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Hanover’s 2014 Research Themes in K-12 Education

Hanover Research (Hanover) partners with a diverse collection of independent schools and local, regional, and state education agencies that span 36 states and the District of Columbia. In 2014, Hanover completed hundreds of research requests on behalf of these partners, and by analyzing these requests we uncovered a number of trends with respect to the initiatives K-12 educators and administrators prioritized across the past year.

Quick Links to Report Below
K-12 Education Research Priorities and Trends

Instructional Integrity Trends
Resource Management Trends
Student Success Trends
Stakeholder Engagement Trends
Methodologies to Address These Priorities
Looking Ahead to 2015

K-12 Education Research Priorities and Trends

We supported hundreds of custom research projects for our K12 education partners in 2014. As in any year, some projects resulted in one report based on the application of one research methodology, while other projects required several phases with the research involving multiple methodologies. An after-school program evaluation that involves a literature review, analysis of student data, and survey of teachers and students is an example of one such longer-term project with multiple discrete components.

byorgtypeBroadly speaking, nearly 80 percent of our 2014 requests focused on some aspect of “Instructional Integrity” (curriculum and instruction issues) or “Resource Management” (school and district operations). Over a quarter of requests addressed “Student Success” (targeted interventions, long-term student outcomes), while 15 percent addressed “Stakeholder Engagement” (student, parent, staff, and community engagement and satisfaction).

Some projects addressed several of these themes simultaneously, which is why the sum of the request percentages and project themes exceeds 100. Examples of such projects from 2014 include a community engagement survey used to inform the development of a district’s long-term strategic plan (Stakeholder Engagement, Resource Management) and an evaluation of the structure of a program serving English Language Learners (ELL) (Instructional Integrity, Student Success).

In 2014 we were excited to launch a new service providing custom research support to independent schools. The research requested by these partners varied from that of our public school partners, reflecting their strong interest in stakeholder engagement and student recruitment. Half of the projects for independent school partners consisted of survey design and analysis of student, parent, faculty, and alumni responses.

Instructional Integrity Trends

Instructional Integrity projects most commonly addressed learning assessment or curriculum topics, such as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), character education, and curriculum auditing. Learning assessment, and more specifically program evaluation, represents the most common focus of our K12 project work in 2014.


Although the majority of our program evaluation reports required the analysis of student outcomes data provided by the school or district, nearly a third of these projects required survey research, either as a supplement to or replacement for data analysis. A smaller percentage of our program evaluation projects consisted of secondary research as a supplement to data analysis and/or survey research or as a standalone for the sake of planning a future evaluation.

Throughout 2014, we conducted evaluations on the effectiveness of programs of all types, including proprietary programs like iReady, Math Navigator, and Imagine Learning, RTI intervention programs, dual language programs for English Language Learners, one-to-one device implementations, and extracurricular programs for at-risk students. In addition to these student program evaluations, we also conducted a number of service evaluations, which assessed the effectiveness of programs and services offered to staff at schools and district offices.


Instructional Integrity

Top ThemesPercentage of Research Requests
General Curriculum Support24%
Literacy Instruction20%
Mathematics Instruction19%
Common Core14%
Curriculum Review13%
Character Education10%
Project-Based Learning5%
Learning Assessment
Program Evaluation and Development81%
Learning Assessment Tools – Selection and Evaluation19%

Resource Management Trends

Within the broad category of Resource Management, our projects most commonly addressed issues related to planning, which includes projects focused on strategic plan development, growth management, school design, and progress monitoring (i.e., how to track and present data related to school and district objectives). Projects concerned with resource management also focused on school and district operations and leadership. Such projects addressed partners’ research needs related to organizational structure, cost analysis, data management, and superintendent transition planning.

We anticipate the use of in-depth interviews in relation to peer benchmarking to increase. This primary research methodology is applied to help administrators gain insight into the practices of peer and best practice school districts around topics such as professional development, teacher leadership, turnaround school strategies, student wellness services, and accelerated learning models.


Resource Management

Top ThemesPercentage of Research Requests
Progress Monitoring23%
School and Grade Configuration22%
Growth Management18%
Strategic Planning18%
Calendar and Scheduling13%
Turnaround Schools9%
Peer Benchmarking30%
Budget and Cost25%
Service Evaluation18%
Operational Efficiency16%
Organizational Structure12%
Data Management6%

Student Success Trends

Projects addressing Student Success most commonly focused on a special student population, such as ELL students and students at the early childhood level (Pre-K through 3rd grade).

Within the category of college and career readiness, administrators focused on benchmarking career and technical education (CTE) pathways and ensuring programming supported 21st century skill development. We anticipate requests for predictive analytics focused on identifying at-risk student populations or determining academic
indicators strongly aligned with college and career readiness to increase in 2015.


Student Success

Top ThemesPercentage of Research Requests
Special Populations
Early Childhood26%
Minority Students18%
Gifted and Talented12%
Special Education12%
College and Career Readiness
General College and Career Readiness Programming24%
College Admissions21%
Dual Enrollment10%
21st Century Skills7%
Adult Education7%

Stakeholder Engagement Trends

Lastly, regarding Stakeholder Engagement, Hanover saw a large increase in projects focused on school climate. Generally, we supported these projects by developing, administering, and analyzing the results from school climate surveys, though we also completed several reports that examined the impact of school climate on various aspects of student and staff engagement and performance.


Stakeholder Engagement

Top ThemesPercentage of Research Requests
School Climate
School Climate Literature Reviews14%
School Climate Surveys86%
Other Satisfaction and Engagement
Parent Engagement46%
Teacher and Staff Engagement39%
Student Engagement28%
Community Engagement21%

Methodologies to Address These Priorities

In 2014, the plurality of our projects called for best practices research, while interest in surveys, in-depth interviews, and data analyses continued to grow. The increase in survey project requests was fueled specifically by an uptick in school climate survey requests, while the increase in data analysis projects occurred in tandem with our focus on program evaluation, as the majority of these projects required the analysis of student outcomes data provided by the school or district.


Looking Ahead to 2015

We believe that quite a few of the projects Hanover completed last year indicate emerging topics of interest that will become more prominent in 2015. Examples of such projects include:

  • Benchmarking research to help a partner determine appropriate carve-outs for teacher collaboration time;
  • Best practice and literature review research to help partners interested in character education develop programs or approaches to combat bullying, facilitate motivation and “grit” in their students, and address students’ socio-emotional learning needs;
  • Identifying existing literature regarding the Makerspace movement to transform school spaces to inform a partners’ school design and planning for more collaborative learning spaces; and
  • Assessing the forms and effectiveness of curriculum differentiation, such as math compaction, to support high-ability mathematics students in light of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.

K-12 administrators’ key research priorities will remain fairly constant in 2015. On behalf of our partners, Hanover will continue to provide support as schools and districts address these needs and explore new areas of focus.

These insights were derived from an analysis of hundreds of research projects commissioned by a diverse collection of independent schools and local, regional, and state education agencies that span 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Read the full trends analysis, future projects, peer case studies, and more  in Hanover’s 2014 K-12 Education Market Leadership Report by completing the form below.


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