January/February ER Publishes New Studies on the Arts and Critical Thinking, NCLB Waivers, and School-wide Consequences of Student Risk Factors
 
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For Immediate Release
January 30, 2014 

Contact: 
Tony Pals, tpals@aera.net
office: (202) 238-3235
cell: (202) 288-9333
Bridget Jameson, bjameson@aera.net
office: (202) 238-3233 

January/February ER Publishes New Studies on the Arts and Critical Thinking, 
NCLB Waivers, and School-wide Consequences of Student Risk Factors

Special Section Examines What Should Count as High-Quality Education Research

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 30, 2014 ─ The January/February 2014 issue of Educational Researcher (ER), a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), is now available on the association’s website. The January/February issue of ER includes three feature articles, as well as a special section that examines the standards for high-quality education research. 

Learning to Think Critically: A Visual Art Experiment,” by Daniel H. Bowen, Jay P. Greene, and Brian Kisida, finds that exposure to the arts improves students’ critical thinking skills. Students randomly selected to participate in a half-day school trip to an art museum were found to have significantly stronger critical thinking skills than their non-participating peers in analyzing a new painting, even weeks after the museum tours. Importantly, the benefits were larger for students from schools with large low-income populations, for non-white students, for rural students, and for younger students – groups generally less likely to make museum visits outside of school hours, for instance, with their parents. The researchers conclude by noting that disadvantaged students, who have the most to gain from arts exposure, have been disproportionally affected by cuts in arts education. Bowen is a postdoctoral fellow at Rice University: daniel.h.bowen@rice.edu, (713) 348-2987. 

The Waive of the Future? School Accountability in the Waiver Era,” by Morgan S. Polikoff, Andrew J. McEachin, Stephani L. Wrabel, and Matthew Duque, analyzes the waivers to the school accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act that were granted to 42 states and the District of Columbia. The authors find that states missed opportunities to design more effective school accountability systems that might minimize the negative unintended consequences seen under NCLB. The authors offer specific recommendations to state and federal policymakers for developing more valid, more reliable, fairer, and more transparent accountability systems that can identify the schools most in need of improvement. Polikoff is an assistant professor at the University of Southern California: polikoff@usc.edu, (213) 740-6741. 

An Investigation of the Relations Between School Concentrations of Student Risk Factors and Student Educational Well-Being,” by John W. Fantuzzo, Whitney A. LeBoeuf, and Heather L. Rouse, investigates the relationship between school concentrations of student risk factors such as homelessness, maltreatment, and low maternal education, and measures of reading, mathematics, and attendance. The authors, examining an entire cohort of third-grade students in the Philadelphia, Pa., School District, document the negative impact of high concentrations of students with risk factors on the other children who attend school with these peers but are, themselves, not experiencing these risk factors. Large concentrations of students with low maternal education, homelessness, and child maltreatment were found to be among the most harmful to overall student performance, after accounting for student-level risks and demographics. The findings show that poverty and race do not tell the whole story when it comes to educational well-being. Fantuzzo is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania: johnf@gse.upenn.edu, (215) 898-4790. University of Pennsylvania media contact: Kat Stein: katstein@gse.upenn.edu, (215) 898-9642. 

Special Section: “What Should Count as Quality Education Research? Continuing the Discussion” 

This issue’s special section extends AERA’s exploration of what constitutes high-quality research. AERA issued “Standards for Reporting on Empirical Social Science Research in AERA Publications” in 2006 and a second set of standards focusing on humanities-oriented research in 2009. The commentaries in this special section point to the importance of understanding how policy decisions shape research conducted in education. The scholars invited to contribute come from a variety of research fields and orientations. These commentaries include:

  • Editors’ Introduction: What Should Count as Quality Education Research? Continuing the Discussion,” by ER editors Sherry A. Southerland, Vivian L. Gadsden, and Carolyn D. Herrington, lays out the premise of the special section and why it’s critical to examine the criteria for quality in research. Southerland is a professor at Florida State University: ssoutherland@admin.fsu.edu. Gadsden is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania: viviang@gse.upenn.edu. Herrington is a professor at Florida State University: rington@fsu.edu

  • Research in the Hard Sciences, and in Very Hard ‘Softer’ Domains,” by philosopher of education and social science D. C. Phillips, argues that all competent inquiries share basic features but that the term scientific is problematic. Phillips is a professor at Stanford University: dcpphd@stanford.edu
  • The Similarities Between Research in Education and Research in the Hard Sciences,” by physicist Carl E. Wieman, extends Phillips’s comparison, suggesting that cutting-edge science research bears similarities to education research. Wieman is a professor at Stanford University: cwieman@stanford.edu
  • Why Understanding Science Matters: The IES Research Guidelines as a Case in Point,” by John L. Rudolph, a history of science education researcher, argues that hard-science approaches to education research ignore the contextual nuances of educational phenomena. Rudolph is a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison: jlrudolp@wisc.edu
  • Relevance to Practice as a Criterion for Rigor,” by Kris D. Gutiérrez and William R. Penuel, draws on the authors’ experience in literacy education, learning sciences, and educational psychology to argue that to be meaningful, education research must include relevance to practice. Gutiérrez is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder: kris.gutierrez@colorado.edu. Penuel is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder: william.penuel@colorado.edu

About AERA

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national professional organization devoted to the scientific study of education. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on Facebook and Twitter. 

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