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Research Center

Surveys show that most teachers, students and parents positively perceive laptop initiatives, but few controlled studies have examined the relationship between various laptop programs and student achievement. As district officials weigh options for investing limited technology dollars, they may wish to consider what the research can (and can't) tell us.

What can districts do to ensure that professional development strategies and spending align with findings from the best available research and affect student achievement? Three 2005 reports address these questions.

Cost-benefit analysis. High yield. Economic return. Such phrases from the world of finance have been cropping up in recent reports and articles on preschool education. What kind of yields can be expected on pre-K investments? As a financial advisor might say, "It depends on the quality of the investments."

Randomized field trials are not the best or only way to address all important research questions, but they are often described as the "gold standard." This month's column explores why researchers and NCLB express enthusiasm for experimental research designs, why schools may hesitate to participate, and possible win-win solutions.

Writers are often thought of as solitary figures. Yet good writers know the importance of connections. Their work is to connect ideas, words and images that will, in turn, connect with readers. Research shows that helping students become good writers requires that schools also make the "write" connections:

Teachers and students Sheida White, on analyzing the 1998 NAEP reading assessment, observed a positive relationship between "teachers talking with students about what students were writing and students' writing scores," especially in grades 8 and 12.

Adults speak nostalgically about the glory days of youth, but a recent study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health strikes a different chord. "Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14," researchers report. "Three quarters have begun by age 24. Thus, mental disorders are really the chronic diseases of the young."

Tiger Woods wouldn't win many tournaments if he used a 5 iron for every shot. Part of golf is knowing when to use which club. Likewise, effective teachers can select and use instructional strategies that move individual students closer to the goal--improved academic achievement.

About one in 20 K-12 students is classified as having a specific learning disability. These students are served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Most spend at least part of their day in a regular classroom.

Generally, the more frequently students change schools for reasons other than grade promotion, the more likely they are to have lower achievement and behavioral problems. They are also more likely to drop out. Research confirms this. So, if we could just convince families to stop moving around so much, we could increase student achievement, right?

While reports of rising childhood obesity rates have prompted schools to examine what gets served in the cafeteria and in school vending machines, interest in student health has not yet sparked a revolution in what gets served in the classroom. Health education is not identified as a core subject in the No Child Left Behind act; neither does the legislation call for highly qualified health teachers. Only 16 percent of states require student testing on health education topics.