All posts by McREL.org

McREL study finds link between school climate and literacy achievement

October 3, 2016

A study taking a closer look at the relationship between staff survey results and student performance at elementary schools across the state of Victoria, Australia, found a statistically significant link between school climate and achievement in literacy at the 5th grade level.

The predictive validity study, conducted by McREL researcher Tedra Clark and Roger Goddard of Ohio State University, focused on the effects on student achievement of five vital areas of school functioning: school climate; school leadership; professional learning; staff safety and well-being; and teaching and learning.

Teachers at 82 elementary and secondary schools across Victoria were asked about these five areas on a school staff opinion survey that McREL developed for the state’s Department of Education and Training. Further investigation showed that, though all five areas were highly interrelated and positively connected to student outcomes in literacy and numeracy, the most significant finding was that staff perceptions of school climate were predictive of 5th grade literacy achievement.

Using various statistical models, the researchers were able to “unpack” this relationship and found that the link occurs on a mediated path: Strong leadership at the school level led to better teacher collaboration and academic optimism, which led to literacy achievement. In other words, school leadership predicts student literacy scores through greater teacher collaboration and academic optimism.

This connection explained over 75 percent of the school-to-school variance in literacy achievement, said Clark. “This model is not only statistically strong,” she said, “but also holds up in different contexts and with different student populations.”

According to McREL Chief Program Officer Robin Jarvis, these findings also support the value of using multiple measures, such as climate surveys, not only to understand the factors affecting student achievement but also “to measure changes in those leading achievement indicators in order to intervene, when necessary, to ultimately improve student achievement.”

For more information on the school climate survey and results analysis, please visit www.mcrel.org/success-stories.

About McREL International

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that helps educators flourish by turning research into solutions that transform teaching, learning, and leading. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado and with regional offices in Honolulu, Hawaii and Charleston, West Virginia, McREL provides research, evaluation, consulting, and training services to school districts, education agencies, and higher education institutions across the U.S. and around the world. Learn more at www.mcrel.org.

Contact: Roger Fiedler, sr. director of communications and marketing, 303.632.5579 or rfiedler@mcrel.org.

Career Readiness: What does it really mean and how do we get there?

School systems across the country are being pushed to re-think their approach to Career Technical Education (CTE) and what it means to be “career-ready.” Job markets are continually changing, and it’s become more critical than ever that secondary students are prepared for college and career upon graduation. While many educators have equated career readiness to college readiness, others have begun to take a more nuanced approach, understanding that not all careers—like students—fit the same mold (Conley & McGaughy, 2012; DeWitt, 2012).

In 2015, ACT refined its definitions of the types of academic skills required for work: Work readiness skills are the academic skills required of all students to be prepared for the workplace; career readiness skills are those particular academic skills needed to work in a given industry; and job readiness skills are the particular academic skills needed for a specific job.

At McREL, our review of CTE-related certifications, standards, curriculum documents, and textbooks in nearly a dozen industries and career pathways has confirmed that the academic content required by various industries and jobs can differ greatly.

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Four tips for using nonlinguistic representations

Today’s learners are continually fed linguistically presented information, such as lectures, videos, directions, math chants, and reading assignments. Most opportunities for students to interact with peers happen primarily with words.

It’s all too easy, while employing various aspects of instructional design and delivery, to overlook ways that students might also engage in learning through nonlinguistics.

When used intentionally and consistently, nonlinguistic representations are powerful instructional tools that can have a positive effect on student achievement. They provide varied ways for students to process new information without solely relying on language.

McREL’s analysis of research for the second edition of Classroom Instruction that Works (CITW) provides these research-based classroom recommendations for use of nonlinguistic representations:

Use graphic organizers.
Use physical models or manipulatives.
Generate mental pictures.
Use pictures, illustrations, and pictographs.
Engage in kinesthetic activities.

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Today’s “high tech” students need “high touch” learning environments

We’ve all seen it: A group of teenagers sitting together, perhaps at a restaurant or the mall, but all of them glued to their phones, barely interacting with the friends right next to them. As common as this sight has become, it still gives us pause. What, you may wonder, is this doing to our kids?

In September’s Educational Leadership, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin takes a look at the effects of our “plugged in” culture on students and their teachers. One clear effect, he finds, is how students relate to others: One analysis of more than 70 student surveys, for example, found that empathy among college students is at its lowest level since 1979—a whopping 40 percent lower.

Not surprisingly, researchers and educators alike have noted a loss in the ability of students to have deep, empathic conversations. In an article for The Atlantic, one such teacher in Kentucky described how, in a classroom interview activity, most of his high school students were unable to move beyond the scripted questions and engage in more spontaneous, authentic dialogue. His solution? He asked his students to record their conversations on their smartphones, watch them later, and self-assess their conversation skills.

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Four fallacies that keep us from finishing what we start

One of the major pitfalls of systemic education improvement is this: Too many schools and districts begin a promising new initiative only to toss it aside before it has a chance to become part of the organizational culture and make a difference. Within this graveyard of discarded initiatives are thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on professional development, curriculum programs, innovative processes, and unfulfilled hopes for better student achievement.

