Virtual School Meanderings

July 24, 2015

REL Midwest Research Update: School Turnaround Research Alliance

Also from yesterday’s inbox…

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Message From the Alliance Lead

Taishya AdamsI joined the REL Midwest School Turnaround Research Alliance as the alliance lead in January 2015, after attending the Center on School Turnaround’s 2014 annual conference. During the conference, I met state education agency (SEA) representatives from across the country and learned about their strengths and challenges in turning around chronically underperforming schools.

REL Midwest’s School Turnaround Research Alliance is committed to building capacity among its SEA members to identify and address school turnaround challenges related to policy and practice through regional research, technical assistance, and stakeholder engagement projects. The School Turnaround Research Alliance’s work will inform the development of evidence-based tools, processes, and policies to help states, districts, and schools support school improvement efforts.

It has been a joy to engage and collaborate with SEA representatives from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. My favorite part about serving as an alliance lead is creating a space for authentic thought partnership and regional collaboration. Building bridges and connecting people and their work has been a lifelong commitment. I am excited for the road ahead as the alliance revises its goal and identifies topics and research questions that will inform our work. — Taishya Adams

REL Midwest Transitions Alliance’s Focus From Beating the Odds to School Turnaround

In 2012, a group of state- and local-level Michigan stakeholders came together to determine how to identify previously low-performing public schools that were outperforming their peers—schools that were beating the odds. With support from REL Midwest, this group became the Beating the Odds Research Alliance. Over the next two years, the Beating the Odds Research Alliance worked with REL Midwest to analyze Michigan’s approach to identifying schools that outperform expectations. Projects conducted by the alliance included REL Midwest’s recent report, How Methodology Decisions Affect the Variability of Schools Identified as Beating the Odds.

In 2015, alliance members, in collaboration with REL Midwest leadership, identified the opportunity to expand the alliance’s focus to include all things related to school turnaround. The first iteration of the alliance worked to identify schools succeeding in challenging environments and to understand why these schools were able to succeed. Now, alliance members and researchers want to use this information to help other schools succeed. This expanded focus will allow alliance members to not only address issues related to identifying beating the odds schools, but also tackle challenges related to leadership, accountability, and the role of SEAs in school turnaround.

The expanded focus also provided an opportunity to revisit the alliance’s membership composition. To allow for more peer–to–peer collaboration, alliance members and REL Midwest leadership invited representatives from SEAs outside of Michigan to join the alliance and successfully recruited new members from Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The newly formed School Turnaround Research Alliance’s expanded focus and composition necessitated that alliance members and REL Midwest researchers revisit the alliance’s goals, topics, and research questions. This ongoing process will allow new and veteran alliance members to be active participants in setting the alliance’s desired objectives as well as determining strategies, plans, and commitments to achieve them.

In one of the first projects conducted under the revamped School Turnaround Research Alliance, researchers are working with the Michigan Department of Education, along with intermediate school district and district administrators, to improve supports provided to focus schools through a rapid-cycle continuous improvement process. Through this process, REL Midwest will work with administrators to understand the root of the problems facing focus schools, improve upon supports to address these issues, and measure and track changes to outcomes of interest. Stay tuned for updates from this project.

Meet the Alliance Member

Taishya AdamsGreg Keith, director of the Division of School Support at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), has been with the department for three and half years and a member of the School Turnaround Research Alliance since 2015.

Although he joined the School Turnaround Research Alliance only recently, he is not new to research alliances or school turnaround. He has served as a member of REL Midwest’s Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance since its launch in 2012. Before coming to MDE, Keith was a school turnaround principal in Memphis, Tennessee, and also worked in the area of middle school reform at the district level.

Keith currently oversees MDE’s division that houses the system of support for the state’s identified focus and priority schools and provides technical assistance to schools and districts in the areas of continuous improvement planning, educator effectiveness and evaluation, and professional development.

The Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance was his first experience with a research-practice partnership, and that experience fueled his desire to join the School Turnaround Research Alliance.

“‘Research alliance’ sounded kind of big and abstract—like maybe it couldn’t relate to the work on the ground,” Keith said. “But I’ve learned that it really can have an impact on the work.”

Through projects of the Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance, Keith said alliance members tapped the technical expertise of REL Midwest and learned the basics of constructing a data-gathering tool and using it appropriately.

“Researchers didn’t just do the work for us,” Keith said. “They worked with us and that’s what was most valuable.”

By valuing the contributions from the school, district, and state levels, Keith brings an important perspective to the School Turnaround Research Alliance.

“When school turnaround is successful, it’s because all three levels—school, district, and state—work together,” he said. “I bring that personal awareness of what each level contributes.”

