Research & Resources

College and Career Readiness

This best practice guide collects some of the best of what Texas educators are doing to implement the College and Career Initiative of TEA's CTE Unit How to Ensure Student Success by Creating a Strong College and Career Education Program. The guide provides real-world examples of local initiatives featuring perspectives from students, counselors, and community partners. Best practices are organized around the eight steps featured in the CTE Implementation Guide,

To monitor state progress in preparing all students for their next steps after high school graduation, Achieve, Inc., conducts an annual survey of all 50 states and the District of Columbia on key college and career readiness policies. In this, its sixth annual report, Achieve identified Texas as the only state in the country to implement all key college and career readiness policies graded by the organization – alignment of curriculum standards, graduation requirements, assessments, P-20 data systems, and accountability systems.

This 2009 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for helping students navigate the path to college based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommendations are organized into three categories: academic preparation, college aspirations and expectations, and steps for college entry. Recommended practices include: offering courses and curricula that prepare students for college-level work and ensuring that students understand what constitutes a college-ready curriculum by ninth grade; utilizing assessment measures throughout high school so that students are aware of how prepared they are for college and assisting them in overcoming deficiencies as they are identified; surrounding students with adults and peers who build and support the college-going aspirations; engaging and assisting students in completing critical steps for college entry; and increasing families' financial awareness and helping students apply for financial aid. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2010 report describes the current state of college readiness of high school students and examines the contributions of pre-college indicators to improving college success specifically among underrepresented racial/ethnic minority students and students from lower income families. Although nonacademic factors also influence college success, this report examines several academic factors — including level of academic achievement, coursework preparation, and educational and career planning in high school — that contribute to students' success during their first year in college and their likelihood of returning to college for a second year.

This October 2010 report from Jobs for the Future is designed to help policymakers make informed decisions as they plan for and implement early college designs. It outlines what it would take to systematize and scale up early college course taking, extending the benefits to all high school students. The report focuses on early college designs that adapt dual enrollment as a school-wide strategy with a primary focus on the underprepared student, rather than the high achiever. The goal is to support low-income high school students who, without significant assistance, may lack the skills and knowledge to enter and persist through college. The report provides information on early college designs and policies and strategies to support early college implementation focused on managing public/private partnerships, ensuring quality, financing, and monitoring success.

Dropout Prevention/Recovery

This 2008 study found three programs that were positively associated with dropout prevention in Texas schools: Career Academies, Communities In Schools, and Project GRAD. The researchers examined national and statewide dropout prevention efforts and research and found that most effective dropout programs had certain components, including school-community collaboration, safe learning environments, family engagement, mentoring/tutoring, alternative schooling, active learning, and career and technology education. Additionally, the report identifies national dropout programs with potential for success in Texas.

This 2010 report from the America's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University includes analysis of national dropout data that indicates some success in addressing the dropout problem. Most of the decline in "dropout factory" schools, the report states, occurred in the South (in Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee), with declines across all types of locales (cities, suburbs, towns, and rural areas). Further, Texas was one of eight states leading the nation in declines in urban-area dropout rates. The report provides case studies and highlights common elements of success involving multiple reform efforts that were sustained, integrated, and improved over time. These include strong leadership with clear graduation rate goals; multi-sector collaboration guided by data; commitment to innovation and continuous improvement; technical assistance for evidence-based solutions; and raising expectations, improving policies and increasing student supports.

This 2008 guide was developed specifically for Texas and is intended for districts and schools that want to develop and implement dropout recovery strategies or a comprehensive dropout recovery program. The guide examines components of dropout recovery programs, including program planning and administration, staffing, collaborative partnerships, student identification and tracking, re-enrollment, program options, support, program funding and costs, and evaluation. Small, mid-sized, and large school districts with effective and innovative dropout recovery/prevention programs are identified in the guide, and information about these programs is provided. Emerging best practices include: removing all barriers; providing greater service differentiation following re-enrollment; connecting the recovered dropout to a caring adult; integrating a case management model; offering greater flexibility; increasing range of program choices; assigning high quality staff; tailoring the academic program to the recovered dropout's academic status; focusing on post-high school directions; collaborating with post-secondary institutions; following students in college; and providing workforce preparation. Ineffective strategies are also identified in the guide.

