The Impact of Unmotivated Questionnaire Responding on Data Quality
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Education researchers use surveys widely. Yet critics question respondents’ ability to provide high-quality responses. As schools increasingly use student surveys to drive local policymaking, respondents’ (lack of) motivation to provide quality responses may threaten the wisdom of using questionnaires for data-based decision making. To better understand student satisficing—the practice of suboptimal responding on surveys—and its impact on data quality, this article examines its pervasiveness and impact on a large-scale social-emotional learning survey administered to 409,721 elementary and...
Evidence from the CORE Districts
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Since spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been abruptly interrupting regular instruction in almost all schools in the U.S. One year later, policymakers, district administrators, and educators are still balancing the benefits and risks of returning K–12 students to fully in-person school. Many are concerned about the pandemic’s disruption to students’ academic progress. In California, educators have been focused equally on students’ mental and emotional health, social relationships, and learning environment, given that many students have been learning remotely since the onset of the pandemic...
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This brief is one in a series aimed at providing K-12 education decision makers and advocates with an evidence base to ground discussions about how to best serve students during and following the novel coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about the EdResearch for Recovery Project and view the set of COVID-19 response-and-recovery topic areas and practitioner-generated questions here. The central question of this brief is: How can schools and districts monitor students’ social and emotional well-being across the year?
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This article illustrates the application of mixture IRT models to evaluate respondent confusion due to the negative wording of certain items on a social-emotional learning (SEL) assessment. Using actual student self-report ratings on four social-emotional learning scales collected from students in Grades 3–12 from CORE Districts in the state of California, it also evaluates the consequences of the potential confusion in biasing student- and school-level scores, as well as the estimated correlational relationships between SEL constructs and student-level variables. Models of both full and...
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Prior work has shown that levels of self-reported student social-emotional learning (SEL) predict student achievement levels—as well as student achievement gains—but little has been done to understand if within-student changes in student reports of SEL are predictive of changes in theoretically related academic and behavioral outcomes. We use data from the California CORE Districts to examine whether changes in individual students’ reports of their social-emotional skills from one school year to the next predict changes in state math and English language arts (ELA) test scores and attendance...
Evidence From the First Large-Scale Panel Student Survey
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A growing number of school systems use self-report surveys to track students’ social-emotional development as a tool to inform policy and practice. In this article, the first large-scale panel survey of social-emotional learning (SEL) simulates how four constructs—growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness—develop from Grade 4 to Grade 12 and how these trends vary by gender, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity among students participating in the survey for two consecutive years. With the exception of growth mindset, self-reports of these constructs do not...
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California’s CORE districts—a consortium of eight school districts serving a racially and socioeconomically diverse population of over one million students—since 2014 have led the way in deploying measures of social and emotional learning (SEL) and school climate and culture. Influenced by surging interest and research support over the past decade, these districts have collected data in hopes of continuously improving how their K–12 schools address the social and emotional dimensions of student development. In recent years, many advocates have called for schools to pay greater attention to...
Characteristics, Outcomes, and Transitions
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In this brief, we leverage data from eight school districts, known as the CORE districts, to describe students with disabilities (SWDs) by their characteristics, outcomes, and transitions into and out of special education. We found that the most common disability type was a specific learning disability. Relative to their representation among students districtwide, males, African Americans, English language learners, and foster youth were more highly represented among SWDs. In terms of outcomes, chronic absence was more prevalent among children with multiple disabilities. Entry rates into...
The Impact of Unmotivated Questionnaire Respondents on Data Quality
Publication authors
Published
Summary
Education researchers use surveys widely. Yet, critics question respondents’ ability to provide high-quality responses. As schools increasingly use student surveys to drive policymaking, respondents’ (lack of) motivation to provide quality responses may threaten the wisdom of using surveys for data-based decision-making. To better understand student satisficing (sub-optimal responding on surveys) and its impact on data quality, we examined the pervasiveness and impact of this practice on a large-scale social-emotional learning survey administered to 409,721 students in grades 2-12. Findings...
Evidence from California’s CORE School Districts
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While the importance of social-emotional learning for student success is well established, educators and researchers have less knowledge and agreement about which social-emotional skills are most important for students and how these skills distribute across student subgroups. Using a rich longitudinal dataset of 221,840 fourth through seventh grade students in California districts, this paper describes growth mindset gaps across student groups, and confirms, at a large scale, the predictive power of growth mindset for achievement gains, even with unusually rich controls for students’...
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We illustrate the application of mixture IRT models to evaluate the possibility of respondent confusion due to the negative wording of certain items on a social-emotional learning (SEL) assessment. Using actual student self-report ratings on four social-emotional learning scales collected from students in grades 3-12 from CORE districts in the state of California, we also evaluate the consequences of the potential confusion in biasing student- and school-level scores as well as correlational relationships between SEL and student-level variables. Models of both full and partial confusion are...
Consistent Gender Differences in Students’ Self-Efficacy
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Academic self-efficacy is a student’s belief in their ability to perform within a school environment. Prior research shows that students experience a drop in academic self-efficacy during middle school that is particularly steep for female students and results in lower self-efficacy for girls than boys throughout middle and high school. In this brief, we probe whether this pattern is consistent across student groups defined by demographics, achievement level, and school of attendance. We find unusual consistency: while non-white, low-achieving, and poor students show somewhat lower self...
