June ERR #12

Relationships Improve Student Success

When students are underachieving, school policymakers often examine class size, curriculum and funding, but University of Missouri researchers suggest establishing relationships may be a powerful and less expensive way to improve students' success. In a review of the research they show that students with positive attachments to their teachers and schools have higher grades and higher standardized test scores.

"In this era of accountability, enhancing student-teacher relationships is not merely an add-on, but rather is fundamental to raising achievement," said Christi Bergin, associate professor in the MU College of Education. "Secure student-teacher relationships predict greater knowledge, higher test scores, greater academic motivation and fewer retentions or special education referrals. Children who have conflicted relationships with teachers tend to like school less, are less self-directed and cooperate less in the classroom."

The authors summarized a range of research on attachment-like relations with parents, teachers and schools. They found that student attachment influences school success through two routes: indirectly through attachment to parents which affects children's behavior at school and directly through attachment to teachers and schools. Children with healthy attachment are able to control their emotions and are more socially competent and willing to take on challenging learning tasks in the classroom.

"To be effective, teachers must connect with and care for children with warmth, respect and trust," said David Bergin, associate professor of educational psychology, and the other author of the article. "In addition, it is important for schools to make children feel secure and valued, which can liberate them to take on intellectual and social challenges and explore new ideas."

To help enhance student relations, the authors offer research-based tips for teachers and schools:


• Increase warm, positive interactions with students

• Be well prepared for class and hold high expectations

• Be responsive to students' agendas by providing choices

• Use reasoning rather than coercive discipline that damages relationships

• Help students be kind, helpful and accepting of one another

• Implement interventions for difficult relations with specific students


• Provide a variety of extracurricular activities for students to join

• Keep schools small

• Keep students with the same teachers and/or peers across years

• Decrease transitions in and out of the classroom

• Facilitate transitions to new schools or teachers

New Project Zero Study - 'The Qualities of Quality: Understanding Excellence in Arts Education' - Highlights Importance of Arts Educators Focusing on Quality, and Need for Alignment of Purposes

Many children in the United States have little or no opportunity for formal arts instruction and access to arts learning experiences remains a critical national challenge. Additionally, the quality of arts learning opportunities that are available to young people is a serious concern. Understanding this second challenge - the challenge of creating and sustaining high quality formal arts learning experiences for K-12 youth, inside and outside of school - is the focus of a new report from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

"The Qualities of Quality: Understanding Excellence in Arts Education" addresses the multiple challenges of achieving and sustaining quality in arts education, across major as well as emerging art forms in rural, urban, and suburban settings. The report is available as a free download from Project Zero at http://www.pz.harvard.edu/ and The Wallace Foundation at http://www.wallacefoundation.org/ .

Steve Seidel, lead principal investigator on the study, said, "Access and quality are the two great challenges for arts education. In the study, we found that while quality is a persistent challenge, many arts educators demonstrate that, with thoughtful, careful analysis, constant dialogue, and dogged persistence, it is possible to achieve and sustain high quality arts learning experiences for young people in and out of school settings."

Edward Pauly, director of research and evaluation at The Wallace Foundation, which commissioned the study, said: "In this difficult economic environment, arts educators need to use scarce resources to create high quality arts learning experiences. This timely report points the way for educators to focus on quality."

Major themes and findings of the study included:

Reflection and dialogue is important at all levels. An overarching theme across many of the findings of this study is that continuous reflection and discussion about what constitutes quality and how to achieve it is not only a catalyst for quality, but also a sign of quality.

The report includes dialogue tools to help arts educators build and clarify their own visions of high quality arts education, identify markers of quality in their own programs and practices, and seek alignment across decision-makers at all levels who help to shape a program's pursuit of quality.

The drive for quality is personal, passionate, and persistent. For most of the people surveyed in this study, ideas about what constitutes quality in arts education are inextricably tied to fundamental issues of identity and meaning and to their values as artists, educators, and citizens in the world.

Quality arts education serves multiple purposes simultaneously. Most of those interviewed believe good arts programs tend to serve several purposes simultaneously. Though arts programs differ widely in their contexts, goals, art forms, and constituencies, a hallmark sign of high quality arts learning in any program is that the learning experiences are rich and complex for all learners, engaging them on many levels and helping them learn and grow in a variety of ways.

Quality reveals itself "in the room" through four different lenses. There are multiple dimensions of quality in arts learning experiences. Four lenses were found to be especially useful in focusing attention on different aspects of excellence in arts education settings: learning, teaching, classroom community, and environment.

Foundational decisions matter. Arts education programs are based on foundational, program-defining decisions that give a program its identity and provide parameters within which quality is pursued. These decisions include: (1) Who teaches the arts? (2) Where are the arts taught? (3) What is taught and how? and (4) How is arts learning assessed?

Decisions and decision-makers at all levels affect quality. Critical decision-makers include people quite far away from the classroom (e.g., administrators, funders, policymakers); those just outside the room (notably program staff and parents); and those who are in the room (students, teachers, artists). While all decisions can have an important effect on quality, decisions made by those "in the room" have tremendous power to support or undermine the quality of the learning experience.

