Wanted: Women Technologists


ChickTech.org – Photo Credit: Wojtek Rajski

Few readers will be surprised that there is a longstanding and worsening gender gap in the technology workforce generally, and in computer science in particular. It is something we’ve seen in our work, our research, and with our own children. In the 2015 ARS evaluation of STEM, Inc., a coding and entrepreneurship project designed for middle school students, only 32% of participants were girls and they were almost half as likely as boys to have any prior coding or robotics experience (35% versus 65%).

ChickTech.org - Photo Credit: Wojtek Rajski

ChickTech.org – Photo Credit: Wojtek Rajski

Moreover, a recent survey of over 5,700 middle school students found that boys agreed more with the statement they are good at solving computer problems. Boys are also more likely than girls to say they plan to study computers in college; they are more likely to create technology; and they demonstrate a more positive attitude toward computers and computer classes. Among our own middle and high school aged children, we note significantly more external encouragement toward coding and technology among boys than among girls, manifest in recruitment and participation in after school coding clubs and in AP Computer Science course participation. All of these factors contribute to the significant decline in young women’s pursuit of computer science degrees and the current lack of gender parity in the technology workforce.

Women in CS

Why should we work to reverse this trend? Here are two pretty compelling reasons:

  • Ensuring technical innovation: According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s Girls in IT report, there is abundant research showing that diversity improves problem solving, productivity, innovation, and ultimately, the bottom line. So why not ensure that future technology matches the populations it serves?

ChickTech.org – Photo Credit: Wojtek Rajski

  • Reducing social inequalities: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the creation of 1.4 million new jobs in computer science by 2020, yet the number of women pursuing careers in the field has continued to drop since the 80s. In fact, if current trends continue, women will be equipped to fill less than 30% of these jobs. Increasing girls’ participation in computing is important for promoting equity and ensuring that girls are able to take advantage of the opportunities these jobs make possible.

ChickTech.org – Photo Credit: Wojtek Rajski


ChickTech.org – Photo Credit: David Kuwaye

Generating early interest, developing networking and mentoring opportunities, valuing the technical contributions of women and girls, and providing access to the technical learning that is often lacking in high school environments, especially for girls, can significantly contribute to progress if done successfully at scale. That’s work we think is worth pursuing, and why we’re so pleased to be engaged by ChickTech.org for evaluation design and reporting.

For more info and information on programs available to girls and women in your area, see, for example: ChickTech, Girls Who CodeWomen Wanted: Scholarships, Colleges, and Careers in Computer Science and Women Who Code.

Posted in Our Work, STEM Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New Year, New Law

Understanding key changes as NCLB evolves into ESSA.

When President Obama signed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, into law, we had two reactions: 1) Finally! Congress and the President Obama have at last replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and 2) Holy cow! ESSA significantly changes key aspects of our work.Pres signs ESSA - photo by Amanda Lucidon

Like most educators, though, we embrace both responses. And we’ve been busy working through what ESSA means for our work and our clients. In doing so, we have come across multiple summaries and commentary worth sharing, which we’ve summarized below:

  • If you prefer the long version, you can find the full text of the new law here, but our primary takeaway is that ESSA provides targeted resources and tailored prescriptions designed to return accountability and decision-making for student success to state and local leaders.
  • Furthermore, ESSA builds on the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top initiative to encourage rigorous standards and better assessments for all students.
  • ESSA rejects federally determined Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and encourages multiple measures of student learning and progress, along with other indicators of student success, to drive state and local level accountability models.
  • Annual, comparable, and publicly reported statewide assessments will still be required of students in grades 3-8 in math, language arts and science (as well as once in high school).
  • Technology and innovation are strongly supported in ESSA by continuing grants like Investing in Innovation (i3) that are designed to:
    • promote effective use of technology,
    • encourage high-quality preparation and professional development for teachers and school leaders,
    • boost STEM initiatives,
    • experiment with blended and personalized learning, and
    • enhance digital opportunities for rural and other under-served areas.
  • Continuing the legacy of ESEA as a civil rights law, this new reauthorization focuses on protecting and serving all students, particularly those from disadvantaged groups (e.g., low-income and homeless students, students of color, Native Americans, disabled students, migrant students and English language learners), by prescribing reforms to remedy underperformance. For instance:
    • “Portability” provisions from NCLB have been excluded and a pilot program that provides for weighted student funding is expected to lead to a more equitable distribution of state and local resources. (In exchange for demonstrating that they are committed to equitable per-pupil expenditures, districts will be given greater flexibility in how they spend Title 1 and other federal formula funds to support comprehensive school improvement.)
    • State assistance, via the redirection of resources toward tailored interventions, is mandatory for students and schools that are otherwise being left behind (e.g., the lowest performing 5% of Title 1 schools, high schools with low graduation rates, and schools with populations of high-need subgroups).
    • ESSA reinforces State Plans to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators to reverse the trend of students of color and students from low-income families being disproportionately taught by ineffective teachers.
    • The new law also builds upon the Promise Neighborhoods grant program to support wrap-around services in high-need communities.
    • Continued support is provided for magnet schools and via High Quality Public Charter School Replication and Expansion grants to better serve high-need students.
  • Preschool services have been expanded based on the Preschool Development Grants program to ensure that all children have access to high-quality academic preparation.Source - blog.wheelock.edu

Specific questions about the new law can be addressed to essa.questions@ed.gov. In the meantime, we’re investigating particular programs, such as migrant education services and Title II, that will directly affect our clients, and we also welcome your comments or questions.

