Teaching More Than Basic Skills

Americans Express Strong Support in National Poll for Teaching More Than Basic Skills

A new, nationwide poll of registered voters reveals that Americans are deeply concerned that the United States is not preparing young people with the skills they need to compete in the global economy.

An overwhelming 80 percent of voters say that the kind of skills students need to learn to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century is different from what they needed 20 years ago. Yet a majority of Americans say that schools need to do a better job of keeping up with changing educational needs.

The national poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Peter D. Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Partnership for 21stCentury Skills.
Among the other key findings:

Eighty-eight percent of voters say they believe that schools can and should incorporate 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills, computer and technology skills, and communication and self-direction skills into their curriculum.
Sixty-six percent of voters say they believe that students need more than just the basics of reading, writing and math; schools alsoneed to incorporate a broader range of skills.
Fifty-three percent say they believe schools should place an equal emphasis on 21st century skills and basic skills.
“This is a powerful set of data from American voters that we need to expand what our schools are teaching to keep pace with the demands of our modern workforce,” said Bill McInturff, Public Opinion Strategies. “This poll also reveals the strong connection Americans make between our future economic success and our education system, a conversation that currently is not happening among our elected officials.”

“The loud and clear message from this poll is that Americans recognize the need for our schools to help our students regain their competitive advantage in a quickly changing world,” said Geoffrey Garin, Peter D. Hart Research Associates. “Right now, far more Americans perceive us as falling behind other countries in this regard than see us as taking the lead.”

The poll’s findings are particularly relevant given the current debates over the future direction of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which is up for reauthorization, as well as the focus that important domestic issues such as education will receive during the 2008 presidential election cycle. For years U.S. education policy has been focused on the important task of narrowing the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged and minority students, and improving underperforming schools. But stopping the conversation there denies U.S. students the expanded skills set they now need for success in the globally interconnected society and workforce of the 21st century, according to the Partnership. Providing all students with 21st century skills and making education relevant to today’s world are critical to closing both the achievement gap and the global competition gap.

“Americans know that a 21st century education must incorporate a different set of skills that reflect changing economic demands,” said John Box, chair of the Partnership and vice president of product development and support for JA Worldwide®. “And they strongly believe that schools can and must play a role in preparing students for the challenges they will face.”

The latest findings mirror a similar study in 2006 of employers by The Conference Board, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families and the Society for Human Resource Management. In that study, “Are They Really Ready to Work?” employers said that the future U.S. workforce is “woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workforce” and they cited 21st century skills as “very important” to success at work.

“We now know that employers and the public are united in their understanding of what it takes to compete today,” said Partnership President Ken Kay. “These new polling results provide education leaders and policymakers the tremendous opportunity to make our education system more aligned with the needs of the 21st century workforce. The public strongly supports more rigorous expectations for students that integrate 21st century skills into core academic subjects. Educators want to equip students with these skills, but they need the public policy, professional development, assessment and curricular tools to accomplish this.”

Kay said that the results validate the efforts of states such as Massachusetts, Maine, North Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin that are working to infuse 21st century skills into their standards, assessments and professional development. He urged education stakeholders nationwide to use these results as a call to action toward implementing a 21st century skills framework for learning in their states.

He also added that toward its commitment to helping education leaders implement 21st century teaching and learning, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills is developing an online, one-stop-shop for 21st century skills-related information, resources and community tools called Route 21. Set to debut on the web on November 7, Route 21 will showcase how 21st century skills can be supported through standards, professional development, assessments, and teaching and learning.

“We all recognize that U.S. education can and should be doing more to prepare our young people to succeed in the 21st century,” Kay said. “Skills such as problem solving, innovation and creativity have become critical in today’s global economy. Integrating 21st century skills into the teaching of core academic subjects is a win-win proposition for everyone involved. It’s now clear that U.S. voters understand this. And it’s up to every one of us to ensure our children receive them.”

Visit the Partnership for 21st Century Skill’s Web site for more information on the poll and 21st century skills, www.21stcenturyskills.org.

About the survey: Public Opinion Strategies and Peter D. Hart Research Associates conducted this national survey of 800 registered voters from September 10-12, 2007. The survey has a margin of error of + 3.46%.
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Choices when confronting mental declines

Aging adults may joke about memory lapses and “early Alzheimer’s.” They may worry when they can’t understand a drug plan or lose track of the characters in a novel.

But they have more control over their “cognitive vitality” than they may realize, says Elizabeth Stine-Morrow, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois, who has spent 20 years studying learning throughout the lifespan.

Aging adults have choices in the way they allocate effort in everyday mental tasks like reading, Stine-Morrow said. They can compensate for subtle age-related changes rather than either giving in to them or giving up completely on the activity, she said. They also have choices in the way they stay mentally engaged and embrace challenges throughout their lifetimes and into older age.

It’s all part of what she has playfully named the “Dumbledore hypothesis of cognitive aging,” based on a line from the headmaster Dumbledore in the third Harry Potter novel: “It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Certain “fluid abilities,” or “mental mechanics,” do tend to decline with age, Stine-Morrow said, but it matters how we respond. “Minor glitches in the cognitive system can loom larger than they perhaps need to because we’ve got these preconceived ideas about what happens with aging,” she said.

She will discuss her “Dumbledore hypothesis” on Aug. 19 at the American Psychological Association conference in San Francisco, in a presidential address for the Adult Development and Aging division. A paper on the subject has been accepted for publication in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

In her reading research, Stine-Morrow, also a professor in Illinois’ Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, has paid particular attention to changes we make – or fail to make – in the way we process and regulate our reading as we age.

More recently, she has initiated a program called Senior Odyssey, designed to engage older adults in team-based creative problem-solving and other brain-teasing challenges. After a pilot study, she is now at the start of a five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to develop the program and study its effectiveness.

Much of her reading research has involved measuring small split-second differences in the way people move through text, and in how and where they pause, noting how those differences affect what they gain or remember from the text.

She has found that older adults who remember more of what they’ve read tend to read differently from either younger readers or older readers who remember less. They had learned, consciously or unconsciously, that “in order to maintain the same level of comprehension and memory for text as you get older, you have to do it differently,” she said.

One thing they do is to spend more time building a “situation model” at the beginning of a story or book. They take time to get a feel for the setting, to get to know the characters, and to get grounded in important details of the story. By doing so, they find it easier to integrate new information later on, Stine-Morrow said. “Page-turners are page-turners later (in a book or story); they’re rarely page-turners early on.”

Older readers with good comprehension also spend more time at what Stine-Morrow calls the “micro level” of their reading, pausing longer and more often to integrate new concepts or to orient themselves to a change of setting in the text.

“Younger adults who have a better memory (of what they’ve read) spend more time doing that conceptual integration, or what we call ‘wrap-up,’ at the ends of sentences, whereas older adults tend to do that more in the middle of sentences,” she said.

In both cases, older readers with good comprehension have learned how to adjust their allocation of effort to compensate for losses in areas such as working memory and language-processing speed. Current research, yet to be published, is looking at how readers respond when they are coached on using these strategies.

“Effort is a good thing; effort doesn’t mean you’re deficient,” Stine-Morrow said. “It’s just the nature of cognition that it requires effort. Every time you allocate effort, it increases your capacity to do that thing in the future. And that becomes even more important as we get older.”

Aging adults can find themselves “embedded in cultural expectations about aging,” Stine-Morrow said. “They buy into cultural stereotypes of diminished cognitive capacity.”

Drawing on another reference from Harry Potter, Stine-Morrow compares those cultural expectations to the “sorting hat” that Harry dons to select which house he will live in at the Hogwarts school. The hat tries to convince him of one choice, but Harry insists on another.

In Stine-Morrow’s analogy, the “sorting hat of cultural expectations” suggests to aging adults that their abilities are in decline. If they listen, they may shy away from intellectual challenges, and in the process possibly hasten a real decline.

“Fundamentally, it’s a choice,” she said. “We make the choice to listen to those murmurings of the sorting hat, or not.”
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Dads have a major impact on daughters & math

It figures: Dads have a major impact on the degree of interest their daughters develop in math. That's one of the findings of a long-term University of Michigan study that has traced the sources of the continuing gender gap in math and science performance.

"We've known for a while now that females do as well as males on tests that measure ability in math and science," said Pamela Davis-Kean, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "But women are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math graduate programs and in careers based on those disciplines."

It's as if women are saying, "I can, but I don't want to," according to Davis-Kean.

In a study she presented recently at a campus meeting, Davis-Kean and colleagues analyzed how parents' values and attitudes affect children's math performance and later interest, and how these attitudes vary by the child's gender. They used data from a longitudinal study of more than 800 children and a large group of their parents that began in 1987 and continued through 2000.

They found that parents provided more math-supportive environments for their sons than for their daughters, including buying more math and science toys for the boys. They also spent more time on math and science activities with their sons than with their daughters.