In our never-ending quest to locate the next “shiny object” cure for our challenges, we sometimes overlook an important facet of school and student improvement that is fully within our control: the power to finish what we started.

Why do we so often fail to bring our many important initiatives to fruition? Part of the answer lies in addressing the fallacies that often form our belief system.

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New Balanced Leadership study shows significant growth for principals in key areas

A study published in the June issue of Educational Administration Quarterly looks at the causal impact of McREL’s Balanced Leadership® (BL) professional development program on principals’ learning, beliefs, and behaviors. Researcher Roger Goddard and his colleagues compared a treatment group of 100 principals in rural Michigan who participated in two years of BL training with a group who did not receive training. Results showed that participating principals reported substantively significant growth on the majority of outcomes targeted by BL, with the largest impacts on sense of efficacy for instructional improvement, reported ability to bring about change, and strength of norms for teachers’ instructional practice. Interestingly, principals were more likely to report growth on broad, school-level outcomes than in areas that involve them working directly with teachers.

Subscribers to Educational Administration Quarterly can read the study here.

Principal magazine article highlights integrated approach to leadership

In the May/June issue of NAESP’s Principal magazine, McREL Senior Director Matt Seebaum and Superintendent Jay Harnack from Sublette County District #1 in Wyoming write about the importance of an integrated, shared approach to leadership, including the Balanced Leadership Framework and leadership training for all school leaders and teachers. “As we have proved in Sublette County,” the authors write. “If you invest in a research-based framework that aligns with classroom practices, take the time to train all of your staff, and work with them to ensure fidelity of implementation, you will see improvement—not just in one or two schools, but across the board.”

Read the article here.

McREL forms strategic partnership with Discovery Education supporting the creation of dynamic digital learning environments

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Today, McREL International announced a new strategic partnership with Discovery Education supporting teacher leaders nationwide as they create dynamic digital learning environments. Through this new collaboration, McREL will support Discovery Education’s global efforts to grow the capacity of teacher leaders by developing innovation configuration (IC) maps for Discovery Education’s Digital Leader Corps.

Discovery Education’s Digital Leader Corps is a comprehensive professional development model that builds and nurtures a network of teacher leaders to design and implement successful and innovative teaching strategies that can be shared with their peers. Featuring a unique combination of professional learning, pedagogy and tools, the Digital Leader Corps helps participating educators learn to integrate educational technologies and digital media into classroom instruction and create dynamic learning environments that meet the needs of all students. Digital Leader Corps provides participants with continuous customized, job-embedded consultation throughout the process with on-going modeling, coaching and feedback from Discovery Education experts in the pre-planning, stakeholder communications, and implementation phases.

IC maps identify the major components of an innovation, capturing current practice and describing the steps for achieving implementation goals—placing these on a continuum, with weak or low-level implementation at one end and ideal or high-fidelity implementation at the other. The construction and use of an IC map communicates a common set of behaviors and expectations related to the implementation of a new initiative, such as the integration of technology with instruction, and provides a unique tool for teacher reflection, feedback, and assistance throughout the implementation process.

With McREL’s support, Discovery Education’s Digital Leader Corps participants are increasing their capacity to develop and use IC maps, which will help drive even deeper implementation of Digital Leader Corps and other improvement initiatives guiding the professional learning of digital leaders.

“By using IC maps within the Digital Leader Corps environment, participating teacher leaders will gain additional clarity on the key components of their roles and have a pathway of clearly described, increasingly sophisticated behaviors that can be supported and strengthened for greater impact and implementation success,” said Dr. Dale Lewis, a senior director at McREL who is leading the project with Discovery Education.

“Discovery Education is pleased to work with McREL to integrate innovation configuration maps into the powerful Digital Leader Corps model,” explained Dr. Karen Beerer, Discovery Education’s vice president of learning and development. “The IC maps are another powerful tool supporting

the growth of the strong pedagogical practice needed to create the dynamic digital learning environments today’s students need for college and career readiness.”

For more information on McREL’s consulting, research, analysis, and evaluation services, visit www.mcrel.org.

For more information on the Digital Leader Corps, or other services and initiatives from Discovery Education, visit www.discoveryeducation.com.

About McREL International
McREL International is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that turns knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.

About Discovery Education
Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content for K-12, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content, professional development, and the largest professional learning community of its kind. Serving 3 million educators and over 30 million students, Discovery Education’s services are in half of U.S. classrooms, 50 percent of all primary schools in the UK, and more than 50 countries. Discovery Education partners with districts, states and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that increase academic achievement. Discovery Education is powered by Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the number one nonfiction media company in the world. Explore the future of education at www.discoveryeducation.com.

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McREL helps teachers in Guam experience marine robotics

The Guam Daily Post recently highlighted a STEM professional development program organized by McREL that gave teachers the opportunity to learn firsthand about marine robotics. During the three-day training, teacher teams constructed underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and used them in a competition to retrieve objects from the water, similar to a competition that their high school students participate in. The training was provided by Anne Tweed, a STEM consultant at McREL, and Jim McDonnel, a retired engineer who coaches school teams to compete in regional and international marine advanced technology education (MATE) ROV competitions.

Watch a video of the activity.