Education Reform/September 2011
Westat plays a critical role in Federal efforts to conceptualize and implement education reform.
Is REESE at the Top of Its Class?
The REESE program is designed to advance and transform research on learning, education, and evaluation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Awardees carry out work that is expected to provide foundational knowledge for improving STEM teaching and learning at all educational levels.
For the National Science Foundation, Westat is conducting a multifaceted evaluation to determine the extent to which the program is meeting its goals of enhancing the knowledge base, expanding the STEM research workforce, and identifying innovative ways of making all students successful STEM learners. To understand the contributions of REESE in these areas, the evaluation combines collecting new data with analyses of existing data, using multiple traditional methods (surveys, interviews, case studies, and portfolio and bibliometric analyses) as well as social network analysis.
School Vouchers: The Effect on Students, Parents, Test Scores?
For the U.S. Department of Education, Westat conducted an impact evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). Each spring for 5 years, we administered a standardized test, and surveyed parents, students, and principals.
In the final year, the OSP had a statistically significant effect on high school graduation: those offered a scholarship were 12 percentage points more likely to graduate than those not offered a scholarship. There were no statistically significant differences in reading and math achievement. Parents of scholarship awardees reported being more satisfied with their child’s school and feeling that their child’s school was safer. Students who were offered a scholarship did not report being more satisfied or feeling safer than those who were not offered a scholarship.
Does Performance Pay Make the Grade for Teachers?
For the U.S. Department of Education, Westat established the Center for Educator Compensation Reform (CECR). The CECR has two primary purposes: (1) support and monitor the implementation efforts of Teacher Incentive Fund grantees by providing ongoing technical assistance and by developing and disseminating timely resources, and (2) raise national awareness of alternative and effective strategies for educator compensation reform through a web-based clearinghouse, a monthly newsletter, and other outreach activities.
In addition to our monitoring and technical assistance tasks, we are convening annual symposia on compensation reform, developing policy and content briefs, and creating and maintaining a national clearinghouse.
Recovery Act Funding for Education Reform: Does It Pass the Test?
Is there a relationship between the education reform strategies funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and student achievement and other outcomes?
The U.S. Department of Education contracted with Westat and a team of evaluators to assess how states, districts, and schools are working to improve education. ARRA awarded approximately $100 billion in new education funding through a variety of programs. We will examine the role that ARRA programs have played in reform efforts and understand the challenges that educators have faced in implementing reforms.
The team is reviewing existing data sources and conducting a web-based survey of all states and approximately 1,700 school districts and 3,800 schools. Followup surveys will be administered in 2012 and 2013.