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from the Education Commission of the States
 

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July 30, 2014

New from ECS

Value-Added after Only One Year
Measuring teacher effectiveness is increasingly important as school districts make decisions about contract renewals. Often, decisions concerning beginning or probationary educators need to be made with only one or two years of evaluation data. This recent study shows how using a model that employs existing data across multiple subjects can more accurately predict teacher value-added, even when limited data are available. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

ELLs’ Long-Term Progress
The progress of English language learners (ELLs) is tracked at the state and federal levels for two years after reclassification as English language proficient. This analysis of California data found that ELLs' achievement levels decline over time because each successive grade "skims off" the most successful ELLs through reclassification. However, the authors found that this overlooks the high achievement of reclassified ELLs, particularly in secondary grades. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

What States Are Doing

Free Tuition Senior Year
Vermont legislation enacted this summer creates the Vermont Strong Scholars Program, allowing students who go to college in Vermont to get their last year of college for free under the conditions that they will be employed in economic sectors critical to the state and agree to stay in the state after they graduate. Here is the bill. Strong Scholars text starts on page 80.

Good Reads

KIDS COUNT
The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out, examining how U.S. kids have fared in 16 indicators since 1990. Nationally, children made gains in health, education and safety, but they lost ground in poverty rates. The top three states in child well-being were Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa. See where your state ranks. (Annie E. Casey Foundation)

What Works for NYC’s Small Schools of Choice
When New York City’s high school graduation rate was hovering at 50 percent more than a decade ago, reforms were launched, closing some large, comprehensive high schools and opening hundreds of “small schools of choice.” This report looked at 25 of the most effective to discover the roots of their success. Personalized learning, high expectations and flexible teachers were often cited. (Research Alliance for New York City Schools)

Online Professional Development
A handy tool to help educators evaluate the quality of online professional development opportunities, this checklist first lists general principles of effective practice in online professional learning. It then breaks into the possible variations with a list of criteria to judge each one: webinars, hashtag Twitter chats, online conferences, MOOCs, e-courses and online communities of practice. (Office of Educational Technology)

College and Career Readiness Definitions Vary
What does it mean to be college and career ready? Among the 36 states plus the District of Columbia that composed readiness statements, the definition varies. In 33, one definition is used for both college and career, assuming the skills required for each are essentially the same. Three quarters of the definitions determine readiness based on future outcomes so they can't be used to serve students in need of help to graduate on track for postsecondary success. (American Institutes for Research)

Increasingly Rigorous Exams
States’ new assessments are being designed to include more critical thinking and complex items than previous standardized tests. While better assessments are welcome, a growing worry is that states will use these as exit exams. Authors of this report suggest using them toward final course grades instead. (New America Education Policy Program)

Year-Round Schools
Year-round schools reorganize the traditional school year so there are no extended breaks in instruction, such as the 10-week summer vacation. This brief reviews the schools' growing popularity, the inconclusive research on their efficacy, and their pros and cons. There were about 410 year-round schools serving 350,000 students in 1985, and that number grew to 3,059 schools serving 2.2 million students in the 2011-12 school year. (Congressional Research Service)

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