Research
& Reports

Read our most recent and most requested reports and white papers on education issues, trends, and challenges. We dig deep into the research, analyzing the data and the best practices we’ve seen firsthand in our decades of work in thousands of schools across the U.S. and around the world. Our goal is to provide educators and leaders with new ideas and practical guidance to make lasting, systemic improvements that benefit students. If you don’t find the report you’re looking for, please contact us with your request and we’ll get a copy to you.

Let’s Rethink Online Learning

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.

Goodwin, B., & Twani, E. (2017). Let’s rethink online learning. Denver, CO: McREL International.

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The Road Less Traveled: Changing Schools from the Inside Out

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.

Goodwin shows how schools can flip the top-down paradigm by taking a few key, consistent actions that put student engagement, motivation, and true problem-solving at the heart of teaching and learning to create new, more powerful outcomes that set students up for lifelong success.

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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.

Download the full publication.

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.

Read the report.

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.

School District Leadership that Works: The Effect of Superintendent Leadership on Student Achievement (2006)

This working paper analyzes the influence of district superintendents on student achievement and the characteristics of effective superintendents. Through a meta-analysis of research findings, the paper identifies five district-level leadership responsibilities that have statistically significant correlations with average student academic achievement. All five of these responsibilities relate to setting and keeping districts focused on teaching and learning goals.

Waters, J.T. & Marzano, R. (2006). School district leadership that works: the effect of superintendent leadership on student achievement. Denver, CO: McREL International.

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Balanced Leadership: What 30 Years of Research Tells Us About the Effect of Leadership on Student Achievement (2003)

This McREL report presents the findings from a research meta-analysis that examined the effects of leadership practices on student achievement. McREL identified 21 leadership responsibilities that are significantly associated with student achievement and translated these results into a “balanced leadership framework” which describes the knowledge, skills, strategies, and tools leaders need to positively impact student achievement.

Waters, T. Marzano, R., & McNulty, B. (2003). Balanced Leadership: What 30 years of research tells us about the effect of leadership on student achievement. Denver, Colorado: McREL International.

Download the full report.