Davis-Kean and colleagues, including the late Janis Jacobs of Pennsylvania State University, Martha Bleeker of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., and U-M psychologists Jacquelynne Eccles and Oksana Malanchuk, also found that parents' attitudes, particularly stereotypes they hold about whether math and science are more important for boys than for girls, have a significant effect on their children's later math achievement, and even on their eventual career choices.

Their research was funded by a National Science Foundation grant on Women, Minorities and Information Technology.

They found that girls' interest in math decreases as their fathers' gender stereotypes increase, whereas boys' interest in math increases as their fathers' gender stereotypes increase.

"Fathers' gender stereotypes are very important in supporting—or in undermining—daughters' choices to pursue training in math and science," Davis-Kean said.
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Last Post

Education Research Report will no longer be published in this format. Subscriptions are available here:

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CEA Review

The Connecticut Education Association has published a new review by an eminent testing expert that casts doubt on the conclusions reached in a recent report by ConnCAN.

The lead author of the CEA-sponsored review is Dr. Peter Behuniak, an education researcher and former director of the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) program. The ConnCAN report uses CMT data in reaching conclusions.

"There is insufficient evidence presented to support the observations in the report (The State of Connecticut Public Education: A 2006 Report Card for Elementary and Middle Schools by ConnCAN released last fall) that state or imply superiority of one school type (i.e. magnet, charter or traditional) over the others (neighborhood and other traditional public schools)," writes Dr. Behuniak in the report that we are sharing today. His review of the ConnCAN report includes a reanalysis of student achievement and related data cited in the ConnCAN report.

The results of the new review indicate that the achievement levels, improvement and performance gains displayed by magnet and charter schools are “approximately as varied” as those displayed by traditional schools. The review also identifies a number of other issues that readers of the ConnCAN report would be well advised to consider. Some of the more important include:
The presentation of and conclusions regarding top 10 lists of achievement gaps dealing with low income, African American, and Hispanic students are not justified due to the unavailability of data for between 60% and 77% of the schools.
The meaningful interpretation of the top 10 lists associated with performance gains and year to year improvement is significantly impaired due to the issues of student mobility, small differences in achievement among schools and districts, initial achievement status, and variation in school size.
The usefulness of the grading scales employed in the report are limited due to unevenness of the grade bands, arbitrariness in their development, and the absence of any explanation or discussion of these attributes.
"As this review demonstrates, summaries of student performance can be grouped, presented and characterized in many ways. If one only looks at a part of the picture or looks only from one perspective, it is quite possible to form conclusions that are not actually supported by the available evidence. Conducting sound educational research often requires the examination of evidence from multiple perspectives in order to support meaningful interpretations," writes Dr. Behuniak.

Read the Review of the ConnCAN research report/charter schools
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Nearly half of beginning teachers in a new survey by the Australian Education Union do not see themselves in the profession in ten years time, compounding concerns of growing teacher shortages in Australia.

AEU Federal President Pat Byrne said the survey of over one thousand public school teachers with one to three years experience showed that issues stemming from lack of funding were driving teachers away.

“The four top concerns for new teachers were workload, behaviour management, pay and class sizes, all issues directly related to having enough funding to adequately resource schools,” said Ms. Byrne.

“The survey showed that even new teachers who have changed professions to enter teaching do not see themselves having long term careers in the industry.”

“They are worried about job security, with around half reporting they had been unable to negotiate permanent ongoing employment, and were instead on fixed term contracts.”

“They are also worried about professional support, with over thirty percent stating professional development was a concern, and over forty percent said they had been asked to teach outside their area of expertise.”

“The Federal Government’s new IR laws also came out as a key concern and a overwhelming majority of those surveyed were not comfortable with the idea of negotiating their own pay and conditions.”

“Public schools are receiving $1 billion less per year than if 1996 funding share had been maintained.”

“And independent research shows that the public education system needs at least $2.9 billion in additional recurrent funding to be able to meet national schooling goals.” “Lack of resources means new teachers have less incentive to stay in the profession, and this will continue to drive teacher shortages.”
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Scores on state-generated tests often contradict results on a national test

…While international assessments confirm that American students lag behind those in several other countries in science and math, many school districts and states keep telling parents that their children, like those in Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor’s hometown of fable, are all above average.

More testing under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to help measure whether elementary school children are learning what they need to know. But scores on state-generated tests often contradict results on a national test. North Carolina is one of several states with glaring differences between how well it says its students are doing and the harsher verdict of independent comparisons.

The North Carolina Board of Education finally is getting the message. It has switched to a tougher math exam, and recently raised the passing scores in math for grades 3 to 8. So far it’s one of only a handful of states raising their standards.

Welcome to the era of high-stakes testing, where persistently low scores mean principals can get fired and states can take over failing schools. No Child Left Behind requires U.S. schools to make steady progress, so that by 2014 every student is proficient in math and reading. But to ensure cooperation, Congress left it up to each state to measure how well its pupils were doing.

Although the goal was transparency, results have been less than clear. While states report growing percentages of students are proficient, the verdict is considerably worse on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an exam dubbed “the nation’s report card” that is given to a sampling of students in all 50 states.

The discrepancies in some states are alarming. In Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia, far more students rated proficient on the homegrown tests in 2005 than on the NAEP exam – about 50 percentage points higher.

When Tennessee’s education department reported a dramatic jump in state test scores in 2004-05, the Knoxville News-Sentinel headlined the results, “Schools meet Bush’s challenge.” But parents belatedly learned there was little cause for celebration. On the federally sponsored exam, only 21 percent of Tennessee eighth-graders were up to par in math and 26 percent in reading, not the 87 percent rated proficient on the state tests.

States’ idiosyncratic systems for grading schools can be equally confusing. Last fall, Oregon reported 97 percent of its more than 1,000 public schools were satisfactory or better. Only 30 schools got “low” or “unacceptable” marks. But only 70 percent of Oregon schools met the federal standard for progress.

In Florida, only 918 schools made sufficient annual progress under No Child Left Behind, yet 1,467 schools received an “A” grade and 610 received a “B” under the Florida “A-plus” school accountability system...

A new proposal from the White House at least could make it easier for the public to compare scores. Preparing for Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act this year, the Bush administration on Jan. 23 proposed – among several changes – to require states to report the proficiency rates for both their state and NAEP tests on the same report card.
Local control of public schools is a hallowed tradition in American education, and there has long been antipathy to the idea of a national test. NAEP has been around since 1969, but it tests only a cross section of students in each state. Participation is mandatory, and its existence serves as a deterrent to states’ dumbing down tests to look good and avoid costly penalties.

Some state educators say comparisons are unfair because NAEP is too rigorous and was designed to chart long-term trends, not to measure what states feel students should know.

“Our state assessment is directly designed to our state curriculum, so our teachers are able to pull from the data what they need to help our students,” said Jan Lineberger, Tennessee’s NAEP coordinator.

Differences between state and federal tests are to be expected, yet some gaps appear as wide as the Grand Canyon. Mississippi reported that at least 79 percent of its fourth-graders were at grade level in math in 2005, yet on the federal test, only 19 percent were proficient or better.

In comparison, Massachusetts’ math test is tougher than NAEP’s. The state test rated only 41 percent of fourth-graders as proficient at math, fifth lowest in the country. But Massachusetts students were the country’s highest scorers on NAEP, with 49 percent rated proficient. Students are considered proficient on NAEP if they show competency over challenging subject matter, including how to apply it to real-world situations.

The National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP, is planning to release a study in the spring that compares states’ definition of proficiency with that of the federal test.

If some states inflate scores, it comes at a price. Schools that mask how little their kids are learning behind inflated test scores aren’t pushed to provide transfer and tutoring options – the first sanctions under No Child Left Behind. Students also advance through school thinking they have the knowledge needed to go to college and get a decent job, only to find out too late they were never prepared.

In California, the university system reported last year that 75 percent of high school juniors were not ready for college-level English classes. Nationwide, one-third of students entering college need remedial classes. More than a quarter who enter four-year colleges and almost half of those entering community colleges drop out before their second year...

As No Child Left Behind comes up for debate and renewal in Congress this year, much of the discussion will focus on the test gaps, and some prominent conservatives are suggesting it’s time to embrace national standards or even a national test for all students that would supplant state tests. Every other major industrialized nation employs a standardized curriculum and national tests in its schools.

William J. Bennett and Rod Paige, education secretaries under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, respectively, exhorted fellow Republicans in a commentary in The Washington Post to support national standards. The organization most actively pushing for national standards is the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank.

Tommy Thompson, the Republican former governor of Wisconsin and co-chairman of the No Child Left Behind Commission tasked with proposing changes to the law, said Congress needs to find a way to stiffen states’ spines on testing.

“I don’t think states have been quite as honest as they should be in regard to their testing and standards,” he told reporters outside the commission’s September meeting, according to news accounts.

Some states have considered softening standards. Democratic lawmakers in California pushed through a bill last year that would have lowered the state’s standards, which they called unrealistically high. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed the measure. “Redefining the level of academic achievement necessary to designate students as ‘proficient’ does not make the students proficient,” he wrote in his veto message.

