Research on education

Research On Education

1.0 Introduction

The Education system in the United States has undergone numerous changes over the past years. Some of the policies passed centered on the need to increase transparency in the education system, others focused on standardization of tests while others aimed at improving the performance disparities between various categories of students. This research will focus on closing achievement gaps on standardized tests. There are many ways of achieving this, however, this study will concentrate on horizontal and vertically integrated curriculums, benchmark testing, power objectives, learning communities and differentiated instruction. These methods will dwell on students in grades three to twelve. (Ainsworth, 2003)

2.0 Background to the study

The research is based on a policy called the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. This policy was passed in the year 2002 while focusing on a number of key objectives. They included; enhancing parental choices in education, increasing accountability in schools especially with regard to education and redirecting resources in education to proven methods.

Accountability was a major goal set out in the NCLB policy. This blueprint was to be achieved through yearly state objectives in three realms

  • Graduation rates for high schools
  • Attendance rates in junior high school and in elementary school
  • Language arts/ reading and math

The law required all school districts, public campuses and the state to adhere to these objectives and they called this yardstick the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

The Adequate Yearly Progress forms the basis for determining whether states, school campuses or school districts have adhered to the policy. Those schools that perform below par will be subject to financial sanctions. For instance, if a school was receiving funding under title 1 but they register poor AYP performance for two years on end, then that school is liable to punishment. They may be required to offer supplemental services, take other corrective measures or offer school choice. By giving such sanctions, schools ought to be motivated to improve their performance levels. (Texas Education Agency, 2008)

Another measure that is similar to the AYP test is the Reading Proficiency Tests in English (RPTE). This test mostly focuses on non-natives or second language learners. The tests are a measure of the growth in language proficiency for the above mentioned students. RPTE’s are supposed to be combined with Spanish Texas Assessment Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests or with English TAKS. Students who are categorized as Limited English Proficient students are required to pass these tests as long as they fall within grades three to twelve. A student will have passed the tests after achieving a rating of ‘advanced’.

Besides the latter approach, the state also established as a system that measures the progress made by schools, school districts, the state and student subgroups on an annual basis. Their progress is measured against performance targets. The system is known as the Annually Measurable Objectives (AMO). Similarly, there is the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). The purpose of the latter parameter is to assess proficiency in mathematics, writing and reading at the end of high school. (Ainsworth, 2003)

Since the NCLB, policy was passed to reduce the achievement gap between different categories of students, then it is necessary to establish some means of measuring it. Achievement gaps are determined by the differences in graduation rates and test scores between certain categories of students. The groups are largely determined by level of family income, ethnic or racial background, English proficiency and disability. Statistics indicate that these factors largely determine the nature of performance and must therefore be considered in the measurement process.

The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) policy is relevant to the study because it is concerned with curriculum matters. The policy was mandated nine years ago and was implemented in 2002. Its purpose is to assess the curriculum status within the state. The main emphasis is on the nature of reading between Grades three and nine. TAKS also assess students in English language arts in those grades and writing in grades four and seven.

However, the latter mentioned test may not be appropriate for all students in the school environment. Consequently, the federal state came up with the State Developed Alternative Assessment (SDAA). This test focuses on students between the third and eighth grades receiving special education. Such children receive instructions under TAKS but accountability is reinforced through SDAA. (Texas Education Agency, 2008)

Any study focusing on changes in education in the US must mention the professional learning community. This is a group of teaching staff and administrators within the field of education who teamed up in order to demonstrate their commitment to learning. Professional learning communities make decisions about learning, review and visit classrooms and they collaborate with one another while working and learning. The overall result of such an effort is that teachers no longer operate in isolation. It also makes them more informed and committed to student academic gains. Professional learning communities can be regarded as an organizational arrangement. The approach can be seen as a strategy for improving and creating change within schools because it empowers school staff. It is also a platform for instructing change within schools. (Texas Education Agency, 2001)

Since the Adequate Yearly Progress blue print requires assessment of graduation rates, it is necessary to understand and compute drop out rates. Drop out rates can be divided into three major categories. The first one amongst them is status drop out rate. The latter is calculated cumulatively and indicates all the number of students who dropped out of school. The second category is called the cohort drop out rate. The latter parameter is an annual indicator of the total number of students who dropped out. Lastly, drop out rates can also be indicated through the event dropout rate. This parameter utilizes the October Current Population Survey. It indicates the number of students who dropped from school in twelve months starting from the month of October.

