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ECS High School Policy Center (HSPC)


The Progress of Education Reform: Credit Recovery and Proficiency-Based Credit PDF -

This issue of The Progress of Education Reform will address the following questions:

  • What is credit recovery? What is proficiency-based credit?
  • How is credit recovery different from traditional remediation?
  • Why does providing for these options matter for high school completion?
  • How widespread are these options across the states? And what do state policies look like?
  • What are the challenges in implementing credit recovery and proficiency-based credit
    programs?
  • What does the research say on the effectiveness of credit recovery and proficiency-based
    credit?
  • What are the essential policy components?

(Jennifer Dounay Zinth, Education Commission of the States, June 2011)

...

Progress and Gaps in College Preparation Policy PDF - Stagnant college completion rates, high postsecondary remediation rates—and the high costs associated with postsecondary remediation—make clear that better alignment is needed between K-12 and postsecondary. This ECS Perspective sets forth four policy levers necessary for true reform to take place, and evaluates state progress to date in each of the four areas. (Michael W. Kirst, Stanford University, October 2009)...

ECS High School Resources and Services MS Word PDF - This two-page document describes the variety of resources and services ECS offers to answer state leaders' questions about high school, transitions to postsecondary, and P-16/P-20 alignment. (Education Commission of the States, July 2009)...

Ensuring Successful Student Transitions from the Middle Grades to High School MS Word PDF - The 9th grade year is critical to students’ success in high school. This ECS PolicyBrief looks at research on the 9th-grade transition, some expert recommendations and examples of relevant policies in place in the states. (Kathy Christie and Kyle Zinth, Education Commission of the States, November 2008)...

Landmines P-16/P-20 Councils Encounter — and How They Can Be Addressed (or Avoided Altogether) PDF - Building upon the findings of the ECS database on P-16 and P-20 councils, and experience in the states, this policy brief sets forth the numerous challenges that can foil the best-laid plans of P-16 and P-20 councils, and suggests how they can be addressed or avoided altogether. These "landmines" lie in four areas: Actors, Agenda, Appropriation of Resources and Political Climate. (Jennifer Dounay, Education Commission of the States, November 2008)...

Improving the Skills and Knowledge of the High School Teachers We Already Have PDF - While numerous state efforts seek to recruit, train and retain more teachers, fewer initiatives focus on developing teachers, particlarly high school teachers, once they enter the classroom. This policy brief examines seven high-leverage components to strengthen teacher professional development at the high school level and provides state policy suggestions for each. (Jennifer Dounay and Kathy Christie, Education Commission of the States, October 2008)...

Beyond the GED: State Strategies to Help Former Dropouts Earn a High School Diploma MS Word PDF - Seventy-four percent of the high school dropouts age 16-25 report that, if they could do it all over again, they would have stayed in school. This ECS Policy Brief provides information on various state policy components that can facilitate former dropouts’ ability to earn a high school diploma. The brief also addresses finance elements state policymakers must consider when developing new education options. (Jennifer Dounay, Education Commission of the States, August 2008)...

Strengthening Parents’ Ability to Provide the Guidance and Support That Matter Most in High School MS Word PDF - The higher the expectations of parents, the steadier their guidance and support, and the greater their sense of partnership with teachers and other staff, the better their child’s chances of academic success. This ECS Policy Brief reviews: (1) Research on the types of parental involvement that positively impact high school students; (2) State and local policies and practices that reflect and reinforce a commitment to parental involvement; and (3) The parental involvement component of No Child Left Behind. (Tim Taylor and Jennifer Dounay, Education Commission of the States, August 2008)...

Dispelling the Myths About the Negative Effects of Raising High School Graduation Requirements MS Word PDF - In the last several years, a number of states have raised high school graduation requirements, particularly in mathematics and science. The negative impacts of raising high school graduation requirements are often raised by well-intentioned individuals as counterarguments to discussions in favor of raising students’ course requirements; however these counterarguments are often based on misperceptions, or "myths." This policy brief presents the potential consequences commonly raised by critics of increased high school graduation requirements. Each "myth" is followed by relevant research and/or experience, as well as guiding principles for best policy in establishing more challenging curricular expectations for all students. (Jennifer Dounay, Education Commission of the States, August 2008)...

High School Agenda: Who’s Doing What MS Word PDF - This document provides information on the projects, initiatives and products of ECS and other national education and policy organizations on the subject of high school improvement. It is designed to direct policymakers to various groups and resources that might be useful in developing and implementing effective high school policy, and highlight important resources for anyone concerned with improving high schools. This May 2008 document reflects high school-focused reports published since spring 2005 and updates the May 2005 version of this document. (Michael Colasanti, Education Commission of the States, May 2008)...