But the Missouri Board of Education in 2006 lowered the cutoff scores on its grade-level tests to ensure that more students passed.

North Carolina was not alone in moving in the other direction. Georgia raised its passing scores at the same time that it adopted more rigorous standards and new, tougher tests.

In November, Minnesota released results from tougher math and reading tests that debuted in 2006. Statewide, 58 percent of students were scored proficient on the math test – down from 76 percent the previous year.

In West Virginia, Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine was only a week into the job in November 2005 when he got the news that only 26 percent of fourth-graders were proficient on NAEP math and reading tests, and that eighth-graders fared even worse. Paine said he couldn’t sleep worrying about the results. On West Virginia’s own tests, 70 percent or more of students scored at grade level.

Paine called for an outside audit of the state’s standards and test, and both were found to be lacking. The result: substantially tougher standards and new tests that will debut in 2008.

“I dare say that our standards in little old West Virginia will probably be as rigorous and relevant as you’ll find anywhere in the country,” Paine told Stateline.org. “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this the right way, set our standards high and make no concessions.”

The change in North Carolina’s end-of-grade tests is the first such adjustment since the tests began in 1993. “The Board felt that it was time to increase standards in its efforts to better prepare students for the rigors of the 21st-century competitiveness,” said Lou Fabrizio, the state’s director of accountability.

The state board ordered tougher passing grades applied retroactively to tests administered in 2006. Only 66 percent of fourth-graders passed this time, compared with 92 percent the year before …

To read the complete article, please go to:

The preceding article was excerpted from State of the States 2007, Stateline.org’s annual report on significant state policy developments and trends. To order a digital copy of this 48-page publication go here:
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Academic improvement among students attending Philadelphia public schools managed by private operators kept pace, but did not exceed, the achievement gains of students in the rest of the district in the past four years, according to an analysis issued by the RAND Corporation and Research for Action.
While significant academic gains were made from 2002 to 2006 by students across Philadelphia, private managers who were given extra funds to run 45 elementary and middle schools did not achieve additional gains exceeding district-wide trends, according to researchers.
Researchers say that their findings have implications for other regions that are considering private management of public schools and that the effort in Philadelphia suggests the challenges of implementing private management on a large scale.
Philadelphia is the site of the largest experiment in the private management of public schools in the United States.
“The privately managed schools, on average, showed gains that were comparable to those in the rest of the district.” said Brian Gill, lead author of the report and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
“Schools in Philadelphia have shown strong improvement that has been reflected widely across the district,” said Jolley Christman, co-founder of Research for Action and an author of the report. “But our findings show the investment in private management of schools has not paid the expected dividends.”
Meanwhile, another group of schools that were “restructured” — remaining under district management with intensive intervention and a comparable increase in resources — showed significant gains in math in the first three years studied and in reading during the first year. In the fourth year, the additional resources for the restructured schools ended, but the schools appeared to maintain their gains in math.
Philadelphia's experiment with the private management of public schools began in 2002 when, after years of low achievement and budget crises in the School District of Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania launched a takeover of the 200,000-pupil district.
District management was turned over to an appointed commission, which hired a new chief executive who imposed new district-wide curricula and a system of frequent benchmark assessments.
The school district's new leaders also adopted what is known as the “diverse provider” model, turning over the management of some of the district's lowest-achieving schools to seven different private managers, who received additional per-pupil funding. Those private managers include for-profit firms such as Edison Schools (the nation's largest for-profit operator of public schools), local nonprofits and two local universities.
Since the state takeover of Philadelphia schools, the proportion of elementary and middle-school students achieving proficiency in reading and math has increased substantially.
From the 2001-2002 school year to the 2005-2006 school year, an additional 11 percent of fifth grade students reached proficiency in reading and 23 percent reached proficiency in math, according to state tests. Similarly, an additional 20 percent of eighth grade students reached proficiency in reading and 19 percent reached proficiency in math.
The four-year gains for Philadelphia's low-achieving schools (which included a majority of schools in the district) were generally on par with gains from similar low-achieving schools in the rest of the state. Philadelphia's schools out-gained comparison schools in middle-school reading.
The analysis by RAND Education and Research for Action examined the performance not only of the privately managed schools and the restructured schools, but also a group of schools dubbed the “Sweet 16.” These previously low-performing schools showed improvement prior to the state takeover. The schools were given extra per-pupil funding, but no other district intervention.
Results for the Sweet 16 were similar to those of the privately managed schools. Researchers found no significant positive or negative effects in either reading or math among the Sweet 16 schools in any of the four years studied.
Advocates of private management of public schools say the approach works best when private managers have full control of campuses and parents decide where to enroll their children — measures that were not fully implemented in Philadelphia.
The report, titled “State Takeover, School Restructuring, Private Management, and Student Achievement in Philadelphia,” is available at http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2007/RAND_MG533.pdf.
RAND Education conducts research and analysis on a variety of topics, including school reform, educational assessment and accountability, and trends among teachers and teacher training.
Research for Action is a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization working in educational research and reform to insure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students. For more information, go to www.researchforaction.org.
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New research supports planned diversity, tactic at issue in US Supreme Court case to be decided this spring.

More funding for urban schools is only half the way to fix them, according to Barry A. Gold, PhD., an expert on organizational change who is Associate Professor of Management at Pace University's Lubin School of Business and author of a just-published study of recent school finance changes in New Jersey, Still Separate And Unequal: Segregation And The Future Of Urban School Reform (Teachers College Press, 2007).

Gold's research shows that to improve educational opportunity for urban students, teachers need to teach them the same way suburban students are taught. Moreover, some form of integration is necessary. _

Gold documents and analyzes the implementation of the first four years of the landmark 1998 New Jersey Supreme Court Abbott V ruling and the first three years of the 2002 federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act. In four high-poverty, low-achievement urban elementary schools in New Jersey, these unprecedented reforms proposed to change all elements of the schools except their population characteristics two were African American and two were Latino. Hence a related but more important research question was: Can separate education be equal? According to Gold, the answer is still no.

Gold found that teaching and learning did not improve and, in many cases, became less effective. This was primarily because administrators and teachers rejected the reforms or modified them to fit their idea of appropriate education for urban students, which as they understand it is different than the kind that suits suburban students. By focusing on test scores, in a powerful example of an unintended consequence NCLB actually increased the use of ineffective teaching methods rote drill and obsessive reiteration of "the basics" that often are used in the urban education that the Abbott V mandates tried to change.

According to Gold, the lingering socio-cultural ecology of segregation, which Abbott V and NCLB did not try to alter, insidiously reproduced the less effective kind of urban education.

In June 2007, the United States Supreme Court will rule on the use of planned diversity to achieve racial balance in public schools. The January 8, 2007 edition of the NPR program "Justice Talking" (http://www.justicetalking.com/viewprogram.asp?progID=580>) is an excellent debate on the complex issues. Still Separate and Unequal: Segregation and the Future of Urban School Reform supports planned diversity to improve equality of educational opportunity, particularly under the conditions of extreme segregation that is characteristic of most metropolitan regions in the United States.
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Inclusion Practices for English Language Learners

Doctoral student Bethany Plett has been selected as the winter 2007 recipient of the Theodore R. Sizer Dissertation Scholars Award. Presented by the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) and named for its founder and chair emeritus, the Sizer Dissertation Scholar Awards encourage a new generation of scholars to conduct research on CES schools and further an understanding of the effectiveness of innovative school practices. Award recipients receive a grant to conduct research or complete their dissertation, as well as a stipend to present their research at the CES annual conference.
The award recipient, Bethany Plett, is completing her Ph.D. at Texas A&M University and her dissertation topic is: Inclusion of English Language Learners in Conversion Small Schools.
"The role of research has been central to the work of CES from its inception and we are pleased to support this outstanding scholar in her efforts to inform the practices of educators," said Dr. Sizer. "With courage of conviction, clarity of purpose, and commitment to inquiry, this researcher stands to contribute to a large body of evidence that affirms students' capacity to excel when they are known well and engaged in authentic tasks."
The Sizer Dissertation Scholar Awards were established, in part, to assess the effectiveness of the CES Common Principles, a set of pedagogical ideas laid out by Dr. Sizer in his groundbreaking work Horace's Compromise in 1984. "For more than 20 years, CES has had a lasting impact on school transformation efforts, sitting at the nexus between theory and practice," said CES executive board member Jacqueline Ancess, co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching at Columbia University's Teachers College. "In the selection of this scholar, we honor the contribution of Ted Sizer to American education."
The following is an abstract of the award recipient's research:
Inclusion of English Language Learners in Conversion Small Schools
This qualitative study investigates, through interviews and observations, the tension produced by the practical challenge of teaching English language learners (ELL) in five conversion small schools. Philosophically and practically, the school programs range between providing limited inclusion of ELL students in mainstream classes to programs that strive to increase ELL mainstream inclusion. Through the theoretical lenses of reproduction and resistance theory, the results of the study examine the CES principle of equity as it applies to English language learners in small schools. The results of the study will also contribute to a set of recommendations for creating ELL programs in conversion small schools.
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How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?