The people who do school turnaround work at all three levels keep Keith coming to the office every day. “They’re my motivation,” he said.

In his role, Keith strives to connect the work of the SEA to student outcomes.

“I regularly remind myself—and I ask my team to remember so that we can hold each other accountable—that for all actions, decisions, and policies, we consider if it is what’s best for the students.”

Meet the Researcher

Taishya AdamsMonica Bhatt, a researcher with REL Midwest’s School Turnaround Research Alliance, works to develop a research agenda and projects focused on school improvement supports in Midwest states. She joined the staff of REL Midwest in December 2014.

Bhatt has spent more than 10 years at the intersection of research, policy, and practice pursuing systematic answers to policy-relevant questions, both in the United States and abroad, including as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. Her experiences as a student, volunteer, researcher, policy analyst, and educator in diverse contexts led her to witness firsthand inequalities in education systems and the ways in which organizational factors could influence student outcomes.

“I’ve always been interested in the way that policy can drive organizational behavior and change,” said Bhatt.

She is particularly interested in the ways that states can design systems of support to spur improvements in low-performing schools, and has focused her dissertation in education policy at the University of Michigan on the implementation of statewide supports for low-performing schools in Michigan. As a researcher and technical assistance provider, she has worked on issues of school finance, educator quality, educator compensation, postsecondary access and equity, and school turnaround. Bhatt is currently working with the School Turnaround Research Alliance to develop a model of continuous improvement for state supports for focus schools in Michigan.

For Bhatt, the most enjoyable part of working with the alliance is the opportunity to engage with diverse perspectives from across the region.

“Right now the alliance is going through a process to develop topics of interest for a new research agenda,” said Bhatt. “I’ve enjoyed hearing the insights of both our new and returning members as we work to develop questions that will drive our work.”

She said the opportunity for direct collaboration with alliance members also has expanded the possibility of what research can do and how it can be incorporated into practice.

“It’s a win-win for all of us,” explained Bhatt. “The collaborative research model builds alliance members’ capacity to consume and participate in research while building our team’s capacity to ask and answer relevant questions for stakeholders.”

School Turnaround Resources and Events

Resources

  • Three recent responses to REL Midwest Reference Desk requests on topics related to school turnaround are archived online. The first response looks into measures used to identify schools that outperform expectations. The next document provides information on measures of poverty used in school turnaround research. A final scan outlines how the American Community Survey has been used to measure community wealth in relation to school academic outcomes.
  • REL Northeast & Islands created a Toolkit for a Workshop on Building a Culture of Data Use to guide facilitators through a set of structured activities to understand how to foster a culture of data use in districts and schools. The conceptual framework draws on five research-based elements known to support an effective culture of data use.
  • A new report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, titled A First Look at the 5Essentials in Illinois Schools, provides the first comprehensive analysis of Illinois’ statewide survey of school climate and learning conditions. The report finds systematic differences among schools in the degree to which students and teachers report strengths in the five essential supports—effective leadership, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environments, and ambitious instruction.
  • Reform Support Network’s School Turnaround Performance Management Toolkitpresents a four-step framework to help states navigate changes and sustain their work as Race to the Top grants end. The framework has four variables: clarity of outcomes and theory of action, alignment of resources, collection and use of data, and accountability for results.
  • The State Role in School Turnaround: Emerging Best Practices from the Center on School Turnaround builds on existing research and shares experiences and observations from practitioners and scholars actively engaged in school turnaround efforts.
  • The Study of School Turnaround is a set of case studies that documents the change process during a three-year period in School Improvement Grant-funded schools located in diverse state and local contexts. A report from the Institute of Education Sciences, titled Case Studies of Schools Receiving School Improvement Grants: Findings After the First Year of Implementation, presents findings after the first year of funding (2010–11).

Events

  • REL Midwest and its School Turnaround Research Alliance will host a Making Connections public television event in December 2015 with WVIZ in Cleveland. Stay tuned for more information about the filming, including the date and time, panelists, and discussion topics.
  • The School Turnaround Learning Community, a project of the Center on School Turnaround, will host a webinar on July 22 to showcase a strategy to guide SEAs and districts in assessing district readiness to support school turnaround. The presenters also will offer insights on school turnaround as a system-level issue requiring fundamental changes.
  • REL Appalachia hosted a webinar in September 2014 titled “Meeting Students’ Needs Through Increased Learning Time.” Speakers presented evidence that supports increased learning time programs and shared their experiences implementing these programs. You can view the archived webinar on REL Appalachia’s website.
 
Contact Us
Please contact us for more information
about any of the items in this newsletter
or to speak to a member of our staff.
We look forward to hearing from you.

