Research and Evaluation

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The Nebraska Department of Education is committed to providing high-quality evidence to inform statewide educational policy and decision-making. As such, the Research & Evaluation operation is dedicated to pursuing the research priorities of the Commissioner of Education and the Nebraska State Board of Education. What follows is a selection of studies created in this effort.

Research Studies

 

 

Social Studies Instruction in Nebraska

Abstract:
The goal of this survey was to gather information and examine Nebraska teachers’ perceptions related to the current status of social studies instruction in Nebraska. This report will describe how Nebraska teachers teach social studies—what methods of instruction they use and with what frequency, how confident they are with the Nebraska Social Studies Standards, and how often they are offered and utilize professional development opportunities. Results from the survey may be used to advocate and plan for social studies professional development by individual school districts, Education Service Units (ESUs), and/or the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE).

The survey was conducted in spring 2017 with 796 complete surveys submitted. Teachers completing the survey represent all Nebraska ESUs, grade levels (elementary, middle, and high school), and all district sizes. Some notable findings from each report section include:

Keywords:
Social Studies; Instructional Methods; Teacher Perceptions; Nebraska Social Studies Standards; Professional Development; Civics Assessment

Key Findings:

Social Studies Instruction and Standards

  • Social studies instruction in Nebraska is often, but not always aligned with the Nebraska Social Studies Standards. Only about 10 percent of elementary teachers said their content in social studies is “in complete alignment” to the Nebraska Social Studies Standards. This could be related to findings suggesting the standards may be vague.
  • Teachers feel the standards are more effective in preparing students to be civically engaged. However, regardless of grade level, Nebraska teachers who responded to the survey, view Nebraska Social Studies Standards to be more ineffective than effective in preparing students for college or a career. Less than 5 percent of teachers in all three grade levels said the Nebraska Social Studies Standards are “extremely effective” in preparing students for college, career, and civic life and citizenship.
  • Many teachers, across grade levels, use primary source documents, simulations, and group projects less frequently than class discussions, lectures, and note-taking in their instruction.

Social Studies Instruction and Standards

  • Social studies instruction in Nebraska is often, but not always aligned with the Nebraska Social Studies Standards. Only about 10 percent of elementary teachers said their content in social studies is “in complete alignment” to the Nebraska Social Studies Standards. This could be related to findings suggesting the standards may be vague.
  • Teachers feel the standards are more effective in preparing students to be civically engaged. However, regardless of grade level, Nebraska teachers who responded to the survey, view Nebraska Social Studies Standards to be more ineffective than effective in preparing students for college or a career. Less than 5 percent of teachers in all three grade levels said the Nebraska Social Studies Standards are “extremely effective” in preparing students for college, career, and civic life and citizenship.
  • Many teachers, across grade levels, use primary source documents, simulations, and group projects less frequently than class discussions, lectures, and note-taking in their instruction.
  • While many teachers report familiarity with the Nebraska Social Studies Standards, some social studies teachers are so unfamiliar with the standards they are unable to identify strengths or weaknesses of the standards.

Professional Development in Social Studies

  • Opportunities for Nebraska teachers to participate in professional development specific to social studies instruction may be lacking, and teachers may struggle to access adequate resources to support social studies instruction. This seems to be particularly true for elementary teachers who also feel less prepared to teach social studies compared to their middle and high school counterparts. Less than 16 percent of elementary teachers reported having social studies professional development (PD) made available to them within the past three years with only 9 percent of the elementary teachers reported participating in social studies PD within the last three years.
  • When Nebraska teachers participate in professional development specific to social studies, the training is often related to general methods or geography.

Civics Assessment

  • Teachers are concerned about accountability in social studies, and over one third of the teachers (about 37 percent) who responded to the survey support efforts to adopt a civics assessment as a graduation requirement. Given a choice of assessment methods, teachers were most supportive of a service project.

Report Link: Social Studies Instruction (Published on November 2017)
Summary Report of the 2018 Educator Focus Groups (2018)

 


Investigating the Impact of the Nebraska ACT Pilot Project on Student College-Going Behavior

Abstract:
With the goal of increasing college-going among Nebraska high school students, the ACT Pilot Project was conducted by administering the ACT for all 11th graders in 13 selected public high schools in the state. This study utilizes several statistical tools like propensity score matching and logistic regression to assess the impact of being in the ACT Pilot on college-going during the time of the ACT Pilot Project in 2011-12 to 2013-14. Results indicate that participation in the ACT Pilot Project increases the odds of going on to college, although only marginally, for the high school students in the study. Other variables of interest like gender, race/ethnicity, household income status, and performance on the NeSA are greater predictors of college-going. Performance which exceed standards on the NeSA Math is found to increase the odds of going on to college by almost two times; thus suggesting that continued efforts should be directed to improving Math outcomes for Nebraska high school students. Implications of this study’s findings and direction for future research are discussed.

