Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in School Accountability Systems

This interim report presents descriptive information on school-level accountability, adequate yearly progress (AYP), and school improvement status of schools accountable and schools not accountable for the performance of the students with disabilities (SWD) subgroup under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Based on U.S. Department of Education EDFacts data from the 2005–06 to 2008–09 school years for up to 40 states, key findings from the study include:

• Across the 40 states with relevant data, 35 percent of public schools were accountable for the performance of the SWD subgroup in the 2008–09 school year, representing 58 percent of tested SWDs in those states. In those same 40 states, 62 percent of middle schools were accountable for SWD performance, while 31 percent of elementary schools and 23 percent of high schools were accountable.

• In 20 states that had relevant data for all 4 years, there was a steady increase in the percent of SWD-accountable schools, from 25 percent in the 2005–06 school year to 34 percent in the 2008–09 school year.

• In 32 states with relevant data, 55 percent of public schools were not accountable for the SWD subgroup in any of the 4 years examined, while 18 percent were accountable in each of the 4 years.

• In 37 states with relevant data, 9 percent of all public schools missed AYP in the 2008–09 school year because of SWD subgroup performance and other reason(s), and 5 percent missed it solely because of SWD subgroup performance. Together, these schools served 28 percent of tested SWDs in all public schools in these states.

• Among schools that were consistently accountable for the performance of the SWD subgroup during the 4 years across 27 states with relevant data, 56 percent were not identified for school improvement over this time period. By comparison, among schools that were not accountable for SWD subgroup performance in any of the 4 years, 76 percent were never identified for improvement.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

IB Primary- and Middle-Years Students Perform Better on International Assessments Than Their Peers at Non-IB Schools

A research study completed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), on behalf of the International Baccalaureate (IB), examined student performance among IB and non-IB students on the International Schools’ Assessment (ISA) and determined that IB Primary Years Program (PYP) and IB Middle Years Program (MYP) students, in most instances performed as well or better than their non-IB peers across all four ISA assessment domains, including math literacy, reading, narrative writing, and expository writing. Particularly strong differences were observed in grade 10, the final year of the IB MYP. The study, conducted with data collected from 2009-11, included 270 schools—117 with the PYP and 86 with the MYP—and 50,714 international students, of which 68% were IB students.

This study follows up on an earlier project undertaken by ACER to report on how PYP and MYP students, grades 3 to 10, at international schools worldwide performed on the ISA relative to non-IB students, from 2007-09. The new study analyzes more recent data, digs deeper into specific areas of study and queried students on their perceptions, attitudes, and well-being.

In their findings, ACER researchers Ling Tan and Yan Bibby, explain: “This research performed drill-down analysis on sub-strands of ISA assessment areas. The sub-strands analysis found that IB students performed better than non-IB students for ISA Reading in all sub-strands at all grade levels except grade 8. IB students demonstrated higher performances in Mathematical Literacy in grade 6, grade 9, and grade 10. In expository writing categories, IB students outperformed non-IB students in grades 4, 9 and 10 with effect sizes ranging from very small to moderately large.”

The ISA math and reading components are based on reading and mathematical literacy frameworks established by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams. The OECD promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.__Other findings of note: IB students in grades 9 and 10 averaged scores significantly higher in mathematics and reading than OECD averages in the 2009 PISA. A multi-level analysis found that ‘between-school variations’ across IB schools were smaller than among non-IB schools in all four ISA domains, implying that IB schools were more similar to each other than the non-IB schools were, with respect to the four domains. Across all dimensions of the primary- and secondary-year student questionnaires, high proportions of agreement were observed among IB PYP and MYP students.

The Condition of Education 2012

The 49 indicators presented in The Condition of Education 2012 provide a progress report on education in America and include findings on the demographics of American schools, U.S. resources for schooling, and outcomes associated with education.

Report findings include:

• In 2008-09, about three-quarters of the 2004-05 freshman class graduated with a regular diploma from public high schools.

• From 2000 to 2010, undergraduate enrollment in postsecondary institutions increased from 13 million students to 18 million. During this period, undergraduate enrollment in private for-profit institutions quadrupled – from 0.4 million students in 2000 to 1.7 million in 2010.

• Between 1980 and 2011, the percentages of White, Black and Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds who had a bachelor’s degree increased. Yet, during this period, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment between Blacks and Whites increased from 13 to 19 percentage points, and the gap between Whites and Hispanics increased from 17 to 26 percentage points.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Second-Round State Applications for NCLB Waivers

This report analyzes the NCLB waiver applications submitted in the second round by 26 states and Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Department of Education in February 2012. Among the findings in the report is that, like the first round of applications, these states are proposing new accountability systems that will lead to greater complexity both within states and between states, but at the same time will be more integrated with states’ own existing accountability systems. Also, nearly all the state applications propose annual achievement targets and performance levels that are more nuanced than what is currently in place under NCLB. At the same time, 19 of the 27 applications analyzed will use a combined subgroup for accountability decisions, rather than all of the student subgroups mandated under NCLB. None of the states analyzed will continue to require school choice and SES in schools identified for improvement, as is currently mandated.

Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform

This series of papers by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) underscores the need for teachers, schools, parents and communities to pay more attention to the role of student motivation in school reform. While there is no single strategy that works to motivate all students, or even the same student in all contexts, the many different sources reviewed by CEP suggest various approaches that can help improve student motivation, the report finds. For example, programs that tailor support to individual students who are at risk of losing motivation, that foster “college-going” cultures in middle and high schools, or that partner with low-income parents to create more stimulating home learning environments can increase motivation, the report notes, but only if they incorporate factors that research has shown to be effective.

The CEP report, Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform, pulls together findings about student motivation from decades of major research conducted by scholars, organizations, and practitioners. The six accompanying background papers examine a range of themes and approaches, from the motivational power of video games and social media to the promise and pitfalls of paying students for good grades. Each paper covers one of these six broad topics:

_ What Is Motivation and Why Does It Matter?

_ Can Money and Other Rewards Motivate Students?

_ Can Goals Motivate Students?

_ What Roles Do Parents, Family Background, and Culture Play in Student Motivation?

_ What Can Schools Do To Better Motivate Students?

_ What Nontraditional Approaches to Learning Can Motivate Unenthusiastic Students?

“Student motivation isn’t a fixed quality but can be influenced in positive or negative ways by students’ experiences and by important people in their lives,” said Alexandra Usher, CEP senior research assistant and lead author of the summary report and background papers. “How teachers teach, how schools are organized, and other key elements of school reform can be designed in ways that may either encourage or discourage motivation.”

The summary report and accompanying papers highlight actions that teachers, school leaders, parents, and communities can take to foster student motivation. The following are just a few of the many ideas included in the report:

_ Programs that reward academic accomplishments are most effective when they reward students for mastering certain skills or increasing their understanding rather than rewarding them for reaching a performance target or outperforming others.

_ Tests are more motivating when students have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through low-stakes tests, performance tasks, or frequent assessments that gradually increase in difficulty before they take a high-stakes test.

_ Professional development can help teachers encourage student motivation by sharing ideas for increasing student autonomy, emphasizing mastery over performance, and creating classroom environments where students can take risks without fear of failure

_ Parents can foster their children’s motivation by emphasizing effort over ability and praising children when they’ve mastered new skills or knowledge instead of praising their innate intelligence.

Many aspects of motivation are not fully understood, the report and background papers caution, and most programs or studies that have shown some positive results have been small or geographically concentrated. “Because much about motivation is not known, this series of papers should be viewed as a springboard for discussion by policymakers, educators, and parents rather than a conclusive research review,” said Nancy Kober, CEP consultant and coauthor of the summary report. “This series can also give an important context to media stories about student achievement, school improvement, or other key education reform issues.”

Improving Mathematical Problem Solving in Grades 4 Through 8

Five strategies to improve students' mathematical problem-solving skills in grades 4 through 8 are described in a new practice guide from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). The practice guide, Improving Mathematical Problem Solving in Grades 4 Through 8, recommends that teachers:

1. Prepare problems and use them in whole-class instruction.

2. Assist students in monitoring and reflecting on the problem-solving process.

3. Teach students how to use visual representations.

4. Expose students to multiple problem-solving strategies.

5. Help students recognize and articulate mathematical concepts and notation.

The recommendations include implementation ideas and examples, summaries of supporting research, and solutions to common roadblocks.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Findings From Discipline-Based Education Research Could Improve Undergraduate Science and Engineering Teaching

Discipline-based education research (DBER) has generated insights that could help improve undergraduate education in science and engineering, but these findings have not yet prompted widespread changes in teaching practice, says a new report from the National Research Council. Science and engineering faculty, institutions, disciplinary societies, and professional societies should all support high-quality DBER and the adoption of the evidence-based teaching strategies that have emerged from it, the report says.

