Upcoming SPARK Team Presentations

The SPARK Team will be presenting the following at AERA this year. We hope to see you there!


More of a Good Thing? One- and Two-Year Summer Program Effects on Mathematics Achievement

  • Presenters:   Kearney, K. L., Adelson, J. L., Little, C. A., O’Brien, R.   &
  • Conference: American Educational Research Association, New York, NY
  • Date: April 16, 2018

Abstract: Summer learning opportunities can mitigate achievement gaps between students of diverse backgrounds, perhaps supporting high-potential learners from underserved groups in reaching high achievement levels. Dosage effects of summer program participation on achievement have not been systematically studied with advanced students. We examined effects of summer learning on mathematics achievement with emphasis on differences for years of participation. The sample of 460 participants included 193 that attended at least one summer and 41 that attended two summers. Using hierarchical linear modeling, we found students who participated in only one year did not score statistically significantly differently from students who did not attend at all. Students who attended two years scored statistically significantly higher than those who did not attend any.


Summer Learning in Mathematics: Promoting a Supportive Learning Environment through Curriculum and Instruction

  • Presenters:  Little, C. A., Kearney, K. L., O’Brien, R., Adelson, J. L.,  & Roberts, A.
  • Conference: American Educational Research Association, New York, NY
  • Date: April 16, 2018

Abstract: Purposes and Perspectives: This project focuses on building capacity for academic success among high-potential students from diverse backgrounds through early teacher attention to high potential, access to advanced learning through summer programming, and professional development. The project reflects several key perspectives: (a) advanced potential exists across demographic groups; (b) early attention to high potential is critical for engaging student growth and academic success; (c) teacher support is important to guide recognition of how high potential may manifest in students across diverse backgrounds; and (d) curriculum and instruction designed to yield and develop high-potential behaviors are valuable tools for identification and programming in response to advanced learner needs.
Methods: In this project, we use a quasi-experimental design in which pairs of schools representing similar demographics within districts function as treatment and comparison groups. In 22 schools across 4 districts, teachers at grades K-2 participate in professional development to support recognition of high-potential behaviors, and students enter the project based on such informed teacher referral. Treatment school students have access to summer programming focused on challenging curriculum in mathematics. The curricular materials were developed around best practices in mathematics education, gifted education, and early childhood education, including key elements of ensuring a nurturing classroom environment for all learners (Gavin et al., 2013). Such practices also contribute to an environment that is culturally responsive and inclusive.
Data Sources: Data sources include student assessments (Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test [NNAT-2; Naglieri, 2011]; Measures of Academic Progress [MAP; Northwest Evaluation Association]; and teacher referral forms [Shaklee, 2002]) and teacher observations (Classroom Observation Scales-Revised [COS-R; VanTassel-Baska et al., 2003] and Instructional Quality Assessments [Matsumara et al., 2006]). We also collect data regarding which project students are later identified for their local gifted programs. Achievement results thus far have demonstrated treatment effects on mathematics achievement based on one or two years of participation in summer programming (Authors, in press).
Results: The focus for this session is on evidence from classroom observations of teacher implementation of the curricular materials. We report descriptive evidence from summer program classrooms, with particular focus on teacher efforts to respond to individual and group differences, to engage students in mathematical discourse in a supportive environment, and to maintain high expectations. Results from classrooms observations demonstrate satisfactory to high levels of teacher and student behaviors as linked to the observation criteria. The observations also demonstrated the challenges inherent in working with young students on discourse moves, and the efforts that teachers used to establish discourse routines and to nurture student participation.
Significance: Classroom observations are but one component of demonstrating the learning experiences students may gain from specialized programming to respond to advanced learning needs. The specific gains students show following a summer program may be related to a wide range of factors. Nevertheless, classroom observation data, combined with other evidence on the particular curriculum and on student outcomes, contributes to our understanding of effective practices by providing a picture of the kinds of instruction that may contribute to positive learning outcomes.