Monthly Archive for May, 2009

English intervention improves Spanish-speakers’ early literacy outcomes

In Child Development Jo Ann Farver and colleagues reported that young children who speak Spanish can learn English early literacy skills better when they receive instruction in English. That finding’s not particularly surprising, but there’s more: There’s a comparison of English-only and “transitional” methods. Children who received instruction in English-only or Spanish with transition to English (both using the Literacy Express Preschool Curriculum) had higher pre-literacy outcomes than peers who had been randomly assigned to receive the High/Scope Curriculum.
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Good Schools reports

Via Give Kids Good Schools I learned of a new report entitled “Lost Opportunity: A 50-State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America” that compares students’ access to factors considered critical for educational success. The report presents a metric it dubs “opportunity to learn” that is based on access to early education, qualified teachers, college preparatory curricula, and equitable instructional resources. On the national level, the report indicates that students who come from historically disadvantaged groups have only about half the opportunity to learn that is enjoyed by their peers from White and non-Latino backgrounds. On a state-by-state level, the results are equally dismal.

The results of this study merit careful consideration by policy makers. It is incredibly important for students to have access to education that meets sensible quality metrics. I certainly think that the components considered in this metric (early education, qualified teachers, college preparatory curricula, and instructional resources) represent a valuable suite of factors. I am wary, though, about people thinking that this version of “highly qualified teacher” equates with one who employs effective, evidence-based procedures. And, it’s the latter that we really need to provide to students.

In fact, let me go a step farther: Perhaps US schools ought to consider policies that make it especially rewarding for teachers who (a) employ evidence-based procedures and (b) have a demonstrated history of promoting high student outcomes to teach in schools where the students are mostly likely to need effective teaching. That is, maybe, instead of seeking equal access, we should secure unequal access that’s the flip-side of the conditions documented in this report.

Seclusion and restraint hearings

Over on Behavior Mod Info readers can find several entries about the hearings regarding US schools’ use of seclusion and restraint. The hearings were conducted by the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor.

Test exemption effect

Jennifer Jennings and Andrew Beveridge reported that exempting students from tests, a controversial practice sometimes employed with students with disabilities, may have deleterious effects on the performance of younger students with disabilities. Here’s the abstract:

Analyzing data from a large urban district in Texas, this study examines how high-stakes test exemptions alter officially reported scores and asks whether test exemption has implications for the academic achievement of special education students. Test exemption inflated overall passing rates but especially affected the passing rates of African American and Hispanic students because these students were more likely to be exempted. Furthermore, our results suggest that tested special education students in Grades 3 through 8 performed better academically than they would have if they were not tested. However, taking the high-stakes test provided no academic benefit to special education students in Grades 9 through 11.

I rarely work on topics related to high-stakes testing, so I am not well-enough informed to comment on this paper; however, I thought it was interesting enough to merit mention here. What do readers make of this finding?

Jennings, J. L., & Beveridge, A. A. (2009). How does test exemption affect schools’ and students’ academic performance? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31, 153-175.

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