School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence

In order to clarify what we know about effective public schools, the Education Policy Studies Laboratory (EPSL) at Arizona State University invited a group of distinguished education scholars to review the research on a series of education reform topics. The following literature reviews are the result. Some reviews focus on specific proposals that are proffered for making public schools more effective. Others examine core components or practices in our public schools in order to evaluate the impact of those components and practices on student achievement. In each case, the reviewers examined the research on the topic at hand with a particular eye toward its findings with regard to student achievement, especially that of children living in poverty.

Each of the following sections can be found in downloadable format below. The separate Executive Summaries can be found here.


Introduction and Executive Summary.  By Alex Molnar 


Chapter 1: Early Childhood Education. By W. Steven Barnett

This chapter reports on the efficacy of early education programs. The author seeks to summarize what is known about the extent to which variations in child characteristics, program characteristics, and social environment alter the degree of educational benefits from early education. 


Chapter 2: Class-Size Reduction in Grades K-3. By Jeremy D. Finn

This chapter summarizes the current state of research on class-size reduction and its implications for educational policy, especially as it pertains to the academic performance of at-risk students.


Chapter 3: Small Schools. By Craig Howley

There is much evidence supporting the benefits of smaller school size. This chapter conveys the complexities and the practical applicability of research on small schools. 


Chapter 4: Time for School: Its Duration and Allocation. By Gene V Glass

The author explores the question of the potential effect on academic performance if the length of the school day or number of school days in the year is increased.


Chapter 5: Grouping Students for Instruction. By Gene V Glass

Tracking students by ability has few benefits and many risks. This chapter explores the grouping of students with similar educational ability and achievement.


Chapter 6: Parental and Family Involvement in Education. By Douglas B. Downey

This chapter presents research on parental interaction and involvement in the school and at home. Whether that involvement, or other factors such as genetics or parenting styles, has the greater effect on achievement is explored.


Chapter 7: Public Schools and Their Communities. By Catherine Lugg

Conducting large-scale studies about public school involvement with their communities is difficult. This chapter maps out the history regarding that interaction between schools, communities, and student outcomes and academic achievement.


Chapter 8: Teacher Characteristics. By Gene V Glass

The author discusses the limits of psychometric approaches to choosing among teacher candidates to hire.  


Chapter 9: Converging Findings on Classroom Instruction. By Barak Rosenshine

In this chapter, the author explores the impact that teacher behavior can have on the achievement of students, particularly of students living in poverty.


Chapter 10: Teacher Unions and Student Achievement. By Robert M. Carini

Evidence suggests that teacher unionism leads to modestly higher standardized achievement test scores. The author provides policy recommendations for future collaboration with teacher unions.


Chapter 11: Value-Added Assessment of Teachers: The Empirical Evidence. By Haggai Kupermintz

This chapter describes the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) approach to teacher evaluation and offers a critical review of the empirical research base that addressess the validity of estimates of teacher effectiveness.


Chapter 12: Professional Development. By Ulrich C. Reitzug

The focus of this chapter is to examine what the various processes and activities are that might enhance educators' professional knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and to explore their impact on teaching practices and student achievement.


Chapter 13: Charter Schools, Vouchers, and EMOs. By Gerald W. Bracey

This chapter examines what research has found about the ability of three proposed reforms to increase student achievement, particularly in schools located in high-poverty areas.