The credit recovery rate is also an important aspect of the study. It may be defined as a program designed to assist students in their final years (second half) in high school to graduate. It is called credit recovery because it mostly focuses on high school credit requirements. Other issues that will receive some emphasis in the study include at — risk — students, case study analysis and the Effective Learning programs.

Another program similar to the Professional Learning community is the Advanced Placement Program. This is a program applicable to colleges, universities and high schools. Its main purpose it to give high school students an opportunity to do some courses in college. It should be noted that students who can benefit from this program must be highly motivated. There is a provision for earning college level points while still being in high school. Eleven and twelve graders are eligible for the program.

3.0 Scope and delimitation of the study

This will encompass differential instruction through the use of vertical and horizontal curriculum alignment. Additionally, the issue of professional learning communities will be revisited. This study will also cover the adequate yearly progress reports and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests, public and district charter schools grades between grads three through to twelve. The study will specifically examine the success of the Texas state and Texas schools. These will be analyzed with national data related to the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Policy. The success rates of these entities will be examined using High school drop out rates, C-Scope delimitation of the study, data from the Texas Education Agency and through local district data. It should be noted that the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests will end in the year 2012, instead, they will be required to take end year exams. This implies that the results may have a negative impact on the nature of learning and instruction within the state. Additionally, it could affect the outcomes of those student’s performances.  (Texas Education Agency, 2008)

4.0 Significance of study

The study’s major focus is on improving achievement gaps on standardized tests. This study will create a model applicable in charter and public schools. Not only will the study achieve this, but it will create a change in the field of education. Through this study, poorly performing schools will get a chance to improve based on the Adequate Yearly Progress. Additionally, well performing schools will get a chance to maintain their good records. Besides these, the study will also boost high school completion rates in blue ribbon schools through the model.

5.0 Conceptual framework

Marzano, 2003; Newman, 2007; English & Steffy, 2001 and Schmoker, 2006 conducted research on standardized tests. They all came to the conclusion that the tests improve student performance. They established that students are likely to do well in high stakes exams. Marzano (2003) asserted that a guaranteed curriculum severely affects students’ achievement. He came up with this conclusion after collecting data over a period of thirty-five years. English and Steffy (2001) asserted that when the curriculum, assessment and instruction are aligned, then students are likely to register high achievements. They drew these conclusions from a twenty-year long research conducted in the country. Newman (2007) asserts that standards must guide the curriculum in order to enhance performance. Similarly, Schmoker (2006) asserts that viable curriculums are a prerequisite to school improvements.

The study will involve an analysis of CSOPE (2007) and the curriculum based TEKS (2001) and TAKS 2008 in relation to five categories of students; White, African American, Hispanics, all students and the economically disadvantages.


Ainsworth, L. (2003). Power standards: Identifying the standards that matter the most. Englewood, CO: Advanced Learning Press.

CSCOPE (2007). Targeted success with quality curriculum. Retrieved from accessed on 4th July 2008

English, F. & Steffy, B. (2001). Deep curriculum alignment: Creating a level playing field for all children on high-stakes tests of educational accountability. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education

Marzano, R. J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Newman, F. M. (2007). Improving achievement for all students: The meaning of staff shared understanding and commitment. In Hawley.W & Rollie, D. (Eds.), The keys to effective schools: Educational reform as continuous improvement (pp. 33-49). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Schmoker, M. (2006). Results now: How we can achieve unprecedented improvements in teaching and learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Texas Education Agency (2008). Texas assessment of knowledge and skills (TAKS). Retrieved from accessed on 4th July 2008

Texas Education Agency (2001). Texas essential knowledge and skills (TEKS). Retrieved from from accessed on 4th July 2008

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