DBER is a collection of related research fields that investigate how students learn in particular scientific disciplines and identify ways to improve instruction. This research is emerging in many scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, the geosciences, and astronomy, as well as in engineering. A DBER scholar in physics, for example, might investigate how students learn concepts such as force or acceleration and try to identify effective ways for instructors to teach these concepts.

Scholars in all DBER fields share the goal of improving teaching and learning by using findings from empirical research. Although they have made inroads in terms of establishing their fields, the report says, these scholars still face challenges in identifying pathways for training and professional recognition. And findings from DBER have not yet led to widespread change in the teaching of undergraduate science and engineering.

Notable research findings from DBER on undergraduate teaching and learning include:

ß Student-centered learning strategies can enhance learning more than traditional lectures. Examples of effective, research-based approaches are making lectures more interactive, having students work in groups, and incorporating authentic problems and activities.

ß Students have incorrect understandings about fundamental concepts -- particularly phenomena that are not directly observable, such as those that involve very large or very small scales of time and space. For example, students often have difficulty understanding processes that involve deep time, such as Earth’s history or natural selection, and many learning challenges in chemistry result from students’ difficulties in comprehending that matter is made up of discrete particles. DBER has identified instructional techniques that may help, like using “bridging analogies” that link students’ correct understandings and the situation about which they harbor a misconception.

ß Students are challenged by important aspects of the domain that can seem easy or obvious to experts. For instance, in problem solving students tend to focus on the superficial aspects of a problem rather than its deep structure. Students in all disciplines also have trouble understanding representations like graphs, models, and simulations. These challenges pose serious impediments to learning in science and engineering, especially if instructors are not aware of them. Several strategies appear to improve problem-solving skills, such as providing support and prompts -- known as “scaffolding” -- as students work their way through problems.

Institutions, disciplinary societies, and professional societies should support faculty efforts to use evidence-based teaching strategies in their classrooms. In addition, they should work together to prepare future faculty who understand research findings on learning and teaching and who value effective teaching as part of their career aspirations. And they should support venues for DBER scholars to share their research findings at meetings and in high-quality journals.

Future directions for DBER investigations should include research that explores similarities and differences in learning among various student populations; longitudinal studies that can shed light on how students acquire and retain understanding (or misunderstanding) of concepts; studies that investigate student outcomes other than test scores; and studies of organizational and behavior change that could aid the translation of DBER findings into practice.

School district inequities are barrier to quality education for New York City's poor, Black and Hispanic student

In New York City public schools, a student’s educational outcomes and opportunity to learn are statistically more determined by where he or she lives than their abilities, according to a new report, A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City, released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

Primarily because of New York City policies and practices that result in an inequitable distribution of educational resources and intensify the impact of poverty, children who are poor, Black and Hispanic have far less of an opportunity to learn the skills needed to succeed on state and federal assessments. They are also much less likely to have an opportunity to be identified for Gifted and Talented programs, to attend selective high schools or to obtain diplomas qualifying them for college or a good job. High-performing schools, on the other hand, tend to be located in economically advantaged areas.


• A Black or Hispanic student is nearly four times more likely to be enrolled in one of the city’s poorest performing high schools as an Asian or White, non-Hispanic student.

• Districts with higher poverty rates have fewer experienced and highly educated teachers and less stable teaching staffs.

• A student of any race or ethnicity eligible for free or reduced-price meals is most likely to be enrolled in one of the city’s poorest performing high schools; an Asian or a White, non-Hispanic student is highly unlikely to be enrolled in one of the city’s poorest-performing schools.

• Students from low-income New York City families have little chance of being tested for eligibility for gifted and talented programs.

“While the term ‘redlining’ might seem strong, this report reveals evidence of blatant disparities tantamount to Apartheid-like separations accepted in New York for far too long,” said Pedro Noguera, education professor at NYU, who wrote the foreword to the report.

“Unequal learning opportunities for poor students and students of color have become the status quo in New York City,” said John Jackson, president of the Schott Foundation. “The current policy landscape in New York does very little to give these young people access to the supports, type of schools or qualified teachers that give them a substantive opportunity to learn. We need creative leadership to promote greater equity and alignment so the city no longer relegates our neediest children to the most troubled schools with the most limited resources, thereby limiting their potential for future success.”

Education Redlining bases its findings on an “Opportunity to Learn” Index that examines 500 NYC middle schools across the city’s 32 Community School Districts (CSDs). The report identifies a series of inequalities between and within districts—that largely correlate to race and poverty level. The Opportunity to Learn Index is calculated by sorting New York City middle schools by their results on the New York State Grade 8 English Language Arts assessment. Schools are then sorted into four citywide groups based on average test scores. The percentage of students in the highest-scoring group in each CSD indicates the opportunity that a student in that group has to attend one of the city’s top schools in their district.

Community School Districts with no schools among the top set of schools—with Opportunity to Learn indices of 0.00—are in the city’s poorest neighborhoods of Harlem, the South Bronx, and central Brooklyn. Schools with the highest scores are found in northeastern Queens, the Upper West Side, and the Upper East Side.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Long-Term Outcomes of College-Prep Programs

A program in Texas in 2010 provided payments to inner-city 11th and 12th grade students and their teachers for achieving passing scores on Advanced Placement exams. This study finds that the students involved were more likely to attend college, to remain beyond their first year, and to earn a college degree. They also were likelier to be employed and to earn higher wages than students not in the program. This evidence suggests that implementing college-prep programs in existing urban schools can improve the long-run prospects for disadvantaged students.

Knowledge, Tests, and Fadeout in Educational Interventions

Educational interventions are often evaluated and compared on the basis of their impacts on test scores. Decades of research have produced two empirical regularities: interventions in later grades tend to have smaller effects than the same interventions in earlier grades, and the test score impacts of early educational interventions almost universally “fade out” over time.

This paper explores whether these empirical regularities are an artifact of the common practice of rescaling test scores in terms of a student’s position in a widening distribution of knowledge. If a standard deviation in test scores in later grades translates into a larger difference in knowledge, an intervention’s effect on normalized test scores may fall even as its effect on knowledge does not.

The authors evaluate this hypothesis by fitting a model of education production to correlations in test scores across grades and with college-going using both administrative and survey data. The results imply that the variance in knowledge does indeed rise as children progress through school, but not enough for test score normalization to fully explain these empirical regularities.

School Turnarounds: Evidence from the 2009 Stimulus

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) targeted substantial School Improvement Grants (SIGs) to the nation’s “persistently lowest achieving” public schools (i.e., up to $2 million per school annually over 3 years) but required schools accepting these awards to implement a federally prescribed school-reform model. Schools that met the “lowest-achieving” and “lack of progress” thresholds within their state had prioritized eligibility for these SIG-funded interventions.

Using data from California, this study leverages these two discontinuous eligibility rules to identify the effects of SIG-funded whole-school reforms. The results based on these “fuzzy” regression-discontinuity designs indicate that there were significant improvements in the test-based performance of schools on the “lowest-achieving” margin but not among schools on the “lack of progress” margin. Complementary panel-based estimates suggest that these improvements were largely concentrated among schools adopting the federal “turnaround” model, which compels more dramatic staff turnover.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Required physical education in schools may ensure kids meet daily recommended physical activity levels

In a time period when many schools are eliminating their physical education classes even while childhood obesity and diabetes rates skyrocket in this country, a national study published today in the American Journal of Public Health finds that specific and required state PE time-related laws may be a crucial tool for ensuring that daily physical activity recommendations among children are met.

Researchers examined whether or not public schools in states with specific and stringent physical education laws reported more weekly PE time in the most recent School Health Policies and Programs Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study included a total of 410 schools grouped by their state’s PE time requirement scores as determined by the Classification of Laws Associated with School Students (C.L.A.S.S. class.cancer.org) scoring system. Researchers found that schools in states with specific requirement laws (i.e., strong laws) averaged over 27 and 60 more PE minutes per week at the elementary school and middle school levels, respectively, compared with schools in states with nonspecific laws (i.e., weak laws). Compared with elementary and middle schools with no PE laws or requirements, they found that the schools in states with strong codified PE laws averaged over 40 and 60 more minutes a week respectively.