This 2008 practice guide provides six evidence-based recommendations for reducing dropout rates based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommendations are organized into three categories: diagnostic processes; targeted interventions; and school-wide student engagement strategies. Recommended practices include: using data systems that provide realistic estimates of the number of dropouts or students at high risk of dropping out; assigning adult advocates to at-risk students; providing academic support and enrichment; implementing programs targeting classroom behavior and social skills; personalizing learning environments and instruction; and providing rigorous and relevant instruction to better engage students in learning and equip them with the skills needed to graduate and to serve them after they leave school. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

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 English Language Learners

Academic Vocabulary Guide for Fifth- to Seventh-Grade English Language Learners in Texas

 The guide was developed from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) and Mathematics as a resource for classroom teachers in Texas who work with the English language learner (ELL) population. The guide includes words selected from the TEKS, with the aim of identifying vocabulary that will help students learn content and skills represented on statewide assessments.

This 2006 report presents best practices for English language learners (ELLs) based on findings from two studies that included Texas campuses and districts: The Texas Successful School Study: Quality Education for Limited English Proficient Students (2000) and Characteristics of Effective Dual Language Programs 90:10 and 50:50 Models (2004). Effective practices focus on: consistency of implementation; administrative and staff support and knowledge of ELL research; teacher training; teacher collaboration and long-range planning of curriculum and instruction for ELL students; use of native language in instruction; differentiated and explicit instruction; and parent involvement. Best practices are provided in table format with description, national research to support the practice, and recommendations for instructional application.

Video and presentation materials from the presenters at English Language Learners and Designing Effective Bilingual Programs, a professional development opportunity hosted by state Senator Florence Shapiro, Chair, Senate Education Committee, and Senator Leticia Van de Putte, are now available on the BPC. Best practice summaries from forum presenters (Brownsville ISD, Montwood High School/Socorro ISD, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, and Plano ISD) can also be accessed here.

This 2007 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for improving early literacy for English learners based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: screening for reading problems and monitoring progress; providing intensive small-group reading interventions; providing extensive and varied vocabulary instruction; developing academic English; and scheduling regular peer-assisted learning opportunities. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2008 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for improving adolescent literacy based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: providing explicit vocabulary instruction; providing direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction; providing opportunities for extended discussion of text meaning and interpretation; increasing student motivation and engagement in literacy learning; and making available intensive and individualized interventions for struggling readers that can be provided by trained specialists. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

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Instruction/School Improvement-General

This 2007 practice guide provides seven evidence-based recommendations for organizing instruction and study to improve student learning based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: spacing learning over time; alternating between worked example solutions and problem-solving exercises; combining graphics with verbal descriptions; connecting and integrating abstract and concrete representations of concepts; using quizzing to promote learning; helping students allocate study time efficiently; and asking deep explanatory questions. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2008 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for reducing behavior problems in the elementary school classroom based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: identifying the specifics of the problem behavior and the conditions that prompt and reinforce it; modifying the classroom learning environment to decrease problem behavior; teaching and reinforcing new skills to increase appropriate behavior and preserve a positive classroom climate; drawing on relationships with professional colleagues and students' families for continued guidance and support; and assessing whether schoolwide behavior problems warrant adopting schoolwide strategies or programs and, if so, implement ones shown to reduce negative and foster positive interactions. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2009 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for structuring out-of-school time (OST) to improve academic achievement based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: aligning the OST program academically with the school day; maximizing student participation and attendance; adapting instruction to individual and small group needs; providing engaging learning experiences; and assessing program performance and using the results to improve the quality of the program. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2008 practice guide provides four evidence-based recommendations for turning around chronically low-performing schools based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: signaling the need for dramatic change with strong leadership; maintaining a consistent focus on improving instruction; providing visible improvements early in the turnaround process (quick wins); and building a committed staff. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2009 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for using student data to support instructional decision making based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: making data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement; teaching students to examine their own data and to set learning goals; establishing a clear vision for schoolwide data use; providing supports that foster a data-driven culture within a school; and developing and maintaining a districtwide data system. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2007 report from the Council of Great City Schools describes 50 statistical indicators to measure urban school performance in the areas of transportation, food services, maintenance and operations, procurement, and safety and security. The purpose of the project is to help schools measure performance, improve operational decisions, and strengthen practices. As the project continues, the Council will provide indicators in additional areas of operations and collect data to identify trends and effective practices on a range of operational and business functions. District identification and characteristics are masked, but a list of districts included in the analysis is provided at the end of the report. Only participating districts have access to identifying information.