       

REL Midwest at American Institutes for Research
School Turnaround Research Alliance
1120 East Diehl Road, Suite 200
Naperville, IL 60563-1486
866-730-6735
www.relmidwest.org
 

This material was prepared under Contract ED-IES-12-C-0004 by Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, administered by American Institutes for Research. The content of the publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

 

This email was sent to: mkbarbour@gmail.com

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June 25, 2015

REL Midwest Research Update: June 2015

Also from yesterday’s inbox…  Note that there are several K-12 online learning items below, so be sure to scroll all the way through.

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REL Midwest Research Update

Mission
To use data and research to improve academic outcomes for students and provide support for a more evidence-reliant education system.
 
Message From the Director

Julie Kochanek, Ph.D.

Welcome to Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest’ssummer 2015 newsletter. I am pleased to share this update on the important work under way with our research alliances.For nearly four years, REL Midwest has been engaging state and district stakeholders in conversations about research findings and use. We have conducted more than 50 projects and 30 events with our research alliances during this time.

Many of our projects result in published reports, but these reports are just one part of our stakeholder engagement strategy. This strategy starts during the concept phase and results in a multipronged approach to communicating about research and supporting the use of findings in policy and practice. This newsletter highlights some of the many engagement strategies we have used recently to disseminate, discuss, and increase the impact of our work. — Julie Kochanek, Ph.D.

REL Representatives Meet in Chicago to Discuss Collaborative Research

representatives of RELs researchersOn April 17, representatives from RELs across the country and researchers interested in research-practice partnerships attended a workshop in downtown Chicago hosted by REL Midwest. The workshop, titled “ Realizing a Collaborative Research Theory of Action While Waiting for Research Results,” encouraged participants to discuss the benefits and challenges of collaborative research and brainstorm ways to improve research alliance member engagement.

During the first session, REL Midwest shared its theory of action that depicts the relationships needed in an effective research-practice partnership. Ideally, researchers may call upon practitioners—and vice versa—for input, information, and support. The practitioners also share relationships among themselves that enable them to leverage the experiences and wisdom of the group. REL Midwest uses this theory of action to design processes and resources to nurture these relationships throughout the partnership’s life span.

The second session highlighted strategies for engaging stakeholder advisory groups (SAGs) in the work of the partnership. SAG members are interested in specific projects and meet regularly with the project director to ensure that the work is informative and useful. Workshop participants discussed how researchers and SAG members build a trusting and successful relationship by viewing each other as experts.

The highlight of the afternoon session was an example of a SAG in Iowa. Ann-Marie Faria, lead of REL Midwest’s Early Childhood Education Research Alliance, and Shanell Wagler, administrator of Early Childhood Iowa, have built a collaborative, trusting relationship through their work on the alliance. The passion they found in their work together shone through the second session.

“We have a mutual respect for our content areas,” Ann-Marie said. “I am bringing something to the table, and I couldn’t do any of this work without the expertise of my state partners.”

The final session examined engagement activities including briefings, workshops, webinars, newsletters, and social media. Workshop participants discussed the effectiveness of these communications strategies and shared additional engagement tactics such as on-site meetings with stakeholders.

Workshop participant Natalie Lacireno-Paquet, senior research associate at REL Northeast and Islands, said the suggestion to think explicitly about alliance members as ambassadors was a key takeaway from the workshop.

“I think we talk about that, but I don’t know if we necessarily talk to our members about their role in that way,” Natalie said. “We should engage alliance members in thinking about their role not only on the alliance but also their role as ambassadors among their professional networks for the work they do with us.”