In this new report, Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters provide systematic data on how much public school teachers are paid, relative to other white-collar professionals. Because discussions about teacher pay rarely reference these data, the policy debate on education reform has proceeded without a clear understanding of these issues.

This report compiles information on the hourly pay of public school teachers nationally and in 66 metropolitan areas, as collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and compares the hourly income of public school teachers to those of workers in similar professions. Nationwide, the average public school teacher earned $34.06 per hour in 2005, which is 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker.

Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week, compared with 39.4 hours per week for white-collar workers, and 39.0 hours per week for professional specialty and technical workers. Nationwide, public school teachers are paid, on average, 61% more per hour than private school teachers. The authors find no relationship between higher teacher pay rates in metropolitan areas and improved high school graduation rates.

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NYC Small High School Reforms Boost Student Performance

A report examining the first group of new small high schools in New York City that opened four years ago finds that the schools are making significant progress with impressive graduation rates. According to “Rethinking High School: Inaugural Graduations at New York City’s New High Schools,” these small schools are beating the odds with graduation rates that are 20 percentage points higher than the citywide rate.

The average graduation rate for the sample schools was 79%, in contrast to the citywide average of 58%. The report also found that 81% of the seniors at the new schools applied to college, and of those who applied, 85% were accepted to two or four-year institutions. Those rates were achieved despite the fact that over 80% of the schools’ graduates did not meet New York State standards in English and Math when they entered ninth grade.

The report, developed by WestEd, a non-profit education research, development and service organization, and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examined preliminary data from 14 new small high schools that opened in September 2002 as part of the Children First reform agenda implemented by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and the New Century High Schools Initiative, which is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Open Society Institute, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Our research shows that these new schools are doing exactly what they set out to do," said Tracy Huebner, a senior research associate at WestEd and the report's principal author. "These schools show that a culture of high expectations, rigorous academics, and individualized attention accompanied by the appropriate supports help students to succeed in their secondary education."

The schools surveyed also had higher attendance and ninth-grade promotion rates, two predictors of graduation rates, according to WestEd. The most recent data available indicate that the average attendance rate at the 14 new schools was 89% in 2004-05. The ninth-grade promotion rate across the featured schools was 92% in the same year and 91% in 2005-06, according to the report.

Each of the 14 schools examined had successfully created a “college-going” culture through academic programs that emphasize the new “3 Rs” – rigor, relevance and relationships. For example, the schools provide increased access to advanced courses, better preparation for Regents exams, and extra support to help struggling students catch up; connect curricula to students’ personal experiences, contemporary issues and career opportunities; and encourage strong relationships between teachers, students and their families to give students more individualized attention and to enable their families to support them.

“The results in this report reflect four years of hard work and dedication on the part of the schools’ teachers, principals and partners, as well as students and their families,” said Robert L. Hughes, President of New Visions for Public Schools, which created, together with the New York City Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers, and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the schools featured in the report as well as many of the other new small schools in New York City. “The challenge for New Visions and for other partners engaged in school reform is to apply the lessons learned here across all schools, both new and old, to ensure that more students reach higher levels of personal and academic achievement.”

To date, the New York City Department of Education, in partnership with local and national school developers, including New Visions, the College Board, ISA, Urban Assembly, and the Internationals Network for Public Schools, has created 197 new small secondary schools, 47 of which will graduate classes this June.

The WestEd researchers recommended that concrete steps be taken to “scale up” and expand the new schools work so that it can be sustained. The report’s recommendations include: aligning K-8 reforms with high school improvement strategies, expanding rigorous course offerings through partnerships or online learning, addressing enrollment and space challenges, applying the lessons of small schools to broader secondary reform, and tracking students after graduation.

The WestEd report can be found at http://www.wested.org/online_pubs/gf-07-01.pdf
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Whole-Language Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

Primary reading programs aren't always what they claim

Amid ongoing debate about the federal Reading First program, a new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute exposes ineffective reading programs that dishonestly claim to be "scientifically-based" and thereby qualify for millions of dollars in public funds intended to help struggling children learn to read.

In the report, Whole-Language High Jinks, reading expert Louisa Moats offers advice for school officials, parents, and teachers about how to spot the fakes and identify programs that truly work.

"If this were medicine, the F.D.A. would never approve these reading nostrums as 'safe and effective,'" commented Fordham Institute president Chester E. Finn, Jr. "Tort lawyers would be bringing class action suits against their vendors. The papers would be full of allegations of fraud, misrepresentation, and actual harm done by them. Education, alas, is not nearly so rigorous. Yet with the futures of countless schoolchildren at stake (not to mention lots of money), school districts would be wise not to take claims about programs' research evidence at face value. Dr. Moats performs a valuable service by helping consumers detect the phonies."

Moats, a psychologist and widely respected authority on early reading, authored a previous Fordham report in October 2000 called Whole Language Lives On. In it, she uncovered many whole-language programs hiding behind the phrase "balanced literacy" in order to win contracts from school districts and avoid public scrutiny.

Seven years later, such programs still exist—and still try to pull the wool over educators' eyes. Worse, major school systems, including Denver, Salt Lake City, and New York City, continue to adopt them, misled by materials that "talk the talk," touting the five elements of effective reading instruction identified by the National Reading Panel, but which are actually just whole-language programs in disguise.

"The failures of whole language are many—especially for the two-fifths of children who are at risk of reading failure right out of the gate," notes Moats. To ensure that a program isn't just offering platitudes, she offers a useful list of warning signs to help educators spot whole-language wolves disguised as lambs. Some key indicators that the program isn't as "scientifically-based" as it promises:

Use of memorization and contextual guessing, instead of direct, systematic teaching for word recognition and actual comprehension;
Rejection of explicit phonics, spelling, or grammar instruction;
Application of the whole-language principles for English language learners.
To ensure that a reading program is based on scientific evidence of effectiveness, administrators and teachers should ask a series of probing questions about it, including these:

Does the program

Have valid screening measures in place to identify children at risk and provide them with early/extra instruction in word recognition, comprehension, and writing skills?
Interweave multiple language components (such as speech sounds, word structure, word meaning, and sentence structure) together in the same lesson?
Support reading comprehension by focusing on a deep understanding of topics and themes rather than developing a set of shortcut strategies?
"This report's findings help to explain why the federal government has to be prescriptive in its implementation of Reading First," said Michael J. Petrilli, Fordham's Vice President for National Programs and Policy. "Anyone can put the label 'scientifically-based' on the cover of their reading program. But if we want to do right by kids, we need to dig below the surface. If the policy is to fund only programs that truly work, officials at all levels need to fend off the charlatans."

The full report can be found at http://www.edexcellence.net.
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If high school dropouts of the nation’s class of 2006 had instead earned their diplomas with their classmates, the U.S. economy could have benefited from an additional $309 billion in wages over these students’ lifetimes, according to conservative calculations by the Alliance for Excellent Education in its new brief, The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools, funded by MetLife Foundation.

The average annual income for a high school dropout in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was over $9,000 less than for a high school graduate. Graduating all students, therefore, increases overall earnings potential, which, in turn, benefits the nation with increased purchasing power and higher tax receipts.

The Alliance’s brief argues that dropouts drain the nation’s economy by lowering tax revenues and increasing the cost of social programs. High school graduates, on the other hand, make higher wages and live longer. They are less likely to be teen parents, commit crimes, and rely on government healthcare.

“Although there has been a very slight increase in high school graduation rates, the pace of improvement is glacial compared with the growing and urgent need to ensure all of our students are prepared for success in the 21st century,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “As Congress prepares to renew the No Child Left Behind law this year, it must address the continuing hemorrhage of wages and taxes resulting from each class of high school dropouts.”
“Measuring the impact of increased high school graduation rates in dollars and cents drives home the serious challenges we all face when students drop out,” said Sibyl Jacobson, president of MetLife Foundation.

The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools is available at http://www.all4ed.org/publications/HighCost.pdf.

The number of dropouts was determined using enrollment data for the ninth grade 2002-2003 school year (National Center for Educational Statistics, Common Core of Data: 2002) and the high school graduation rate in 2006 (Editorial Projects in Education, 2006), which was then multiplied by the $260,000 estimated lifetime earnings difference between a high school dropout and a high school graduate (Rouse, 2005).
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$730 Million More Needed for Education, Study says_

The sticker shock was fierce: about $100 million more a year, for seven years, to get Montana children up to state and national education standards.__

That's the bottom line of a new study commissioned by the Montana Quality Education Coalition. MQEC won a 2004 court decision declaring school funding inadequate in Montana.

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Report Finds Merit Pay Has Positive Effects

Study of Little Rock schools in program reveals higher test scores for
students, improved work environment for teachers.

A new evaluation of a teacher pay-for-performance program in Little Rock finds that it produces significant gains in student performance on standardized tests and a more positive work environment for teachers. The Achievement Challenge Pilot Project at Meadowcliff and Wakefield elementary schools offers teachers and staff bonuses that vary based on the magnitude of increases in student achievement.

