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December 2019 Newsletter

Dear Knowledge Network members,  

Welcome to our December newsletter. We wish you and those you love a very fruitful and joyous holiday season. This time of the year offers educators, parents, and decision-makers a few moments to take stock of the first half of the year and then sit back for a well earned holiday.  We hope these news items, a DashBoard article, and original paper will keep you apprised of the latest research and provide you with information that will benefit you through the long winter months. 

This month we have one original Wing Institute paper on teacher retention strategies. The lead author on this paper is Jan Donley. This completes Jan's four paper analysis of teacher retention that includes; teacher retention, teacher turnover impact, analysis the data, and strategies for reducing teacher turnover.

This newsletter also includes summaries from six recent studies that we hope you will find of interest. This research includes work on school principal turnover, linguistic and language instruction, credit recovery, essential roles played by school principals, bias in addressing disciplinary problems, dyslexia, and using cost-effectiveness analyses in decision making.

The newsletter closes with a System Dashboard article on the recent release of international scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

A very Happy Holidays and a productive New Year to all!


The Wing Institute

  • In the U.S. the student to teacher ratio has continually fallen since the 1970s. The national average declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 16.1 in 2019. (National Center for Education Statistics) 
  •  Between 1920 and 2016, the portion of K–12 public school funding provided by:
    • local governments decreased from 83% to 45%
    • state governments increased from 16% to 47%.
    • the federal government increased from 0.3% to 8%. (National Center for Education Statistics)
  • In 2017 33% of four-year-olds were enrolled in state-sponsored pre-schools, up from 14% in 2002. (National Institute for Early Education Research)
  • In 2017 the average earnings for a U.S. resident with a bachelors degree was $60,657 and fell below $18,000 for those individuals who did not obtain a high school diploma. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Wing Original Papers

Teacher Retention Strategies (Wing Institute Original Paper)


Teacher turnover is an enormous burden on education systems, both in terms of student achievement and dollars. High turnover necessitates the recruitment of large numbers of novice teachers, whom research shows are less skilled. This situation is exacerbated by a steady exodus of veteran teachers opting to move from challenging assignments in poorer performing schools with higher percentages of lower socio-economic students to preferred assignments more affluent areas. The high rate of turnover destabilizes the system, forcing diversion of valuable resources from ongoing improvements to recruitment, hiring, and training of novice instructors. Teachers seem to be particularly at risk for higher turnover at the beginning of their careers. Nearly half of teachers leave within 5 years of entering the profession. Efforts to improve retention have been inadequate as evidenced by steadily increasing departures from the profession. This tendency toward turnover is even more striking in private schools than in public schools. Turnover represents a major obstacle to long-term stability, diverts valuable resources, and derails many efforts at reform. Read more


How effective is linguistic comprehension training?

The Effect of Linguistic Comprehension Training on Language and Reading Comprehension. Children who begin school with proficient language skills are more likely to develop adequate reading comprehension abilities and achieve academic success than children who struggle with poor language skills in their early years. Individual language difficulties, environmental factors related to socioeconomic status, and having the educational language as a second language are all considered risk factors for language and literacy failure. This review considers whether language-supportive programs are effective. The research aims to examine the immediate and long-run effects of such programs on generalized measures of linguistic comprehension and reading comprehension. Examples of linguistic comprehension skills include vocabulary, grammar, and narrative skills.

The effect of linguistic comprehension instruction on generalized outcomes of linguistic comprehension skills is small in studies of both the overall immediate and follow-up effects. Analysis of differential language outcomes shows small effects on vocabulary and grammatical knowledge and moderate effects on narrative and listening comprehension. Linguistic comprehension instruction has no immediate effects of on generalized outcomes of reading comprehension. Only a few studies have reported follow-up effects on reading comprehension skills, with divergent findings. Read More

What roles are essential for school principals to be successful? 

The Effect of Principal Behaviors on Student, Teacher and School Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature. This meta-analysis finds a positive relationship between school principals spending time on five commonly assigned roles and student achievement. These principal responsibilities are instructional management, internal relations, organizational management, administration, and external relations. The study finds that a principal cannot focus on a select few of the categories, but must carve out adequate time for each role. The need to be proficient across all leadership categories offers little comfort to U.S. principals who report average work-weeks of 58.6 hours (U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). The paper recommends school principals be provided with additional resources if they are to adequately meet the needs of the students, teachers, and the community. The authors find moderate to large positive effects across five leadership behaviors on student achievement, teacher well-being, instructional practices and, school organizational health. Although these roles differ from the categories set out by Viviane Robinson (goal expectations, strategic resourcing, teaching and curriculum, teacher development, and supportive environment), there does appear to be a significant overlap with those identified in the Liebowitz meta-analysis (Robinson, Lloyd, & Rowe, 2008). Read More

Are there disparities between the treatment of white students and students of color when addressing disciplinary infractions?


