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In This Issue:

Comprehensive Professional Development Study Underway
ArcGIS Provides New Look at Education Data
Texas Consortium on School Research Update
Flores Named a National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellow
Researcher Profile - Paul Jargowsky
Data Holdings Update

 

Comprehensive Professional Development Study Underway

During the 81st legislative session, funding was set aside to support the implementation of scientifically validated and research-based instructional strategies on campuses with students struggling to meet the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills’ (TAKS) reading and/or mathematics standards in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades.

To support this effort, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is creating a wide array of professional development (PD) academies over the next two years to provide teachers with in-depth training in mathematics, English/language arts (ELA), and science.

Training will cover the appropriate use of data to drive instructional planning, including data from the diagnostic screening instrument developed under the same legislation, alignment of instruction to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), acceleration of the curriculum, the appropriate use of technology, and research-based strategies to improve the academic language skills of English language learners.

To provide feedback and assessment of the professional development provided through these academies, the TEA contracted with The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC) to conduct a large scale Professional Development research study. The UTD-ERC has teamed up with Gibson Consulting Group, Inc. and its research partners, ICF International and Learning Point Associates, to collaborate on the planning and execution of the study.

The ultimate goal of the PD academies is to positively impact student achievement in core subject areas. As such, the team will:

  • Assess the content of, delivery of, and participation in online PD through Project Share, an e-learning platform;
  • Determine the impact of PD received on teacher knowledge, changes in instructional practices, changes in collaborative behavior;
  • Determine the impact of PD received on student achievement outcomes;
  • Determine the impact of district and campus supports on teacher knowledge, changes in instructional practices, changes in collaborative behavior, and ultimately student achievement outcomes.

Assessment of the impact of PD on student achievement during the first year of the program will provide useful baseline data, with the true impact on student achievement to be more accurately assessed, it’s anticipated, during the second and third year of program implementation.

“We are well underway with this major project,” said Anne Ware, assistant director of Texas Schools Project, the managing organization of the UTD-ERC, and the project’s principal investigator. “Now that we’ve completed observations of ‘Trainer of Trainer’ sessions for all content areas and identified a team of expert reviewers to conduct the content analyses of the PD curriculum, we’re moving onto collecting teacher participation data, conducting observations of teacher training sessions across the state, designing surveys for teachers and ESC staff, and designing classroom observation protocol.”

Ware expects the first report on the PD academies to be complete in the fall of 2011.

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ArcGIS Provides New Look at Education Data

Student achievement, college matriculation, and many other education outcomes can be influenced by a variety of factors including geographic attributes.

Texas Schools Project has recently installed ArcGIS software on each of its researcher desktops to provide staff and visiting researchers a new way to look at data.

GIS – or geospatial information systems – software provides researchers with a geo-database, a map builder, and geospatial data analysis tools. With this technology, one can create, store, and manipulate geographically referenced information, perform queries and statistical analyses, and produce digital maps that help translate results visually.

“An example of issues that could be examined using ArcGIS software include spatial adjacency, distance and travel time, and tax district boundaries,” shared Scott Horn, Texas Schools Project data manger.

Paul Jargowsky, a professor at UT Dallas and member of Texas Schools Project’s Executive Committee, used GIS in his study, “Before or After the Bell? School Context and Neighborhood Effects on Student Achievement.” He said, “Researchers with good school data have tended to study school context effects, whereas researchers with good neighborhood-level data tend to study neighborhood effects. Given the high degree of correlation between school and neighborhood characteristics, any analysis that omits one of these factors runs the risk of overstating or misstating the effect of the other . . . Few datasets have both types of data together with individual and family control variables.”

Two recent projects using UTD-ERC data are using ArcGIS technology.

One of the projects, being led by Stella Flores, professor at Vanderbilt University, is studying college access for underserved students in Texas. She is using ArcGIS to construct maps that show the physical locations of postsecondary institutions in relationship to particular populations by race, ethnicity, and income.

“I’m interested in assessing if there is a relationship between institutional sector choice and various student populations and, in turn, how this influences the percent of college completers across different Texas counties,” shared Flores. “It’s a snapshot into more detailed questions regarding the role of distance, institutional selectivity, and the economic health of a county area as they relate to college success in the state.”

Because of the highly visual nature of GIS applications, resulting maps can tell a story in a way typical tables and charts can’t. Flores said, “I use maps to illuminate questions we should be asking or to highlight educational attainment patterns that require additional investigation.”

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

“Texas Schools Project, as one of the premier education research institutions in the country, continues to look for new ways to support high-quality research,” said Dan O’Brien, Texas Schools Project director. “This new GIS software provides researchers a new dimension for analyzing important education topics and informing education policy.”

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Texas Consortium on School Research Update

The Texas Consortium on School Research continues to move forward, holding its second meeting, which convened leadership from 21 Texas school districts and educational organizations, this past spring. Districts represented comprise more than 1.2 million students – or 25% of all students – in Texas.