The study’s authors stated, “Decline in physical activity is most pronounced as children transition from elementary and middle school to high school whether physical activity is measured by self-report or by objective measurement. Similarly, there is an increase in sedentary behavior as children transition from primary to secondary school. ….children do not compensate for less PE in school by adding physical activity outside of school, and PE may an important contributor to overall physical activity… [since] average PE time is below school health guidelines….”

The study concludes that codified state PE laws among U.S. elementary and middle schools should both require and specify a minimum amount of PE to address current school health guidelines and gaps in physical activity among children.

[From: “The Association of State Law to Physical Education Times Allocation in US Public Schools.” Contact: Frank Perna, EdD, PhD, Health Behaviors Research Branch, Division of Cancer Control and Population Services, Behavioral Research Program, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., pernafm@mail.nih.gov.] *Note: To be included in August print issue of Am Jrl of Public Health, but published online ahead of time on May 17, 2012, at 4 p.m. ET.

Early substance use linked to lower educational achievement

Researchers have found evidence that early drug and alcohol use is associated with lower levels of educational attainment.

Studying male twins who served in the military during the Vietnam era, they found that those who began drinking or using drugs as young teens or who became dependent on alcohol, nicotine or marijuana, were less likely to finish college than those who didn't use alcohol or drugs until later in life and never became dependent.

The study, by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System, will be published in the August 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research but is now available online.

"We can't say that substance dependence or early substance use causes lower educational achievement, but we do see a strong association," says lead author Julia D. Grant, PhD, research assistant professor of psychiatry. "Even after we statistically controlled for the genes and the environmental factors that twins share, we found a relationship between substance use and educational achievement."

Past studies about the relationship between substance use and education have delivered mixed results. But this study of 6,242 twins shows a link between fewer years of schooling and the onset of drinking before age 14.

"Studying identical and fraternal twin pairs is useful for examining things like substance use and education because we can asses the extent to which a given behavior is influenced by genetic factors and by factors related to family and environment," Grant says. "Since identical twins share all of their genes and fraternal share about half, we can set up statistical comparisons to tease many of those factors apart."

In the analysis, Grant's group found that when men in the study began to drink or use drugs early in their teen years or if they became a drug addict or alcoholic, they were less likely to complete 16 years of education.

In addition, she says the men in the study were surveyed when most were in their late 30s of early 40s, a point in their lives where it was less likely they would further their education.

Veterans, she says, were a particularly good group to follow because it is rare for anyone to serve in the military without finishing high school or earning a GED. In addition, because of the G.I. Bill, veterans are less likely to have financial constraints that would prevent them from attending college.

Grant says the findings provide more evidence that early drug and alcohol use is associated with a large number of problems later in life.

"Drugs and alcohol affect many lifetime milestones such as marriage, parenthood and employment, which are closely linked to education," she says. "These events in later life all are influenced by early substance use, and this study provides further evidence that as a society, we need to continue our public-health efforts to reduce underage drinking, smoking and use of drugs."

Teaching Creativity to Children from a Galaxy Away

Encouraging "expansive thinking" opens children to creative possibilities Playing make-believe is more than a childhood pasttime. According to psychologists, it's also crucial to building creativity, giving a child the ability to consider alternative realities and perspectives. And this type of thinking is essential to future development, aiding interpersonal and problem-solving skills and the ability to invent new theories and concepts. That has been shown to be a component of future professional success in fields from the arts to the sciences and business.

But can creativity be taught? Prof. Nira Liberman ofTel Aviv University's School of Psychological Sciences, with her students Maayan Blumenfeld, Boaz Hameiri and Orli Polack, has demonstrated that children can be "primed" for creativity by how they are persuaded to think about and see the world around them. According to their study, one catalyst of creativity is "expansive" thought — encouraging children to think about distant objects and perspectives like the galaxies in the skies above, as opposed to local objects and perspectives in their immediate surroundings.

Thinking "outwards" rather than "inwards" allows children to consider different points of view and think beyond their "here and now" reality, says Prof. Liberman, whose research has been published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. She says that relatively simple exercises can get children in the right frame of mind.

Thinking from the inside out

For their study, the researchers worked with 55 children ages six to nine. Half were shown a series of photographs that started with nearby objects and gradually progressed to more distant ones — from a close-up of the pencil sitting on their desk progressing to a picture of the Milky Way galaxy. The other half was shown exactly the same photographs but in reverse order, to induce a "contractive" frame of mind.

After viewing the series of photographs, the children completed creativity tests, including the Tel Aviv Creativity Test (TACT), in which the participant is given an object and asked to name the different uses they can think of for it. Points are given for the number of uses mentioned and the creativity of the use. The children in the expansive mind-set group scored significantly better on all of the creativity measures, coming up with a greater number of uses and more creative uses for the objects.

Spatial distance, as opposed to spatial proximity, was clearly shown to enhance creative performance, says Prof. Liberman. Increased creativity was a direct result of priming the children in the first group to think expansively rather than contractively.

This study was the first to focus on child rather than adult creativity in this type of research. In the past, Prof. Liberman and her fellow researchers investigated how creativity in adults may be enhanced by encouraging them to consider the distant future and unlikely events. Overall, "psychological distance can help to foster creativity because it encourages us to think abstractly," says Prof. Liberman of her findings.

Flexing creative muscles

This study adds to recent research by social psychologists that shows creativity is a trainable skill, not only an innate talent. Though some people are undeniably more creative than others,there are benefits from "priming" your mind to think more creatively by investigating new perspectives and thinking abstractly.

"Creativity is basically about the flexibility of thought of your mental system," explains Prof. Liberman. Like the physical stretching that makes your body more flexible, mental exercises such as problem solving can train the mind to improve its creative thinking.

"The flexibility of your mental operations is important because it underlies many human qualities, such as empathy, self regulation, problem-solving, and the ability to make new discoveries," she adds.

Head Impacts in Contact Sports May Reduce Learning in College Athletes

A new study suggests that head impacts experienced during contact sports such as football and hockey may worsen some college athletes' ability to acquire new information. The research is published in the May 16, 2012, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involved college athletes at three Division I schools and compared 214 athletes in contact sports to 45 athletes in non-contact sports such as track, crew and Nordic skiing at the beginning and at the end of their seasons. The contact sport athletes wore special helmets that recorded the acceleration speed and other data at the time of any head impact.

The contact sport athletes experienced an average of 469 head impacts during the season. Athletes were not included in the study if they were diagnosed with a concussion during the season.

All of the athletes took tests of thinking and memory skills before and after the season. A total of 45 contact sport athletes and 55 non-contact sport athletes from one of the schools also took an additional set of tests of concentration, working memory and other skills.

"The good news is that overall there were few differences in the test results between the athletes in contact sports and the athletes in non-contact sports," said study author Thomas W. McAllister, MD, of The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Lebanon, N.H. "But we did find that a higher percentage of the contact sport athletes had lower scores than would have been predicted after the season on a measure of new learning than the non-contact sport athletes."

A total of 22 percent of the contact sport athletes performed worse than expected on the test of new learning, compared to four percent of the non-contact sport athletes.

McAllister noted that the study did not find differences in test results between the two groups of athletes at the beginning of the season, suggesting that the cumulative head impacts that contact athletes had incurred over many previous seasons did not result in reduced thinking and memory skills in the overall group.

"These results are somewhat reassuring, given the recent heightened concern about the potential negative effects of these sports," he said. "Nevertheless, the findings do suggest that repetitive head impacts may have a negative effect on some athletes."

McAllister said it's possible that some people may be genetically more sensitive to head impacts.

School Board Case Studies

School Board Case Studies takes a close look at school boards and how the local business community can make them more accountable, effective, and focused on the needs of students.

This 13-city case study highlights both rural and urban districts with diverse school boards and the extent to which the business community has played a role in school governance. School boards can be responsible for everything from approving performance evaluation systems, hiring district leadership, and negotiating union contracts, to developing and enforcing budgets. Their decisions have consequences for local school systems, students, and quality of the local workforce. However, there is limited information available about how they function. Now, given the recent trend toward increased local control, school boards are likely to have increased authority over accountability decisions in the future.

These case studies show that business leaders—whether as individuals or operating through organizations such as local chambers of commerce, foundations, or public education funds—can play a critical role in supporting effective school board governance and reforms that improve student achievement. Business leaders have played an important role in creating conditions for success in Long Beach, Austin, and Duval County, among others. The case studies yield several lessons about how business leaders can play a productive role.

