EdTakeAways

Education Week
Weighing the Research: What Works, What Doesn't

Although the cries for "evidence" are frequent in the education space, evidence can prove elusive to practitioners: Where is it? How sound is it? What does it tell us about real-life situations? This essay is the first in a series that aims to put the pieces of research together so they can be used by those charged with choosing which policies and practices to implement. The conveners of this project—Susanna Loeb, the director of Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform, and Harvard education professor Heather Hill—have received grant support from the Annenberg Institute for this series.

 

With the COVID-19 school closures, districts and schools are relying on parents to carry out educational activities in their homes. How can districts help parents make the most of this learning time? And are there alternatives to parents as surrogate teachers?

In this series, we have been drawing on high-quality research to answer real-world questions. This is a new world, though, so existing research does not speak directly to the question of parents as educators of school-age children. Still, work both on tutoring and on programs to support parenting can shed light on useful approaches.

Students who struggle will likely struggle more online

The times have dictated school closings and the rapid expansion of online education. Can online lessons replace in-school time?

Clearly online time cannot provide many of the informal social interactions students have at school, but how will online courses do in terms of moving student learning forward? Research to date gives us some clues and also points us to what we could be doing to support students who are most likely to struggle in the online setting.

Culturally responsive teaching, culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally sustaining pedagogy. By any name, it's a very timely topic, brought into the spotlight by a new wave of recognition that the nation's schools have failed too many students of color for far too long. Hopes are high that by better grounding education in students' lives, cultural responsiveness, or just CR, will be the fix we need. As a result, you likely have participated in a CR workshop, used CR materials, or directed your staff to take the CR plunge.

In our last “What Works” essay, we cast serious doubt on the value of teachers analyzing student test data. Studies find the practice on average doesn’t produce student learning gains. We also noted that the practice is widespread, often forming a cornerstone of teachers’ professional learning time.

This raises a question: If this study of student data doesn’t improve schools, what should teachers do with their professional learning time?

This practice arose from a simple logic: To improve student outcomes, teachers should study students’ prior test performance, learn what students struggle with, and then adjust the curriculum or offer students remediation where necessary. By addressing the weaknesses revealed by the test results, overall student achievement would improve.
Welcome to "What Works, What Doesn't." Educators and policymakers want to make good choices for schools and districts. And research can help. For people in charge of schools and classrooms starting with "what the research says" can be critical in navigating the challenges of boosting student learning and creating environments where children thrive. Research brings to bear facts that have been collected and analyzed in purposeful, systematic, and often public ways. Its power to rise above the anecdotal is why people in medicine, business, and every type of public policy increasingly refer to it.