report calls for. Currently, many schools’ data systems exist in silos (e.g., the system that keeps track of attendance data is different from the system that keeps track of students’ standardized-test scores). Getting those systems to talk to each other will require an overhaul of current systems as well as collaboration between state policymakers, educators, industry players, —KATIE ASH funders, and state leaders. >> To see all Education Week blogs, go to

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 17, 2012

Education Week - October 17, 2012
States Punch Reset Button Under NCLB
FOCUS ON: SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Debates Over School Shutdowns Heating Up
Student Mastery of Civics Ed. Goes Untested
Charters, K-12 Aid Roiling Wash. State
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Cheating Scandal Lands Ex-Superintendent In Prison
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: New Tools Seek to Evaluate Ed-Tech Products, Services
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.Y.C. Teens Pay Valets to Store Cellphones During School Hours
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Center Raises Concerns About E-Learning For Special Education
Community Colleges Rethink Student- Placement Tests
IES to Start ‘Continuous Improvement’ Study Program
Blogs of the Week
Phaseout Plan Pains Chicago Neighborhood
High Court Tackles Affirmative Action Case
Maine Charters Roll Out Amid Promise, Questions
Policy Brief
Vice Presidential Candidate Debate Offers Brief Mention of Education
EUGENE BRATEK: Moving From Cheating To Academic Honesty
CHESTER E. FINN JR. & JESSICA A. HOCKETT: The Best Bargain in American Education
DAVID POLOCHANIN: Considering Cursive in a Digital World
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
CHERYL SCOTT WILLIAMS: School Reform, But From Whose Perspective?

Education Week - October 17, 2012