Education Research Report

The Best Academic Software

College students have always had to worry about paying for their textbooks, but our modern world has added some new expenses in the form of academic software. Products such as the Adobe Creative Cloud and the Microsoft Office suite are all but essential to students and teachers alike, and paying for them can be just as difficult as paying for any science textbook.

Whether you're a college student or a new teacher, it's essential that you know how to choose the best academic software for your needs. Here are a few things that you should be looking for.

Affordability

Affordability is one of the most important aspects of any academic software when it comes to college students. In the past, many products were simply too expensive for students and even some schools, but things are changing thanks to websites that allow you to purchase affordable software with a click of a mouse. Research several of these sites to make sure you're getting the best software deals.

Usability

Of course, any software you choose for yourself or your students should be easy to use. Most software is designed with usability in mind, but there is still some more complicated programs that may scare some people away. Once again, do some research to find software that is effective yet easy to use.

Compatibility

Finally, any academic software you choose should be compatible with multiple file types and operating systems. This is especially important for teachers who need to make sure that all of their students are on the same page. Nobody should fall behind in class because a computer program won't let them finish their work.
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Unlocking Academic Potential of Students of Color Key to Future of American Economy



As students of color and diverse ethnicities rapidly become the leading population of public school systems in numerous states, closing educational achievement gaps and providing a quality education to all students can secure the United State’s future economic prosperity, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Noting that two-thirds of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending, the report, Inseparable Imperatives: Equity in Education and the Future of the American Economy, argues that raising individuals’ education levels will boost their purchasing power and increase the national economy.

“Historically, the country’s moral failure to provide all children with an adequate and equal education did not incur a noticeable economic cost,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “This is no longer the case. Today, the moral imperative to equitably provide all students with a quality education is now a critical factor in maintaining the United States’s national economic strength.

“Thanksgiving weekend is the year’s busiest shopping period,” Wise continued. “Ask any retailer whether their future depends on consumers earning a high school dropout’s $9 per hour or the $20 per hour of postsecondary achievement.”


As shown in the map above—taken from the report—students of color make up more than half of the K–12 population in twelve states (dark green) and comprise between 40 and 50 percent of the student population in an additional ten states (light green).

At the same time, however, the high school graduation rates of students of color trail those of their white peers by an average of more than 20 percentage points.

Educational disparities continue into higher education where, in 2011, 31 percent of whites age twenty-five and older held at least a bachelor’s degree compared to just 20 percent and 14 percent of blacks and Hispanics, respectively.

According to the report, individuals lacking a quality education will struggle to compete in today’s knowledge-driven economy where 60 percent of jobs require some education after high school. Based on the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics , high school dropouts are more than three times as likely to be unemployed than are college graduates. Even when employed and at the peak of their earnings career, high school dropouts average about $9 per hour compared to high school graduates and those with bachelor’s degrees, who earn $13 and $25 per hour, respectively, according to an economic model developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education with the support of State Farm®.

As the report notes, individuals earning $9 per hour will face difficulty supporting themselves, much less a family. Making rent and car payments would be even more challenging. And a down payment and a monthly home mortgage payment—the bedrock of family and community stability—would be completely out of reach.

“Two-thirds of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending,” said Wise. “A dropout’s subsistence level is a tough situation for any individual and a disaster for any economy based on growing numbers of consumers living this reality,” said Wise. “To be prosperous in this century, the United States must have more than a $9-per-hour economy. As students of color fast become the largest group of consumers, their ability to be major drivers of individual and national economic growth depends upon the quality of their education.”

For example, if every state had reached America’s Promise Alliance’s goal of graduating 90 percent of its students, many of whom are students of color, for just the Class of 2011, America would have more than 750,000 additional high school graduates. These “new graduates”—many of whom would have likely pursued postsecondary education—would earn more during their lifetimes, and in turn, they would spend more with a high school diploma than without, thus driving America’s economic productivity and growth.