Examining racial/ethnic disparities in school discipline in the context of student-reported behavior infractions. Research strongly supports the existence of bias in human beings. Discrepancies between how teachers handle behavior management incidents for students of color and white students has been a concern of education researchers for well over a decade. This paper looks at the disproportionality of consequences for disciplinary infractions between these groups of students. The researchers were interested in determining whether students of color would show similar rates of suspensions, office referrals, personal warnings from a teacher, or warnings about their behavior sent home based on ethnicity, as is the case for white students. Wegman's study finds that African American students are less likely to receive warnings for behavior infractions than white peers, resulting in escalating consequences for students of color. The unequal handling of disciplinary actions reflects a pressing need for schools to address issues of implicit and explicit bias as a means to address this central issue in education. Read More

Credit Recovery Programs, A Major Intervention in Need of Research


Practice Outpacing Policy?  Credit Recovery in American School Districts. Traditionally, students who failed classes could get credit by taking the class over during summer school.  In a relatively brief period of time, most high schools have a undergone a complete and rapid transformation in this area, shifting to “credit recovery” programs to help at-risk students earn credits towards graduation for classes they have failed.  These programs typically offer online alternatives to students rather than having them retake the failed class.  In the 2015-16 school year approximately three out of four high schools offered credit recovery programs with about 6% of all students participating.  This growth in credit recovery programs, rapid expansion of new online models, and numerous cases of misuse to inflate graduation rates highlight the need for research into the implementation and effectiveness of this intervention. Read More

Is Dyslexia a Genuine Phenomenon?


This paper assesses research on the topic of dyslexia. Willingham’s piece is in response to comments made by literacy researcher, Dick Allington, in which he questions the legitimacy of the label, dyslexia. Answering this question is more than an academic exercise as having a clearer understanding of dyslexia is crucial if educators are to understand why 10% of students struggle to master reading, the skill essential to success in academic learning.  Willingham highlights the etiology of the disorder, and he concludes that the ability to read is the product of the home environment, instruction at school, and genetics within the child. Dyslexia is a problem in the child’s ability to successfully master the skills of reading and is closely related to fluency in language. Dyslexia is not like measles in which you are ill, or you aren’t. Dyslexia is more like high blood pressure where individuals fall on a bell curve. Falling somewhere on the bell curve is supported by the hypothesis that the disorder has multiple causes. Although it does not have a single source, dyslexia is successfully remediated through evidence-based language and reading instruction. Read More

What does the research tell us about principal turnover? 


A Review of the Literature on Principal Turnover. When it comes to variables that impact student achievement, school principals consistently come up second, behind teachers. They play a critical role in supporting teachers and students to ensure a school’s success.   Hiring and maintaining qualified school principals is as important as it is challenging.  Yet, principal turnover remains high, impacting the consistency of services and school improvement efforts. 

This paper examines research on what we know about the causes and impact of principal turnover. The author is interested in answering three questions: how principal turnover is defined and measured, identifying the causes of turnover, and understanding the consequences of high rates of turnover. The review of the literature shows that there are insufficient numbers and quality of studies on this topic. The current knowledge base consists of case studies and correlational research. The fact there is a shortage of experimental research is not surprising given challenges confronted in implementing research on principal turnover. Because of this, the author was unable to conduct a meta-analysis for this paper. It appears that principal turnover is closely related to student achievement and teacher turnover, but the research is not sufficient to make definitive conclusions at this time. Snodgrass concludes the field needs additional quality studies on this topic. Read More

System DashBoard

Most Recent Test Results from Pisa On Reading, Math and Science


PISA 2018 Results (Volume I): What Students Know and Can Do. Benchmark Indicators are critical tools to help education stakeholders track their education system’s performance over time, in comparison to other similar level education systems (state, national, international), and by student groups (ethnicity, disabilities, socioeconomic status, etc.).  One of the most respected tools for benchmarking system performance is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-old-students across nearly 80 countries and educational systems in reading, mathematics, and science.  The results from the most recent testing (2018) were just released.  The report itself has an enormous amount of data.  A summary of key findings follows.  Read More

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