Posted in News Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Education Data Mapping

For a project in Clark County Public Schools, we sought to illustrate how the many sources of data across the district could be used to inform progress toward their strategic objective of producing graduates who were “Ready by Exit.” That meant pulling together data about program participation, special services provided during and after school, as well as community input and educator professional learning. In short, it meant we needed to create a shorthand way to map district data that informed their strategic plan. We thought it was a useful exercise, that it was worth sharing, and that it could form the basis for discussion within other organizations. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in Our Work, Practical Evaluation

Tom Hanley, An Appreciation

Tom photo - finalOn this day of his retirement, a shout out to Tom Hanley, Assistant Direct of ESCORT (the migrant professional services organization at the State University of New York Oneonta), dean of the consultants and advisors that work with migrant education programs throughout the United States, and a trusted partner of Arroyo Research Services.

For the past 30 years Tom has been a tireless advocate for migrant students and the people and programs that work with them. His impact has been both structural and personal: affecting how migrant education programs organize and execute programs, motivating and inspiring people to find meaning and passion their work, and directly engaging with migrant youth.

Tom tried to give his own valedictorian at NASDME this year, but the right way to have done this would have been a round of drinks followed by storytelling among the crowd. Like a wake, but for the living. Among the less colorful of the stories, you would have heard of Tom identifying young people with heart and talent and helping them gain the experience they needed to become migrant education leaders; connecting people who should be talking to one another to solve a shared problem or just because they should be connected; of Tom never, ever, eating a hotel breakfast — why do so when there are so many interesting people and so much good food in town; of Tom himself meaningfully connecting with new people everywhere he went; of how Tom discovered and never forgot something personal about them…and likely used that to draw them into the work at hand; of receiving emails on Sunday morning when Tom organized his work for the week. I received about two dozen of those, and I’m not in the same organization. And I also saw first hand when Tom called every member of a task force before a meeting, reviewed the list of attendees to make sure he’d remember every name, and mulled over what was important to each person who was going to be in the meeting — because he respected each person’s contribution and value, which started with recognizing them individually. Among the more colorful of the stories…that would be Ray Melecio’s brief.

The migrant education community is stronger for his work and presence, and also more human. Well done, Mr. Hanley.

Posted in Client and Partner News, Migrant Education

Superintendent Eakins Makes Data Driven Decision on Teacher Evaluation. Bravo.

Eakins with teachersAfter six years and more than $180 million, the Hillsborough County school system plans to move beyond the teacher evaluation system developed with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to a system of educator support more emblematic of strategies advanced by Learning ForwardThe feeling was apparently mutual, with Gates choosing not to fund the final $20 million.

The move was announced in an email from incoming superintendent Jeff Eakins to the more than 260 Peer Evaluators and Mentors who form the core of the system. Said Eakins:

Much of the latest research points to job-embedded professional development and non-evaluative feedback from colleagues as the mechanisms which create a quality professional growth environment within organizations.

Although some components of the Empowering Effective Teachers program developed under prior Superintendent MaryEllen Elia will remain, including the student value added models embedded in Florida state law, Eakins is convening a work group to guide a transition toward a system that includes:

  • Non-evaluative systems of support by colleagues.
  • Fully released intensive systems of support for teachers who need it the most, such as brand new teachers, new teachers to HCPS and struggling teachers.
  • Job-embedded professional development.
  • Site-based Teacher-Leaders who support both students, through great instruction, and teachers, through timely observations and feedback.
  • Model and/or Demonstration Classrooms where the most effective teachers can share best practices with other colleagues.

“Relationships are key in teachers growing professionally,” Eakins said. He believes such relationships should exist largely within the school walls, and that collaboration will also cut down on the turnover that plagues the district’s poorest schools.

Why the change?

Three reasons:

  1. Limited program efficacy. Gaps in student performance between poor and black students and others in the district persist. Hillsborough aimed to address the achievement gap for poor and black students, and to have 90 percent of its third-grade and eighth-grade students testing at or above grade level in reading and math. But 2014 FCAT proficiency rates were between 53 and 59 percent (as low as 33 percent for black students), and lower-income schools continue to hire the newest and least qualified teachers.
  2. Projected Costs. The current program is projected to cost more to sustain (upwards of $52 million per year) than Hillsborough can afford. Eakins learned recently that Hillsborough’s reserve fund was evaporating at an alarming rate, affecting the district’s ability to borrow money. Costs associated with the Gates initiative are a contributing factor, including as much as $100 million dollars in district funds for new evaluator and mentor positions, data systems, and district analysts.
  3. Lack of evidence that you can measure your way to improvement. Though it did include some mentoring and coaching, EET was, at its core, a measurement project, and mentoring was provided by the same people who did the measuring. You don’t need an advanced degree in psychology – or to be an educator – to think that might not work as intended.