Specifically, the additional graduates from just one high school class would likely earn an additional $9 billion each year compared to their earnings without a high school diploma, the report notes. With this additional income, these students would spend more money in their communities. This increased economic activity would create a ripple effect, supporting the creation of as many as 47,000 additional new jobs and $2 billion of increased tax revenue by the time these new graduates reach the midpoint of their careers.

Wise also noted that previous economic research by the Alliance demonstrates that raising the graduation rates for the growing numbers of African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American students would produce an increasingly significant boost for the economy. “Achieving a 90 percent graduation rate for students of color or ethnicity for just the Class of 2011,” Wise stated, “means an annual gain of as much as $6.4 billion in increased earnings, additional spending creating as many as 34,000 new jobs, and as much as $1.5 billion in increased tax revenues.

“As federal and state policymakers wrestle these next months with how to improve a slow economy,” Wise continued, “this report conclusively demonstrates that in this information age, achieving a successful economy is now directly linked to achieving educational equity.”

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Snapshot of School Improvement Grants Data


The U.S. Department of Education has released an early snapshot of student performance data at schools that have received federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program funds, a key component of the Department’s blueprint for helping states and districts turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools.

Under the Obama Administration, the SIG program has invested up to $2 million per school at more than 1300 of the country’s lowest-performing schools. The data released today provides the first overview of performance for the first cohort of schools after one year of implementing SIG. The data begins in the 2009-2010 school year and ends in the 2010-2011 school year, the first year schools received SIG funds.

In three main areas, these early findings show positive momentum and progress in many SIG schools;

- Schools receiving SIG grants are improving. The first year of data show that two thirds of schools showed gains in math. And two thirds of schools showed gains in reading.
- A larger percentage of elementary schools showed gains than did secondary schools, suggesting that it is easier to improve student performance at a young age than to intervene later. Seventy percent of elementary schools showed gains in math, and seventy percent showed gains in reading, a higher percentage of improving
schools than was found in middle or high schools.
- Some of the greatest gains have been in small towns and rural communities.
- Another third of SIG schools had declines in achievement, a not surprising finding given the steep institutional challenges that these schools face.

“There’s dramatic change happening in these schools, and in the long-term process of turning around the nation’s lowest-performing schools, one year of test scores only tells a small piece of the story,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “But what’s clear already is that almost without exception, schools moving in the right direction have two things in common; a dynamic principal with a clear vision for establishing a culture of high expectations, and talented teachers who share that vision, with a relentless commitment to improving instruction.”

The SIG snapshot focuses on proficiency rate changes in the first year of SIG implementation, from 2009-10 to 2010-2011 in SIG-awarded Tier I and Tier II schools. It covers just over 730 (approximately 90 percent) of the 831 SIG-awarded Tier I/II schools in the program’s first cohort. Not included were fall-testing states and the very small number of closed schools.

Because this snapshot covers only a single year of SIG implementation, and because many factors contribute to student proficiency rates, it is too early to establish a causal connection between SIG funds and school performance.

The Institute for Education Sciences is conducting a long-term, gold-standard evaluation of the SIG program with student-level longitudinal data that will also compare to similarly situated schools that did not receive SIG funds. Moreover, at least one rigorous study, by Professor Thomas Dee at Stanford University, already found positive results in SIG schools as compared to similarly situated schools that did not receive SIG funds.

As a part of the Department’s transparency efforts, it is making available three years of state assessment data on all schools in the country through restricted-use files for research purposes. These files will include data for the 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011 school years broken down by subgroups.

In January, the Department plans to publicly release all school-level assessment data, including state-by-state SIG assessment data, once protections to ensure privacy of students are finalized and put in place. This public file will be posted on the Department’s website. The Department is also collecting data on other leading indicators that will give a more complete picture of performance in SIG schools, like student attendance, teacher attendance, and enrollment in advanced courses; it intends to publish that data early in 2013.

In the meantime, the Department is encouraging states to improve transparency by making as much data publicly available as possible in order to shine a spotlight on school performance, and to target additional support to schools that aren’t demonstrating success and hold these schools accountable for making progress. Federal resources that can help states improve transparency include the Privacy Technical Assistance Center and the National Forum on Education Statistics.

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