Download individual case studies:

Atlanta, Georgia

Austin, Texas

Bismarck, North Dakota

Dayton, Ohio

Denver, Colorado

Detroit, Michigan

Duval County, Florida

Laramie, Wyoming

Long Beach, California

Newark, New Jersey

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Seattle, Washington

The Importance of Being in School: A Report on Absenteeism in the Nation’s Public Schools

Students need to attend school daily to succeed. The good news of this report is that being in school leads to succeeding in school. Achievement, especially in math, is very sensitive to attendance, and absence of even two weeks during one school year matters. Attendance also strongly affects standardized test scores and graduation and dropout rates. Educators and policymakers cannot truly understand achievement gaps or efforts to close them without considering chronic absenteeism.

Chronic absenteeism is not the same as truancy or average daily attendance – the attendance rate schools use for state report cards and federal accountability. Chronic absenteeism means missing 10 percent of a school year for any reason. A school can have average daily attendance of 90 percent and still have 40 percent of its students chronically absent, because on different days, different students make up that 90 percent.

Data from only six states address this issue: Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon and Rhode Island. How these states measure chronic absenteeism, however, differs by number of days and by whether or not data include transfer students.

Such limited data produce only an educated guess at the size of the nation’s attendance challenge: A national rate of 10 percent chronic absenteeism seems conservative and it could be as high as 15 percent, meaning that 5 million to 7.5 million students are chronically absent. Looking at this more closely sharpens the impact. In Maryland, for instance, there are 58 elementary schools that have 50 or more chronically absent students; that is, two classrooms of students who miss more than a month of school a year. In a high school, where chronic absenteeism is higher, there are 61 schools where 250 or more students are missing a month or more of school.

The six states reported chronic absentee rates from 6 percent to 23 percent, with high poverty urban areas reporting up to one-third of students chronically absent. In poor rural areas, one in four students can miss at least a month’s worth of school. The negative impact chronic absenteeism has on school success is increased because students who are chronically absent in one year are often chronically absent in multiple years. As a result, particularly in high poverty areas, significant numbers of students are missing amounts of school that are staggering: on the order of six months to over a year, over a five year period.

Chronic absenteeism is most prevalent among low-income students. Gender and ethnic background do not appear to play a role in this. The youngest and the oldest students tend to have the highest rates of chronic absenteeism, with students attending most regularly in third through fifth grades. Chronic absenteeism begins to rise in middle school and continues climbing through 12th grade, with seniors often having the highest rate of all. The data also suggest that chronic absenteeism is concentrated in relatively few schools, with 15 percent of schools in Florida, for example, accounting for at least half of all chronically absent students.

• Missing school matters:

• In a nationally representative data set, chronic absence in kindergarten was associated with lower academic performance in first grade. The impact is twice as great for students from low-income families.

• A Baltimore study found a strong relationship between sixth-grade attendance and the percentage of students graduating on time or within a year of their expected high school graduation.

• Chronic absenteeism increases achievement gaps at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

• Because students reared in poverty benefit the most from being in school, one of the most effective strategies for providing pathways out of poverty is to do what it takes to get these students in school every day. This alone, even without improvements in the American education system, will drive up achievement, high school graduation, and college attainment rates.

• Students miss school for many reasons. These can, however, be divided into three broad categories:

• Students who cannot attend school due to illness, family responsibilities, housing instability, the need to work or involvement with the juvenile justice system.

• Students who will not attend school to avoid bullying, unsafe conditions, harassment and embarrassment.

• Students who do not attend school because they, or their parents, do not see the value in being there, they have something else they would rather do, or nothing stops them from skipping school.

Despite being pervasive, though overlooked, chronic absenteeism is raising flags in some schools and communities. This awareness is leading to attendance campaigns that are so vigorous and comprehensive they pay off quickly. Examples of progress nationally and at state, district, and school levels give hope to the challenge of chronic absenteeism, besides being models for others.

In addition to these efforts, both the federal government, state departments of education, and school districts need to regularly measure and report the rates of chronic absenteeism and regular attendance (missing five days or less a year) for every school. State and district policies need to encourage every student to attend school every day and support school districts, schools, non-profits, communities, and parents in using evidence-based strategies to act upon these data to propel all students to attend school daily. Mayors and governors have critical roles to play in leading inter-agency task forces that bring health, housing, justice, transportation, and education agencies together to organize coordinated efforts to help every student attend every day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Charter Schools: How Many Bucks for the Desired Bang?

Do charter schools live up to their supporters’ claim that they deliver a better education for less money?

While previous research has focused on the first half of that claim – education quality -- a new report published by the National Education Policy Center examines the second half – what charters spend.

Schools operated by major charter management organizations (CMOs) generally spend more than surrounding public schools, according to Spending by the Major Charter Management Organizations: Comparing Charter School & Local Public District Financial Resources in New York, Ohio and Texas.

The finding is significant, especially when programs such as the U.S. Department’s “Race to the Top” are directing more resources to charters deemed to be successful. The NEPC report presents new research on this question by Rutgers University Education Professor Bruce Baker, working with University of Colorado Boulder doctoral students Ken Libby and Kathryn Wiley. The research team examined spending in New York City, Ohio and Texas.

“Charter school finances are hard to measure,” says Baker. “Charters generally receive both public and private funds. Also, in-kind assistance and resources from districts and states to charters vary greatly. Yet we can see that the most successful charters, such as KIPP and the Achievement First schools, have substantially deeper pockets than nearby traditional schools.”

The report explains that most studies highlighting or documenting a successful charter school have sidestepped or downplayed cost implications while focusing on specific programs and strategies in those schools. The broad conclusion across these studies is that charter schools or traditional public schools can produce dramatic improvements to student outcomes in the short- and long-term by implementing “no excuses” strategies and perhaps wrap-around services. Most charter school studies conclude that these strategies either come with potentially negligible costs, or that higher costs, if any, are worthwhile since they yield a substantial return.

But according to Spending by the Major Charter Management Organizations, a “marginal expense” may be larger than it sounds. An additional $1,837 expense in Houston for a KIPP charter school, where the average middle school operating expenditure per pupil is $7,911, equals a 23 to 30 percent cost increase.

“A 30 percent increase in funding is a substantial increase by most people’s definition,” says Baker.

The study compares per-pupil spending of charter schools operated by CMOs to the spending in nearby district schools. The report’s authors examined three years of data, including information on school-level spending per pupil, school size, grade ranges and student populations served. For charter schools, the report’s authors drew spending data from government (and authorizer) reports as well as IRS non-profit financial filings (IRS 990s). Notably, the data from these two different sources matched only for New York City; the data reported for Texas and Ohio from the two sources varied considerably.

The study found many high-profile charter network schools to be outspending similar district schools in New York City and Texas. But it also found instances where charter network schools are spending less than similar district schools, particularly in Ohio. In Ohio, charters across the board spend less than district schools in the same city.

In contrast, KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools charter schools in New York City, spend substantially more ($2,000 to $4,300 per pupil) than similar district schools. Given that the average spending per pupil was around $12,000 to $14,000 citywide, a nearly $4,000 difference in spending amounts to an increase of some 30 percent.

Similarly, some charter chains in Texas, such as KIPP, spend substantially more per pupil than district schools in the same city and serving similar populations. In some Texas cities (and at the middle school level), these charters spend around 30 to 50 percent more based on state reported current expenditures. If the data from IRS filings are used, these charters are found to spend 50 to 100 percent more.

Playful Games Promote Reading Development

Short but intense training sessions in the form of structured language games from the age of four can stimulate children's early language development and may also make it easier for children to learn to read. This is found in a current research project at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Previous research has shown that children's reading development can be stimulated with structured and playful language games from the age of six. In a current three-year study, researchers at the University of Gothenburg are exploring the effects of having children as young as four participate in such games. The hypothesis is that young children who are actively stimulated in their development of so-called linguistic and phonological awareness end up better prepared for dealing with written language. Linguistic awareness means that the child is aware of his or her own language, what it sounds like and how it consists of words and sentences. Phonological awareness implies an awareness of the sound structure of the language, which is important for the early stages of reading development and for understanding the connection between letters and sounds.

The study includes 370 children as well as a number of pre-school and special needs teachers in eight municipalities. The studied children receive phonological training for 25 minutes a day for six weeks. The six-week period is repeated with the same children for a total of three years, with pre- and post-tests during the three years. The children are divided into three groups -- one phonological group, one group receiving alternative training, and one control group that is not receiving any particular training. In the third and final year, all three groups are offered phonological training within the framework of the regular pre-school work.