The study addressed three questions: How do U.S. arts educators, including leading practitioners, theorists, and administrators, define high quality arts learning and teaching? What markers of excellence do educators and administrators look for in the actual activities of art learning and teaching in the classroom? And, how do a program's foundational decisions, as well as its ongoing day-to-day decisions, affect quality? To answer these questions, researchers interviewed leading arts practitioners, theorists and administrators, visited exemplary arts programs across a range media and settings, and reviewed published literature.

Characteristics of Public School Districts in the United States: Results from the 2007-08 Schools and Staffing Survey

This report presents selected findings from the school district data file of the 2007-08 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). SASS is a nationally representative sample survey of public, private, and Bureau of Indian Education-funded (BIE) K-12 schools, principals, and teachers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The public school sample was designed so that national-, regional-, and state-level elementary, secondary, and combined public school estimates can be made. Public schools include both traditional public and public charter schools.

The School District data file includes responses from school districts to the School District Questionnaire along with the "district items" taken from the Public School Questionnaire (With District Items) completed by the subset of public schools that were not associated with "traditional" school districts. These schools include state-run schools, traditional public schools in single-school districts, and independent charter schools.


Study Evaluates the Growth of Management Structures for Charter Schools

A new study by the University of Southern California’s Center on Educational Governance has found that growing numbers of charter schools are operating as networks through nonprofit groups called Charter Management Organizations (CMOs).

The comprehensive national study maps the landscape of 25 CMOs around the country - such as Green Dot Public Schools in Los Angeles and the nationwide Imagine Schools - by gathering data on how these management organizations operate and how they plan for and implement growth. In the first of what will be a series of reports, researchers focused on CMO’s age, origin, geographic scope, grades served and number of schools that are part of each organization’s structure.

CMOS provide an umbrella structure for three or more charter schools to operate under, according to the criteria of the research study. In this initial study, researchers created a framework for defining a CMO and found that most CMOs are striking a balance between oversight and independence of the individual schools; The question remains as to an optimal size for CMOs.

The focus on CMOs is relevant to broader discussions of education policy and reform because a major reason behind the creation of charter schools was to avoid the entrenched bureaucracy that stifles innovation in many school districts around the country. Since 1991, when Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter school law, “mom and pop” stand-alone charter schools have been the norm. Starting in the late-1990s, however, charters have found greater power in numbers operated through CMOs. This changes the discussion about “schools of choice” – now, there are “networks of choice.”

“CMOS have been touted as a way to overcome financial and operational hurdles that stand-alone charter schools often struggle with, as well as a way to create pressure on districts for systems change,” said Joanna Smith, Assistant Director of USC’s Center on Educational Governance. “But there is a general lack of knowledge about what CMOs actually are, how they operate and how they grow, so our study increases that knowledge so that policy makers, foundations, charter authorizers and others can make informed decisions.”

The Center on Educational Governance is at the USC Rossier School of Education. Study researchers conducted over 50 interviews with leaders from 25 CMOs currently operating in 26 of the 41 states with charter school laws. The research was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, and it aims to create a baseline of information about this newly emerging form of chartering.

“With the proliferation of charter schools, currently numbering around 4,300 nationwide, there has been a growing awareness of the need for a more financially viable model for charter school management and organization, as well as the desire to replicate successful programming,” said Priscilla Wohlstetter, Professor in USC’s Rossier School of Education.

The research team at USC’s Center on Educational Governance came up with specific criteria to define CMOs in order to prevent overlap or confusion. They defined CMOs as nonprofit organizations that manage a network of charter schools, in order to differentiate them from for-profit education management organizations that may provide only one of a menu of school needs. The sample included only CMOs that have at least three campuses in operation during the 2008-2009 school year, and that have plans for further expansion.

The team started with a pool of 40 CMOs, but some of these management organizations didn't meet the definition criteria, others declined to participate and the rest didn't respond to requests to participate in the study.

Some of the key findings:

- CMOs provide more infrastructure than stand-alone charter schools but are smaller and have fewer levels of hierarchy than traditional school districts._- CMO home offices generally support, rather than direct, the individual schools they oversee by giving them significant autonomy while expecting them to adhere to the CMO’s mission and vision._- The CMOs studied spent significant time and dedicated extensive resources towards teacher recruitment, training and leadership development.

The CMOs in the study included those with ties to California, New York, Texas, Oregon, Louisiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Washington D.C., among others. They were typically comprised of small networks of ten or fewer schools that served a student body of between 1,000 and 5,000 students. (A list of CMOs is available upon request).

Ten of the 25 CMOs started out as a single charter school that expanded to a network due to demand or success. In the other 15 CMOs, founders established the network structure prior to or concurrent with opening the first charter school. More than half of the CMOs studied have developed within a city or region of one state, and only two CMOs have opened schools nationwide (in five or more states).

The majority of the CMOs had a K-12 configuration. Six CMOs focused on middle and high school grades (e.g., 6th-12th grades). Three CMOs had an elementary/middle-school model and two CMOs had high school only configurations.