Published Reports From the Alliances

Who Will Succeed and Who Will Struggle? Predicting Early College Success With Indiana’s Student Information System
This study examined whether data on Indiana high school students, their high schools, and the Indiana public colleges and universities in which they enroll predict their academic success during the first two years in college. The study, produced in partnership with the College and Career Success Research Alliance , found that college success differed by student demographic and academic characteristics, by the type of college a student first entered, and by the indicator of college success used.
Examining Changes to Michigan’s Early Childhood Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS)
This study, produced in partnership with the Early Childhood Education Research Alliance, described how early childhood programs were rated in Michigan’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS, calledGreat Start to Quality ) and examined how alternative approaches to calculating ratings affected the number of programs rated at each quality level. The study found that programs self-rated at low quality and high quality more often than at moderate quality. The study also found that programs with both a self-rating and an independent observation of quality generally had higher self-ratings than observational ratings. The study used simulated data to compare the distributions of ratings in the original QRIS with a revised version of the QRIS that relaxed requirements for the standards programs were required to meet across the rating categories (domains). These approaches were compared to a third approach that used only programs’ overall scores. Findings revealed that in the new relaxed system and the total score approach, programs were rated at higher levels of quality when compared to the original QRIS.
College Enrollment Patterns for Rural Indiana High School Graduates
REL Midwest, in partnership with its Rural Research Alliance, examined student data on the 2010 graduating class of Indiana public high schools to learn about differences in the college pathways of rural and nonrural high school students. The report found that 2010 graduates of rural and nonrural public high schools in Indiana had similar academic preparation and likelihood of acceptance, but rural graduates were more likely to enroll in two-year colleges and less selective colleges than they could have gotten into based on their academic qualifications.PLUS: A new infographic summarizes key findings.
How Methodology Decisions Affect the Variability of Schools Identified as Beating the Odds
Methodology decisions can affect which schools are identified as “beating the odds” (BTO)–that is, performing better than expected given the populations they serve. The purpose of this study, produced in partnership with the School Turnaround Research Alliance, was to examine how a list of BTO schools might change depending on the methodological choices and selection of indicators used in the BTO identification process. Using data from Michigan, this study demonstrates how the identification of schools changes when statistical methods and technical specifications change.
Online Course Use in Iowa and Wisconsin Public High Schools: The Results of Two Statewide Surveys
This study, conducted in partnership with the Virtual Education Research Alliance, examined survey data collected from Iowa and Wisconsin public high schools about their use of online courses for students during the 2012–13 school year. The survey asked about how and why schools enrolled students in online courses, what challenges they experienced, and their practices for monitoring and supporting students taking online courses. Results indicated that the primary uses of online courses in both states were to provide students with opportunities for credit recovery and opportunities to complete core requirements for courses covering the primary academic subjects. REL Midwest also created a Stated Briefly summary of the report. PLUS: Two infographics highlight findings from Iowa and Wisconsin.

Collaborative Research Video Series

videos on collaborative researchCheck out REL Midwest’s videos on collaborative research on the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) YouTubechannel to learn how collaborative research contributes to the relevance and utility of our work.

Resources and Events

Resources

  • Are you curious about the long-term effects of student debt? Review REL Midwest’s Reference Desk response to this question to find out what research says on the topic. Responses to other requests are available on the Ask a REL webpage. If you have a question that is not answered in the archive, submit it to Ask a REL.
  • IES releases reports and resources from across the Regional Educational Laboratory Program every couple of weeks. Visit the REL Program website to learn about what’s new and sign up for the IES News Flash to receive notifications of REL reports and events.
  • The Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center recently announced completion of an innovation configuration titledEvidence-Based Reading Instruction for Adolescents Grades 6–12. This new resource highlights evidence-based practices that teacher educators or professional development providers can use in their coursework. Topics of other innovation configurations, created in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at American Institutes for Research, include classroom organization and behavior management, evidence-based mathematics instruction, and inclusive services. The CEEDAR Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

Events

  • Planning is under way for a proposed public television event on the topic of research and strategies to support rural dropout prevention and an in-person event on the topic of online learning. The REL Midwest event team is working with the Rural Research Alliance and Virtual Education Research Alliance, respectively, for these events. Announcements of upcoming events and archives of completed events are available on our website.
  • The REL Midwest Board of Directors met May 1, 2015, in Oak Brook, Illinois. During the meeting, REL Midwest acknowledged outgoing state superintendents Michael Flanagan (Michigan superintendent of public instruction) and Christopher Koch, Ed.D. (Illinois state superintendent of education), for their service on the REL Midwest Board of Directors and their commitment to public education. REL Midwest also thanked board members whose terms expired in May: Gary Crow, Ph.D. (Indiana University), Dorinda Gallant, Ph.D. (The Ohio State University), John Hosp, Ph.D. (University of Iowa), and Linda Roule (Chicago Public Schools).
 
Contact Us
Please contact us for more information
about any of the items in this newsletter
or to speak to a member of our staff.
We look forward to hearing from you.
REL Midwest at American Institutes for Research
1120 East Diehl Road, Suite 200
Naperville, IL 60563-1486
866-730-6735
www.relmidwest.org
 

This material was prepared under Contract ED-IES-12-C-0004 by Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, administered by American Institutes for Research. The content of the publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

 

This email was sent to: mkbarbour@gmail.com

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June 12, 2015

REL Midwest Reports Explore College Enrollment Patterns and Early College Success in Indiana

And another item from Thursday’s inbox…

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Two reports from Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest explore college enrollment patterns and early college success for Indiana’s public high school students.