The State Role in Accelerating Student Growth in Low-Performing High Schools MS Word PDF - The goal of state intervention in a school or district designated as low-performing is not to punish. It is to help figure out how to improve student learning. The challenge, particularly for a chief state school officer or state board of education, is how best to leverage assistance to schools that have varying degrees of need. This ECS Policy Brief examines what has been learned from research and looks at the subsequent implications for state policy. It also makes suggestions for specific actions and provides examples of approaches that states have taken to amend governance and organizational structures, improve instructional conditions and increase instructional capacity. (Kathy Christie, Education Commission of the States, June 2007)...

High School Curriculum: How important is rigor? - Access related research titles from the ECS Research Studies Database. Links embedded in titles will take you to each study's major findings and recommendations....

Ninth Grade: Is it a make- or-break time for a successful high school career? - Access related research titles from the ECS Research Studies Database. Links embedded in titles will take you to each study's major findings and recommendations....

Free to Fail or On-Track to College: Setting the Stage for Academic Challenge -- Classroom Control and Student Support - As policymakers try to increase rigor in America's schools, this research suggests two factors have the strongest relationship to test gains: academic challenge and classroom control. Order is harder to maintain when work becomes more challenging, especially in classrooms of low-achieving students.(Elaine M. Allensworth, et al., University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, September 2014)...

Creating Pathways to Prosperity: A Blueprint to Action - In the spring of 2013, a conference at Harvard considered the design of quality career pathways systems spanning grades 9-14. Summaries and recommendations from that conference, "Creating Pathways to Prosperity," constitute this report. Key elements required to build and maintain a quality career pathways system are: career information and guidance; curriculum development and teacher training; effective intermediary organizations; engaged employers; supportive federal and state policies. The project has become a movement which now is in 10 states. (Ronald F. Ferguson and Sara Lamback, Harvard Graduate School of Education, June 2014)...

Falling Out of the Lead: Following High Achievers Through High School and Beyond - Tens of thousands of students of color and students from low-socioeconomic backrounds start high school in the top quarter of all students in math and reading. However something happens in those four years. They leave high school with lower AP exam rates, lower SAT/ACT scores and lower GPAs than their high-achieving white and more advantaged peers. Schools can serve these kids better, authors say. (Marni Bromberg and Christina Theokas, Education Trust, April 2014)...

Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study - Adolescents should start the school day no earlier than 8:30 in order for them to get eight, preferably nine hours sleep for maximum neural development, say the authors of this report. Teens who got that much sleep were less likely to report being depressed or using caffeine or other substances. Also, there was a reduction in local car crashes, less absenteeism, less tardiness and higher achievement test scores. Maintenance of the status quo was the strongest force against a later start time. (Kyla L. Wahlstrom, et al., Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, March 2014)...

High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) First Follow-Up: A First Look at Fall 2009 Ninth-Graders in 2012 - In a country screaming for STEM expertise, we should all be bothered by the following numbers. This newly-released “First Look” from IES introduces new data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009—data collected in the spring of 2012 when most sample members were in their 11th-grade year. Of the students who were ninth-graders in 2009, most (93%) were in grade 11 in 2012. This publication reports that of those enrolled in high school in spring 2012, 18% reported taking no science at all and 11% of students reported no math course enrollment. (Steven J. Ingels and Ben Dalton, IES, October 2013)...

Denver and Aurora Schools: Crisis and Opportunity - This report targets two Colorado districts, but findings are broadly relevant. Though Denver (DPS) and Aurora (APS) high schools have made some progress in this last few years, this brief asserts it is too slow. A third of DPS and APS high school students still can't score high enough on the ACT to serve in the military. In this call for action, the author offers examples of good practice, some of which are known (high expectations) while others are more unusual: provide students support even when they have moved on to college; require a capstone project that includes substantial writing, project management and community connection for graduation; tie graduation to college acceptance, military, or work. (Sari Levy, A+Denver Citizens for Better Schools, April 2013)...

Reforming Underperforming High Schools - A wealth of information on Reforming Underperforming High Schools is out there and MDRC reduces it to a dense two pages. Authors tout the smaller, themed schools created in New York City that came with universal choice for ninth-graders. They add that, short of new-school creation, reform by a unified school staff is possible, citing such programs as Talent Development and Diplomas Now. They like a combined college and career model called Career Academies, but are not enthusiastic about reform that targets a specific subset of the student population. (MDRC, March 2013) ...

Building a Grad Nation - For the first time the United States is on track to meet the 2020 goal of a 90% graduation rate, according to the fourth annual report, Building a Grad Nation. While the greatest gains were among student subgroups, in order to continue progress attention must be paid to supporting those same subgroups. The report offers data on graduation rates and dropout factory trends, plus evidence-based strategies for keeping kids in school. (Robert Balfanz, et al., Civic Enterprises, February 2013)...

