From Tuesday’s inbox…
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Friends and colleagues:
There’s a saying that “all politics is local” and at SRI Education, we think that great educational research is local too. So we’re helping districts improve their own local evaluation capacity, we’re partnering with researchers in Africa to understand how free bikes might help improve outcomes for students and their families, and we’re mentoring girls in our community in computer science. Read more about these stories below, and follow us at @SRI_Educationon Twitter to stay up to date on our publications, presentations, and news!
Denise Glyn Borders
President, SRI Education
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SRI Researchers Offer Tools for Evaluating Quality of Workforce Education
The “skills gap” between what schools teach and what employers need is wider than ever. To address this problem, substantial investments support partnerships between employers and community college educators. How do these collaborations work and what can make them work better? A 6-year study by SRI Education researchers offers a practitioner-based framework and tools for answering these questions. Read the fullWorkforce Education Implementation Evaluation Research Brief.
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Lessons from Massachusetts: Promising Strategies for Building Evaluator Capacity
Over the past few years, most states across the country have adopted statewide educator evaluation systems, Massachusetts being one of them. These evaluation systems typically include more frequent observations of teachers of all experience and performance levels to facilitate accurate observations and improve educators’ instructional practice, which has added significant responsibilities to evaluators’ workloads. Many states report facing challenges with evaluator capacity especially related to managing principals’ workloads and ensuring the consistency of evaluators’ ratings and feedback across the district.
As part of our Center for Education Policy’s study of the implementation of Massachusetts’ Educator Evaluation Framework, the research team visited three case study districts and conducted phone interviews in a fourth to learn about their promising strategies for building evaluator capacity. The team spoke to district administrators, principals, teachers, and union representatives to explore the contextual factors surrounding their practices.
To address consistency among evaluators’ feedback and ratings, all case study districts provided ongoing opportunities for educators to calibrate on the practices they look for during observations and to discuss common processes for delivering feedback. These efforts included
- Having evaluators collectively analyze examples of real-world teaching and anonymized feedback
- Providing evaluators with content-specific training and providing examples of what rigor looks like within specific subject areas
- Conducting group walk-throughs so that evaluators could compare feedback and complement each other’s knowledge of content or context
To address the increased workload and time needed to complete evaluation activities, including conducting observations, providing feedback, and reviewing evidence, district efforts included
- Leveraging district administrators as primary evaluators for a subset of school staff
- Revisiting district guidance on observation frequency, resulting in fewer observations with higher quality feedback
Read the full case study brief which highlights promising practices from these case study districts that could inform other states and districts’ efforts to build evaluator capacity.
Evaluating the Educational Impact of a School Bike Program in South Africa
With funding from the UBS Optimus Foundation, SRI Education researchers are evaluating a school bicycle program in rural sub-Saharan Africa that is intended to improve attendance and educational outcomes for students who would otherwise walk long distances to school each day. World Bicycle Relief, a Chicago-based organization with support from the foundation, is distributing bikes to school children in South Africa and other countries during the 2015 and 2016 school years. Partnering with local researchers, SRI is designing and conducting a study to determine the impact of the program on attendance, school performance, and family well-being and the local factors and practices that support better outcomes. The final evaluation report will be available in 2017.
Mentoring Girls in Computer Science
Despite the buzz around introducing children to computer science and coding in the K-12 years, there is a stark reality which we contend with: disappointingly low numbers of girls and underserved minorities are studying computing in the United States. Recent figures suggest that we have a long way to go to level the playing field. At SRI Education, we’re not only leading research on computer science, but we’re also doing our bit to move the needle by engaging in efforts that target tweens in middle school––when many children develop or lose interest in particular subjects, as is often the case with girls and STEM.
In fall 2014, the Design_Code_Build program introduced more than 400 Bay Area middle school students to the basics of computer science coding, such as logic, structure, space, and change. A series of events at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California for middle school students emphasized problem solving, teamwork, and project-based learning. SRI Education’s Shuchi Grover delivered the keynote, sharing her journey, which began with her 1982 proclamation to a newspaper in her hometown in India that she wanted to study computer science. Grover’s Computing is Everywhere! playlist was especially interesting to the students.
Last year, SRI Education’s Patti Schank served as a mentor to a Technovation team of girls. Technovation is designed to promote women’s exploration of science, innovation, and entrepreneurship, involving thousands of girls in more than 60 countries. Small teams of young women work together to design mobile apps and pitch their “startup” businesses to investors. Each team is matched with a female mentor. Schank’s team created a mobile app called “MissedIt,” designed to help students catch up on schoolwork if they were absent or missed information in class.
For more about the Technovation and the Design_Code_Build project, read the full Mentoring Girls in Computer Science blog post.