Academic Achievement


The hallmark of a successful education system is increasing or maintaining high student achievement. RAND research measures the effects of various types of school reforms on student achievement, with recent studies focusing on charter schools, No Child Left Behind, reform-oriented teaching, and classroom sizes.

  • Students draw in class at Wilder Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky, August 11, 2021, photo by Amira Karaoud/Reuters

    Research Brief

    Benefits and Drawbacks of the Four-Day School Week

    A four-day school week is becoming more common, especially in states with large rural areas. Champions of the shorter week contend that it saves money, improves student attendance, and helps recruit and retain teachers to rural districts. But what does the evidence say?

    Oct 7, 2021

  • Young student participates in school remotely, photo by Sasha_Suzi/Getty Images


    Has COVID-19 Led to Divergent and Inequitable Pathways in Education?

    Remote schooling is associated with fewer instructional opportunities and potentially poorer student outcomes compared with in-person schooling. Nevertheless, many schools will continue to offer a remote option after the pandemic has passed.

    May 27, 2021

Explore Academic Achievement

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    Research Brief

    How to Get the Most out of a Summer Learning Program

    Summer learning programs may help close the achievement gap between low- and higher-income children if done well, but they are sometimes an afterthought or not offered at all, especially when education budgets are tight. Starting the planning process early, hiring the right teachers, and other best practices can help ensure success.

    Aug 13, 2013

  • two girls observing a butterfly through a magnifying glass


    Early Planning Is One of Several Steps Crucial to Successful Summer Learning Programs

    The most important steps school districts can take to implement an effective summer learning program are to begin planning at least six months in advance and to include both district and summer site leaders in the process.

    Aug 13, 2013

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    The Limits of Career and Technical Education in Improving Math Achievement Among High School Students

    Students who had taken occupationally focused career and technical education (CTE) courses in addition to their regular academic courses had similar learning gains to those who had only taken academic courses: an academic curriculum that includes CTE courses neither bolstered nor curtailed the acquisition of math skills.

    Jun 19, 2013

  • A mother and daughter read a book while sitting in a hammock


    Three Summer Learning Tips Parents Can Use

    There’s plenty that parents can do at home to help their kids stay sharp until the new school year begins.

    Jun 10, 2013

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Balancing Career and Technical Education with Academic Coursework: The Consequences for Mathematics Achievement in High School

    Using a nationally representative sample of high school students, the authors examine the relationship between career and technical education (CTE) coursework and mathematics achievement in high school.

    May 2, 2013

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    Are High-Stakes Tests Counterproductive?

    If we want testing to exert beneficial effects on teaching and learning, we need to advocate for higher-quality tests and for evaluation and accountability systems that use multiple measures and do not rely exclusively on test scores, write Laura Hamilton and Gabriella C. Gonzalez.

    Apr 22, 2013

  • Preschool children using letters with a teacher


    Give Poor Kids a Chance with Early Education

    Federal and state initiatives to advance preschool program quality will further ensure that these investments in early learning programs will achieve their full promise and promote healthy child development — physically, socially, emotionally, and academically, writes Lynn Karoly.

    Apr 10, 2013

  • two elementary students with a teacher


    What Do We Know About Charter Schools? Moving Beyond the Talking Points

    Since their inception in 1992, charter schools have been a lightning rod for controversy in the education policy world. Research highlights the importance of moving beyond test scores and broadening the scope of measures that evaluate success in order to fully assess the performance of charter schools.

    Apr 4, 2013

  • Teacher helping toddlers color at daycare


    High-Quality Early Childhood Programs Require High-Quality Teachers

    High-quality early childhood interventions can improve academic achievement, reduce crime and delinquency, and enhance future labor market success. But the operative word is “high-quality.” And for early childhood programs to be high-quality, they must have qualified instructors.

    Mar 18, 2013

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    The Academic Effects of Summer Instruction and Retention in New York City

    This article examines the impacts of summer instruction and test-based grade retention in New York City.

    Mar 1, 2013

  • secondary school students raising their hands in class


    A Better Method for Estimating Teacher Performance

    Structured observation protocols for assessing how teachers provide lessons to their students offer the opportunity to provide teachers with valuable feedback on how their practices could be improved, writes Terrance Dean Savitsky.

    Feb 19, 2013

  • A teacher solicits questions from a class of young students.


    Five Ways to Improve 'No Child Left Behind'

    The bill's eleventh anniversary presents an opportunity to consider what the evidence tells us about how to make NCLB more effective.

    Jan 8, 2013

  • Teacher writing on blackboard

    Journal Article

    A Composite Estimator of Effective Teaching

    Using data from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, researchers developed a model to compile data from multiple sources that could be used to make inferences about a teacher's impact on student achievement.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • teacher and student at chalkboard

    Journal Article

    Validating Measures of Effective Teaching Using Random Assignment

    Random assignment of students to teachers is crucial in controlling for variables apart from teacher influence that may influence student achievement. This report captures the technical methods, findings, and implications of the MET project's random assignment study of teaching effectiveness measures.

    Jan 1, 2013

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    Helping Displaced Students in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

    If Hurricane Sandy causes extensive disruptions in public schools—particularly in hard-hit New York City—our research shows that choices made by parents and policymakers could significantly limit the negative short-term effects of changing schools under such difficult circumstances, writes John Pane.

    Oct 31, 2012

  • Report


    Evaluating Efforts to Improve School Leadership

    Improving school leadership may improve student outcomes. Evaluation is critical for effective use of resources, but poses challenges to states and districts. Evaluators and policymakers should allow time for improvements to show, use multiple evaluation measures, and interpret findings carefully.

    Oct 4, 2012

  • group of teachers

    Research Brief

    Evaluating Efforts to Improve School Leadership

    Efforts to improve school leadership may improve student outcomes. Evaluation is critical for effective use of resources, but it poses challenges. Evaluators and policymakers should allow time for improvements to show, use multiple evaluation measures, and interpret findings carefully before applying them to others.

    Oct 4, 2012

  • male teacher lecturing in front of chalkboard


    Value-Added Modeling 101

    Value-added models, or VAMs, attempt to measure a teacher's impact on student achievement apart from other factors, such as individual ability, family environment, past schooling, and the influence of peers.

    Oct 1, 2012

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    What Student Achievement Tests Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness

    Student scores on reading and math achievement tests tell us a lot about how well students are learning those subjects, but scores on a single annual test aren't necessarily a good indicator of teacher effectiveness.

    Sep 28, 2012

  • Chicago teachers on strike


    Evidence Should Guide Chicago Teachers Dispute

    The Chicago Teachers Union strike erupted over classic issues: an extended day, a new evaluation system and hiring and firing. Yet, somewhat classically, neither the union nor Chicago Public Schools has put forth research evidence to support their stance, writes Darleen Opfer.

    Sep 11, 2012

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