Providing High School Feedback - Under increasing pressure to graduate more college- and career-ready students, high schools need high-quality data to analyze what's working, what's not and then to improve. According to this fact sheet, 47 states produce high school feedback reports by high school or district, but only 38 make them public and only 29 do it by individual high school. Most include data on college enrollment and remediation, but only two - Ohio and Maine - provide data on employment outcomes. (Data Quality Campaign, January 2013) ...

Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Interventions That Improve High School Completion - As state education budgets continue to be cut, the authors point out cost-benefit analysis can be extremely useful. They describe the tool of cost-effective analysis, identify challenges, then compare JOBSTART, New Chance, National Guard Youth ChalleNGe, Job Corps and Talent Search.(Henry M. Levin et al, Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education, October 2012)...

Identifying the Characteristics of Effective High Schools: Report from Year One of the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools - This report details findings about the importance of personalization for academic and social learning. It describes in detail the research findings from a mixed methods study conducted in Broward County Public Schools. (NCSU, September 2012)...

Cracking the Credit Hour - The basic currency of higher education — the credit hour — represents the root of many problems plaguing America's higher education system: the practice of measuring time rather than learning. This paper traces the history of this time-based unit, from the days of Andrew Carnegie to recent federal efforts to define a credit hour. The report shows the credit hour is putting our nation's workforce and future prosperity at risk. It outlines several steps the federal government can take now to shift from measuring seat time to learning. (New America Foundation and Education Sector, September 2012) ...

America's Youth: Transitions to Adulthood - This report examines numerous aspects of the lives of youth and young adults, ages 14 to 24, in the United States over the last several decades. The report features status and trend data from multiple surveys on the distribution of youth and their family structure; on school-, employment-, and health-related factors; and on future plans. (National Center for Education Statistics, Dec 2011)...

Progress Lags in High School, Especially for Advanced Achievers: State Test Score Trends Through 2008-09, Part 5 - While high school scores on state English language arts and math tests have risen since 2002 in most states, new data show smaller proportions of states making gains in high school compared with 4th and 8th grades. The data, published in the Center on Education Policy’s new report also show a striking lack of progress and widening gaps at the advanced level in many states. The study also reveals a lack of progress among high school students at the advanced achievement level. (Jennifer McMurrer and Nancy Kober, Center on Education Policy, October 2011)...

Helping Students Get Back on Track: What Federal Policymakers Can Learn from New York City's Multiple Pathways to Graduation Initiative - This report describes the multiple pathways to graduation (MPG) effort and its success in helping off-track students succeed, in part by acknowledging that they are a varied group that requires different educational settings in order to reach the same high standards. (Alliance for Excellent Education, June 2011)...

Eight Elements of High School Improvement - This is a self-assessment tool for the use of high schools or districts. (National High School Center, 2011)...

Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic - This report takes a critical look at the efforts that have made improvements in graduation rates, and those that have failed to do so, in our communities. While the results of the past decade have been mixed, with progress in some areas, and limited improvement in others, these efforts have laid the groundwork for more rapid and systemic progress in the next decade. (Civic Enterprises and America's Promise Alliance, December 2010)...

Coherent Approach to High School Improvement: A District and School Self-Assessment Tool - This tool is designed to help districts and schools assess current high school education policies and practices, identify areas of strengths and limitations, and implement coherent and sustainable school reform initiatives. (Lindsay Fryer and Amy Johnson, American Institutes for Research, March 2012) ...

Tiered Interventions in High Schools: Using Preliminary 'Lessons Learned' to Guide Ongoing Discussion - This document provides brief snapshots of how eight schools across the country implemented tiered interventions, including the essential components of response to intervention (RTI). Each of the schools viewed its implementation as a work in progress. Through visits with the schools and conversations with experts, it became clear that implementing tiered interventions at the high school level involves more than the "cutting and pasting" of the essential components of RTI from elementary to high schools. (American Institutes for Research, May 2010)...

The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion from High School Through College - "Oldie but goodie."This report, following up on the seminal 1999 Answers in the Toolbox seeks to identify the factors that contribute to an individual's completing a bachelor's degree by his mid-20s, following a national sample of students scheduled to graduate from high school in 1992. The study finds that high school curriculum matters more than any other precollegiate indicator in determining a student's likelihood of finishing a bachelor's degree, and of all precollegiate curriculum indicators, highest level of math completed continues to be key. The report likewise indicates which postsecondary variables – including timing and type of institution entered, first postsecondary year history (curriculum and performance), paying for college in the first years and college attendance patterns among others – are most frequently associated with baccalaureate completion. The author notes that to close gaps in preparation, "the provision of [high school] curriculum issue has to be addressed" and the "math gap" needs to be fixed. Check out the summary in our Research Studies Database. (Clifford Adelman, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, February 2006)...


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