Excluded from the study were charter organizations that ran online charter schools, and school districts in which all public schools were charter schools. Also excluded were agencies that were created to serve a broader purpose but which also ran one or more charters.

The study is available at http://www.usc.edu/dept/education/cegov/focus/charter_schools/publications/other/Intro%20to%20CMOs.pdf
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June ERR #11

The Schools Teachers Leave: Teacher Mobility in Chicago Public Schools

This report reveals that about 100 Chicago schools suffer from chronically high rates of teacher turnover, losing a quarter or more of their teaching staff every year, and many of these schools serve predominantly low-income African American children. In the typical Chicago elementary school, 51 percent of the teachers working in 2002 had left four years later, while the typical high school had seen 54 percent leave by 2006.__

The authors examined the factors associated with high mobility rates, including teachers_ background characteristics, school structure, students_ characteristics, and workplace conditions. Workforce conditions such as principal leadership, teacher collaboration, student safety all influence stability. In elementary schools, teachers_ perceptions of parents as partners in students_ education are strongly tied to stability; in high schools, teachers tend to leave schools with the highest rates of student misbehavior. The data includes personnel records from about 35,000 teachers in 538 elementary schools and 118 high schools.__

This study reflects the Consortium_s commitment to study education issues that are top priorities in Chicago and districts nationwide. While some teacher mobility is normal and expected, high turnover rates can produce a range of organizational problems at schools, such as discontinuity in professional development, shortages in key subjects, and loss of teacher leadership. Previous research also indicates that schools with high turnover are more likely to have inexperienced, ineffective teachers.

Elementary School Teacher Stability, 2003-2006


High School Teacher Stability, 2003-2006


Nearly 1 in 10 Kids Report Cyber Bullying

New research shines a light on the phenomenon of “cyber bullying,” suggesting that nearly 1 in 10 children are bullied through electronic means such as text messages, and girls are more likely to be victims than boys are.

Other kinds of bullying remain much more common, however. Large numbers of kids continue to harass each other by spreading rumors, turning fellow students into outcasts and intimidating others through words and violence.

There is a bright spot: The findings suggest that parents have the power to prevent kids from bullying or being bullied.

“Parental warmth and support may improve your own psychological development, meaning you’re less likely to feel a need to degrade others to improve your own self -esteem,” said study co-author Ronald Iannotti, a researcher with the National Institutes of Health.

In addition, he said, “others may perceive you more positively,” potentially preventing children from being bullied themselves.

The study authors examined a 2005 national survey that asked 7,182 students in grades 6 through 10 about bullying. The study findings appear online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Thirteen percent of students said others physically bullied them — hit, kicked, pushed or shoved them or locked them indoors.

About a third of students said others called them mean names, made fun of them or teased them in a hurtful way; about a third acknowledged doing the bullying themselves. Moreover, 26 percent to 32 percent said others spread rumors about them or ostracized them.__Cyber bullying was much less common. Eight percent said others bullied them through computer pictures and messages; 6 percent received bullying messages through cell phones.

The study found that having a wider circle of friends was both good and bad in terms of bullying: Those with more friends were less likely to be victims, but more likely to be bullies. However, friends did not seem to have any influence on cyber bullying.

The findings also shed light on bullying in middle school, which often receives less attention than high school bullying, said Stephen Russell, director of the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth & Families at the University of Arizona.

However, he said, “what remains needed in this field of study is attention to the reasons that kids bully one another … much of which have to do with bias or discrimination based on how a student looks or acts, their sexuality or gender, their race or religion, or their social class — whether they are perceived as poor.”

Research suggests bullying due to discrimination is more severe than other kinds, he said.

An Evolutionarily Informed Education Science

Schools are a central interface between evolution and culture. They are the contexts in which children learn the evolutionarily novel abilities and knowledge needed to function as adults in modern societies. Evolutionary educational psychology is the study of how an evolved bias in children's learning and motivational systems influences their ability and motivation to learn evolutionarily novel academic abilities and information in school.

The author provides an overview of evolved domains of mind, corresponding learning and motivational biases, and the evolved systems that allow humans to learn about and cope with variation and change within lifetimes. The latter enable the creation of cultural and academic innovations and support the learning of evolutionarily novel information in school. These mechanisms and the premises and principles of evolutionary educational psychology are described. Their utility is illustrated by discussion of the relation between evolved motivational dispositions and children's academic motivation and by the relation between evolved social-cognitive systems and mechanisms that support children's learning to read.

Effects of the Economy on the Admission Process, 2008-09

A fact sheet prepared by NACAC summarizes findings from a survey of its members about how the economic recession is affecting their schools and colleges and the students they serve. Findings indicate that about 30 percent of secondary schools experienced budget cuts and 10 percent experienced staff cuts in 2008-09. Thirty-five percent of colleges had budget cuts and 15 percent had staff cuts. Many counselors reported an increase in the number of students planning to enroll in community colleges vs. four-year schools, public vs. private colleges, and/or forgoing “dream schools” for more affordable options.