Gary Ritter, who holds an endowed chair in education policy at the University of Arkansas, will present the findings of this study at a news conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16 at the State Capitol, Old Supreme Court Meeting Room. The full report is available at http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/Research/merit_pay.html

According to researchers in the UA department of education reform, these bonuses led to significantly greater learning gains than had been achieved by the same students prior to the program and by students at comparison schools. The introduction of merit bonuses produced an additional 3.5 normal curve equivalent points on a nationally normed math test. This gain in achievement after one year’s time is roughly equal to one-sixth of the test score gap between white and black students, on average, nationwide.

That is, if the observed benefit of the merit pay program were to compound for six years, it would close the black-white test score gap.

“As Arkansas policy-makers consider ways to recruit, retain and reward effective public school teachers, they may well consider the responses from the teachers in these Little Rock elementary schools,” said Joshua Barnett, a lead researcher of the study. “These teachers do reveal dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire to be rewarded fairly for their work.”

In the merit pay program, teachers could earn a bonus worth as much as $11,000. In 2005-06, teachers and staff at Meadowcliff were awarded bonuses totaling $200,926, while those at Wakefield received $228,300 in performance bonuses. For the 2006-07 school year, the program was expanded to include three more elementary schools: Geyer Springs, Mabelvale and Romine. The program began at Meadowcliff in 2004-05, and Wakefield was added in 2005-06.

A survey of teachers at participating and comparison schools found a more positive work environment at schools where the merit bonuses were available. In addition, teachers at schools participating in the merit pay program were not more likely to report counterproductive competition among faculty.

The study was supervised by Ritter, director of the Office for Education Policy in the department of education reform. Jay P. Greene, who holds the endowed chair in education reform, and graduate students Joshua Barnett and Marcus A. Winters also participated in the evaluation. The research team will continue to examine the program next year with a larger sample size of students and teachers to determine whether these initial benefits persist. The program is funded by the Little Rock School District, the Little Rock Public Education Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Hussman Foundation and the Brown Family Foundation. Financial support for the evaluation was provided by the Walton Family Foundation.

“The Achievement Challenge Pilot Project merit pay system should be considered as one policy option to improve the status quo and compensate teachers, and then be subject to rigorous evaluation to continually test its effectiveness,” Ritter said.

National Education Association Response:

The National Education Association issued a preliminary response Monday, Jan. 22, to a review of the beginning of a merit pay experiment for teachers in Little Rock elementary schools:

Synopsis and Review
“Evaluation of Year One of the Achievement Challenge Pilot Project in the Little Rock Public School District” by Joshua H. Barnett, Gary W. Ritter, Marcus A. Winters, and Jay P. Greene
The Study
This is the first installment of a multi-year study of elementary schools in the Little Rock School District that are participating in the Achievement Challenge Pilot Project (ACPP), a merit pay program. ACPP pays classroom teachers and school employees cash bonuses based on gains made by students on norm-referenced test scores for math, reading and language. The project started with funding from the Public Education Foundation of Little Rock (the Walton Family Foundation is among its donors), which continues as its major source of support. According to sources at the Arkansas Education Association, this study has the same financial backer, which raises the concern of how credible it is for the same entity that underwrites the merit pay program to be responsible for evaluating its effectiveness. Surely, an evaluation of the program could benefit from an independent analysis.
The ACPP program currently operates in five of Little Rock’s 34 elementary schools, with three of the schools beginning in 2006-07. The five schools all have high percentages of minority students and students who qualify for free and reduced lunches, as well as low academic achievement. This study encompasses two ACPP schools, one which started in 2004-05 and one that started in 2005-06. Three “comparison schools” were also included in the study.
The authors undertook two analyses:
1) a statistical analysis (fixed effects model) of changes in norm-referenced test scores for fourth and fifth graders. Due to “data limitations”, only math scores were used and only one of the two ACPP schools (along with all three comparison schools) was included in the study. _2) A survey of teachers, asking them about behaviors and attitudes related that the authors considered related to merit pay. Teachers in the two ACPP schools and three comparison schools were surveyed.
The Study’s Findings
The authors contend that:
1. Their statistical model (a “fixed-effects” model) estimated that “schools where the ACPP operated in 2005-06 showed an improvement of 3.5 normal curve equivalent points. For the average student, this gain represents an improvement of nearly 7 percentile points.”
2. The comparison of teacher surveys in the ACPP vs. non-ACPP schools suggested that that they: _- were no more innovative than comparison teachers._- were no more likely to work harder than comparison teachers._- were more satisfied with their salaries than comparison teachers._- reported no more counterproductive competition than comparison teachers._- their work environment became more positive than comparison teachers._- were less likely than comparison teachers to agree that low-performing students were a “burden” in the classroom._- were more likely than comparison students to report that the academic performance of their students had improved over the past year.
Overall, the authors concluded that “while the results from this first year study suggest positive impacts of the ACPP, we believe the second year study with five schools involved in the ACPP will greatly assist in expanding on and explaining the first year findings.”
While headline of the press release announcing the study boldly states that says the “Report Finds Merit Pay Has Positive Effects,” upon closer examination there are several reasons to question whether the reported findings live up to the hype. Overall, it is important to keep in mind that these are preliminary findings based on incomplete data from the first year of a multi-year study. At best, it is premature to be calling ACPP a success in achieving any of its stated goals. More probably, it is irresponsible to make any claims about the effectiveness of ACPP on the basis of this study.
1. Modest Effects
One of the authors described the findings as “modest” and while encouraging to those who carried out the study, they “certainly wouldn't say we're thrilled by any stretch.” (Associated Press, 1/16/07)
2. Narrow Scope
The study is very limited in its scope. Due to “data limitations,” only math scores were included in the analysis (p.6). Reading and language test scores were omitted. Further, “due to the limits of available data,” the estimates are based on students in only one of the two ACPP schools. (p.7). Thus, “even though nearly 2,000 students attend the schools involved in the evaluation, approximately 500 students were part of the student achievement evaluation.” (p.12) These data limitations alone make the results highly questionable.
It is difficult for other trained statisticians to further evaluate the results of the study of the impact of ACPP on test scores because the specifications, equations, coefficients, and significance tests are not shown in the report and are only partially and briefly discussed.
_It is also worth noting that there is no discussion of each school’s status in school improvement plans under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) guidelines, which could be a very significant factor in affecting the behavior and attitudes of teachers in each of the schools. While the percentages of students rated as “proficient” in math and literacy tests were considered as criteria in selecting the comparison schools, the authors did not make clear the distinction between norm-reference tests (which were used in their analysis) and criteria-referenced tests that are used as benchmarks for determining school improvement status. Thus, according to sources at the Arkansas Education Association, a paradoxical situation exists where teachers in ACDD schools earned bonuses based on norm-referenced tests while their same schools were put on improvement plans based on the results of criteria-related tests.
3. Lack of causality
The comparison of survey data of teachers in schools with and without ACPP does not take into account any other factors that might explain differences between the two groups. While the authors conduct simple significance tests on averages for survey answers for schools in and out of the ACPP program, this alone is not sufficient to infer that these differences can be attributed to ACPP.
For example, the authors also imply that greater “satisfaction with salaries” can be attributed to the presence of merit pay while it may actually just be an effect of higher pay. It is not possible for teachers in ACPP schools to have pay deducted because of low test scores. It is only possible to receive a bonus on top of regular pay for improved test scores. Though the actual percentage of teachers receiving bonuses was not reported, it was reported that over was $200,000 in bonuses was divvied up in one ACPP school and nearly $230,000 was awarded in the other school in 2005-06. No additional pay was awarded in any of the comparison schools. Thus, any differences in pay satisfaction might be more attributable to higher pay than any incentive effect.
Setting aside this overall lack of causality, it is interesting to note that while the authors hypothesize that merit pay may “motivate current teachers to improve the performance of students through additional effort and innovation, where teachers work to learn and implement new effective teaching strategies,” their survey found no difference between the two groups of teachers in how “innovative” they were or in reporting that they worked “harder.” The authors do not discuss this apparent lack of support for key behavioral theories about why merit pay would lead to higher student achievement in the first place.
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Task Force on the Education of Maryland’s African-American Males Report

The task force was asked to evaluate Maryland’s progress in addressing persistent academic achievement problems imperiling African-American boys and men.

Recommendations include placing the most-effective teachers in the highest-need classrooms, hiring more black male teachers, reducing the number of black males in special education classes, ensuring that every public high school in the state offers advanced placement classes and that the number of black males in those classes reflects the school’s demographics.

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Enhancing Science and Math Education

Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (2006)

…The National Academies was asked to respond to the following questions: What are the top 10 actions, in priority order, that federal policymakers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st century? What strategy, with several concrete steps, could be used to implement each of those actions? The National Academies created the Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century to respond to this request…
The four recommendations focus on actions in K_12 education (10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds), research (Sowing the Seeds), higher education (Best and Brightest), and economic policy (Incentives for Innovation) that are set forth in the following sections…


Recommendation A:

Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K_12 science and mathematics education. Implementation Actions The highest priority should be assigned to the following actions and programs. All should be subjected to continuing evaluation and refinement as they are implemented.

