REL Midwest at Learning Point Associates, part of a network of 10 regional educational laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES), exists to bring the latest and best research and proven practices into school improvement efforts. Serving Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, REL Midwest conducts short-term, fast-response applied research and development projects based on annual needs-sensing data as well as long-term studies using randomized controlled trials.
Fast-response projects result in Issues & Answers, a series of reports that meet IES standards for scientifically valid research. Issues & Answers reports from all 10 RELS are available on the regional educational laboratory program website, and three REL Midwest reports are available now.
Examining District Guidance to Schools on Teacher Evaluation Policies in the Midwest Region provides a snapshot of teacher evaluation policies across a demographically diverse sample of districts in the Midwest. Among the patterns that emerge from the findings are that many district policies distinguish between beginning and experienced teachers; few policies spell out consequences for unsatisfactory evaluations; most evaluations are summative reports used to support decisions about retaining teachers and granting tenure, rather than for professional development; and vague terminology leaves evaluation policies open to interpretation. The report’s findings lay the groundwork for additional research and identify several questions that need further investigation:
Getting the Evidence for Evidence-Based Initiatives: How the Midwest States Use Data Systems to Improve Educational Processes and Outcomes shows that despite a wealth of data at the school, district, state, and federal levels, the objectives of data-based decision making in education have not been fully realized. Common challenges include outdated and incompatible systems for collecting and storing information; inefficient systems for accessing and using data; and constraints on resources and capacity. The report suggests that states would benefit from technical assistance to improve the quality of data; support with technical challenges; and guidance on how to use information effectively to inform decision making and planning.
New Data Needed: Improving Survey Research on Two-Year College Experiences illustrates that although two-year colleges are enrolling new kinds of students, offering new options, and serving new labor market demands, parents, educators, and policymakers are giving advice and making policies based on old understandings—understandings that may be outdated, misleading, and even harmful. The report identifies the kinds of information that needs to be obtained through research to answer questions about such issues as unseen barriers in two-year colleges, implications of new pathways through college, and ways that college can improve labor market outcomes.
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