blog posts and news stories

Learning Point and Empirical Partner for Research on Formative Assessment

Learning Point Associates, which holds the contract for the Midwest Regional Education Lab, has contracted with Empirical Education for the operations of a large randomized experiment expected to include more than 100 elementary school teachers when in full swing in the fall of 2008. A pilot experiment, beginning this fall, involves a small number of schools in Illinois. The experiment will test the effectiveness of Northwest Evaluation Association’s formative assessment and professional development to be used in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms. Working with the principal investigators Matt Dawson of LPA and David Cordray of Vanderbilt, Empirical will be responsible for recruiting schools, acquiring and warehousing student data, and conducting observations and surveys.


Major Study of Elementary Science Reveals Reading Improvement

Empirical Education released the report of a randomized control trial of Scott Foresman Science. The report concludes that the program shows promise as an enhancement of the school’s reading program. The study encompassed five school districts in five different states and included more than 80 third- through fifth-grade teachers divided randomly between those who were trained and provided with the science text and materials and those who continued with their existing science materials. The Scott Foresman Science materials were geared to reading, providing leveled readers corresponding to each chapter of the text. The study was sponsored by Pearson Education.


Empirical Education Presents at Annual IES Conference

Empirical Education staff members were part of two presentations at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Research Conference in Washington D.C. Xin Wei and Denis Newman presented a study on paired randomization, a technique that the company uses extensively to improve the design of local school district experiments. The research, led by Andrew Jaciw, the company’s director of research design and analysis, drew on data from 12 experiments and provided an analysis of the statistical advantages of the approach. A full report is being prepared for presentation at AERA. The work is supported by a grant from the IES. A second presentation provided a preview of the state-wide experiment evaluating the effectiveness of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative. Empirical Education will begin analyzing the outcomes for the first year in fall 2007. Denis Newman and his co-PI, Richard Sawyer of Academy for Educational Development, led the presentation. The work is part of the Regional Education Lab in the Southeast.


Experiment Findings about Cognitive Tutor Not What Was Expected

Empirical Education released the results of its year-long randomized experiment on the comparative effectiveness of the Cognitive Tutor program, conducted in cooperation with the Maui School District in Hawai’i. Funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to Empirical, the research evaluated the local implementation of Carnegie Learning’s Algebra I product. Company president Denis Newman explained the results, saying, “We were surprised by the results and consider this study something we can all learn from. Nobody expected a negative impact on the experienced teachers but this may show that it takes some time to get back up to their high level of performance when learning a new way of teaching. Following these teachers’ progress into a second year would help to verify this explanation. This effect was not found in previous research, which again points to the importance of conducting many experiments on any intervention before coming to a conclusion about its effectiveness.” A second experiment in the same school system, focused on the new Bridge to Algebra product, is nearing completion.


Empirical Education Reports Research at AERA

Staff and collaborators in Empirical Education research presented their findings this month at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference—the primary meeting of the education research community. The company’s research and expertise was highlighted in six places on the program including contributions in the divisions for Learning & Instruction, Policy & Politics, Measurement & Research Methodology, and School Evaluation & Program Development.


EDC Partners with Empirical for Regional Lab in the Northeast

Empirical Education signed on as a partner in the Northeast and the Islands Regional Educational Laboratory, or NEIREL, joining prime contractor Education Development Center of Newton, MA and its other partners, WestEd and AIR. The company’s primary responsibility will be in the area of technical assistance to state and local systems in New England and New York state, as well as the islands–Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Denis Newman, Empirical’s president, commented, “We welcome this opportunity to work with our colleagues at EDC and help them contribute to the research base for their region.” The REL contract is expected to be extended until March 2011.


Partnership with SERVE for REL-Southeast Project

Empirical Education and SERVE (a research unit of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro) have signed a contract making the company a partner in the work of the Regional Education Lab in the Southeast. Empirical’s primary responsibility will be in the area of randomized experiments to be undertaken in the region. The initial project is the four-year state-wide effectiveness study of the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative. The company is also advising on technical and operational aspects of other experiments in the planning stage. The REL is authorized for five years.


Empirical Education Initiates a Statewide Trial of AMSTI

As part of its grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Research, Empirical Education is working with the Alabama State Department of Education’s Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) staff and with representatives from three of the regions to conduct a randomized experiment of the AMSTI project. Empirical facilitated the random assignment of 40 schools into those who will be part of the AMSTI program for the 2006-2007 school year and those who will join the program in the following year; the latter group will serve as the control group. The company is expecting that additional funding sources will allow the experiment to continue for three years and include a replication in additional regions of the state.


Empirical and Stanford Join Forces to Help School Districts Implement Rigorous Research

Empirical Education has signed a co-development agreement with Stanford University, in which Stanford will assist in the development of statistical analysis processes of school data, including models and procedures in the statistical software SAS environment. In July 2004, Empirical Education was awarded a three-year, $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to refine an experimental methodology that school districts can use to measure the effectiveness of instructional programs they are considering. “This agreement gives us access to a world-class educational research environment and will help us improve the quality of information we provide to the schools,” said Denis Newman, Empirical Education founder. Edward H. Haertel, professor at the School of Education at Stanford University, principal investigator for Stanford’s effort, said, “I am pleased that Stanford is involved with this innovative approach to helping school districts use rigorous experimental methods to guide their decision-making.”