Action A-1: Annually recruit 10,000 science and mathematics teachers by awarding 4-year scholarships and thereby educating 10 million minds. Attract 10,000 of America's brightest students to the teaching profession every year, each of whom can have an impact on 1,000 students over the course of their careers. The program would award competitive 4-year scholarships for students to obtain bachelor's degrees in the physical or life sciences, engineering, or mathematics with concurrent certification as K_12 science and mathematics teachers. The merit-based scholarships would provide up to $20,000 a year for 4 years for qualified educational expenses, including tuition and fees, and require a commitment to 5 years of service in public K_12 schools.

A $10,000 annual bonus would go to participating teachers in underserved schools in inner cities and rural areas.

To provide the highest-quality education for undergraduates who want to become teachers, it would be important to award matching grants, on a one-to-one basis, of $1 million a year for up to 5 years, to as many as 100 universities and colleges to encourage them to establish integrated 4-year undergraduate programs leading to bachelor's degrees in the physical and life sciences, mathematics, computer sciences, or engineering with teacher certification. The models for this action are the UTeach at the University of Texas and California Teach at the University of California.

Action A-2: Strengthen the skills of 250,000 teachers through training and education programs at summer institutes, in master's programs, and in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) training programs. Use proven models to strengthen the skills (and compensation, which is based on education and skill level) of 250,000 current K_12 teachers.

· Summer institutes: Provide matching grants to state and regional 1- to 2-week summer institutes to upgrade the skills and state-of-the-art knowledge of as many as 50,000 practicing teachers each summer. The material covered would allow teachers to keep current with recent developments in science, mathematics, and technology and allow for the exchange of best teaching practices. The Merck Institute for Science Education is one model for this action.

· Science and mathematics master's programs: Provide grants to research universities to offer, over 5 years, 50,000 current middle school and high school science, mathematics, and technology teachers (with or without undergraduate science, mathematics, or engineering degrees) 2-year, part-time master's degree programs that focus on rigorous science and mathematics content and pedagogy. The model for this action is the University of Pennsylvania Science Teachers Institute.

· AP, IB, and pre-AP or pre-IB training: Train an additional 70,000 AP or IB and 80,000 pre-AP or pre-IB instructors to teach advanced courses in science and mathematics. Assuming satisfactory performance, teachers may receive incentive payments of $1,800 per year, as well as $100 for each student who passes an AP or exam in mathematics or science. There are two models for this program: the Advanced Placement Incentive Program and Laying the Foundation, a pre-AP program.

· K_12 curriculum materials modeled on a world-class standard: Foster high-quality teaching with world-class curricula, standards, and assessments of student learning. Convene a national panel to collect, evaluate, and develop rigorous K_12 materials that would be available free of charge as a voluntary national curriculum. The model for this action is the Project Lead the Way pre-engineering courseware.

Action A-3: Enlarge the pipeline of students who are prepared to enter college and graduate with a degree in science, engineering, or mathematics by increasing the number of students who pass AP and IB science and mathematics courses. Create opportunities and incentives for middle school and high school students to pursue advanced work in science and mathematics. By 2010, increase the number of students who take at least one AP or IB mathematics or science exam to 1.5 million, and set a goal of tripling the number who pass those tests to 700,000.

Student incentives for success would include 50% examination fee rebates and $100 mini- scholarships for each passing score on an AP or IB science or mathematics examination. Although it is not included among the implementation actions, the committee also finds attractive the expansion of two approaches to improving K_12 science and mathematics education that are already in use:

· Statewide specialty high schools: Specialty secondary education can foster leaders in science, technology, and mathematics. Specialty schools immerse students in high-quality science, technology, and mathematics education; serve as a mechanism to test teaching materials; provide a training ground for K_12 teachers; and provide the resources and staff for summer programs that introduce students to science and mathematics.

· Inquiry-based learning: Summer internships and research opportunities provide especially valuable laboratory experience for both middle-school and high-school students…

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No one strategy is best for teaching reading

No one strategy is best for teaching reading, FSU professor shows

For decades, a debate has simmered in the educational community over the best way to teach children how to read. Proponents of phonics, the "whole language and meaning" approach and other teaching methods long have battled for dominance, each insisting that theirs is the superior strategy.

Now, a Florida State University researcher has entered the fray with a paper in the prestigious journal Science that says there is no one "best" method for teaching children to read.

Carol M. Connor is an assistant professor in the FSU College of Education and a researcher with the Florida Center for Reading Research. Along with colleagues from FSU and the University of Michigan, she wrote "Algorithm-Guided Individualized Reading Instruction," published in Science’s Jan. 26 issue. (The magazine is available online to subscribers at www.sciencemag.org.) Connor’s paper shows that lots of individualized instruction, combined with the use of diagnostic tools that help teachers match each child with the amounts and types of reading instruction that are most effective for him or her, is vastly preferable to the standard "one size fits all" approach to reading education that is prevalent in many American elementary schools.

"There is too much of a tendency in education to go with what ‘sounds’ really good," Connor said of various educational trends that come into and fall out of fashion. "What we haven’t done very well is conduct comprehensive field trials and perform the rigorous research that are the norm in other fields of science. With this study, we sought to do just that — to take a systematic approach to what works, what doesn’t, and why" when teaching students to read.

The researchers found that "the efficacy of any particular instructional practice may depend on the skill level of the student. Instructional strategies that help one student may be ineffective when applied to another student with different skills." The trick, then, is to more precisely determine the reading skill level of each child and then find a way to cater the curriculum to each student’s individual needs.

"Instead of viewing the class as an organism, we’re trying to get teachers to view the students as individuals," Connor said.
While that may sound daunting to the typical first- or second-grade teacher, Connor has turned to technology to offer a helping hand. She, Frederick J. Morrison and Barry Fishman, professors at the University of Michigan, have developed "Assessment to Instruction," or A2i, a Web-based software program. A2i uses students’ vocabulary and reading scores and their desired reading outcome (i.e. their grade level by the end of first grade) to create algorithms that compute the recommended amounts and types of reading instruction for each child in the classroom. The software then groups students based on learning goals and allows teachers to regularly monitor their progress and make changes to individual curricula as needed.

A2i currently is being tested by about 60 elementary-school teachers in one Florida county. However, "right now A2i is just a research tool," Connor said. "Hopefully we’ll be able to make it available more widely as time goes on."
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Do the Math: Cognitive Demand Makes a Difference

Extending high expectations to all students in mathematics is a relatively
new idea.

Learning math can be tough. Not learning it is tougher. Many students lack access to higher-level mathematics courses and teaching at all levels of precollege schooling. This is unacceptable in the face of the ever-expanding technical demands posed by higher education and the 21st-century job market. Research reveals that strong academic experience is needed for both college and the workforce. Raising the cognitive demand in the curriculum is necessary for enhancing students’ career prospects.

Recent trends show progress, such as growth in the number of minority students taking higher-level mathematics classes and earning degrees in mathematics. Still, there is much work to be done.

Curriculum policies that limit course options restrict opportunities to learn for traditionally underserved students. This problem is compounded by the sorting of students according to ability within the same mathematics classes and the low quality of some mathematics instruction in elementary and middle schools. Bringing less advantaged students into higher mathematics study and preparing our future leaders in mathematics and science are not mutually exclusive ends. If we teach math at a higher level of cognitive demand, even in the early grades, we can look forward to a future in which high mathematics achievers better reflect the country’s diverse population. To accomplish this, schools need to be staffed by well prepared teachers, and high curriculum standards should be a priority. Teaching in high-performing schools requires a learning environment that supports sustained student engagement on both basic skills and cognitively demanding conceptual mathematics tasks.