REL Midwest, in partnership with its Rural Research Alliance, examined student data on the 2010 graduating class of Indiana public high schools to learn about differences in the college pathways of rural and nonrural high school students. The report College Enrollment Patterns for Rural Indiana High School Graduates found that 2010 graduates of rural and nonrural public high schools in Indiana had similar academic preparation and likelihood of acceptance, but rural graduates were more likely to enroll in two-year colleges and less selective colleges than they could have gotten into based on their academic qualifications.

The report Who Will Succeed and Who Will Struggle? Predicting Early College Success With Indiana’s Student Information System examined the early college success of Indiana’s 2010 high school graduates who entered an Indiana two- or four-year public college in fall 2010. REL Midwest, in partnership with its College and Career Success Research Alliance, used Indiana’s longitudinal student database to find measures that predict success early in college according to four indicators: enrolling in only nonremedial coursework in the first semester, earning all attempted credits in the first semester, persisting to a second year of college, and a composite indicator of success by all indicators. Researchers found that 92 percent of the state’s 2010 high school graduates who enrolled in a public state college achieved success by at least one indicator, but only half of these students achieved success by all indicators.

For more information about these reports, please contact REL Midwest at relmidwest@air.org.

This email was sent to: mkbarbour@gmail.com

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May 30, 2015

REL Midwest Research Update: Dropout Prevention Research Alliance

From Thursday’s inbox…

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Dropout Prevention Research Alliance: Research Update

Alliance Goal
To increase graduation rates and reduce persistent disparities in graduation and dropout rates among student subgroups.
Message From the Alliance LeadEmily LoneyWelcome to Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest’s Dropout Prevention Research Alliance newsletter for 2015. It is fitting that, in this spring season of high school commencements, we would have the opportunity to share about the work of the Dropout Prevention Research Alliance and our members who come from the seven-state REL Midwest region.

The work of the Dropout Prevention Research Alliance focuses on increasing graduation rates and reducing persistent disparities in graduation and dropout rates. Our work first began through a project to support three school districts in Ohio to develop and implement early warning indicator systems. These early warning systems use data to identify students at risk of falling behind so educators can support these students with appropriate interventions.

We currently have a number of projects that build on that work, including a study to identify locally valid predictors of student dropout from three Ohio districts. We also are working with schools in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan to evaluate the impact of an early warning and intervention monitoring system on students and schools. Finally, in partnership with alliance members in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we are developing a survey to capture how those states’ early warning systems are being used by local districts.

We invite you to take a look to learn more about the exciting work underway through this alliance to ensure more students have the opportunity walk across the stage with a diploma in hand.
– Emily Loney

Project Highlight: Implementing Early Warning Systems in Ohio

The Dropout Prevention Research Alliance’s work began in 2012 with a project to support a set of schools in Ohio with implementing and applying early warning indicator systems. REL Midwest researchers worked in a collaborative partnership with the schools to compile data into a research-based early warning system tool and to implement a process to identify and monitor students at risk for dropping out of high school.

Early warning systems draw on available data to identify students at risk of dropping out and connect students to appropriate interventions. Research suggests that the key indicators to reliably identify students at risk of dropping out include attendance, behavior incidents, and course performance.

Scott High School in Toledo Public Schools participated in the project. Laurie Kruszynski, a data coordinator at Scott High School, joined the alliance at a time when she had been asked to get the school’s early warning system team in operation to improve the school’s graduation rate.

For Kruszynski, participating in the Dropout Prevention Research Alliance has brought valuable opportunities to collaborate with other schools that were working through the same implementation process.

“We were able to see that we had many concerns, roadblocks, and successes in common,” said Kruszynski. “Working alongside researchers, we were able to get guidance in our work, as well as have a platform from which we could ask questions that sometimes led to further research.”

The access to research was especially important to Kruszynski as she worked through her school’s early warning indicator system.

“The implications of that research helped our early warning system team make informed decisions about thresholds for flagging students as on- or off-track for on-time graduation, as well as what interventions and supports have shown by research to be effective.”

Krusyznski concludes that one of the best outcomes of being involved in the early warning systems work is being able to see positive impacts for students.

“Through the work in this alliance, we have learned how to provide supports to students to get them back on track to graduation. The benefit of being in partnership is seeing a student who didn’t pass freshman year become a graduating senior.”

Making Connections: The State Role in Early Warning Data Systems

REL Midwest’s Dropout Prevention Research Alliance hosted a webinar titled “The State Role in Early Warning Data Systems” on March 24, 2015. This Making Connections event provided a national and regional landscape of current early warning system development and implementation, and highlighted two state-level systems in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The event featured a presentation by Susan Therriault, Ph.D., of American Institutes for Research, who discussed research on the role of the state in promoting and providing support for the implementation of early warning systems.