Complete report:

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June ERR #10

Study Shows School-Based Prevention Program Reduces Problem Behaviors in Fifth-Graders by Half

A study suggests that school-based prevention programs begun in elementary school can significantly reduce problem behaviors in students. Fifth graders who previously participated in a comprehensive interactive school prevention program for one to four years were about half as likely to engage in substance abuse, violent behavior, or sexual activity as those who did not take part in the program. The study, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIDA ), a component of the National Institutes of Health, will appear in the August 2009 print issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The online version of the article is viewable today.

"This study provides compelling evidence that intervening with young children is a promising approach to preventing drug use and other problem behaviors," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow. "The fact that an intervention beginning in the first grade produced a significant effect on children’s behavior in the fifth grade strengthens the case for initiating prevention programs in elementary school, before most children have begun to engage in problem behaviors."

The study was conducted in 20 public elementary schools in Hawaii. Participating schools had below-average standardized test scores and diverse student populations, with an average of 55 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

The intervention tested was Positive Action ( PA ), a comprehensive K–12 social and emotional development program for enhancing behavior and academic achievement. Schools were randomly assigned from matched pairs either to implement PA or not. The program consists of daily 15–20 minute interactive lessons focusing on such topics as responsible self-management, getting along with others, and self-improvement. At schools implementing the intervention, these lessons occupied a total of about 1 hour per week beginning in the first or second grade.

In fifth grade, 976 students ( most of whom were aged 10 or 11 ) responded to a written questionnaire that asked about their use of substances, including tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs; involvement in violent behaviors, such as carrying a knife or threatening someone; and voluntary sexual activity. The total number of students reporting that they had engaged in any of these behaviors was small. Strikingly, however, students exposed to the PA program were about half as likely to report engaging in any of these behaviors as students not exposed to PA. Among students who were exposed to PA, those who had received the lessons for 3 or more years reported the lowest rates of experience with any of these problem behaviors.

"This study demonstrates that a comprehensive, schoolwide social and character development program can have a substantial impact on reducing problem behaviors of public health importance in elementary-school-age youth," said Dr. Brian Flay of Oregon State University, the study’s principal investigator.

PA is an interactive program that integrates teacher/student contact and opportunities for the exchange of ideas as well as feedback and constructive criticism. The program is schoolwide and involves teachers and parents as well as students. It takes a positive, holistic approach to social and emotional development rather than focusing on the negative aspects of engaging in substance abuse and violence. Additionally, at 1 hour per week, students’ exposure to the program was intensive. "These features likely account for the large effect observed," concluded Dr. Flay.

Dr. Flay plans to conduct a follow up study to determine whether the beneficial effects of the PA program on fifth graders are sustained as the children grow older.

Understanding Reading First

What We Know, What We Don’t, and What’s Next

This policy brief describes what Reading First was, sets the context in which it was implemented and the studies were conducted, summarizes the findings, and discusses the implications both for federal and state policy and for future research in the teaching of early reading.

The bottom line is that Reading First did increase the provision of professional development for teachers and of reading coaches and supports for struggling readers in schools that received funding. The program did influence how teachers taught — in ways that are aligned with scientifically based reading research (as summarized by the National Reading Panel in 2000), a key goal of the legislation. Unfortunately, these improvements did not produce higher reading comprehension scores on average among students in the Reading First schools. Nonetheless, there is some suggestive evidence that Reading First funding may have improved comprehension in schools in which the effects on teacher instruction were larger.

Complete paper:


Cooperative Learning Methods Top List of Effective Approaches for Secondary Mathematics, Finds Johns Hopkins Review

Cooperative learning methods have been found to be most effective in raising the math scores of middle and high school students, according to a comprehensive research review by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Center for Research and Reform in Education.

Robert Slavin, director of the center, and Cynthia Lake, research scientist, reviewed 102 previously released experimental studies evaluating the effectiveness of math programs in the middle school grades. The review builds on their analysis of elementary math programs published in 2008.

The researchers' review covered three approaches to improving math achievement: textbooks, computer-assisted instruction and approaches emphasizing professional development in specific teaching methods, such as cooperative learning (in which students interact in teams) and teaching of learning skills.

Both the elementary math and the middle and high school math reviews found that the most effective programs focus on daily teaching practices. Two cooperative learning programs for middle and high school math-STAD (Student Teams-Achievement Divisions) and IMPROVE-showed the strongest evidence of effectiveness..

"The findings of this review suggest that educators as well as researchers might do well to focus more on how the classroom is organized to maximize student engagement and motivation, rather than expecting that choosing one or another textbook by itself will move students forward," Slavin said. "Both the elementary review and the current review find that the programs that produce consistently positive effects on achievement are those that fundamentally change what students do every day in their core math classes."

Researchers conducted a broad literature search in order to locate every study comparing the effectiveness of various math programs to traditional control groups.