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This brief applies value-added models to student surveys in the CORE Districts to explore whether social-emotional learning (SEL) surveys can be used to measure effective classroom-level supports for SEL. The authors find that classrooms differ in their effect on students’ growth in self-reported SEL—even after accounting for school-level effects. Results suggest that classroom-level effects within schools may be larger than school-level effects. However, the low explanatory power of the SEL models means it is unclear that these are causal effects that have appropriately controlled for student...
Findings From the First Large-Scale Panel Survey of Students
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Measures of school-level growth in student outcomes are common tools for assessing the impacts of schools. The vast majority of these measures use standardized tests as the outcome of interest, even though emerging evidence demonstrates the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL). This article presents results from using the first large-scale panel surveys of students on SEL to produce school-level, value-added measures by grade for growth mind-set, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness. The article finds substantive differences across schools in SEL growth, with...
Evidence from California’s CORE Districts
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Existing research on self-management skills shows that measures of self-management predict student success. However, these conclusions are based on small samples or narrowly defined self-management measures. Using a rich longitudinal dataset of 221,840 fourth through seventh grade students, this paper describes self-management gaps across student groups, and confirms, at a large scale, the predictive power of self-management for achievement gains, even with unusually rich controls for students’ background, previous achievement, and measures of other social-emotional skills. Self-management is...
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Although there is a robust body of literature studying targets for academic indicators within school quality systems few studies explore target setting for non-academic indicators. Focusing on elementary schools within the CORE districts, we investigate how moving performance targets for non-academic indicators affects school quality ratings. We ask: (1) How does school performance on CORE’s school quality improvement measures vary across schools and over time?; and (2) How does the setting of targets on CORE’s non-academic indicators at various levels impact the number and types of schools...
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The CORE districts have been measuring SEL via self-report student surveys since 2015. Any district, state, or school looking to use these surveys can now build from what we have learned in the CORE districts. In this paper we provide benchmarking data, including means and standard deviations by construct, grade level and subgroup, and examples of how to use these data in practice. The data come from nearly half a million students across the 8 CORE districts, in grades 4 through 12, who took the survey in the 2015-16 school year. While not a true national sample, the CORE benchmarking sample...
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School value-added models are increasingly used to measure schools’ contributions to student success. At the same time, policymakers and researchers agree that schools should support students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) as well as academic development. Yet, the evidence regarding whether schools can influence SEL and whether statistical growth models can appropriately measure this influence is limited. Recent work shows meaningful differences across schools in changes in SEL scores by grade, but whether these differences represent the effects of schools is still unclear. The current paper...

A Pragmatic Approach to Validity and Reliability
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As educational practitioners and policymakers expand the range of student outcomes they assess, student perception surveys—particularly those targeting social-emotional learning—have grown in popularity. Despite excitement around the potential for measuring a wider array of important student outcomes, concerns about the validity of the inferences that might be drawn from student self-reports persist. One of the most ambitious attempts to incorporate student perception surveys into a larger assessment framework has occurred through CORE—a consortium of school districts in California. Pulling...
Evidence from the CORE Districts
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Mounting evidence demonstrates that social-emotional skills are important for students’ academic and life success, yet there is limited evidence on how these skills develop over time and how this development varies across student subgroups. This study uses the first large-scale panel survey of social-emotional learning (SEL) to describe how four SEL constructs—growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness—develop from Grade 4 to Grade 12, and how these trends vary by gender, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity. The results are based on self-report student surveys...
An IRT Modeling Approach
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With an increased appreciation of students’ social-emotional skills among researchers and policy makers, many states and school districts are moving toward a systematic process to measure Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). In this study, we examine the measurement properties of California's CORE Districts’ SEL survey administered to over 400,000 students in grades 3 to 12 during the 2015-16 school year. We conduct analyses through both classical test theory and item response theory frameworks, applying three different polytomous IRT models on both the full student sample and on separate samples...
Findings from the First Large-Scale Panel Survey of Students
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Summary
Measures of school-level growth in student outcomes are common tools used to assess the impacts of schools. The vast majority of these measures are based on standardized tests, even though emerging evidence demonstrates the importance of social-emotional skills (SEL). This paper uses the first large-scale panel surveys of students on SEL to produce and evaluate school-level value-added measures by grade for growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness. We find substantive differences across schools in SEL growth, of magnitudes similar to those for academic achievement...
Practices and Supports Employed in CORE Districts and Schools
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Social-emotional learning refers to the beliefs, attitudes, personality traits, and behaviors that students need to succeed in school and life. Our study looks closely at ten “outlier schools” in California’s CORE districts whose students report strong social-emotional learning outcomes compared to other, similar middle schools. The brief and infographic—based on a longer technical report—describe the surprising breadth and variety of social-emotional learning practices found in these outlier schools, as well as commonalities in their approaches and implementation challenges that some are...
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States and school districts across the U.S. are seeking to expand their definition of student success to include social-emotional learning. The CORE Districts, a collaborative of California districts that has developed a system of school accountability and continuous improvement that includes measures of social-emotional skills based on student self-reports, exemplify this trend. In this case study, we provide an overview of CORE's School Quality Improvement System, which was implemented in the 2015–16 school year across six districts serving roughly one million students.
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This report and accompanying policy brief show that there is good reason to pursue the measurement of social-emotional learning (SEL) and school culture/climate (CC) as a way to better understand student and school performance. Using data from California's CORE districts, we show that SEL and CC measures demonstrate reliability and validity, distinguish between schools, are related to other academic and non-academic measures, and also illuminate dimensions of student achievement that go beyond traditional indicators. We also show how the SEL and CC measures can be used to identify areas of...