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Briefing: What Research Says About Improving K-12 Academic Success?

November 28, 2006 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- What does the research evidence tell us about the complicated relationship between teachers and students' academic success? Which pre-kindergarten programs have been shown to improve student performance? Can government policies aimed directly at families but unrelated to education make an impact on academic achievement?

Three prominent Northwestern University education researchers will address these and other questions from noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, at an admission free, public policy briefing on Northwestern's Chicago campus. “Children's Achievement: What Does the Evidence Say about Teachers, Pre-K Programs and Economic Policies” will take place on the fourth floor of Wieboldt Hall, 340 E. Superior Street, Chicago. Lunch will be served. Registration is required.

Made possible by a grant from the Joyce Foundation and sponsored by Northwestern's Institute for Policy Research (IPR), the Dec. 5 briefing will include these presenters and topics:

“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 faculty fellow: While it is widely accepted that teachers differ in their effectiveness, empirical evidence about the size of teacher effects generally is based on non-experimental studies.  Hedges and his fellow researchers obtained stronger evidence about the size of teacher effects using large, randomized data from a landmark Tennessee class size experiment in which both teachers and students were randomly assigned to classes. Hedges and his colleagues found substantial differences exist between teachers in their ability to improve student achievement, and that teacher effects were greater in raising mathematics achievement than in reading achievement. He also found that the effects of particular teachers were far greater in schools populated by students of low socio-economic status schools than in schools populated by students of higher socio-economic status.

“Preschool Programs: Which Ones Make a Difference?” by Thomas D. Cook, Joan and Serepta Harrison Chair in Ethics and Justice; professor of sociology, psychology, human development and social policy and IPR faculty fellow: Cook will briefly review some of the experimental evidence on the effectiveness of early childhood interventions, including the Perry Preschool Project, the Abcederian Project, Head Start, Early Head Start and Even Start. In doing so, he will try to answer three questions: What seems to work to increase poorer children's life chances? What implications, if any, does this have for the expansion of preschool services nationally? 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: 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 can make a difference. He will present data from 11 random-assignment welfare and antipoverty programs and show that some of these programs boosted the achievement of children making the transition into primary school but, at the same time, appeared to have somewhat negative effects on children transitioning into early adolescence. Duncan's research also indicates that younger children make greater gains in academic achievement from earnings supplement policies than from other welfare-to-work strategies.

To pre-register by the Nov. 29 deadline or for more information, visit the Northwestern University Institute for Public Policy Web site at www.northwestern.edu/ipr, call (847) 491-8712 or e-mail <p-reese@northwestern.edu>.

Topics: Campus Life