The results were published in the June 2009 issue of the American Educational Research Association's Review of Educational Research. The review notes that the three approaches to mathematics instruction do not conflict and may have added effects if used together.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education is conducting one of the largest research review projects ever undertaken to increase the use of evidence in education to improve student achievement. The intent is to place all types of programs on a common scale to provide educators with meaningful unbiased information that they can use to select programs and practices most likely to make a difference with their students. Topics include reading, math and other programs for grades K-12. Educator-friendly ratings of effective education programs as well as the full reports appear on the Best Evidence Encyclopedia Web site at http://www.bestevidence.org .

The School of Education's Center for Research and Reform in Education is a nonprofit center that received funding from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. For more information on the center, go to: http://education.jhu.edu/crre .

ACLU of Michigan Releases Report Identifying School-to-Prison Pipeline in State

Report documents disproportionate disciplinary practices towards African American students, offers realistic recommendations to combat problem

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has released a comprehensive report entitled “Reclaiming Michigan’s Throwaway Kids: Students Trapped in the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” which documents a trend amongst school districts to enforce severe disciplinary policies and practices that push children permanently out of the classroom without regard for the long-term impact. The school-to-prison pipeline refers to the national trend of criminalizing, rather than educating, our children.

“This report provides critical information for all those committed to improving our public schools in the state – it documents and analyzes data that shows how the frequent use of suspensions and expulsions contributes to our high drop-out rate and how those suspension practices hit black students the hardest, putting them on a high-risk path to incarceration,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan’s executive director. “We cannot deal with the corrections budget until we deal with the ‘pipeline’ leading from the educational system to prison.”

Information within the report was obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to school districts across the state, interviews with students, parents, and educators; information obtained while providing advocacy work to students facing discipline; scholarly reports and studies; legal analyses; and information collected while providing aggrieved students with legal representation.

Through its research the ACLU found that disproportionate discipline towards African American students was apparent in the majority of the school districts examined in the study. For instance, in the Ann Arbor School District during the 2006/07 school year, black students accounted for 18 percent of a secondary school student population, but they received 58 percent of suspensions. This trend is reflected in school districts statewide.

“In school district after school district, from one end of the state to another, we found that black kids are consistently suspended in numbers that are considerably disproportionate to their representation in the various student populations,” said Mark P. Fancher, ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project staff attorney and principal author of the report. “More alarming still are studies we examined that show that the behavior of black kids and white kids is essentially the same, and black kids are still kicked out of school proportionately more often. This is true regardless of socio-economic factors and geography.”

Studies show that when students are repeatedly suspended, they are substantially at greater risk of leaving school altogether. In at least one study of the Grand Rapids School District, 31 percent of students with three or more suspensions before spring semester of their sophomore year dropped out, while only 6 percent of students with no history of suspensions dropped out. Although there are few efforts made to track the whereabouts of students who leave school, 68 percent of Michigan’s prisoners are identified as high school dropouts.

The study found that one significant contributor in Michigan’s school-to-prison pipeline is the overreaching lack of due process. Unfortunately, due process policies and procedures to remove students from Michigan’s public schools vary from district to district. To combat this problem, the ACLU recommends uniform statewide procedural protocols for the discipline of students that ensure students accused of misconduct have full and fair opportunities to explain their actions and otherwise defend themselves.

In addition, Michigan’s “zero tolerance” expulsion law, which is broader in scope than federal law requires, also contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline. Federal law requires that states receiving federal education funds must enact a law mandating one-year expulsions of students who posses firearms. However, Michigan’s law goes a step further and requires the expulsion of students who possess a “dangerous weapon.” In many instances, well behaved, unsuspecting students have faced serious consequences for carrying items that do not necessarily reflect this definition.

“As an attorney, I am highly trained to deal with the loss of rights and conflict resolution, but even I was at a loss when my daughter’s school nearly expelled her for bringing an eyebrow shaper to class,” said Desiree Ferguson of Detroit. “As a criminal defense expert, I knew that the charge against my daughter was unsustainable as a matter of law. But she could still have suffered serious and enduring consequences from the accusation if I had not been armed with the necessary resources to intervene immediately and fight zealously for her. I can only imagine what parents with fewer resources encounter. By coming forward and by being a part of this report, I am not only advocating for my daughter, but for all the parents who cannot or don’t know that they can fight too.”

The ACLU recommends amending Michigan’s expulsion law to conform more strictly to the scope of federal requirements by making only firearm offenses subject to mandatory automatic expulsions. In addition, school administrators should explore alternatives to suspension and expulsion, including restorative practices to correct the problem rather than punish the deed. Other ACLU recommendations address alternative education and offer guidelines on when to involve the criminal justice system with disciplinary matters.

To download a copy of “Reclaiming Michigan’s Throwaway Kids: Students Trapped in the School-to-Prison Pipeline:”


Special issue of Management in Education considers impact of academies in England

A complex picture is emerging about the controversial Academies programme. Researchers analyse and report findings about Academies in a special issue of the journal Management in Education (MIE), published by SAGE. Amongst the issues addressed are whether Academies are leading to improved student performance and higher levels of student satisfaction.

