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Student Achievement Is Topic of Briefing

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May 9, 2006 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- What evidence is there that teachers make a difference in student achievement? Which kinds of pre-kindergarten programs have been shown to improve academic success? Do government policies aimed directly at families but unrelated to education have an impact on how well students do in elementary and secondary school?

Three Northwestern University researchers will discuss what the best available evidence-based research can tell us about educational programs and policies at a policy briefing Friday, May 19, in Washington, D.C. The free, public event will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Room B338 of the Rayburn House Office Building in the U.S. Capitol Complex. Lunch will be served. Seating is limited; reservations are required.

Northwestern University's statistician and educational researcher Larry V. Hedges, social psychologist Thomas D. Cook and economist Greg J. Duncan will take part in the briefing titled “Children's Achievement: What the Evidence Says about Teachers, Pre-K Programs and Economic Policies.” The May 19 event, made possible with a grant from the Joyce Foundation, will include the following presentations:

***Teachers How Much Difference Do They Make and for Whom? by Larry V. Hedges, Board of Trustees Professor of Statistics and Social Policy and Institute for Policy Research (IPR) Faculty Fellow, Northwestern University. Hedges will discuss some of the findings of what is known as the Tennessee Class-Size Experiment, a four-year random assignment experiment that provided some of the strongest evidence to date about the impact of teacher effects on student achievement.  In particular, he will review the finding that the teacher effect variance is much larger in schools with a lower socio-economic status (SES) than in schools with higher SES. In addition, he will discuss the finding that substantial differences exist between teachers in their ability to generate student achievement gains; and the finding that teacher effects play a larger part in mathematics achievement than in reading achievement.

***Preschool Programs: Which Ones Make a Difference? by Tom D. Cook, Joan and Serepta Harrison Chair in Ethics and Justice; Professor of Sociology, Psychology, Education and Social Policy; and IPR Faculty Fellow, Northwestern University. Cook will briefly review some of the experimental evidence about the effectiveness of early childhood interventions, including the Perry Preschool Project, the Abcdarian Project, Head Start, Early Head Start and Even Start. In doing so, he will try to answer three questions: 1. What seems to work to increase poorer children's life chances? 2. What implications, if any, does this have for the expansion of preschool services nationally? 3. Which early childhood outcomes should we value most?

***Family Economic Policies: Which Ones Raise Children's Achievement? by Greg J. Duncan, Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Education and Social Policy and IPR Faculty Fellow, Northwestern University. Duncan will argue that although public education is the nation's primary means for promoting academic achievement, policies aimed at families, such as welfare reform, also make a difference. Duncan will present data from seven random-assignment welfare and antipoverty policies and show that some of these policies boosted the achievement of children making the transition into primary school but, at the same time, appeared to have negative effects on children making the transition into early adolescence. Research also indicates that younger children make gains in academic achievement from earnings-supplement policies than from other welfare and employment strategies.

Although the briefing is free of charge, registration is necessary and must be completed by Tuesday, May 16. For further information, call (847) 491-8712, visit the IPR Web site at www.northwestern.edu/ipr or e-mail p-reese@northwestern.edu. To register online, visit the IPR Web site at www.northwestern.edu/ipr/regform.html.