Data 2

What We Think

We do measurement, research and evaluation. We like to work with data to drive decisions. We believe there is a place for value-added measurement and the use of multiple data points to understand teaching and learning. But not every useful research design for understanding an education problem or the efficacy of an education program is appropriate to evaluating individual educators. This is one of those cases.

We commend Eakins’ decision on multiple levels. First, it makes use of the full range of data appropriate for the decision, including student performance, staffing patterns, fiscal implications, educator feedback, and consideration of research. Second, the new model builds on the institutional strengths developed through the EET program. Third, the model focuses on building the professional practices of Hillsborough educators required for sustained improvement through collaboration, mentoring, and individual growth. Finally, the proposed new direction values educators, which is as important systemically as it is within each school to building the trust, openness and professional engagement required for success.

Hillsborough isn’t running from data. They are embracing it.

Posted in Funding Streams, News Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

John Kucsera on Segregation in Schools

Photo credit: Gillian Laub

Photo credit: Gillian Laub

Arroyo Research Services Senior Associate John Kucsera has been attracting considerable attention for his work with UCLA professor Gary Orfield on the extreme segregation still found in our nation’s school systems 60+ years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education court ruling. And contrary to what some may expect, the biggest problem is not found in the American South. In fact, a recent study by Kucsera and Orfield, who co-directs the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, discovered that the country’s worst segregation rates in modern day can be found in New York state’s schools.

Photo credit Warren K Leffler

Photo credit Warren K Leffler

And the problem doesn’t end there; demographic shifts in places like Southern California, which are representative of changes happening elsewhere in the country, signal a need for more proactive policies that favor integration across the country (see, for example, “Are We Segregated and Satisfied?” in the journal, Urban Education). While progress has been made since Brown for some students, issues like a growing Latino population, increasing socioeconomic disparity, school choice, and finance reform all have an impact on segregation rates.

Research shows that desegregated education can offer substantial benefits to students from all backgrounds, both in school and later in life. Yet Kucsera and Orfield readily admit it’s not a panacea, nor is it always possible to implement policies that encourage greater integration in every school. But, they say, “where it is possible…desegregation properly implemented can make a very real contribution to equalizing educational opportunities and preparing young Americans for the extremely diverse society in which they will live and work and govern together.” And policymakers – in New York and elsewhere – are taking note.

Posted in Arroyo Research Services News, News Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Efficacy of Online Teacher Education

OLCTogether with Drs. Raymond Barclay and Barbara Weschke, Managing Director Kirk Vandersall recently released results from an Arroyo Research Services study of online teacher education in the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks published by the Online Learning Consortium (formerly the Sloan Consortium). The study presents findings from an investigation of the impact of teachers who graduated from a fully online master’s degree program with training in pedagogy and a content-specialization in elementary reading and literacy (oERL) on reading achievement in a large urban public school system in the northwestern United States. The research team used a non-equivalent group design and matched pairs of teachers based on degree, grade-level taught, and teaching experience to construct the study on three years of student and teacher data. The study consisted of 70 teachers and 3,828 student observations. Hierarchical linear modeling was employed to understand the teachers’ effects on student learning over time. Results indicate there was a significant positive effect of the oERL on student achievement. Broadly, this study is an example of a serious attempt to ascertain the impact of a high demand and fully online program on the community where graduates are employed. More narrowly, these results support the view that a fully online program aimed at training teachers can provide opportunities for those teachers to obtain the pedagogical content knowledge that can positively influence instructional effectiveness. Full text of the study can be found here via ERIC.


Posted in Digital Learning, Our Work

Effective Data Destruction: Shred, Bed, Red

The Super ShredderMuch more often than you would expect, Arroyo Research Services has to destroy confidential hard copy documents. We specify how we do so in our Data Confidentiality Plan, but that section is really a secret test for our clients: if they read that part, they will surely ask about it! The Texas Education Agency, for instance, never commented on this line in a Data Destruction Report: Read more ›

Posted in Our Work

FERPA-allowed Confidential Data

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is designed to protect students and families from unlawful use and release of private data. It firmly undergirds how Arroyo Research Services handles data confidentiality and security, and it most often requires strict de-identification and/or prior written consent, if any access is allowed, before data is provided to third parties for the purposes of independent research.

Unfortunately, we find that FERPA is often misinterpreted Read more ›

Posted in Our Work

Small Firm, Big Commitment to Data Security

As education researchers and evaluators, data and its security are the central to our work. That’s why, at Arroyo Research Services, we are committed to the strongest data security policies and practices to assure the confidentiality of student and teacher data. Just like the larger organizations, we adhere to a detailed Data Confidentiality Policy that keeps us in compliance with FERPA and related federal and state guidance. But we go a bit further, so we thought we’d share how we think about protecting student data and some of the practical steps we take to do so. Read more ›

Posted in Our Work, Tips and Tools