The preliminary findings indicate that the phonological training had an effect immediately following the training, and that the effect can be observed one year later as well. 'The children in the intervention group had a higher level of phonological awareness. They were for example able to identify and manipulate speech sounds. Rhyming is one example of this. The ability to recognize the form of the language is something that researchers know is important for early reading development,' says Senior Lecturer Ulrika Wolff, who is heading the project together with Professor Jan-Eric Gustafsson.

Since the studied children are still in pre-school, they are not yet being taught the art of reading. The researchers are planning to follow the same group of children for a few years once they start school in order to investigate the more long-term effects of early intervention on the development of reading and writing skills. Doing so will show whether or not the children who have not received the training are able to catch up with the intervention group.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Youth with Autism Face Barriers to Employment and Education After High School

Compared with youth with other disabilities, young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) face a disproportionately difficult time navigating work and educational opportunities after high school, finds a new study by Paul Shattuck, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Thirty-five percent of the youth with ASDs had no engagement with employment or education in the first six years after high school,” Shattuck says.

“Rates of involvement in all employment and education were lower for those with lower income.”

The study, published in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics, examined data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS2), a nine-year study of adolescents who were enrolled in special education at the outset. The NLTS2 included groups of adolescents with ASDs, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities and speech and language impairments.

“Compared with youth in the three other disability categories, those with an ASD had significantly lower rates of employment and the highest overall rates of no participation in any work or education whatsoever,” Shattuck says.

“Those with an ASD had a greater than 50-percent chance of being unemployed and disengaged from higher education for the first two years after high school.” Shattuck notes that approximately 50,000 youth with ASDs will turn 18 this year in the United States.

“Many families with children with autism describe turning 18 as falling off a cliff because of the lack of services for adults with ASDs,” he says.

“The years immediately after high school are key. They are the time when people create an important foundation for the rest of their lives.

“There needs to be further research into services for young adults with ASDs to help them make the transition into adulthood and employment or further education.” Shattuck says that particular attention should be paid to interventions that will help poorer youth overcome barriers to accessing services and achieving fuller participation in society.

Evaluation of Green Dot Charter High Schools Locke Transformation Project

The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) conducted a multi-year evaluation of a major school reform project at Alain Leroy Locke High School, historically one of California’s lowest performing secondary schools.

Beginning in 2007, Locke High School transitioned into a set of smaller, Green Dot Charter High Schools, subsequently referred to as Green Dot Locke (GDL) in this report. Based on 9th grade students who entered GDL in 2007 and 2008 respectively, CRESST used a range of student outcomes to monitor progress of the GDL transformation.

The CRESST evaluation, employing a strong quasi-experimental design with propensity score matching, found statistically significant, positive effects for the GDL transformation including improved achievement, school persistence, and completion of college preparatory courses.

Pay-to-play sports keeping lower-income kids out of the game

Nearly 1 in 5 lower-income parents report costs forced their children to cut back on sports, according to U-M's National Poll on Children's Health

In an era of tight funding, school districts across the country are cutting their athletic budgets. Many schools are implementing athletic participation fees to cover the cost of school sports. But those fees have forced kids in lower-income families to the sidelines, according to a new poll that found nearly one in five lower-income parents report their children are participating less in school sports.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health recently asked parents of middle- and high-school-age children nationwide about participation and cost of school sports.

Overall, 61 percent of children playing middle or high school sports were charged a pay-to-play fee. The averafe fee was $93, according to the poll respondents, but 21% of children faced a pay-to-play fee of $150 or more.

However, pay-to-play fees are only one component of the school sports costs reported by parents. Including equipment, uniforms and additional team fees,, the average cost for a child's sports participation was $381.

Researchers found that 12 percent of parents overall said that the cost of school sports caused a drop in participation for at least one of their children. However, that varied substantially based on income. Among lower-income families, those earning less than $60,000 per year, 19 percent said their children's participation decreased because of costs. But among families earning more than $60,000 per year, only 5 percent reported costs had caused their children to participate less.

"As pay-to-play becomes the norm, nearly 1 in 5 lower-income parents reported their kids decreased their sports participation – that's significant," says Sarah Clark, M.P.H., Associate Director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit at the University of Michigan and Associate Director of the National Poll on Children's Health.

The poll found only 6 percent of participants received a waiver of pay-to-play fees. Perhaps, Clark says, schools need to look at their waiver policies and consider options like partial waivers, installment payments, or other means to provide flexibility for families. .

"We know that participating in school sports offers many benefits to children and teens: higher school achievement, lower dropout rates, improved health, reduced obesity and the development of skills like teamwork and problem-solving," says Clark.

"There's not an athletic director, school administrator or coach out there who doesn't want every kid to have a chance to participate. But there are no easy answers, especially because budgets are expected to get tighter and tighter."

Each year millions of children and teens play competitive sports through their middle and high schools. Clark says she hopes these data can help spur conversation among school officials about how to make sure children in lower-income families are not left out.

Searching for the reality of virtual schools

This study, from the Center for Public Education, focuses on what we know and don't know about online K-12 education.

Main findings

• Online courses and schools enroll a small fraction of the 52 million public school students, but they are rapidly gaining ground. In 2009-10, elementary and secondary students took approximately 1.8 million courses online. In addition, about 250,000 students were enrolled full-time in virtual schools in 2010-11, up from 200,000 the year before.
• The development, management and staffing of online courses and schools is supported by both public and private providers. For-profit companies K-12, Inc., and Connections Academy together enrolled nearly half of all full-time online students in 2010-11.
• Funding for online learning varies by state, and ranges from 70 to 100 percent of state and local per pupil rates. The impact on district funds also varies by state. In some states, districts are billed for each student enrolled online. In addition, accounting for the actual cost of virtual courses and schools is often lacking.
• The jury is still out on the effect of online courses on K-12 student achievement. The U.S. Department of Education reviewed existing research and found a modest positive impact of online courses, but cautioned that the findings were based mostly on results for post-secondary students.
• Emerging reports show a troubling overall picture of poor performance and low graduation rates for full-time online students. Two small-scale studies found positive effects for elementary students, suggesting that parental supervision could be an important factor.
• There needs to be a clearer accountability path for online learning, especially in regard to monitoring student progress and performance as well as accounting for the cost of virtual schooling.

Online learning is rapidly growing at all levels, but particularly among high school students:

• 55 percent of public school districts have some students enrolled in distance education courses; of these, the vast majority (96 percent) are high school students (Watson et al., 2011).
• Total K-12 course enrollments were approximately 1.8 million in 2009-10; special needs students and students from low-income families were the least likely to participate in virtual courses (Watson et al., 2011).
• Ohio reports the highest number of full-time online enrollments in 2010-11 at 31,142, followed by Pennsylvania (28,578) and Colorado (15,214) (Watson et al., 2011).

States and districts have different policies regarding students in online learning courses. The degree to which districts monitor the performance of online students varies considerably. In many cases it is much less than required for students taking classes in traditional schools and should cause some alarm. For instance, while 98 percent of districts monitored students’ final grades in online education courses, only about half tracked students’ log in activity or time spent online.

Student outcomes
The one aspect of online learning that stands out is how little is known about its effect on student outcomes, especially at the K-12 level. Several attempts to document student performance have been thwarted by missing and incomplete data, lax monitoring rules, and a vague picture of students dropping in and out of the online environment and subsequently the accountability system. A few studies document online students outperforming their non-digital peers, showing that online learning can be a vehicle for high performance under the right conditions. Most of the studies we found that examine test scores, graduation or completion rates, however, tell a story of students worse off than their classmates in brick-and-mortar schools. Reports of high school completion rates at or under 25 percent, lower test scores, and high dropout rates in some virtual schools raise serious concerns for school districts, students, and parents. The contrast between two examples should illustrate the need for serious examination:

• A Stanford University study looked at eight Pennsylvania virtual charter schools and found that every one of them performed significantly worse in reading and math than their traditional school counterparts in terms of student gains. The study covered the period 2007-2010.
• An independent evaluation of Rocketship Education, a national “hybrid” or blended learning charter school network, showed sizable math gains among participating students at kindergarten and grade 1 compared to their peers. The average gains were equivalent to a 5.5 increase in percentile rankings over a 16-week period.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Development and Implementation of Title III Accountability

Complete Report

Related Article

Title III, Section 3122(a), requires states to establish accountability systems to monitor state and district performance in supporting ELs’ English language proficiency development and mastery of challenging academic content. Under these accountability systems, states must set three performance objectives known as Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs), and then hold Title III–funded districts accountable for meeting those performance objectives every year. Title III districts that do not meet their AMAOs for two or four consecutive years are subject to state actions and support. The three AMAOs are defined as follows:

1. Annual increases in the number or percentage of students making progress in learning English (AMAO 1)

2. Annual increases in the number or percentage of students attaining English proficiency (AMAO 2)

3. Making AYP for limited English proficient children as described in Title I, Section 1111(b)(2)(B), of ESEA (AMAO 3)

As of 2009–10, nearly all states (48 and the District of Columbia) had revised their AMAOs since putting them into place, and most states (26) had instituted new AMAOs within the last two years.