The Academies programme was launched in 2000, with the first Academies opening in 2002. Their aim was to create schools that are both 'independent' (being sponsored by private individuals and organisations) and state funded. Currently there are 133 Academies open, the aim being to create 400.

Focussing on two distinct areas, the articles in MIE review the policy framework for Academies, and report on research studies examining how they are working. Findings from a five-year longitudinal evaluation (Armstrong, Bunting and Larsen) suggest that improvements across Academies are mixed. They show that while there have been notable improvements to student performance as a whole – markedly so in comparison to the national average – the improvements have not been uniform, and there is considerable diversity between and within Academies. The authors conclude that there is "insufficient evidence to make a definitive judgement about the Academies as a model for school improvement."

The issue includes examination of the Trinity Academy in Yorkshire: the 'Most improved Academy in England', and 'Most Improved School in Yorkshire and Humberside' (Pike). Sponsored by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, this case study argues that the Academy's combination of private business sponsorship, core values, emphasis on character and distinctive Christian ethos is a highly significant factor in bringing about the sharp increase in GCSE attainment at the Academy.

Another case study examining a single Academy (Woods and Woods) shows that a broader approach to enterprise than just concentrating on business is possible. As well as instilling a culture of enterprise by promoting generic entrepreneurial skills and values, this Academy is also encouraging a greater level of public entrepreneurialism, with students and staff actively engaging with the local community.

"The academy sees itself not only promoting core enterprise skills but also public and participative forms of enterprise that involve students and the community," said lead author and joint Editor of the special issue, Philip Woods. "Only 22 per cent of staff in the academy see enterprise as about acting more like a private business. Public entrepreneurialism seeks to advance values such as participation, deliberative democracy and social justice."

Commenting on the special issue, Philip Woods said, "Contributions draw attention to the vital importance of critically examining the power of sponsors, the impact of Academies on local democracy and accountability, and the concerns of local popular campaigns against proposed Academies".

The system in England is becoming more complex and the number of private sponsors and partners is expanding. This special issue highlights some of the diverse perspectives and experiences of Academies, puts on the record emerging findings about these new types of school and makes a valuable contribution to ongoing dialogue between researchers, practitioners and policy-makers.

Summary of articles:

Academies in context: politics, business and philanthropy and heterarchical governance _Stephen J. Ball

This paper puts the programme of Academy schools currently underway in England in the context of a set of broad changes in the nature of educational governance and in relation to shifts in the form and modalities of the English state. Illustrations from policy relating to new types of state school and new types of providers of these schools are used to indicate a move from hierarchical forms of government to heterarchical forms of governance – what is sometimes referred to as network governance. _Keywords: governance, policy networks, heterarchy

Let's look at Academies systemically _Ron Glatter

In this article Ron Glatter looks at the policy on Academies in a broad perspective, briefly touching on issues of democracy, autonomy, governance and accountability and arguing that the policy must be considered holistically. He considers that we should focus not on an Academy or Academies in isolation but on their relationship with the rest of the school system, given that Academies are and will remain for the foreseeable future a small minority of all publicly funded schools. We should also compare the Academy model with other frameworks of governance, both new and existing, and pay much closer attention to the perspectives of families. _Keywords: Academies, democracy, school autonomy, governance, educational accountability

Setting up Academies, campaigning against them: an analysis of a contested policy process _Richard Hatcher

The Academies policy has provoked opposition nationally and locally. In this paper Richard Hatcher summarises his recent research into local popular campaigns against proposed Academies, drawing on social movement theory. He situates an analysis of the process of setting up Academies in the context of current debates about urban governance and local democracy. _Keywords: Academies, policy contestation, urban governance, local democracy

Academies and school diversity _Andy Curtis

Academies were distinctive in key respects from other types of state schools in the early years of the programme, especially in terms of their independence from local authority control and the enhanced power of the sponsor. The sponsors often tended to have business backgrounds and/or faith affiliations. Recent developments have led to some of the Academies' autonomy being curtailed. In addition, certain later Academies have sponsors and specialisms which differ from Academies in earlier waves. This includes universities being more proactively encouraged to become sponsors and greater local authority involvement. This article considers the extent to which Academies differ from other school types and also identify the characteristics of different Academies. _Keywords: Academies, school diversity, sponsors

Academies: a model for school improvement? Key findings from a five-year longitudinal evaluation _David Armstrong, Valerie Bunting and Judy Larsen

This article provides an overview of the Academies programme from its infancy to full operational stage, using the first 27 open Academies as the sample. The data presented are drawn from a five-year longitudinal evaluation, which systematically reviewed and evaluated the distinctive features of Academies. The picture to emerge was one of positive overall progress in securing improvements in performance. However, there was considerable diversity across individual Academies in the levels and improvements achieved against many performance measures. Our conclusion was that there is no simple uniform 'Academy effect', since there is a complex range of variables interacting within each Academy. _Keywords: Academies model, school improvement, longitudinal evaluation

Testing a typology of entrepreneurialism: emerging findings from an Academy with an enterprise specialism _Philip A. Woods and Glenys J. Woods