The event also featured presentations by Timothy Conboy of Rosemount High School in Minnesota, and by Dropout Prevention Research Alliance members John Gimpl of Minnesota Department of Education and Jared Knowles of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The event has been archived and can be accessed on the REL Midwest website.

Dropout Prevention Video HighlightsScreenshot of videoIn the latest installment of REL Midwest’s Collaborative Research video series, Dropout Prevention researcher Mindee O’Cummings discusses how the Dropout Prevention Research Alliance practices collaborative research: http://bit.ly/1IJmI7R.
Screenshot of videoCatch Mindee O’Cummings and alliance member Laurie Kruszynski in an archived public television event about collaborative research and its benefits to research, policy, and practice: http://bit.ly/1Aj00Ah

Meet the Alliance Member

Teresa A. BrownTeresa A. Brown, assistant superintendent of school improvement at the Indiana Department of Education, has been with the department for two years. She has been a member of the Dropout Prevention Research Alliance for a year and a half.

Brown oversees the Division of School Improvement that includes outreach, family and community engagement, school turnaround, college and career readiness, e-learning, grants management, federal programs, special education, early learning, and support for district improvement.

Aligning the resources and the people involved in school improvement eliminated the silos.

“We meet every Monday as a team and we share a common focus,” Brown said.

Brown learned about the use of early warning systems to prevent student dropout during her first alliance meetings.

“I believe EWS [early warning system] is a great tool to help kids and wanted to figure out a way to build that into Indiana’s support system,” she said.

A new Indiana initiative, State Development Network, brings together nine districts representing 60,000 students and high percentages of schools designated as Focus or Priority. Brown said areas of emphasis for the State Development Network include data use, early warning systems, and dropout prevention.

The Dropout Prevention Research Alliance is Brown’s first encounter with a research-practice partnership. As Indiana moves forward with the State Development Network, Brown anticipates needing more assistance that alliance members from other states can provide from their experiences.

“It’s a great concept that offers a way for building my own capacity and the capacity of our state,” Brown concluded.

Meet the Researcher

Mindee O'CummingsMindee O’Cummings, Ph.D., is a principal research analyst at American Institutes for Research. She has worked in education for more than 18 years, in roles from teaching in special and general education settings to conducting research and program evaluations. Currently, O’Cummings is a researcher for REL Midwest’s Dropout Prevention Research Alliance, after serving as the alliance lead.

O’Cummings, who says she has a personal passion for preventing students from dropping out of high school, appreciates how the research alliance unites people with a shared commitment toward dropout prevention and effective interventions.

“At-risk students present multiple issues–some related to education, others related to family and community–that require multifaceted interventions to enable them to succeed,” she said. “But right now, we don’t have a lot of rigorous research on practices that can be generalized.”

“My job as a researcher is to make sure what we are doing quenches that thirst for knowledge about successful practices and interventions,” O’Cummings said.

As a former teacher and school leader, O’Cummings thinks her practitioner background enables her to think about dropout prevention from multiple perspectives. She also thinks her background drives her to prioritize getting research into the field quickly.

“I’ve been in the trenches and know the dedication that these educators have,” she said. “I have a strong desire to get good information about effective practices into their hands.”

O’Cummings also encourages practitioner involvement in conversations about education research to ensure that the research is useful, applicable, and generalizable to real classrooms.

“I want to get the practitioner perspective early and often so the work we are doing on the research side can be actionable in the end,” she said.

Dropout Prevention Resources and Events

Resources

Events

  • REL Midwest will host a webinar on June 10, 2015: “Improving School Climate: Strategies From Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) .” This webinar will highlight school climate initiatives implemented in CMSD and present recommendations for using school climate data to support school turnaround efforts. Speakers include David Osher, vice president at American Institutes for Research; Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of CMSD; and Janet McDowell, principal of Wade Park Elementary School in CMSD.
  • REL Mid-Atlantic will present a webinar titled “Engaging Families in Partnership Programs to Promote Student Success ” on August 27, 2015. Joyce Epstein, Ph.D., director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and the National Network of Partnership Schools, will discuss what the research says about effective family engagement. Family engagement positively affects a range of student outcomes, including grades, behavior, enrollment in higher level programs, graduation, and college attendance.
  • The National Dropout Prevention Network Conference will be held in San Antonio, Texas, October 25-28, 2015. Keynote speakers include Bill Daggett, founder and chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education and Hobart Harmon, associate professor of education at Penn State University.
  • REL West co-sponsored a policy forum titled Developing Utah Solutions to Increase Attendance and Improve Student Outcomes . At the forum, education decision makers and policymakers explored ways to decrease student chronic absence from school and worked together to develop and recommend effective and supportive attendance policies at the state and local levels.
Contact Us
Please contact us for more information
about any of the items in this newsletter
or to speak to a member of our staff.
We look forward to hearing from you.
REL Midwest at American Institutes for Research
Dropout Prevention Research Alliance
1120 East Diehl Road, Suite 200
Naperville, IL 60563-1486
866-730-6735
www.relmidwest.org