In the early years of Title III implementation, states had limited data, guidance, and infrastructure to inform the development of their AMAOs. As a result, in the years following states’ initial implementation of AMAOs, these Title III objectives were refined and revised as states made improvements to their ELP assessment system, acquired additional years of ELP test data, and gained access to new guidance and research. As of 2009–10, officials in nearly all states (48 and the District of Columbia) reported that they had revised their AMAOs at least once, and officials in 17 of those states indicated that they had revised their AMAOs multiple times. The nature of these revisions varied, ranging from small adjustments in AMAO targets to a complete overhaul in how the state defined and calculated its AMAOs. An important implication of such widespread revisions is that states’ criteria for meeting AMAOs may differ from one year to the next; thus, it would be inappropriate to compare those AMAO performance results across years.

Due to variation in how states defined and measured their AMAOs, AMAOs in one state were not comparable to AMAOs in another state.

While all states and the District of Columbia base AMAO 1 and 2 determinations on students’ ELP assessment results,10 states’ numeric targets and definitions of “progress” and “proficiency” for these AMAOs have varied across states since Title III was enacted. One source of this variation stems from differences in states’ ELP assessments; yet, even states that shared a common ELP test employed different approaches for making AMAO determinations (Boyle et al. 2010).

In addition, several studies have documented differences in how states determine adequate yearly progress (AYP) under Title I, which serves as the basis for AMAO 3 (e.g., Taylor et al. 2010). As a result, differences in how states have defined their three AMAOs precludes comparisons of performance from one state to another, and different states may designate more or fewer Title III districts for accountability actions and support depending on the rigor of their AMAOs.

Only 10 states met their state-level AMAOs for the 2008–09 school year, but at the district-level, 55 percent of Title III districts nationwide reported meeting their AMAOs in 2008–09.

According to annual state performance reports, only 10 states met all three of their state-level AMAOs for 2008–09.11 These states constitute a diverse set and include states with large numbers of ELs, states with small numbers of ELs, states with growing EL populations, and states with a long history of serving ELs. Among Title III districts that reported an AMAO status for 2008–09, about half (55 percent) indicated that they had met all three AMAOs in the 2008–09 school year. However, altogether, these districts served less than half of the nation’s EL population (39 percent); thus, the majority of ELs were enrolled in districts that did not meet all three of their AMAOs in 2008–09. Of the three individual AMAOs, Title III districts were least likely to report meeting AMAO 3, making AYP for the EL subgroup, in 2008–09 (64 percent of Title III districts, compared with 89 percent that reported meeting AMAO 1 and 82 percent that reported meeting AMAO 2).

Based on 2008–09 data, about one-third of Title III districts, which collectively served about one-half of the nation’s EL population, reported missing at least one of their AMAOs for two (22 percent) or four (11 percent) consecutive years, subjecting them to accountability actions under Title III.

Among Title III districts that could report their Title III accountability status for 2008–09 (89 percent of Title III districts), 22 percent reported missing AMAOs for two consecutive years, and 11 percent reported missing AMAOs for four consecutive years.12 These districts accounted for approximately 50 percent of the nation’s Title III-served ELs. Indeed, Title III districts with larger numbers of ELs were more likely than districts with smaller EL populations to indicate that they were designated for improvement actions under Title III after missing AMAOs for two or four consecutive years. About half (51 percent) of Title III districts that served more than 1,000 ELs reported missing AMAOs for either two (30 percent) or four (21 percent) consecutive years whereas 20 percent of Title III districts that served 150 ELs or fewer reported missing AMAOs for two or four consecutive years (16 percent and 5 percent, respectively).

In 2009–10, all states with Title III districts that had missed AMAOs for two consecutive years (46 and the District of Columbia) reported requiring those districts to develop an improvement plan, and most states with Title III districts that had missed AMAOs for four consecutive years reported requiring such districts to make instructional changes (18 of 24 states as well as the District of Columbia).

A chief function of Title III accountability systems involves building capacity and stimulating activities to improve EL services among Title III districts that repeatedly miss their annual performance objectives. To this end, states must require any Title III district that misses its AMAOs for two consecutive years to

In 2009–10, officials in 74 percent of Title III districts reported that all teachers serving ELs were fully certified for their positions. However, officials in more than half of Title III districts reported difficulty recruiting some categories of EL teachers.

Ensuring that teachers of ELs—including ESL teachers, bilingual teachers, and mainstream classroom teachers—have the appropriate qualifications and expertise to teach ELs is a central capacity-building role of states and districts. One of the main mechanisms for carrying out this role is through certification requirements. Overall, in 2009–10, 49 states and the District of Columbia offered an ESL certification or endorsement, and in 41 of these, such certification was required for teachers who specialize in EL instruction. In another three states this certification was recommended. In five states, ESL certification was not required, although the states did offer such certification or endorsements.

Among Title III districts, 74 percent reported that all teachers of ELs were fully certified for their positions, and in only 7 percent of districts were more than 10 percent of teachers not fully certified for their positions. However, it appears that “full certification” is not equivalent to “adequate expertise” from the perspective of district EL administrators: among those surveyed, 73 percent reported that “lack of expertise among mainstream teachers to address the needs of ELs” was a moderate or major challenge. Furthermore, officials in 54 percent of Title III districts reported difficulty hiring secondary content area teachers with training to provide instruction for ELs.

In 2009–10, 87 percent of Title III districts reported implementing at least one strategy to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers of ELs.

The most frequently reported strategy to support teachers of ELs was the provision of financial incentives to pursue advanced course work, such as stipends for course work or paid release time for professional development (43 percent of Title III districts). In addition, about one-third of Title III districts established partnerships with universities (35 percent), and another third developed teacher induction programs specifically for teachers of ELs (32 percent). Fewer districts (12 percent) reported financial incentives to recruit teachers, such as signing bonuses or housing incentives.


Overall, the findings presented in this report suggest that states and districts are implementing the provisions of Title III but challenges remain as states and districts strive to put the law into practice across a wide range of educational contexts.

—Title III districts vary considerably in the criteria they use to determine which students are considered ELs, meaning that a student who is identified as an EL according to one district’s practices may or may not be identified as such according to another district’s practices (even within the same state), raising implications for state and local EL funding levels, accountability, and service delivery for this subpopulation.

—State ELP standards and assessments have provided new tools and data to guide the instruction of ELs, but many states are still working to revise and improve these tools. Educators may still need additional support in meeting the needs of ELs in the classroom, and educators interviewed in this study expressed some concerns about the validity of content assessments for ELs. Some of these educators also perceived that the administration of assessments can come at the cost of lost instructional time for students and staff.

—States have established accountability systems that direct consequences and support to districts needing to improve EL outcomes; however, the performance objectives that underlie these systems vary considerably across states and have undergone considerable revision, complicating comparisons of performance across states and over time.

—States and districts indicated limitations in their capacities to support EL needs as they confronted challenges associated with insufficient funding for EL services, limitations in their data systems, shortages of staff with EL expertise, and a lack of information on proven programs for serving ELs.

Despite the challenges expressed here, Title III seems to have raised awareness of the needs of ELs, an historically overlooked population, as states, districts, and schools have engaged in increased efforts to accurately identify ELs, place them into instructional services that meet their needs, and assess and monitor their progress toward attaining proficiency in English and achieving state academic standards.

World's Top Countries for Higher Education

New research into national education systems gives the first ranking of countries that are the 'best' at providing higher education.

Research authors at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research,University of Melbourne, looked at the most recent data from 48 countries across 20 different measures. The range of measures is grouped under four headings: resources (investment by government and private sector), output (research and its impact, as well as the production of an educated workforce which meets labour market needs), connectivity (international networks and collaboration which protects a system against insularity) and environment (government policy and regulation, diversity and participation opportunities). Population size is accounted for in the calculations.