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More Kids ‘On Track’ at School — 1 in 4 Gifted —_According to Census Bureau Report on ‘A Child’s Day’

Seventy-five percent of children 12 to 17 years old enrolled in school were academically “on track” (at or above the grade level for peers their age) in 2003, up 6 percentage points since 1994, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report on how kids are spending their days.
A Child’s Day: 2003 [PDF] is the third examination of children’s well-being and their daily activities based on the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Nearly 1 in 4 children in the 12- to 17-year-old age group were in a special class for gifted students or did advanced work in an academic subject.
Other highlights:
• Parents were more likely to impose restrictions on TV viewing in the last decade. For example, about 67 percent of children 3 to 5 had limits on what television shows they could watch, when, and for how long in 2003, up significantly from 54 percent in 1994.
• Eating with a parent was less likely to occur for teenagers than children under 6. In 2003, 24 percent of children 12 to 17 ate breakfast with a parent every day in a typical week, while 58 percent ate dinner together. Among children under 6, 57 percent ate breakfast with mom or dad, and 79 percent were at the table for dinner.
• About 72 percent of kids under 6 were praised by mom or dad three or more times per day, compared with 51 percent of children 6 to 11 years old and 37 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds.
• Children 1 to 2 were read to an average of 7.8 times in the previous week of the survey, while children 3 to 5 were read to an average of 6.8 times in the previous week.
• In 2003, 18 million children (38 percent) under 12 had been cared for regularly in a non-relative child care arrangement at some point in their childhood. Nearly half (47 percent) of 3- to 5-year-olds had been in non-relative child care — most likely preschool.
• Children 12 to 17 were more likely than children 6 to 11 to participate in sports (42 percent and 36 percent, respectively). About one-third of both groups participated in club activities.
• Aside from normal progression within a school system, 24 percent of children 6 to 11 and 41 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds had changed schools at some time since first grade. For both age groups, there was little change in these percentages since 2000, but both were lower than those reported in 1994.
• Eleven percent (2.7 million) of children 12 to 17 had been expelled or suspended from school at least once in 2003. Boys (14 percent) were more likely than girls (8 percent) to have been suspended.
• About 30 million children participated in the National School Lunch Program in 2003, including 1.6 million kids under 6, 15 million 6- to 11-year-olds and 13.4 million children 12 to 17.
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The Role of Recess in Children’s Cognitive Performance and School Adjustment

The Role of Recess in Children’s Cognitive Performance and School Adjustment

The authors suggest that the recess period serves a positive purpose in the primary school curriculum, counter to the current practice of minimizing recess in many schools across North America and the United Kingdom. The authors’ position is embedded in the larger debate about school accountability; they argue that school policy should be based on the best theory and empirical evidence available. They support their argument for the importance of recess with theory and with experimental and longitudinal data showing how recess breaks maximize children’s cognitive performance and adjustment to school.

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Parents' high school completion critical factor in literacy performance of children

The children of parents who have not completed high school are more likely to struggle with reading and writing, says a landmark University of Alberta study that proves family literacy programs can make a difference not only on the child's reading ability but the parents as well.

Despite assumptions about the benefit of literacy programs this study is the first to offer quantitative proof that parent-child literacy interventions for families of low educational and low income backgrounds do work. The study was conducted by Dr. Linda Phillips, professor in the Department of Elementary Education and Director of the Canadian Centre for Research on Literacy and her colleagues, Dr. Ruth Hayden and Dr. Stephen Norris.

"This study is unique because it attempted to look at the corresponding relationship between the mother and father's educational level and how well kids do on early screening tests," said Phillips, director of the Canadian Centre for Research on Literacy. "It became so definitive that based upon parental educational levels, we could predict how the kids would do. What this tells us is that it is critical for students to finish high school or this vicious circle of literacy will never improve if we don't improve the education level of parents and would-be parents across the country."

Over five years, Phillips and her research team followed 47 low-income and low-educational families. The program, "Learning Together," saw individual sessions for the parents and the children--between three and five years old--as well as a joint adult-child session. It consisted of eight units of study taught for 90 hours across 12 weeks of instruction designed to improve children's literacy, parent's literacy and the parents' ability to help their children. Control group families were matched with the treatment families on all demographic factors, starting with the age and sex of the child. These families carried on their lives without intervention but followed the same testing and interviewing pattern as the matched families in the treatment groups.

The study was grounded on the premise that parental interactive strategies and the quantity and variety of print materials available in the home are factors that affect children's preparation for meaningful formal literacy instruction.

For example, the study showed that everyday activities often taken for granted such as reading flyers, writing grocery lists and singing songs together in the car can and do foster collective learning for both parents and children.

"Parents in the study noted that their children were able to write their own names, make lists, read to pets and dolls, memorize texts of shared books, make labels for objects and more," says Phillips. "Not only did some of these kids take off like wildfire but their parents' reading improved at the same time. And the gains that these families made from participating in the program were sustained over time."

In collaboration with the Centre for Family Literacy, the National Literacy Secretariat, and the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, the five-year longitudinal study included families from five communities.
Comprehensive results of the study are reported in the book, Family Literacy Matters: A Longitudinal Parent-Child Literacy Intervention Study by Linda M. Phillips, Ruth Hayden and Stephen P. Norris and published by Temeron Books, Inc.
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Survey reveals problem of cyber-bullying in schools

A survey into teachers’ experiences of cyber-bullying has revealed that bullying by mobile phone, email or over the internet is a growing problem In England.

The survey revealed that 17 per cent of respondents have experienced this type of bullying. These incidents ranged from upsetting emails and unwelcome text messages, to silent phone calls and the malicious use of websites and internet chat rooms.

A secondary school teacher from the North East, experienced cyber-bullying by a colleague at work, who refused to speak to him face to face, and would only communicate by sending abrupt, aggressive emails or text messages. This went on for a long period of time and left Mark with reduced self confidence and feeling very excluded at work. He discussed the issue with his manager, but felt that it was dealt with poorly, and that his situation was dismissed as not important. Mark has now moved to another role.

Having been subject to derogatory and false statements placed on a website over several months, another respondent, a secondary school teacher from the Midlands said it was a major factor in his decision to retire early from teaching. “I found the nature of the comments about me to be very hurtful,” he recalls. Even leaving the school hasn’t stopped the abuse. “More recently comments about me have reappeared on the website,” he says “It seems that, even in retirement, my detractors can’t leave me alone.”

The results also showed that 53 per cent of respondents did not know whether their school has a code of conduct to address cyber-bullying, and 39 per cent said their schools did not. Of those whose schools do have a code of conduct to address this issue, 19 per cent said it is not properly enforced and 72 per cent don’t know if it is.

The cyber-bullying survey ran from November 2006 to January 2007 with 379 respondents.

The survey revealed:
17 per cent of respondents have been bullied by mobile phone, email or over the internet_Of those who have been bullied in this way:
• 45% received emails designed to upset or enrage them
• 38% received unwelcome text messages that they found upsetting
• 38% received silent calls
• 15% received threatening text messages
• 12% said photos were sent to them or other people which made them feel embarrassed, threatened or uncomfortable
• 10% read messages via an internet chat room which were designed to upset or enrage them
• 7% received one or more emails threatening them
• 7% received threatening messages via an internet chat room.

When asked who they were bullied by:
• 34% said pupils
• 33% did not know
• 31% said their manager
• 21% said their colleagues
• 7% said pupils' parent.

Of those who have experienced bullying or threats, it affected them in the following ways:
• 63% said it reduced their confidence and self esteem
• 57% said their productivity or teaching effectiveness was reduced
• 49% became ill or stressed but carried on working
• 43% said it affected their home life
• 20% were scared to go to work
• 17% took sick leave, suffering from illness and stress
• 8% were scared outside of work.

Regarding Codes of Conduct to address cyber-bullying:
• 9% said their school does have a Code of Conduct to address this issue
• 39% said their schools did not have a Code of Conduct to address cyber-bullying
• 53% didn’t know
• Of those whose schools did have a Code of Conduct, only 19% said it was properly enforced.
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Universal Education Achievable and Affordable

Educating All Children: A Global Agenda, a new book from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, examines the impact of providing high-quality education to every child in the world between the ages of 6 and 16. According to the authors, achieving universal basic and secondary education, by the middle of the 21st century, is both possible and affordable. The volume presents a cohesive picture of past, present, and future steps necessary to achieve this goal.

The Academy study concludes that achieving universal primary and secondary education is both urgently needed and well within the ability of wealthy nations to fund. Five changes are essential to achieve universal primary and secondary education by mid- century:
• Open discussions, nationally, regionally, and internationally, on what people want primary and secondary education to achieve — that is, the goals of education
• A commitment to improving the effectiveness and economic efficiency of education
• A commitment to extending high-quality secondary education to all children
• Recognition of the diverse character of educational systems in different countries, and adaptation of aid policies and educational assessment requirements to local contexts
• More funding from rich countries for education in poor countries

Although greater numbers of people are completing primary, secondary, and tertiary education than ever before, ensuring universally available high-quality schooling still faces major obstacles. In Educating All Children, leading experts discuss the current state of education and how to measure global educational progress, the history of compulsory education, political and financial obstacles to expanding education, the role of educational assessment and evaluation in developing countries, cost estimates for providing universal education (and why they differ so widely), the potential consequences of expanded global education, and the relationship between education and health.

Universal primary education has long been advocated in international forums, but the editors contend that secondary education must also be universally available. They note that many benefits of education do not accrue until students have had ten years or more of schooling and that “primary education is more attractive if high-quality secondary education beckons.”

At the current rate of progress, the international commitment to universal primary education by 2015, as expressed in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, will not be met. According to the study, by 2015, roughly 114 million children – most in the world’s poorest countries — will still not be enrolled in primary school and almost twice that number will not be receiving a secondary education.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown commented "Educating All Children: A Global Agenda is a timely reminder of the importance of universal access to education in the fight against poverty.” Stephen P. Heyneman, Professor of International Education Policy at Vanderbilt University said, “This is among the most interesting books on education and development I have read in a decade.”

