REL Report: Relationship between State Annual School Monitoring Indicators and Outcomes in Massachusetts Low‑Performing Schools

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has developed systems of support and monitoring for low-performing schools that include measuring schools on a Turnaround Practices and Indicators (TP&I) rubric. The TP&I rubric rates schools on the implementation of 26 indicators related to four practice areas of leadership, instruction, student supports, and school climate. A recent study from REL Northeast & Islands analyzed school indicator ratings data for school years 2014/15–2018/19 from all 91 low-performing schools in Massachusetts. The study examined how indicator ratings were related to two schoolwide student outcomes: mean student growth percentiles (in English language arts and math) and chronic absenteeism rates.

Chronic Absenteeism Is a Huge School Problem. Can Data Help?

The education losses resulting from pandemic school closures and an unanticipated shift to remote learning have slowed academic achievement. But no matter what resources or strategies are devised to make up for learning setbacks and prevent a generational catastrophe, students won’t benefit unless they show up. Chronic absence, already a significant problem before the pandemic, reached new levels in the last year.

Mental Health Awareness Month Highlights Opportunities to Improve Student Mental Health and Well-Being

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! It also marks 15 months of a global pandemic that has had dramatic, negative impacts across all states and communities; and many students, families and school staff are struggling to navigate the changes the pandemic has wrought. Students have experienced school and learning disruption and significant mental health challenges because of social isolation, trauma, grief, loss and the other layers of COVID-related stress and burden. As education leaders around the country roll up their sleeves to strategize around lost learning opportunities, attention to promoting student mental health and well-being should garner similar attention. 

School Choice Advocates Enjoy Their Best Year Ever

Supporters of school choice tried for a decade to get some sort of legislation through the Arkansas Legislature, without any success. Earlier this year, things didn’t look much brighter. In March, the House rejected a proposal that would have provided $4 million for private school scholarships for children from low-income families. Sponsors tried to sweeten the deal by adding $6 million in grants to public schools, but it wasn’t enough to win support. “The thinking was that private school choice was done in Arkansas for this session,” says Patrick Wolf, an education policy professor at the University of Arkansas.

50-State Comparison: School Discipline Policies

Recent research has shown that exclusionary school discipline policies, such as suspension and expulsion, are disproportionately applied to students based on categories such as race, gender and disability status. For instance, Black students are suspended at disproportionately higher rates than their white peers. Research has also documented that even when Black and white students have behaved in the same way, teachers perceive classroom misbehavior differently based on student race, which can contribute to racial disparities in discipline. Recent research has also documented an association between experience with exclusionary discipline and negative educational attainment impacts, as well as an increased likelihood of incarceration and arrest as an adult.

Role of Equity in Reading Tests Divides Board Overseeing ‘Nation’s Report Card’

When students read, do their personal and cultural backgrounds determine how they understand the text, or are the skills and knowledge they pick up in the classroom more important? That’s a question currently dividing the government body that oversees what is known as The Nation’s Report Card. The dispute centers around the role of equity in a lengthy document that could determine how the federal government designs future reading tests. The authors filled it with references to “pop-ups” or short videos defining words or terms some students might not recognize, such as a talent show.

Inequitable Opportunity to Learn: Access to Advanced Mathematics and Science Courses

Research has consistently shown that students’ ability to thrive and their achievement are improved when they have sufficient access to advanced curricular opportunities. College enrollment, retention, and degree completion rates are higher for students who have taken larger numbers of advanced high school mathematics and science courses compared to students who have taken fewer or less rigorous courses. Students who have been exposed to high-quality college preparatory classes also receive higher earnings once they enter the labor market, regardless of their race. Evidence further suggests that a quality curriculum is a driver of overall student achievement.

3 State Policy Levers to Support Teacher Mental Health

While state policymakers have been working to improve student mental health for years, there has not been much legislative action related to teacher mental health. It is, however, an issue that warrants attention from policymakers. Even before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic set in, survey results showed that 58% of teachers were experiencing challenges with their mental health. These challenges can negatively impact student outcomes and have consistently been cited among the key causes of teachers leaving the profession both before and throughout the pandemic.