Overall, in the Universitas 21 Ranking of higher education systems, the top five were found to be the United States, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Denmark.

Government funding of higher education as a percentage of GDP is highest in Finland, Norway and Denmark, but when private expenditure is added in, funding is highest in the United States, Korea, Canada and Chile. Investment in Research and Development is highest in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. The United States dominates the total output of research journal articles, but Sweden is the biggest producer of articles per head of population. The nations whose research has the greatest impact are Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States, United Kingdom and Denmark. While the United States and United Kingdom have the world's top institutions in rankings, the depth of world class higher education institutions per head of population is best in Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and Denmark.

The highest participation rates in higher education are in Korea, Finland, Greece, the United States, Canada and Slovenia. The countries with the largest proportion of workers with a higher level education are Russia, Canada, Israel, United States, Ukraine, Taiwan and Australia. Finland, Denmark, Singapore, Norway and Japan have the highest ratio of researchers in the economy.

International students form the highest proportions of total student numbers in Australia, Singapore, Austria, United Kingdom and Switzerland. International research collaboration is most prominent in Indonesia, Switzerland, Hong Kong SAR, Denmark, Belgium and Austria. China, India, Japan and the United States rank in the bottom 25 percent of countries for international research collaboration. In all but eight countries at least 50 percent of students were female, the lowest being in India and Korea. In only five countries were there at least 50 percent female staff; the lowest being in Japan and Iran.

Lead author, Professor Ross Williams at the University of Melbourne, said: "In a globalised world, a strong higher education system is essential if a nation is to be economically competitive.

"While there are a number of well-regarded global rankings of individual institutions, these don't shed any light on the broader picture of how well a nation's system educates its students, the environment it provides for encouraging and supporting excellence. Students choose countries to study in as much as individual institutions, and the Universitas 21 Ranking offers clear data to support decision-making."

Jane Usherwood, Secretary General of Universitas 21, said: "More transparency and clarity is needed around the comparative strengths and qualities of national education systems around the world in order to encourage knowledge-sharing, collaboration and development of opportunities for students in all countries. We hope the Universitas 21 Ranking will become an established point of reference for policy-makers, education institutions and development bodies globally."

Universitas 21 is an international research network of 24 universities and colleges. Its membership works together to encourage international mobility and engagement between staff and students.

Friday, May 11, 2012

NJ: Statewide Report on Arts Education Finds Nearly Every Child Has Access to Arts Education, With Access Increasing Over Past Five Years

Nearly every child in New Jersey has access to arts education in their school, according to a survey released today from the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project.

The survey is the most comprehensive assessment of arts education in New Jersey schools ever conducted and reflects data collected from 99 percent of New Jersey's public schools.

The Census Project is part of a public-private partnership that includes the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, New Jersey Department of Education, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Arts Education Partnership, ArtPride New Jersey Foundation, and Quadrant Arts Education Research.

Report Documents:
Keeping the Promise Executive Summary
Interactive School Information

The survey found that 97% of New Jersey students have access to arts education in their schools, with music and visual art nearly universally available.

The survey also revealed that New Jersey high schools with more arts education tended to have a greater percentage of students who were highly proficient in language arts on the High School Proficiency Assessment test. High schools with more arts education saw higher rates of students planning to enroll in a four-year college.

"The arts are a vital part of the high quality education New Jersey students need to thrive and succeed in today's competitive, creative economy," said Assistant Secretary of State Carol Cronheim.

Signaling the high value the Department of Education places on a complete education, this survey marks the second time the department has collected information about the implementation of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards for visual and performing arts.

"We know that in order for students to truly be ready for the demands of the 21st century, we need to provide a broad curriculum that includes the arts," said Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. "I am encouraged to see that the number of students with access to the arts in school continues to increase, and we will continue our work to strengthen those programs."

Other findings include:

• The number of New Jersey students with daily access to arts has increased by 54,000 since 2006, growing from 94% to 97% of all students.

• The percentage of New Jersey schools adopting core curricular standards in visual and performing arts has increased from 81% in 2006 to 97% in 2011.

• Well above 90% of all New Jersey schools use appropriately certified arts specialists as the primary provider for music and visual art instruction.

• More than 90% of New Jersey public schools interact with more than 972 community arts organizations to enhance visual and performing arts programs.

• While access to arts education has increased, spending on arts supplies and materials has declined by 30% at the elementary level and by 44% at the high school level.

The survey's findings are reported in Keeping the Promise - Arts Education for Every Child: The Distance Traveled – The Journey Remaining. The report's name is a nod to the benchmark study released in 2007, the nationally acclaimed Within Our Power: The Progress, Plight and Promise of Arts Education for Every Child, which helped shape the strategic efforts of the arts education community over the past five years.

Keeping the Promise reports that New Jersey has made great strides in achieving equal access to arts education for all students in the state but there is still work to do.

"There have been significant gains in key areas since the 2007 report on the implementation of policies and increased access to the arts. More remains to be done," said Bob Morrison of Quadrant and the survey project's director. "Two key findings include the need for better accountability for arts education. Great policies with uneven accountability mean many students who should participate in arts programs are not given the opportunity. Secondly, there are great arts programs across all economic categories in New Jersey, but for the first time we are seeing a connection between the affluence of a community and the level of arts education."

"The New Jersey Arts Education Census Project has once again demonstrated the importance of data in getting a full picture of the creative life of our schools," said Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation CEO Chris Daggett. "Significant gains have been made in the past five years in regards to policy yet the declines in student participation in the arts raise serious questions about barriers that still remain. I look forward to further research that will help inform next steps to ensure more New Jersey students benefit from a robust arts curriculum."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NCLB Improved Test Scores for Language but Not for Reading, Math in Rural Alabama

The No Child Left Behind Act has bolstered language test scores but done little to improve math and reading scores for students in rural Alabama schools, according to a new study by Auburn University and RTI International.

The study, published in the June issue of Regional and Sectoral Economic Studies, used eight years of county-level data to assess the effects of No Child Left Behind on student performance in Alabama's rural schools.

Reading and math proficiency for all students is one of the primary goals of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which requires states to measure student progress by conducting annual assessments. Based on the results, schools are held accountable for making adequate yearly progress toward the act's goals and receive rewards or sanctions based on their status.

The research team found that while changes to the state's school accountability system associated with No Child Left Behind had a positive effect on eighth grade test scores for language and for test score gains in language between the fourth and eighth grades, the measured effects on test scores for reading and math are mostly zero or negative.

"The results suggest that the act failed in its major objective, which was to enhance students' proficiency in math and reading," said Yuqing Zheng, Ph.D., a research economist at RTI and one of the study's co-authors.

To determine the impact of No Child Left Behind, the researchers focused on Stanford Achievement Test scores from fourth and eighth grade students in Alabama's 67 county school systems between 1999 and 2007. The scores were averages taken from all public schools in each county, exclusive of city schools.

The study found that No Child Left Behind is associated with a statewide increase in test score level for language of 3.2 percent as well as statewide declines in average reading and math test score levels of 2.6 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively._The study focused on Alabama county schools because minorities and the economically disadvantaged – a main target of the legislation – are well represented in those districts.

"Though the findings themselves cannot be directly extended to other states, the methodology has some unique aspects, including an elegant method for accounting for the adequate yearly progress provision in the mandate," Zheng said.

The researchers also identified several variables that had a strong impact on student performance including district size, the percentage of families living in poverty, median family income and teacher pay.

"Teacher pay is a key variable affecting test scores in our model," said Zheng. "While per pupil spending increased during this time, unfortunately, teacher pay declined by 11.4 percent in real terms between the pre- and post-No Child Left Behind periods, and thus had no effect on test scores according to our results."

Snack Choices of Fourth- and Fifth-Grade Students

Fighting Childhood Obesity in America Through Health Nutrition Education

A health nutrition education program to fight childhood obesity in America is a possible outcome of a study by a University of Oklahoma researcher and a colleague. The study looked at factors affecting a child’s decision when choosing healthy or unhealthy snacks.

Paul Branscum, assistant professor, OU Department of Health and Exercise Science, College of Arts and Sciences, surveyed 167 fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Midwest to find out what snacks the students were eating between meals. Branscum asked the students to record their choices over a 24-hour-period.

Survey results show students have more control when choosing snacks and, unfortunately, the high-caloric snacks are the least expensive. Overall, the group averaged 300 calories from high-calorie snacks, such as chips, cookies and candies—almost 17% of their daily caloric intake needs. It also showed children were consuming 45 calories from fruit and vegetable snacks, which is about half a piece of fruit.

