Improving student achievement is the backbone of current accountability requirements and, thus, drives many efforts to reform schools. But which factors in a school are most likely to raise achievement? Should students who fail to meet a standard be retained in grade or does the repetition make school even less appealing? Can schools reduce the stress on end-of-year tests by giving frequent classroom assignments and using the results to gauge what students know and tailor lessons to meet their specific needs? These are the kinds of questions being pursued by the country’s top researchers as they try to identify the best ways to improve achievement. Using sophisticated methods they try to disentangle the many personal, social and academic factors that affect how – and how well -- a child learns to determine the most effective ways to improve performance.
The policy brief below is the first in a series designed to explain the impact of specific policies and reforms on student achievement and suggest recommendations for improvement.