children boarding school bus

Research You Can Use: School Edition

Here’s a summary of four recently published research studies by Curry School faculty that have practical implications for teachers, counselors, and school leaders.

One Factor in Higher Math Achievement May Be a More Caring Environment

Improving children’s mathematics achievement is not simple. It requires knowledge about math content, support for children’s social and emotional experiences in the classroom, effective classroom management, plus high quality math instruction.

In a study of third grade teachers and students from 24 schools, researchers found a direct relationship between teachers use of high quality social and emotional learning practices and use of standards-based mathematics teaching practices. The teachers in this study used the Responsive Classroom approach. The RC practices helped teachers integrate social and academic learning across the school day, create classroom management processes well aligned with children’s social and emotional needs, and foster a caring and responsive environment for students.

Further, children in classrooms with high quality social and emotional learning practices and standards-based mathematics practices showed greater improvement in mathematics achievement.

“Through enhancing the social, emotional, and organizational dynamics of the classroom, many of the barriers and demands that exist in the classroom can be removed, and teachers may be better able to provide higher quality mathematical practice, regardless of their levels of mathematical content knowledge,” the researchers suggested. Thus, the results showed that effective attention to children’s social and emotional needs in the classroom led to greater student learning.

High quality social and emotional learning strategies may also “create teacher and student readiness for using standards-based teaching practices by modifying behavioral management approaches, decreasing chaos in the classroom, and emphasizing the need to meet children’s social and emotional needs,” they noted. Or the strategies may improve communications between teachers and students in ways that improve teachers’ ability to address student questions.

For more on how to put this research into practice, see “Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching, Standards-Based Mathematics Teaching Practices, and Student Achievement in the Context of the Responsive Classroom Approach” in the August 2015 issue of American Educational Research Journal.

Authors: Erin R. Ottmar (Ph.D. ’11 Ed Psych: ADS), Sara E. Rimm-Kaufman, Ross A. Larsen, and Robert Q. Berry


Consistent Expectations between Pre-K and K Teachers Matter

teacher and preschoolerWhen children start kindergarten with a teacher who holds different expectations about the skills they should be coming in with than their preschool teacher did, they can have a harder time adjusting to school—especially if they come from a lower socio-economic status family.

“Children’s exposure to preschool and kindergarten teachers with differing beliefs about early school competencies [including academic, social, and self-regulatory skills] predicted their academic and sociobehavioral adjustment to kindergarten,” said the researchers in a study of 2,650 children and their paired preschool and kindergarten teachers.

The researchers believe that alignment in teacher beliefs could be one avenue through which to improve school adjustment for kids at risk for school failure. In the absence of standardized training requirements for preschool and kindergarten teachers, they suggest that joint professional development opportunities within schools and across districts or regions could help better align teachers’ beliefs.

Learn more: “Preschool and kindergarten teachers’ beliefs about early school competencies: Misalignment matters for kindergarten adjustment,” published this year in Early Childhood Research Quarterly (Vol 31).

Authors: Tashia Abry (M.Ed. ’08, Ph.D. ’12 Ed Psych), Scott Latham (doctoral student), Daphna Bassok (Associate Director, EdPolicyWorks), and Jennifer LoCasale-Crouch (Research Assistant Professor)


Cyberbullying Experiences in High School

teenage girlAdults working with students who report being bullied via electronic text, pictures or video—known as cyberbullying—may find helpful insights in a recent study of 28,104 adolescents enrolled in grades 9-12 at 58 Maryland high schools.
Only about a quarter of students who reported being bullied labeled their experience as cyberbullying, and only 12.5% said it had happened in the past three months.

Be aware, however, that if an adolescent is experiencing cyberbullying he or she is likely also experiencing other forms of bullying (physical, relational, or verbal)—it was true of about 95% of cyberbullied students in this study. Seventy-one percent said the cyberbully was different from the in-person bully.

Of students reporting that they were cyberbullied in the past 3 months, 33% indicated that the perpetrator was someone they “thought was a friend,” and 28% thought it was someone in their school. More than 60% reported that the hurtful message was posted on a social networking site, and 40% through text or instant message.  About 36% reported that message content was about dating partners, 31% about friends, 31% about sexual behaviors, 26% about weight, and 22% about physical appearance.

While traditional bullying victimization decreased by grades 11 and 12, rates of cyberbullying victimization remained consistent across the four high school grade levels.

Sadly, only about a third of cyberbullied students reported that they told an adult (teacher or parent) about it.

Learn more: “The Overlap Between Cyberbullying and Traditional Bullying,” published in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Authors: Tracy E. Waasdorp and Catherine P. Bradshaw


Getting Low-Income, College-Intending Graduates Actually Into College

high school graduationHigh school counselors, you are probably already aware that across the U.S., 20 to 44 percent of college-intending, low-income students fail to enroll at any college in the fall semester after high school. What happens over the summer after graduation for low‐income, urban youth is the focus of several research studies by Ben Castleman and colleagues.

Unfamiliarity with college enrollment logistics—even after being accepted—and confusion about vocabulary connected with college matriculation can become formidable barriers to these students, many of whom would be first-generation college attendees. Obstacles such as complex paperwork and arranging financing for gaps in college funding also conspire to discourage students from following through on their educational ambitions.

High schools can take a number of actions to help students most at risk of missing out, beginning with obtaining National Student Clearinghouse fall enrollment data to determine the extent of this phenomenon known as summer melt. Then, at a minimum, schools can produce worksheets for summer pre-enrollment tasks that are personalized for a student’s intended college.

Learn more:  Summer Melt: Supporting Low-Income Students Through the Transition to College (Harvard Education Press, 2014)

Authors: Benjamin L. Castleman & Lindsay C. Page

See also “Advisor and student experiences of summer support for college-intending, low-income high school graduates” published in the Journal of College Access (Vol. 1, Article 3). by K.C. Arnold, Benjamin L. Castleman, A. Chewning, & L.C. Page.