Keywords:
College-going; ACT; ACT Pilot Project; NeSA; College and Career Ready; Assessment; Transitions

Key Findings:

  • Being in the ACT Pilot Project significantly increases the odds of college-going by about 8%.
  • Females have a larger odds of going on to college than males.
  • Hispanic students have a smaller odds of going on to college than White students.
  • Students from low income households have less than half the odds of going on to college compared to those from non-low income households.
  • The performance on all 3 NeSA subjects (Reading, Math, and Science) are significant predictors of college-going, with NeSA Math Performance being the strongest predictor of the odds of going on to college.

Report Link: ACT Pilot Project Study (Published on September 2016)

 


An Examination of Advanced Placement (AP) Course Taking and College-Going in Nebraska

Abstract:
This study examines the relationship between high school students’ participation in Advanced Placement (AP) courses and college-going in Nebraska. Using a series of logistic regression models and propensity score matching method, results of this quasi-experimental study indicate that students who participate in AP courses have significantly higher odds of going on to college compared to those who do not participate in AP courses. Other demographic variables such as gender, race/ethnicity, immigration status, and NeSA performance are also tested as covariates in the statistical models. Findings from this study may be used to provide information to assist Nebraska policy-makers in making decisions with regards to AP programs and to better prepare Nebraska students for post-secondary education.

Keywords:
College-going; Advanced Placement; NeSA; College and Career Ready; Assessment; Transitions

Key findings:

  • It is more likely for Nebraska high school students who participate in AP courses to go on to college compared to those who do not participate in AP courses.
  • Native American students, Black or African American students, and Hispanic students are less likely to go on to college compared to White students.=
  • Students from low-income families are less likely to go on to college compared to non-low income families.
  • Students who score below NeSA performance levels have consistent lower chances of going on to college compared to those who meet the performance levels across all three subjects: Math, Science, and Reading.

Report Link: An Examination of Advanced Placement (AP) Couse Taking and College-Going in Nebraska (Published on December 2016)


The Effects of Question Customization on the Quality of an Open-Ended Question

Abstract:
This study examines the effect of question wording on data quality from an open-ended question. The open-ended question used in the study is from a web-based survey – 2016 Nebraska First Year Teacher Survey. Data quality indicators including item nonresponse, response target, ineligible response, general response, and response length are examined in the study using a series of general linear regression models. Findings from this study may be used in future survey projects with regards to improving data quality. Implications and directions for future research are also discussed in this paper.

Keywords:
First Year Teacher Survey, Survey Methodology, Data Quality Indicators, Open-ended Questions

Key findings:

  • Customized question wording leads to better data quality.
  • Customized question wording produced longer responses.
  • Respondents answering the question in customized wording produced more correctly targeted answers.

Report Link: The Effects of Question customization on the Quality of an Open-Ended Question (Published on February 2017)


An Evaluation of the Impact of Dual Credit and Dual Enrollment on College-Going in Nebraska

Abstract:
The focus of this study is to investigate the effects of enrolling for and earning dual credit on the college-going behavior of Nebraska public high school students. Dual enrollment or being enrolled for dual credit is defined as the state when a student is enrolled in a course eligible for earning both high school and post-secondary credit, but may or may not necessarily earn it. Dual credit or earning dual credit, on the other hand, is when a student is enrolled in a course eligible for earning both high school and post-secondary credit and earns it. This study utilizes statistical techniques such as propensity score matching and logistic regression to investigate the impact of dual enrollment and earning dual credit on college-going. Results indicate that enrolling for and earning dual credit significantly increase the odds of going on to college. Among other variables that are strong predictors of college-going, gender, enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, high ability learner status, and performance on the NeSA Math assessment stand out. Implications of this study’s findings and suggestions for future research are discussed in the following report.

Keywords:
College-going; Dual Credit; Dual Enrollment; NeSA; College and Career Ready; Assessment; Transitions; Earning dual credit; Enrolling for dual credit; Advanced Coursework; AP; Advanced Placement

Key Findings:

  • Enrolling for and earning dual credit in high school are strong predictors of college-going.
  • Enrolling for Advanced Placement classes increase the odds of going on to college.
  • Being a high ability learner or a gifted student helps increase the odds of going on to college.
  • Among all 3 NeSA subjects, performance on NeSA Math strongly predicts college-going. Exceeding standards on NeSA Math is associated with increased college-going odds.

Report Link: An Evaluation of the Impact of Dual Credit and Dual Enrollment on College-Going in Nebraska. (Published on July 2017)

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