This material was prepared under Contract ED-IES-12-C-0004 by Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, administered by American Institutes for Research. The content of the publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

 

This email was sent to: mkbarbour@gmail.com 

This email was sent by: American Institutes for Research
1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Washington, DC 20007-3835 USA

 

We respect your right to privacy – view our policy

April 30, 2015

REL Midwest Research Update: Virtual Education Research Alliance

From yesterday’s inbox…

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Alliance Goals
(1) To develop the capacity for Wisconsin and Iowa to collect and use data to implement effective high school virtual-learning programs that result in improved student outcomes, and (2) to develop and carry out a research agenda that focuses on questions about student achievement and virtual-learning conditions, particularly regarding methods through which online teachers and school staff can support student success in online courses.
Message From the Alliance Lead

Dr. Pamela JacobsWelcome to Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest’s Virtual Education Research Alliance (VERA) newsletter for 2015. Our members are directly involved in supporting the work of online high school programs in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Our alliance has focused on working with members in Iowa and Wisconsin to collect and analyze data about the use of online courses in their respective states, as well as analyze survey data about the professional development experiences and needs of their online teachers. Upcoming work will examine data in the learning management system of Wisconsin’s online program to answer questions about student success in online courses. With the fast pace of change in online learning, we are excited to share our work with you.— Pam Jacobs

New Report Identifies Usage and Challenges in Online Learning in Wisconsin and Iowa

Online course use in Iowa and Wisconsin public high schools: The results of two statewide surveys CoverREL Midwest and VERA recently published a report examining how and why public high schools in Iowa and Wisconsin have used online learning for their students.

The report, Online course use in Iowa and Wisconsin public high schools: The results of two statewide surveys, found that recovering course credit for classes that students had failed and completing core requirements were among the top academic objectives of online course enrollment in both Iowa and Wisconsin. Among Iowa high schools that reported using online learning in 2012–13, 71 percent enrolled students in an online credit recovery course. In Wisconsin, 66 percent of high schools using online learning enrolled students in an online credit recovery course. Most of the online courses were in the primary academic subjects: English language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science.

The Iowa Department of Education and Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction administered the survey to a representative sample of public high schools in each state, and REL Midwest analyzed the survey results.

“Historically, we have provided students with online course opportunities for all of the reasons identified in the study, but our primary focus has been to provide high-quality, rigorous courses that would not otherwise be available to students,” said Gwen Wallace Nagel, director of Iowa Learning Online and VERA member. The insight that Iowa schools most commonly cited credit recovery as the reason for providing online learning opportunities “may require us to shift our priorities when creating or adding course opportunities to our curriculum,” Nagel said.

For Dawn Nordine, executive director of the Wisconsin Virtual School and VERA member, the key discovery came while analyzing the survey results on the challenges schools face. In Wisconsin, 37 percent of schools that used online courses in 2012–13 identified concerns about course quality as a challenge, and 23 percent reported challenges related to a lack of student interest.

“This survey really helped us refocus on quality and building awareness of our programs,” said Nordine. “We are now more focused on what the Wisconsin Virtual School has to offer, and the quality assurances we have in place to help schools support students to be more successful online learners.”

As an outcome of this study, Wisconsin Virtual School will use the Quality Matters rubric for online courses to ensure that courses being delivered meet a rigorous quality standard. In addition, Wisconsin Virtual School is adapting its communication strategies to more clearly share information about its quality assurance process with partnering schools and the public.

Read more from the recently released report, which includes the survey instrument:http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=356

Video: Research Alliances: A Structure for Collaboration

Screen shoot of videoHear VERA lead Pam Jacobs; lead researcher Peggy Clements; alliance members Marcel Kielkucki, Gwen Nagel, and Michele Nickels; and REL Midwest senior researcher Carrie Scholz discuss how the structure of the research alliance promotes collaboration:http://bit.ly/1H4vo6k.

Meet the Alliance Member

Marcel KielkuckiMarcel Kielkucki, director of high school completion programs at Kirkwood Community College, has been a VERA member since the alliance formed in 2011. Kielkuckin’s involvement in K–12 online education began 11 years ago when he became an American history instructor at Iowa Learning Online . Kielkucki joined Kirkwood Community College in 2006 as a high school distance learning coordinator and currently oversees five programs as the director of high school completion programs—adult basic education, English language learner classes, correctional education, alternative high school education, and high school distance learning programs.

