EdTakeAways

Although the cries for "evidence" are frequent in the education space, evidence can prove elusive to practitioners: Where is it? How sound is it? What does it tell us about real-life situations? This essay is the first in a series that aims to put the pieces of research together so they can be used by those charged with choosing which policies and practices to implement. The conveners of this project—Susanna Loeb, the director of Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform, and Harvard education professor Heather Hill—have received grant support from the Annenberg Institute for this series.

 

Culturally responsive teaching, culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally sustaining pedagogy. By any name, it's a very timely topic, brought into the spotlight by a new wave of recognition that the nation's schools have failed too many students of color for far too long. Hopes are high that by better grounding education in students' lives, cultural responsiveness, or just CR, will be the fix we need. As a result, you likely have participated in a CR workshop, used CR materials, or directed your staff to take the CR plunge.

In our last “What Works” essay, we cast serious doubt on the value of teachers analyzing student test data. Studies find the practice on average doesn’t produce student learning gains. We also noted that the practice is widespread, often forming a cornerstone of teachers’ professional learning time.

This raises a question: If this study of student data doesn’t improve schools, what should teachers do with their professional learning time?

This practice arose from a simple logic: To improve student outcomes, teachers should study students’ prior test performance, learn what students struggle with, and then adjust the curriculum or offer students remediation where necessary. By addressing the weaknesses revealed by the test results, overall student achievement would improve.
Welcome to "What Works, What Doesn't." Educators and policymakers want to make good choices for schools and districts. And research can help. For people in charge of schools and classrooms starting with "what the research says" can be critical in navigating the challenges of boosting student learning and creating environments where children thrive. Research brings to bear facts that have been collected and analyzed in purposeful, systematic, and often public ways. Its power to rise above the anecdotal is why people in medicine, business, and every type of public policy increasingly refer to it.