RAND Gulf States Policy Institute Newsletter | Web version

Follow OCR on Twitter
December 2016

RAND Gulf States Policy Institute

From the Director

An elementary school student writes in her notebook

Photo by gradyreese/Getty Images

As winter begins, I am pleased to send you a "good news" story regarding education in Louisiana.

A RAND Education study team recently found that Louisiana education leaders have developed strategies that effectively support teachers as they adopt Louisiana state standards in their classrooms. For years, teachers across the nation have been barraged with information about how to help their students meet state standards. But until now, there has been little understanding of how state-level support and strategies could assist the teachers.

The study team assessed teacher data from across the United States and found that Louisiana teachers reported thinking and teaching in ways that are more aligned with their state standards. The team conducted a follow-up investigation to understand what practices and policies in the Louisiana Department of Education could be contributing to that change.

In this issue of the newsletter, we talk with one of the leading researchers in the study, Julia H. Kaufman. Here, Dr. Kaufman describes the initial and somewhat surprising differences between Louisiana teachers and those in other states with similar state standards. She talks about the ways in which a strong and aligned system can help all students meet state standards by drawing on the lessons learned from Louisiana.

In addition to reading about our interview, you can find the full report online.

As always, we at RAND Gulf States remain committed to conducting and communicating this very type of research that supports our communities and the well-being of our neighbors.

Please let me be among the first to wish you, your families, and your neighbors a very peaceful and happy holiday season.

All the best,

Gary Cecchine

Researcher Spotlight

Q&A with Policy Researcher Julia H. Kaufman

Julia H. Kaufman

Below is our discussion with a member of the RAND team, Julia Kaufman. We asked Dr. Kaufman about her work in schools and state standards. She discusses the goals of the study, highlights some of the promising practices in effect at the Louisiana Department of Education, and talks about how other states might consider adoption of these practices.

1. What did you and your team set out to examine?

We have been studying teachers' implementation of K–12 state standards through a project funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. We asked teachers from across the country to provide their perspectives on what we see as three key areas related to implementation of state standards: (1) use of instructional materials aligned with standards, (2) teachers' understanding of approaches and practices that are aligned with their standards, and (3) teachers' classroom practices.

2. What suggested to you that Louisiana was doing something different?

We were surprised initially when teachers in Louisiana reported that they were taking advantage of standard-related instructional resources more than teachers in other states. This really showed in Louisiana teachers' thoughts about the ways their approaches aligned with state English language arts standards.

More Louisiana teachers indicated that their standards advocated for use of complex, grade-level texts and instruction that centered on texts. These are approaches that are aligned with their state standards. Other teachers in states with standards similar to Louisiana's are less likely to embrace those approaches.

3. What can other state educational systems learn from the Louisiana case?

Three key state strategies stood out to us as ones that could be supporting teachers’ implementation of their standards: (1) a persistent focus on coherence and quality across the K–12 academic system, (2) transparent and regular communication about academics, and (3) support for local decisionmaking.

At the least, states could assess all their policies and practices to consider whether any strategies in Louisiana could be adapted to the work they are doing. In our report, we suggest that the department of education in each state prioritize two areas that have a good chance of directly supporting teachers: curricula and professional development.

States might also wish to examine the clarity and frequency of their communication—both within their departments of education and with educators and other stakeholders across their states—and reflect on what they can do to ensure that everyone across the state is receiving the same messages and support.

Want to learn more? Read the full Q&A with Dr. Kaufman on the RAND Gulf States website.

The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute provides objective analysis to federal, state, and local leaders in support of evidence-based policymaking and the well-being of individuals throughout the U.S. Gulf States region. We invite your suggestions for researchers, projects, centers, and funding or collaboration opportunities to highlight in future issues. Write to director Gary Cecchine at Gary_Cecchine@rand.org.

Follow RAND

Privacy statement

RAND Corporation

RAND Corporation. 1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401-3208.
RAND® is a registered trademark.