April 18, 2012 – The Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) and the Center for Research on Children in the United States (CROCUS) today hosted a Family Impact Seminar on “Strengthening Elementary Education.” The event, moderated by William Gormley, co-director of CROCUS, was held at the National Press Club.

Attendees heard from Carolyn Hill, Associate Dean and Associate Professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute on her recent research into the persistence of short-term effects of a high-quality school-based pre-K program in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dr. Hill, Dr. Gormley, and Shirley Adelstein of Georgetown University studied two groups of pre-K students (in 2000-2001 and 2005-2006, respectively) and revisited the students’ progress in reading and math in the third grade. The study yielded mixed results, with no persistence for the 2000-2001 group of students through the third grade; short term gains in math but not reading for the 2005-2006 group of students; and persistence for boys but not girls in the latter group.

M. René Islas, director of the Learning Forward Center for Results and former Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Education, spoke about the necessary investment in professional learning and transformation in teaching required to achieve the laudable goals of the Common Core Standards movement. He argued that the widespread adoption of Common Core Standards could result in substantial learning gains for students but only if teachers receive appropriate professional learning experiences.

Allison Horowitz, Policy Analyst with the Education Trust, rounded out the panel with a presentation on the need for better data within school-level report cards. Through her work with the Education Trust and a coalition of advocacy groups, they have identified public reporting indicators and the current state of availability across the country for six major topic areas: student achievement, demographics and program participation, high schools, climate, funding, and teachers. Not surprisingly, there is room for improvement in school-level report cards in many states, including inconsistent data availability for different student groups and little year-to-year or district and state comparisons to provide context for the data that is available. In general, Horowitz’s research found that report card data availability is far behind both the current policy conversation and the practices of leading states.

“Today’s event highlighted three critical reforms designed to strengthen elementary education and the inevitable challenges of their successful implementation,” said Dr. Gormley. “We hope this research contributes to the ongoing dialogue of how to improve the quality of education in the United States.”

Since 1992 GPPI has sponsored a series of community seminars, known as Family Impact Seminars. The purpose of these seminars is to highlight public policy controversies involving children, especially children at risk, with attention to national, state, and local policy choices and their implications for children and families in the District of Columbia and elsewhere.