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Catching up is hard to do. Several studies marked the pandemic’s toll on student achievement and hinted at challenges for even the most promising solutions. Credit: Allison Shelley for EDUimages

For my year-end post, I’m highlighting 10 of the most important Proof Points stories of 2022. This year, I was proud to write several watchdog stories that use research evidence to highlight poor or ineffective practices in schools. I put a special focus on tutoring – the good and the bad –  as well as test-optional admissions and reading. 

Thank you to everyone who read and commented on my weekly stories about education data and research. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you next year. If you would like to receive my email newsletter and be notified when the column comes out each week, please click here and fill out the form. I’ll be back again on Jan. 2, 2023 with a story about arts education. Happy New Year!

1. PROOF POINTS: Many schools are buying on-demand tutoring but a study finds that few students are using it

Companies market 24/7 online tutoring services as “high-dosage” tutoring to help students catch up from pandemic learning losses. But researchers warn that these products don’t have an evidence base behind them and now a study finds that not many students are using them.

2. PROOF POINTS: Does growth mindset matter? The debate heats up

I took a deep dive inside the scholarly debate over boosting students’ “mindsets” — one of the most popular ideas in education. Dueling meta-analyses conclude it’s either generally ineffective or effective only for low-achievers. 

3. PROOF POINTS: Colleges that ditched test scores for admissions find it’s harder to be fair in choosing students, researcher says

A qualitative study gives us a rare, unvarnished glimpse inside college admissions offices as they struggle to admit students under new “test-optional” policies. Admissions officers often described a “chaotic” and “stressful” process where they lacked clear guidance on how to select students without SAT or ACT scores. This story came out a couple weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court heard two affirmative action cases and it was my most read story of 2022.  

4. PROOF POINTS: Leading dyslexia treatment isn’t a magic bullet, studies find, while other options show promise

New research casts doubt on the most sought-after and expensive way of teaching children with dyslexia to read: the Orton-Gillingham method. 

5. PROOF POINTS: Seven new studies on the impact of a four-day school week

As policymakers debate the schedule switch, some research shows a tiny negative effect on rural students, where the shortened week is most popular. 

6. PROOF POINTS: Researchers say cries of teacher shortages are overblown

I was the first reporter to question the media narrative that teachers were leaving the profession en masse. I discovered that teacher vacancies weren’t that much higher than we have had during previous tight labor markets.

7. PROOF POINTS: The paradox of ‘good’ teaching

Researchers find a tradeoff between raising achievement and engaging students. It’s extremely rare for teachers to do both in the classroom. 

8. PROOF POINTS: Debunking the myth that teachers stop improving after five years

Newer research finds that even experienced educators get better, albeit at a slower pace. 

9. PROOF POINTS: Third graders struggling the most to recover in reading after the pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic ravaged communities and shuttered schools, many educators and parents worried about kindergarteners who were learning online. That concern now appears well-founded as we’re starting to see evidence that remote school and socially distanced instruction were profoundly detrimental to their reading development. 

10. PROOF POINTS: Six puzzling questions from the disastrous NAEP results

How bad were pandemic learning losses among fourth graders? My best analogy is a cross-country road trip. Imagine that students were traveling at 55 miles an hour, ran out of gas and started walking instead. Now they’re back in their cars and humming along again at 55 miles an hour. Some are traveling at 60 miles an hour, catching up slightly, but they’re still far away from the destination that they would have reached if they hadn’t run out of gas.

This story about the top education research stories of 2022 was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

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