Educating All Children: A Global Agenda is published by the MIT Press.
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A new language barrier -- Why learning a new language may make you forget your old one

Traveling abroad presents an ideal opportunity to master a foreign language. While the immersion process facilitates communication in a diverse world, people are often surprised to find they have difficulty returning to their native language. This phenomenon is referred to as first-language attrition and has University of Oregon psychologist Benjamin Levy wondering how it is possible to forget, even momentarily, words used fluently throughout one's life.

In a study appearing in the January, 2007 issue of Psychological Science, Levy and his colleague Dr. Michael Anderson discovered that people do not forget their native language simply because of less use, but that such forgetfulness reflects active inhibition of native language words that distract us while we are speaking the new language. Therefore, this forgetfulness may actually be an adaptive strategy to better learn a second language. In the study, native English speakers who had completed at least one year of college level Spanish were asked to repeatedly name objects in Spanish. The more the students were asked to repeat the Spanish words, the more difficulty they had generating the corresponding English labels for the objects. In other words, naming objects in another language inhibits the corresponding labels in the native language, making them more difficult to retrieve later.

Interestingly, the study also showed that the more fluent bilingual students were far less prone to experience these inhibitory effects. These findings suggest that native language inhibition plays a crucial role during the initial stages of second language learning. That is, when first learning a new language, we have to actively ignore our easily accessible native language words while struggling to express our thoughts in a novel tongue. As a speaker achieves bilingual fluency, native-language inhibition becomes less necessary, accounting for the better performances of fluent bilingual speakers in the study. Although the value of suppressing previously learned knowledge to learn new concepts may appear counterintuitive, Levy explains that "first-language attrition provides a striking example of how it can be adaptive to (at least temporarily) forget things one has learned."
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Study raises doubts on K-8

Johns Hopkins University researchers have concluded that expanding elementary schools to sixth, seventh and eighth grades does not help adolescents do better academically…

"District after district is getting misled by thinking our K-8 schools are doing better than our middle schools," said Douglas Mac Iver, a Hopkins education researcher who has studied middle schools for more than a decade.
Shutting down a middle school in a neighborhood with gang violence and open-air drug markets to open a new school will not insulate the students from those influences, he said: "The grade span itself is not some magic bullet…"
Hard to teach
For several decades, educators have debated where to put 11- to 14-year-olds, the most difficult-to-teach age because of the rapid physical and emotional development that occurs during those years.
Historically, when most children left school after eighth grade, schools were organized in one building. Then, in the middle of the 20th century, educators decided to keep sixth-graders in elementary schools and move seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders into junior high schools.

Change came again in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when school districts began building middle schools for sixth through eighth grades, which today is the most common configuration, according to Alan Summers, director of professional development at the National Middle School Association.

"Currently, there is no research that says what should be the most effective grade configuration," Summers said.

The Mac Ivers' research did not look just at test scores from one grade at a middle school compared with the same grade at a K-8 school, as most school systems do.

The research went deeper, investigating how good a job middle schools did in educating the students over three years. The researchers looked at the growth students achieved in their three middle school years.

The research could help guide administrators deciding how to reform middle schools in their districts.

What it shows, Mac Iver said, is that the quality of the teaching, the curriculum and other factors matter just as much…

Math programs
Mac Iver said his research indicates that students who were taught using several different reform math programs scored higher than their peers who did not use those programs.

"Our research has consistently shown the positive effects of National Science Foundation-supported reform mathematics programs on student achievement," he said, adding that it must include coaching for teachers and other kinds of teacher training...

Teachers are key
Summers believes the pitfall in creating K-8 schools is that the school might not be large enough to provide teachers who specialize. For instance, a math teacher in a small school might have to teach Algebra I and other levels of math, or math and science, and therefore might not be as experienced in teaching one subject.
And he said that sometimes the developmental needs of middle-schoolers are lost in K-8 schools.

"The desire to go to K-8 is fine as long as you treat them as early adolescents and not elementary school kids," he said.

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Funding Gaps 2006

(School finance policy choices at the federal, state, and district levels systematically stack the deck against students who need the most support from their schools, according to a report released by the Education Trust.

The report, Funding Gaps 2006, builds on the Education Trust’s annual studies of funding gaps among school districts within states. For the first time the report includes data and analysis on:

• How federal Title I funds widen rather than narrow the education funding gaps that separate wealthy states from poor states; and,
• How funding choices at the school district level provide enhanced funding to schools serving higher concentrations of affluent students and white students at the expense of schools that serve low-income students and students of color.

“With the help of two noted scholars, Goodwin Liu and Marguerite Roza, this year’s funding gap report paints a fuller – and even more painful – picture of how funding choices made at every level shortchange low-income students and students of color,” said Kati Haycock, the president of the Education Trust. “And while fairer funding systems will not alone redress all of the inequities in our education system, getting the funding right—at every level—will begin to make real our national aspiration of a fair shot for every child.”

How the Federal Government Makes Rich States Richer

Goodwin Liu, Assistant Professor of Law at Boalt Hall School of Law and co-director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at the University of California at Berkeley, analyzed the distribution of Title I funds and shows that the program’s state allocation formula reinforces rather than reduces funding gaps between wealthy and poor states.

Liu’s analysis finds that the state expenditure factor in the Title I formula results in highly unequal allocations of federal aid per poor child. For example, Maryland has fewer poor children than Arkansas but receives 51 percent more Title I aid per poor child, even though Arkansas dedicates more of its taxable resources to education than wealthier Maryland. Similarly, Massachusetts has fewer poor children and exerts less effort against its tax base to fund education than poorer Oklahoma, but receives more than twice as much Title I aid.

In short, Title I tends to reward wealthy states that can raise funds for education with relatively little effort while shortchanging poorer states, including those that make relatively greater effort to fund education.

“Poor children are concentrated in relatively poorer states. Instead of providing relatively more help to these kids, Title I provides less,” Liu said. “If we are serious about ensuring that every child in America meets high standards, then we must develop a federal school finance policy equal to the task.”

How States Shortchange the Districts that Most Need Help
In the paper’s second analysis—an update of the annual Education Trust funding gap analysis –co-authors Ross Wiener and Eli Pristoop of the Education Trust examine patterns in state and local funding across districts in the same state . Wiener and Pristoop find that in about half of the states studied, the highest poverty and highest minority districts received fewer resources than the lowest poverty and lowest minority districts. On average, states and localities spend $908 less per student in districts educating the most students of color, and $825 less per student in districts educating the most low-income students as compared to what is spent in the wealthiest and whitest districts.

After a 40 percent adjustment – the same adjustment used in the Title I formula to analyze state funding policies to low-income students – six states have funding gaps between the lowest and highest poverty districts that exceed $1,000 per child: Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Based on the same adjustment, 12 states have funding gaps between highest and lowest minority districts that exceed $1,000 per child: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

However, other states—including Massachusetts and Kentucky – target more money to high-poverty districts, and use meaningful accountability measures to ensure that the funds are used to make real progress.

“Ignoring or condoning funding gaps only makes it harder to tackle the substantive problems and inequities in public schools,” said Wiener, vice president for practice and policy at the Education Trust. “There are many complicated issues in reforming the current system, but fairly funding schools is not one of them.”

How Districts Shortchange Low-income and Minority Students

The final analysis in the report looks at distribution of funds within school districts. University of Washington Research Assistant Professor Marguerite Roza shows that, despite district bookkeeping practices that make funding across schools within the same district appear relatively comparable, substantially less money is spent in high-poverty and high-minority schools.

Teacher salaries are the clearest example. Roza looks at salary expenditures in a variety of districts and finds troubling inequities in the allocation of this key resource among schools in the same district. For example in Austin, a city with one of the largest salary gaps, the gap in average teacher salaries between the highest and lowest poverty schools within the district amounted to $3,837. In a school of 25 teachers that gap amounts to $95,925 less per year for a low-income school; in a school with 100 teachers, the gap increases to $383,700 per year.

Roza’s analysis also shows that salaries are not the only problem: districts routinely assign a larger share of their unrestricted funds to lower-poverty schools, as well. Although districts distribute earmarked funds such as Title I mostly to higher need schools, they undercut the purpose of those dollars—to provide “extras” for low-income students—by sending a higher percentage of flexible state and local funding to lower poverty schools.

"The spending patterns and funding gaps within districts exacerbate educational inequalities for low-income and minority students. Sadly, these funding inequities are buried in widely accepted and outmoded district-level accounting practices,” said Roza.

Among the report’s recommendations:

• At the Federal Level: The state expenditure factor in the Title I formula should be eliminated, and Title I funding should compensate for differences in state capacity to fund education.

• At the State Level: States need to assess relative challenges across districts and ensure that funding is commensurate with the challenges, and set equity standards for all school districts.

• At the School District Level: Districts need to publish transparent budgets and allocation figures to provide for greater accountability of local spending patterns.

“The funding inequities documented in this report, though deeply ingrained in our education systems, are not immutable. We can and should change these distribution practices so they direct resources first to the areas of greatest need,” said Haycock.

To read the full report:

Technical Appendix:
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