Snacking has been linked to childhood obesity, so it is concerning to learn that female students consume more higher-caloric snacks than male students. African-American children consumed the least high-calorie snacks when compared with Hispanic, Caucasian and Asian children.

The study found that snack choices resulted from the student’s positive or negative intentions towards choosing healthy snacks. Also, a student’s snack choices resulted from their attitudes toward the snacks, pressure felt from peers and family members to eat healthy snacks, and the ability to control the choice of snacks.

“Changing a student’s attitude toward healthier snacks lies in the ability to show the immediate benefits of a healthier lifestyle,” says Branscum. “It’s doubtful they will see the long-term benefits that result from fighting obesity, which leads to chronic diseases in adulthood.

What We Know About Second Language Acquisition

Educational policies that impact second language (L2) learners—a rapidly-growing group—are often enacted without consulting relevant research. This review synthesized research regarding optimal conditions for L2 acquisition, facilitative L2 learner and teacher characteristics, and speed of L2 acquisition, from four bodies of work—foreign language education, child language research, sociocultural studies, and psycholinguistics—often overlooked by educators. Seventy-one peer-reviewed journal articles studying PK-12 L2 learners met inclusion criteria.

Findings included:

1) Optimal conditions for L2 learners immersed in a majority-L2 society include strong home literacy practices, opportunities to use the L2 informally, well-implemented specially-designed L2 educational programs, and sufficient time devoted to L2 literacy instruction, whereas L2 learners with little L2 exposure require explicit instruction to master grammar;

2) L2 learners with strong L2 aptitude, motivation, and first language (L1) skills are more successful;

3) Effective L2 teachers demonstrate sufficient L2 proficiency, strong instructional skills, and proficiency in their students’ L1;

4) L2 learners require 3-7 years to reach L2 proficiency, with younger learners typically taking longer but more likely to achieve close-to-native results.

These findings, even those most relevant to education, are not reflected in current US policy. Additional research is needed on the characteristics of successful or unsuccessful L2 learners and L2 teachers. Such research should attend systematically to the differences between L2 learning in maximal versus minimal input settings; whereas the psycholinguistic challenges of L2 learning might be common across settings, the sociocultural and interactional challenges and opportunities differ in ways that can massively impact outcomes.

“What Does Teaching Do to Teachers?” Willard Waller’s Sociology of Teaching Reconsidered

In this study, Willard Waller’s (1932/1976) classic account of what teaching does to teachers is examined through the lens of psychoanalytic theory in conjunction with Ovid’s myth of Narcissus. Parallel themes within the two texts are analyzed and interpreted as suggesting that narcissistic psychological processes played a part in distorting teachers’ personalities in the 1930s. Role expectations and tasks associated with being a teacher, it is suggested, reinforced a narcissistic pattern of behavior that influenced identity formation and teacher stereotypes. Transformation is considered in light of contemporary psychoanalytic understandings of narcissistic disturbances and interpretations of the Narcissus myth, recent relevant research in cognitive science, and implications for transforming educational practice.

Public Online Charter School Students: Choices, Perceptions, and Traits

There has been a steady growth of the K-12 student population taking courses online. This study examined reasons for students to choose a public online charter school program and their perceptions of online discussion. A survey was sent to 1,500 students newly enrolled in a statewide public online charter school program. From those who responded, 44% indicated that the online discussion component is not helpful in achieving their academic goals. Also, further analysis suggested that those who drop out of traditional schools probably would not stay even in an online program unless the program adequately supported the students. In this report, interrelationships among perceptual measures along with traits and preferences of online students are discussed and suggestions are made for educators.

Eighth-Graders Make Gains in NAEP Science Scores

Data from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) find that our nation’s dighth-grade students have made gains in science since 2009. The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2011 presents results from the 2011 NAEP assessment administered to eighth-grade students across the country. The report presents results for the nation, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense Schools.

Key findings from The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2011 include:

• In 2011, a higher percentage of students performed at or above the Basic and Proficient achievement levels than in 2009.

• The achievement gap between Black and White students narrowed between 2009 and 2011, with average scores since 2009 rising by 1 point for White students and by 3 points for Black students.

• The achievement gap between Hispanic and White students also narrowed between 2009 and 2011, with average scores since 2009 rising by 1 point for White students and by 5 points for Hispanic students.

• Public school students in 16 states and jurisdictions have made gains since 2009.

• No state scored lower in 2011 than in 2009.

• Public school students in 28 states scored higher than their peers in the nation; students in 15 states and the District of Columbia scored lower than their peers nationally.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Babies' brains benefit from music lessons

After completing the first study of its kind, researchers at McMaster University have discovered that very early musical training benefits children even before they can walk or talk.

They found that one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.

The findings were published recently in the scientific journals Developmental Science and Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

"Many past studies of musical training have focused on older children," says Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind. "Our results suggest that the infant brain might be particularly plastic with regard to musical exposure."

Trainor, together with David Gerry, a music educator and graduate student, received an award from the Grammy Foundation in 2008 to study the effects of musical training in infancy. In the recent study, groups of babies and their parents spent six months participating in one of two types of weekly music instruction.

One music class involved interactive music-making and learning a small set of lullabies, nursery rhymes and songs with actions. Parents and infants worked together to learn to play percussion instruments, take turns and sing specific songs.

In the other music class, infants and parents played at various toy stations while recordings from the popular Baby Einstein series played in the background.

Before the classes began, all the babies had shown similar communication and social development and none had previously participated in other baby music classes.

"Babies who participated in the interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music," says Trainor. "Specifically, they preferred to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key, versus a version that included out-of-key notes. Infants who participated in the passive listening classes did not show the same preferences. Even their brains responded to music differently. Infants from the interactive music classes showed larger and/or earlier brain responses to musical tones."

The non-musical differences between the two groups of babies were even more surprising, say researchers.

Babies from the interactive classes showed better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye. Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or didn't go their way.

While both class types included listening to music and all the infants heard a similar amount of music at home, a big difference between the classes was the interactive exposure to music.

"There are many ways that parents can connect with their babies," says study coordinator Andrea Unrau. "The great thing about music is, everyone loves it and everyone can learn simple interactive musical games together."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Female and younger athletes take longer to overcome concussions

New research out of Michigan State University reveals female athletes and younger athletes take longer to recover from concussions, findings that call for physicians and athletic trainers to take sex and age into account when dealing with the injury.

The study, led by Tracey Covassin of MSU's Department of Kinesiology, found females performed worse than males on visual memory tests and reported more symptoms postconcussion.

Additionally, high school athletes performed worse than college athletes on verbal and visual memory tests, and some of the younger athletes still were impaired up to two weeks after their injuries.

"While previous research suggests younger athletes and females may take longer to recover from a concussion, little was known about the interactive effects of age and sex on symptoms, cognitive testing and postural stability," said Covassin, a certified athletic trainer at MSU.

"This study confirms that age and sex have an impact on recovery, and future research should focus on developing treatments tailored to those differences."

The research funded by a two-year grant from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, appears in the current edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Between 2001 and 2005, federal statistics reveal more than 150,000 sport-related concussions occurred among youth ages 14 to 19. However, the actual number is likely much higher, as current statistics reflects only concussions that involved visits to the emergency departments.

The study led by Covassin looked at nearly 300 concussed athletes from multiple states over two years. All of the athletes had previously completed a baseline test before taking three different postconcussion tests, the same ones used in professional sports, after being injured.

When it comes to sex differences, Covassin - who has worked with thousands of young athletes across mid-Michigan since coming to MSU in 2005 - said what often is needed most is simple education.

"We need to raise awareness that yes, female athletes do get concussions," she said. "Too often, when we speak with parents and coaches, they overlook the fact that in comparable sports, females are concussed more than males."

Coupled with the fact that high school athletes take longer to recover than collegiate athletes, Covassin said the study reveals a real potential danger to younger athletes by not fully recovering after a concussion.

"Younger athletes appear more at risk for second-impact syndrome, where a second concussion can come with more severe symptoms," she said. "While it is rare, there is a serious risk for brain damage, and the risk is heightened when athletes are coming back before they heal."

The next steps, Covassin said, are to investigate sex and age differences at the youth sport level and whether treatment options needed to be tailored for an athlete's age.

"If we can develop treatments that speak directly to sex and age, I think we can better protect athletes from the long-term side effects of concussions," she said.