This article examines how the Academy appears to be constructing meanings around enterprise. It tests the usefulness of a typology of entrepreneurialism as a means of exploring the degree to which meanings ascribed to entrepreneurialism are fixed around business models, or take in or construct different or broader conceptions of entrepreneurial activity. Two models representing different facets of these perspectives in the Academy are put forward: one grounded in the aim of instilling a culture of enterprise by promoting generic entrepreneurial skills and values; the other grounded in public entrepreneurialism that seeks to advance values such as participation, deliberative democracy and social justice. _Key words: Academies, social entrepreneurship, resocialisation, regeneration, community

Authentic assessment in the first Steiner Academy _John Burnett

Since its inception in 1919, Steiner education has consistently argued for an integrated and balanced approach to teaching and learning, including affective-social and practical aspects as well as intellectual-academic. The advent in England of a state-funded Steiner Academy where the National Curriculum is not taught requires the design of an authentic assessment programme which acknowledges sound academic principles without compromising essential values and pedagogical principles. _Keywords: Steiner, Waldorf, social-affective learning, practical learning, assessment for learning

Corporate features and faith-based Academies _Elizabeth Green

This article draws on research carried out in Academies sponsored by a Christian foundation. It explores how the religious values of the sponsor can be translated into a set of corporate features to facilitate expansion and advance the entrepreneurial aims of faith-based sponsorship of Academies. _Keywords: Ethos, faith-based education, Academies, corporate

The Emmanuel Schools Foundation: sponsoring and leading transformation at England's most improved Academy _Mark A. Pike

This article draws upon a case study of Trinity Academy in Yorkshire, Trinity Academy was designated the most improved Academy nationally. Drawing upon interviews, classroom observations and survey data, this article seeks to evaluate the contribution made by Trinity Academy's core values, private business sponsorship and Christian ethos to the unusually high aspirations it has for all students regardless of background. This Academy, at the heart of a former mining community, is of particular interest as it serves the same social priority area as the school it replaced and maintains a genuinely comprehensive intake by avoiding any selection of students on the basis of faith, aptitude or attitude. _Keywords: Academy, sponsor, leadership, values, Christian, ethos

Academies in England: a special issue of Management in Education, is published today by SAGE (2009 23:3). Articles from the special issue will be free to access for a limited period from http://mie.sagepub.com/. Management in Education is published by SAGE on behalf of the British Educational Leadership, Management & Administration Society (BELMAS).
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June ERR #9

New System Measures State, District Student Math Performance Against World; In Today's Global Economy, Only a Handful of States Score Favorable; 'Letter Grades' on International Benchmarks

A new international grading index that provides states, school districts and policymakers with a way to determine where their students rank in comparison with their peers around the world finds that U.S. elementary school students show average performance, at best, in mathematics and are widely outperformed by their counterparts in several Asian countries, including Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong SAR and Japan.

This new approach to benchmarking simplifies international comparisons by grading the countries, states and school districts with a comparable system that is more familiar to policymakers - grades of A, B, C, D, or BD (below a D). The study assumes that the international benchmark, against which we should calibrate our expectations and monitor our success, is a grade of B.

The report, issued by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), based on international performance benchmarks in math for 4th and 8th grade students concluded that only 4th graders in a handful of states - among them Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Kansas and Vermont - are learning at B or B- levels when compared with students internationally.

At Grade 8, only Massachusetts achieves a grade of B.

"The Second Derivative: International Benchmarks in Mathematics for U.S. States and School Districts, is the first national report that captures the essence of what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and others have mentioned about international benchmarking," said report author Gary Phillips, a vice president and chief scientist at AIR. "This grading index achieves the important goal without adding any significant additional costs for states or the federal government."

The study was sponsored by AIR, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization, as part of its mission to provide relevant research to policymakers and practitioners seeking to improve school performance.

Phillips, who also served as the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education from 1999 to 2002, and is nationally known for his expertise in large-scale assessments and complex surveys, said the grade of B was chosen as the benchmark because it is statistically equivalent to the proficient level recommended by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as the level of performance we should expect from our students.

"These Asian nations consistently perform at the B+, B, and B- levels," Phillips said. "Their students are learning mathematics not just at a higher level than students in the United States, but at a level that is a quantum leap higher." The math proficiency average for U.S. students is C+ in grade 4 and C at grade 8.

In an increasingly competitive global economy in which skills are a pathway to opportunity, the report averred, the findings are cause for concern, recounting President Obama's belief that "the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow."

"The highest achieving countries are so far ahead of us, we will never catch up if we run at the current pace," said Phillips. "Our states and school districts should no longer be comparing themselves to their neighbors. They will be competing for jobs and innovations with students around the globe."

"The race to the top starts with knowing where we stand and how high the bar is over which we need to jump," he added. "Establishing state or national thresholds uninformed by what is happening around the world is like flying without radar."

In rating the performance of states and school districts, the AIR report found even more cause for concern, noting "a general tendency among the states and districts to drop in performance from grade 4 to grade 8."

