Category Archives: Research & Reports

White Paper | Peer Coaching That Works: The Power of Reflection and Feedback in Teacher Triad Teams

Teachers are surrounded by the greatest professional development resource ever created: other teachers. So, doesn’t it make sense to team up for mutual support and growth? In this white paper, we describe the research that supports peer coaching and lay out the components of an effective coaching triad, with participants taking turns coaching, being coached, and observing. While school leadership can promote an environment that values and encourages trusting working relationships, the real work of coaching needs to be planned and executed by teachers themselves, the authors say.

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White Paper | Finding Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity: A Strategic Planning Process Streamlines District Work and Improves the System for All (2017)

Managing a school district has become an increasingly complex endeavor. But one school district in Pinedale, Wyoming, has found that taking a systems approach to strategic planning not only simplifies district work but also increases the success of principals, teachers, and students.

In this white paper, Jay Harnack, the superintendent of Sublette County School District #1, and Matt Seebaum, senior director at McREL, show how a strategic planning process reduces redundancy and workload by integrating district goals, strategic planning, and school improvement into one streamlined process. By establishing conditions for success rather than reacting to problems, this process creates meaningful, sustainable change that results in the ultimate outcome: improved student achievement districtwide.

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White Paper | Let’s Rethink Online Learning (2017)

In this white paper, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Erika Twani from the Learning One to One Foundation propose a new way of looking at online learning—not just as a different way to deliver standard classroom instruction, but as a way to provide personalized learning to students who may not thrive in typical school settings. Goodwin and Twani argue that low success rates in online schools may be, at least in part, the end result of translating a typical Carnegie-unit approach to a digital learning setting, rather than personalizing the learning process to encourage problem solving, curiosity, and real-world learning. The paper describes a research-based framework for creating learning paths for students based on their abilities, interests, and preferred learning styles, while leveraging the promise of education technology to serve struggling groups of students.

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White Paper | The Road Less Traveled: Changing Schools from the Inside Out (2015)

In this white paper, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin urges education leaders and policymakers to rethink the way we’ve been approaching reform for the past three decades and consider what might happen if we improved schools not from the top down but instead from the inside out—putting curiosity at the center of learning and unleashing a powerful, more engaging system of schooling.

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White Paper | Re-Balancing Formative Assessment: Placing Formative Assessment at the Heart of Learning and Accountability (2015)

In response to high-stakes testing and top-down accountability, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and co-authors from Measured Progress propose in this white paper a new, more balanced formula for assessment based on curriculum-embedded performance assessments (CEPAs), which better support the deeper learning expected of students today. They also outline how states can use CEPAs in accountability systems and reduce the emphasis on end-of-year summative assessments.

Hofman, P., Goodwin, B., & Kahl, S. (2015). Re-balancing assessment: Placing formative and performance assessment at the heart of learning and accountability. Denver, CO: McREL International.

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Noteworthy Perspectives: High Reliability Organizations in Education (2011)

In this collection of articles by contributing authors, McREL outlines a case for helping school systems adopt the principles and procedures of high-reliability organizations (HROs) in other industries in order to create high-performing, high-reliability schools and districts. Individual articles include “Becoming the Best in the World at Educating Our Students” and “Best in the World: High Performance with High Reliability” by Jim Eck, “Toward Highly Reliable, High-Quality Public Schooling” by Sam Stringfield, David Reynolds, and Eugene Schaffer, and “High Reliability & Leadership for Educational Change” by Thomas Bellamy.

McREL International. (2011). Noteworthy Perspectives: High Reliability Organizations in Education. Denver, CO: Author.

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Classroom Instruction That Works, Second Edition: Research Report (2010)

This study updates and extends McREL’s original 1998 research synthesis of effective instructional strategies, providing further clarity on each of the nine strategies and their uses, and generating updated effect estimates using literature published after 1998. The report synthesizes only primary studies, rather than prior meta-analyses, in order to enhance control over the data and provide more accurate effect estimates.

Beesley, A., & Apthorp, H. (Eds.). (2010). Classroom instruction that works, second edition: Research report. Denver, CO: McREL International.

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Changing the Odds: What Matters Most for Student Achievement (2010)

For this report, McREL examined thousands of studies and reports to identify the school practices that demonstrate the largest effects on student achievement, distilling the most important influences and approaches into five “high-leverage, high payoff” areas for improving students’ chances for academic and life success. The report also asserts that to improve, educators don’t need more guidance, they may actually need less.

Goodwin, B. (2010). Changing the odds for student success: What matters most. Denver, CO: McREL International.

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Sustaining Coherent Reform: An Evaluation Guide for Districts and Schools (2010)

This guide helps districts and schools evaluate their reform efforts—both to meet requirements for external accountability (such as School Improvement Grants) and to meet their own needs for useful evaluative information. The guide helps administrators plan and conduct a focused, practical evaluation of school reform implementation and impact; report key findings in formats useful to stakeholders; and use the findings for program improvement.

Cicchinelli, L., & Barley, Z. (2010). Sustaining coherent reform: An evaluation guide for districts and schools. Denver, CO: McREL International.

Download the guide.

Learning System Reports for the Stupski Foundation (2009)

This series of eight reports prepared by McREL for the Stupski Foundation synthesize research and literature on best practices related to formative assessment, college readiness, curricular pathways, leadership practices, effective pedagogy, data-driven decision making, and strategies for supporting urban, underserved students’ social, emotional, and academic learning needs. Each report provides a list of recommendations and options for consideration by education systems seeking improvement in these areas.

Clark, T., Englert, K., Frazee, D., Shebby, S., & Randel, B. (2009). Assessment: A McREL report prepared for Stupski Foundation’s learning system. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Lefkowits, L., Woempner, C., Kendall, J., & Frost, D. (2009). College readiness: A McREL report prepared for Stupski Foundation’s Learning System. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Goodwin, B., McIver, M., Snyder, C., & Ryan, S. (2009). Curriculum: A McREL report prepared for Stupski Foundation’s Learning System. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

McIver, M., Kearns, J., Lyons, C., & Sussman, M. (2009). Leadership: A McREL Report Prepared for Stupski Foundation’s Learning System. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Germeroth, C., Barker, J., Arens, S. & Wang, X. (2009). Our kids: A McREL report prepared for Stupski Foundation’s Learning System. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Englert, K.E., Apthorp, H., Seebaum, M. (2009). Pedagogy: A McREL report prepared for Stupski Foundation’s Learning System. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Moore, L., Rease, D., & Barker, J. (2009). Student supports: A McREL report prepared for Stupski Foundation’s Learning System. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Igel, C., Apthorp, H., Peterson, G., Davis, T., Moore, L., & Englert, K. (2009). Systems Diagnostics: A McREL Report Prepared for Stupski Foundation’s Learning System. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.