The meeting agenda focused on college readiness and centered around four primary areas:

  • Understanding research and its practical application
  • Use of longitudinal data sets
  • Building a community of practice
  • Developing district capacity

Education leaders and researchers involved with TCSR are anxious to understand data and find the most effective methods to utilize this knowledge in their daily work. As an example, following the initial TCSR meeting in October 2009, Klein ISD created an internal team devoted to college readiness efforts.

James Steinhauser, assistant superintendent of research and evaluation for El Paso Independent School District, said, “The Texas Consortium on School Research is an excellent partner for school districts. The information learned from TCSR benefits El Paso Independent School District by creating strategies that increase the number of students that will graduate from college. Our current focus is collaboration with TCSR on studying persistence in college as it relates to several variables including course grades in high school, norm and criteria-referenced test data, reading levels and academic rigor of the receiving colleges.”

TCSR is managed by the Regional Educational Laboratory - Southwest (REL Southwest) at Edvance Research (managing partner) in partnership with The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC) and Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR). The forum allows participating member districts across the state to collaborate in building research capacity to address critical issues to support school improvement efforts.

In addition to the 21 districts represented at the meeting, leadership from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Texas Education Agency, Texas Charter Schools, Dallas Education Foundation, Texas High School Project and the Texas Association of School Administrators also participated. Education leaders from Louisiana and California were in attendance as well, observing the consortium to understand potential benefits a like consortium would have in their states.

The next TCSR meeting is scheduled for this fall. Districts interested more information on TCSR may contact Dr. Laural Logan-Fain at lloganfain@edvanceresearch.com.
(learn more)

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Flores Named a National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellow

Stella M. Flores, assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University, has been named a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. The award, which will allow her to pursue her research interests during 2010-11, funds her JAB-approved project examining the college access and completion trajectories of underrepresented students, focusing on English Language Learner youth, using UTD-ERC longitudinal data.

Flores was one of 20 fellows selected nationally from a competitive pool of 160 scholars in education. The fellowships, administered by the NEA, are designed to enhance the future of education research by developing new talent.
(read more)

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Researcher Profile - Paul Jargowsky

Paul Jargowsky is a professor of public policy at The University of Texas at Dallas and a member of Texas Schools Project’s executive committee. From 2003 to 2008, he was the director of Texas Schools Project.

Paul’s research interests include inequality, the geographic concentration of poverty, residential segregation by race and class, educational attainment, and economic mobility.

While Paul has been published in a multitude of scholarly journals, he is best known for his book, Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City, a comprehensive examination of poverty at the neighborhood level in U.S. metropolitan areas between 1970 and 1990. In 1999, he was awarded “Best Book in Urban Affairs” for this publication by the Urban Affairs Association.

Paul’s interest in poverty began in the late 1970’s, while working during college for the Legal Aid Society in Trenton, NJ. He shared, “I was appalled at the lack of opportunity, hopelessness, and even despair I observed in the ghettos of that deindustrializing town. I realized that I wanted to understand what was happening, which led me to the social sciences, and to try to change the situation, which led me to public policy.”

Addressing and informing public policy issues related to poverty have been Paul’s central focus for over 30 years. In 1986, as the project director for the New York State Task Force on Poverty and Welfare Reform, his task force’s report, “The New Social Contract: Rethinking the Nature and Purpose of Public Assistance,” was influential in reshaping the welfare reform debate. Then, in 1993, as a visiting scholar at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, he helped design the simulation model used for welfare reform planning.

Because education is such an interrelated issue to poverty, Paul’s work has many times incorporated the effects of poverty on schools and students. “One of the reasons why the concentration of poverty has negative effects is that schools, for the most part, are creatures of neighborhoods. When all the poor parents live in the same place, all their children attend the same school. Often the result is disastrous,” he said.

To help improve educational attainment for low-income students, Paul commented, “We have to stop building such racially and economically segregated neighborhoods, to take some of the pressure off schools. Additionally, we need higher standards and a curriculum that engages and challenges students more. Charters, vouchers, and AP-type programs can play a role in shaking up school systems that have become complacent, but the devil is in the details. You have to make sure that you don't make things worse for the students who are already failing and disengaged. Finally, we need to do a better job of serving non-college bound students, by working on high-quality vocational training and job placement. High schools should be judged not just on test scores, but on the percentage of students who either go to college or obtain career-oriented employment. Right now, most schools don't know and can't even track that indicator.”

His next project using UTD-ERC data will look at the higher education performance of low-income students in Texas who have attained a high level of academic success in secondary school. This analysis will make a substantial contribution to the understanding of high-achieving low-income students and to the formulation of programs and policies that increase the likelihood that these talented individuals are able to translate their secondary school success into positive postsecondary outcomes.

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Data Holdings Update - July 31, 2010

The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC), part of Texas Schools Project, houses a wealth of data provided by the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and State Board for Educator Certification.

A complete listing of current data available can be found on our website under Data Holdings.

Information on accessing this data can be found on our website under Access.

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A research center within The University of Texas at Dallas' School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences