Learning From Student Voice: Are Students Engaged?

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy

Learning From Student Voice: Are Students Engaged?

When students have a love of learning and a desire to succeed ─ when they are genuinely engaged with their school and their education ─ they are more likely to learn. Since student engagement is a leading indicator of academic achievement and persistence in school as well as a key element of school climate, educators can greatly benefit from measuring it. So, what does engagement look like, according to the students themselves? To answer this question, YouthTruth analyzed survey responses from over 230,000 students in grades three through twelve. The data was gathered between November 2012 and June 2017 through YouthTruth's anonymous online climate and culture survey, administered in partnership with school districts and charter management organizations across 36 states. Our analysis looked at a subset of questions related to student engagement and uncovered some key insights.

December 2017

Geographic Focus: North America / United States

A Library They Deserve: The Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project

Education and Literacy

A Library They Deserve: The Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation has partnered with Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) to complete a series of reports examining the implementation and impact of the Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project (Library Project). This report on the first year of the project examines the experiences of the principals, librarians, teachers, and students at the three schools that received new libraries. Also, teachers' and students' perceptions of their school library were compared across the Library Project and comparison schools. Findings of the report include: (1) all three schools with a new library viewed them as inviting, attractive, and well-resourced spaces; (2) a knowledgeable, skilled, and motivated library staff is essential to maximizing the potential of these new libraries; (3) librarians and teachers need additional professional development to best integrate the library technology into instruction; and (4) the community partnerships initiated through this project are adding significant resources to the education of students in these schools. The implications for the school district and future efforts are discussed.

January 2014

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Southern)-Maryland-Baltimore

Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement: Start Times, Grade Configurations, and Teacher Assignments

Education and Literacy

Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement: Start Times, Grade Configurations, and Teacher Assignments

Education reform proposals are often based on high-profile or dramatic policy changes, many of which are expensive, politically controversial, or both. In this paper, we argue that the debates over these "flashy" policies have obscured a potentially important direction for raising student performance -- namely, reforms to the management or organization of schools. By making sure the "trains run on time" and focusing on the day-to-day decisions involved in managing the instructional process, school and district administrators may be able to substantially increase student learning at modest cost.

In this paper, we describe three organizational reforms that recent evidence suggests have the potential to increase K -- 12 student performance at modest costs: (1) Starting school later in the day for middle and high school students; (2) Shifting from a system with separate elementary and middle schools to one with schools that serve students in kindergarten through grade eight; (3) Managing teacher assignments with an eye toward maximizing student achievement (e.g. allowing teachers to gain experience by teaching the same grade level for multiple years or having teachers specializing in the subject where they appear most effective).

We conservatively estimate that the ratio of benefits to costs is 9 to 1 for later school start times and 40 to 1 for middle school reform. A precise benefit-cost calculation is not feasible for the set of teacher assignment reforms we describe, but we argue that the cost of such proposals is likely to be quite small relative to the benefits for students. While we recognize that these specific reforms may not be appropriate or feasible for every district, we encourage school, district, and state education leaders to make the management, organization, and operation of schools a more prominent part of the conversation on how to raise student achievement.

September 2011

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

The Condition of New York City HIgh Schools: Examining Trends and Looking Toward the Future

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy

The Condition of New York City HIgh Schools: Examining Trends and Looking Toward the Future

Until the turn of the 21st century, high school graduation rates in New York City hovered at or below 50 percent, much lower than state and national averages. There was widespread agreement about the need to reform the City's high schools and produce better results for students. This paper presents an independent analysis of how the high school landscape changed in New York City between 1999 and 2011 and, importantly, the extent to which key student outcomes improved during that time.

The paper describes dramatic shifts in the supply of high schools, most notably a trend toward smaller, more mission-driven schools of choice. It also reports steady improvement across many indicators of high school performance and engagement, including attendance, credit accumulation, graduation, and college readiness rates. The paper highlights stubborn gaps in performance as well -- between groups of students, and between current achievement levels and the aspirations that the public and school leaders have for New York City high schools. Drawing on these findings, the paper outlines several directions for future policy and practice.

This paper is the first in a series examining the structure and performance of New York City's high schools.

March 2013

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

Staying On Track: Testing Higher Achievement's Long-Term Impact on Academic Outcomes and High School Choice

Education and Literacy

Staying On Track: Testing Higher Achievement's Long-Term Impact on Academic Outcomes and High School Choice

Higher Achievement is an intensive summer and after-school program that began in its current form in 1999 in Washington, DC. Today there are Higher Achievement programs in Washington, DC/Alexandria, VA; Richmond, VA; Pittsburgh, PA; and Baltimore, MD. The study includes the five Higher Education Achievement Centers that were operating in DC and Alexandria when the study began.

Each center serves about 85 students, or "scholars", recruited mainly through school referral. Starting the summer before youth enter fifth or sixth grade and extending through eighth grade. Higher Achievement provides scholars with up to 650 hours of academic instructio0n per year, as well as enrichment activities and targeted, academic mentoring.

October 2013

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Southern)-Virginia (Northern);North America-United States (Southern)-District of Columbia-Washington

Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve Afterschool

Education and Literacy

Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve Afterschool

Almost everyone believes that afterschool programs are one of those good things for youngsters. And yet many kids are left out: Only 15 percent -- 8.4 million -- of the country's school children participate, according to a report, "America After 3 PM," by the advocacy organization Afterschool Alliance. That leaves millions more students returning to empty houses, or worse. At a Feb. 21-22, 2013 conference in Baltimore, close to 400 people invited from 57 U.S. cities gathered to discuss what they could do to push for better afterschool programs -- and make sure that programming is available to all the kids who need it.

July 2013

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

Learning from Turnaround Middle Schools: Strategies for Success

Education and Literacy

Learning from Turnaround Middle Schools: Strategies for Success

In New York City and around the nation, there is intense interest in the question of what it takes to turn around a low-performing school. This study focused on two sets of initially low-performing NYC middle schools. The first group (the "turnaround schools") exhibited significant growth in academic performance between 2006 and 2010, while the other group saw minimal growth or remained stagnant during the same period. To gain an understanding of how the turnaround schools improved, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with principals and focus groups with teachers in both sets of schools.

This report presents a rich picture of the conditions and strategies that enabled the turnaround schools to boost student achievement. Specifically, it identifies three interrelated "essential conditions" that were largely principal driven: aligning needs with goals, creating a positive work environment, and addressing student discipline and safety. These essential conditions, in turn, set the stage for implementing specific strategies to improve teaching and learning: developing teachers internally, creating small learning communities, targeting student sub-populations, and using data to inform instruction. The report also describes several ongoing challenges faced by all the schools. Finally, it draws on the study's findings to make recommendations for improving the effectiveness of middle schools here in New York City and around the country. The study is part of an ongoing focus on the middle grades for the Research Alliance.

February 2012

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis

Education and Literacy;Human Rights and Civil Liberties;Race and Ethnicity

Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis

Examines the rise in school suspensions; their effectiveness; the widening racial/ethnic discipline gap, especially for African-American boys; and the impact of suspensions on academic success and likelihood of incarceration. Makes policy recommendations.

September 2010

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

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