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Research Center

Looking Back

A sample of tips garnered from over 50 articles.


As this month marks the fifth anniversary and 50th article of the DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION research department-now renamed Research Center-we sample insights from past columns on a variety of topics to help K12 districts improve teaching and learning. Full columns are available on the DA Web site (

Encourage students to think before they speak.

When teachers ask questions in class, students are more likely to give responses that are longer and more complex if teachers pause for three to five seconds after asking the question. Research conducted by Mary Budd Rowe shows that most teachers give students less than a second. ("Questions Can Be Powerful," September 2007)

Ability grouping alone has no significant effect on learning.

Allow time for student writers to plan and revise.

Students in grades 8 and 12 outperformed peers on the 1998 NAEP writing assessment when they were asked to do two things: first, plan their writing at least once a week or once or twice a month and, second, write more than one draft. ("The 'Write' Connections," November 2005)

Include the arts.

When researchers analyzed a database of 25,000 students in 1999, they found a correlation between arts-integrated curricula and high levels of student success. ("Linking the Disciplines-and Achievement," October 2007)

Give children an early start in second language learning.

In the United States, most students who study a foreign language begin at age 14 or later. But linguistic studies show that children who begin learning a second language before adolescence exhibit more nativelike pronunciation than those who start later. ("Learning a Second Language: When & Why," November 2006)

Give children a break.

The National Institute of Medicine recommends that school-age children get at least 30 minutes of physical activity or exercise every day. ("Fighting Obesity: What Schools Can Do," August 2006)

Diagnose reading difficulties sooner rather than later.

For children with dyslexia, delay or denial of intervention can have negative long-term consequences.

For children with dyslexia, delay or denial of intervention can have negative long-term consequences. The only way to confirm a suspected diagnosis of dyslexia is through formal testing of reading, language, and writing skills. ("Demystifying Dyslexia," December 2007)

Set students up for success in mathematics.

When Robert Dixon and colleagues reviewed findings from 110 experimental research reports in 1998, they concluded that eff ective mathematics lessons do not require students to apply new knowledge independently until they have demonstrated an ability to apply the new knowledge successfully. ("K8 Math Strategies," March 2007)

Make decisions about early grade retention with care.

Several studies show that students who are retained at any grade level are more likely to drop out of school, but simple retention without targeted intervention in grades K-3 (especially kindergarten or fi rst grade) is characterized by some as especially risky. Researchers suggest a combination of prevention, targeted intervention, and sustained supports. ("Retention or Promotion? Wrong Question," February 2005)

Make time for social studies in the elementary grades.

The 2001 NAEP results in U.S. history found that fourth-graders whose teachers spent more than 180 minutes a week on social studies scored higher when compared to students whose teachers spent less time on the subject. ("Social Studies: Mastering Content and Skills," June 2007)

To get the best teachers, expedite the hiring process.

When The New Teacher Project studied hiring in four hard-to-staff urban districts, researchers found that strategic recruitment yielded a multitude of applicants for teaching positions. However, many of the best candidates later withdrew their applications. The majority of those who withdrew cited delays in hiring decisions as their reason for accepting employment elsewhere. ("Recruitment and Retention of Highly Qualifi ed Teachers,"July 2007)

Establish a strong learning culture within schools. A substantial body of literature indicates that schools that succeed despite adverse conditions share three characteristics: a strongly focused instructional program, an emphasis on student achievement, and a culture of collaboration among teaching staff . ("Turning Around Low-Performing Schools," May 2004)

Teach grammar in context.

One of the most widely ignored research findings is that the teaching of formal grammar, divorced from the process of writing, has little or no effect on the writing ability of students. ("Writing: The Neglected R Returns," January 2005)

Teach skills and strategies.

When a comprehensive review of 30 years of learning disabilities intervention research was conducted in 1999, researchers found two categories of interventions that seemed to produce large gains in student achievement: direct instruction of specific skills and instruction in learning strategies. ("Understanding Learning Disabilities," August 2005)

Match instruction to students' learning rates.

Experimental studies suggest that ability grouping alone has no significant effect on learning. For gifted students, however, ability grouping can make a positive difference if accompanied by appropriate curricular changes. Generally, the strongest effects on student achievement result from accelerated and enriched instruction that makes considerable adjustment for students' learning rates. ("Ability Grouping and Acceleration in Gifted Education," August 2007)

Link parent involvement to student learning.

When Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp reviewed the research on parent involvement in 2002, they found that involvement linked directly to student learning was more strongly associated with achievement than more general types of involvement. ("Schools, Families, and Student Achievement," January 2007)

Carla Thomas McClure is a staff writer at Edvantia, a nonprofit education research and development organization (