Kielkucki cites the REL Midwest study, Online Course Use in Iowa and Wisconsin Public High Schools: The Results of Two Statewide Surveys, as a particularly useful and informative project conducted during his time with the alliance. REL Midwest and VERA alliance members developed the survey, and the Iowa Department of Education and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction collected the data.

“You hear from school districts that they are offering online learning opportunities, but you don’t necessarily know how they are doing this,” Kielkucki said. “This study gave us baseline data to really know what’s happening on the ground.”

This baseline information should benefit students by revealing existing challenges in online learning, which alliance members can communicate to educators and policymakers to enact necessary changes, according to Kielkucki.

Kielkucki said his participation in the alliance has made him a more critical analyzer of research data and better informed about what quality research entails. In addition, he said the alliance structure benefits both researchers and practitioners by enabling them to better understand each other’s roles, which ultimately yields more useful and actionable findings.

“We all have a common goal in mind, but different paths to get there,” he concluded. “And in the end, this results in better research.”

Meet the Researcher

Margaret (Peggy) Clements, Ph.D.Margaret (Peggy) Clements, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist at Education Development Center who brings more than 20 years of experience in the overlapping fields of developmental psychology and education research to the REL Midwest team.

Clements entered the world of online learning when she served as co-principal investigator of a large-scale randomized controlled trial for REL Northeast and Islands. Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students investigated the effectiveness of broadening eighth-grade students’ access to Algebra I through an online course.

As VERA’s lead researcher and cofacilitator, Clements directs multiple technical assistance projects, research projects, and communication activities that focus on K–12 online learning. She is passionate about conducting research that produces information about how virtual education can best be used to benefit student learning.

“I think online learning has the potential to increase equitable access to learning opportunities that some students might otherwise not have, but schools and districts need to think carefully about the online courses they select and the kinds of support students will need to be successful,” she said.

Clements is quick to point out that online education is a delivery mechanism. Whether instruction takes place online or in a classroom, effective instruction addresses the academic, developmental, and social needs of students. Effective instruction also requires skilled teachers and thoughtful implementation. But online teachers may not receive effective professional development for teaching in online environments.

A REL Midwest study, A Survey of Online Teachers’ Professional Development Experiences and Needs, is addressing this issue. This study builds on previous work in which the research team conducted a scan of virtual education training programs to provide VERA members with information about how virtual education programs around the country prepare educators to support students enrolled in online learning programs.

“Working with the VERA members has been a valuable and rewarding experience,” Clements said. “Alliance members identify the kinds of information that stakeholders need and that researchers might not otherwise consider, and we can work together to produce relevant research.”

Virtual Education Resources and Events

Resources

  • A recent response to a REL Midwest Reference Desk request on the topic of online learning in rural education is archived online. Additional annotated bibliographies that focus on the benefits of orientation to online learning for high school and undergraduate students taking an online course, and the effectiveness of one-to-one computing in K–12 schools in relation to student achievement, will be archived online soon.
  • The website of the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL) offers a variety of downloadable resources on topics of interest to practitioners and policymakers.
  • The Research Clearinghouse for K–12 Blended and Online Learning is a collaborative effort led by iNACOL and the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute that provides a repository of references to research articles and other publications.
  • Future Ready is a new effort led by the Alliance for Excellent Education and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology that seeks to maximize digital learning opportunities that lead to personalized learning experiences for all students, especially those from traditionally underserved communities. Resources available to district teams whose superintendents take the Future Ready district pledge include regional summits and an online leadership network.

Events

  • REL Northeast & Islands will present a free webinar on May 27, 2015, titled Online Learning and Credit Recovery: What We Know from Research and Practice. Researchers will present two new studies exploring online learning for credit recovery. Educators in the Northeast with expertise in online learning will share strategies on the implementation of online credit recovery.
  • The annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be held August 11–13, 2015. Registration will open in May.
  • Registration is open now for the annual iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium. The symposium will be held November 8–11, 2015, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Contact Us
Please contact us for more information
about any of the items in this newsletter
or to speak to a member of our staff.
We look forward to hearing from you.
REL Midwest at American Institutes for Research
Early Childhood Education Research Alliance
1120 East Diehl Road, Suite 200
Naperville, IL 60563-1486
866-730-6735
www.relmidwest.org

This material was prepared under Contract ED-IES-12-C-0004 by Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, administered by American Institutes for Research. The content of the publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

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