This 2009 report from the National Governors Association's (NGA) Center for Best Practices provides recommendations for improving student enrollment and success in AP courses based on findings from a large-scale NGA pilot project. The Advanced Placement Expansion Project was designed to increase the participation of minority and low-income students in AP courses and involved 51,000 students in 51 high schools across six states. Across the pilot schools, the number of students taking AP courses rose 65 percent over two years, and the number of minority and low-income students taking AP exams more than doubled. In addition, mastery-level performance on the AP exam accelerated at a faster rate than the national average. Recommended strategies included: ensuring equitable access to AP classes at all high schools and requiring all students to take some AP coursework to graduate from high school; investing in training to build teacher capacity to support student success in rigorous courses; and creating incentives such as state scholarship funding for students taking AP courses. The report includes specific examples of how states have implemented the recommended strategies.

Math/Science 

This 2009 practice guide provides eight evidence-based recommendations for assisting elementary and middle school students struggling with mathematics. Recommended practices include: (tier 1) screening all students to identify those at risk for potential mathematics difficulties and providing interventions to students identified as at risk; (tiers 2 & 3) selecting (by committee) instructional materials intensely focused on in-depth treatment of whole numbers in kindergarten through grade 5 and on rational numbers in grades 4 through 8 for students receiving interventions; providing explicit and systematic instruction during the intervention, including providing models of proficient problem solving, verbalization of thought processes, guided practice, corrective feedback, and frequent cumulative review; providing interventions that include instruction on solving word problems based on common underlying structures; using intervention materials that include opportunities for students to work with visual representations of mathematical ideas and using visual representations of mathematical ideas proficiently; including in interventions at all grade levels about 10 minutes in each session focused on building fluent retrieval of basic arithmetic facts; monitoring the progress of students receiving supplemental instruction and other students who are at risk; and including motivational strategies in tier 2 and tier 3 interventions. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2010 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for improving students' learning of fractions. Recommendations include: building on students' informal understanding of sharing and proportionality to develop initial fraction concepts; helping students recognize that fractions are numbers and that they expand the number system beyond whole numbers, and using number lines as a central representational tool in teaching this and other fraction concepts from the early grades onward; helping students understand why procedures for computations with fractions make sense; developing students' conceptual understanding of strategies for solving ratio, rate, and proportion problems before exposing them to cross-multiplication as a procedure to use to solve such problems; and professional development programs placing a high priority on improving teachers' understanding of fractions and of how to teach them.

This 2007 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for encouraging girls in math and science based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: teaching students that academic abilities are expandable and improvable; providing prescriptive, informational feedback; exposing girls to female role models who have succeeded in math and science; creating a classroom environment that sparks initial curiosity and fosters long-term interest in math and science; and providing spatial skills training. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

Reading/Language/Literacy

This 2009 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for assisting students struggling with reading as a response to intervention in the primary grades. Recommended practices include: screening all students for potential reading problems at the beginning of the year and again in the middle of the year; (tier 1) providing time for differentiated reading instruction for all students based on assessments of students' current reading level; (tier 2) providing intensive, systematic instruction on up to three foundational reading skills in small groups to students who score below the benchmark score on universal screening; monitoring the progress of tier 2 students at least once a month; and (tier 3) providing intensive instruction on a daily basis that promotes the development of the various components of reading proficiency to students who show minimal progress after reasonable time in tier 2 small group instruction. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2008 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for improving adolescent literacy based on a comprehensive assessment of existing research and evaluation studies in the field. Recommended practices include: providing explicit vocabulary instruction; providing direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction; providing opportunities for extended discussion of text meaning and interpretation; increasing student motivation and engagement in literacy learning; and making available intensive and individualized interventions for struggling readers that can be provided by trained specialists. The guide provides a checklist for carrying out the recommendations and features and components associated with each.

This 2010 practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for promoting practices that have shown promise in increasing reading comprehension among students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Recommendations include: teaching students how to use reading comprehension strategies; teaching students to identify and use the text's organizational structure to comprehend, learn, and remember content; guiding students through focused, high-quality discussion on the meaning of text; selecting texts purposefully to support comprehension development; and establishing an engaging and motivating context in which to teach reading comprehension.

This April 2010 report from Carnegie Corporation of New York published by the Alliance for Excellent Education draws on a comprehensive statistical review of research to provide evidence-based information about how instructional practices in writing can improve reading skills and comprehension. The report makes three core recommendations: (1) have students write about the texts they read; (2) teach students the writing skills and processes that go into creating text; and (3) increase how much students write. Writing to Read builds on the ideas and findings of the 2006 Alliance report Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School Literacy.

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