By Grade 8, for example, five major school districts (Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, the District of Columbia and Cleveland) had fallen from C grades to the D+ level. Previously only the Washington, D.C., school system held this distinction.

Similar drops do not occur among the high-performing Asian nations.

"To get a feel for how far ahead these countries are, we compared the 4th grade students in the highest achieving country, Hong Kong, to those in the United States," explained Phillips. "The difference is comparable to the difference between the highest achieving state (Massachusetts) and the lowest achieving state (Mississippi). That is a huge achievement gap."

The report cites several reasons why the international grading system employed by AIR is a good choice for comparing educational outcomes within the context of a global educational environment.

- The grading system is a familiar metric and is intuitively understandable to the public and policymakers.

- The grades are connected to rigorous international benchmarks. This is indicated by the fact that only a few high-achieving countries and states received a B grade and no country or state received an A.

- The international benchmarks that underlie the grades were established through an international consensus process and have a scientifically based criterion-referenced interpretation.

- The grading system is comparable across Grades 4 and 8, across years of administration, across countries and now, as a result of the AIR report, across states and school districts.

One especially disturbing finding the report cited was "that there are a relatively large number of countries in which the students are performing at the BD (below D) level of proficiency." A few countries do a good job of teaching mathematics to the overall population of students, but in many countries the average student is not learning much mathematics.

"No one believes international benchmarking is a silver bullet that will solve all the problems with American education," the report concluded. "But it certainly should be at the front of the list of strategies for making improvements."

Full report:


Online tool that compares the ranking of individual states with foreign countries:


Online tutorials help elementary school teachers make sense of science

Interactive Web-based science tutorials can be effective tools for helping elementary school teachers construct powerful explanatory models of difficult scientific concepts, and research shows the interactive tutorials are just as effective online as they are in face-to-face settings, says a University of Illinois expert in science education.

David Brown, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education, said that elementary school teachers need high-quality, research-based resources to help them build a meaningful scientific knowledge base.

“Refining one’s scientific knowledge base through online interactive resources can help teachers develop a deeper conceptual understanding of scientific phenomena, making them better prepared to engage students in science-based activities,” Brown said.

In any curriculum, there is teacher background literature or other forms of digested information that teachers can study to refresh their memories or get the broad stroke outlines of what they’re going to teach.

The trouble with those teaching aids, according to Brown, is that the information they contain is “usually fairly terse” and isn’t interactive or research-based.

If teachers lack confidence in their scientific knowledge base, they’re probably going to avoid situations where they might be caught flat-footed by a student’s question, because they don’t want to be asked a question they don’t know how to answer, Brown said.

So they’ll fall back on more traditional lesson plans that emphasize the rote memorization of scientific terms over inquiry-based forms of learning, such as hands-on activities and discussions of those activities.

But an emphasis on routinized learning doesn’t help students grasp the foundational science behind what they’re learning, Brown said.

“If online tutorials focus on explaining the underlying scientific concepts behind the phenomena rather than on the rote memorization of facts, that can help teachers form a more meaningful conceptual understanding of what they’re going to teach,” he said. “A teacher who has a firm scientific knowledge base can then help students understand the fundamental scientific ideas and concepts behind what they’re learning better.”

To test his hypothesis, Brown developed “Making Sense of Science,” an online multimedia tutorial that tested subjects’ pre- and post-test knowledge of the scientific concept of buoyancy.

In the first 10 interviews, the average post-test score increased by 16 percent; in the second group of 10, by 28 percent; and for a group of 68 online users, by 33 percent. Similarly, Brown discovered that the average post-test confidence scores nearly doubled after the respondents interacted with the tutorials, and the written explanations of their ideas went from “somewhat incoherent” to “coherent explanations that made use of relevant ideas,” he said.

“We found that our resources were effective, and they were as effective online as they were face-to-face,” Brown said.

The tutorials were also crafted to address the perceived deficiencies that Brown thought other teacher background information and online resources suffered from.

“The resources are designed to help teachers develop their ideas,” Brown said. “They’re not designed for teachers to use directly with the students, but rather as background information for the teachers to develop their ideas so they’ll be in a better position to engage students in activities.”

Those positive results make Brown guardedly optimistic that online resources for teachers can be developed that will be helpful in advancing reform in elementary science education.

“The focus in both national and state standards is involving students in inquiry-oriented activities,” he said. “This is just trying to provide a resource for teachers for what they’re already being asked to do at the national and state levels.”

Brown believes having better prepared elementary school science teachers will ultimately lead to more students interested in science.

“There’s a world of difference between a drill-and-kill lesson versus an inquiry-oriented one in terms of student engagement and retention,” he said. “There’s a wealth of potential there that we’re not tapping into.”

School program cuts problem behaviors in fifth graders in half

A study by Oregon State University researchers suggests that school-based prevention programs begun in elementary school can significantly reduce problem behaviors in students.

Fifth graders who previously participated in a comprehensive interactive school prevention program for one to four years were about half as likely to engage in substance abuse, violent behavior, or sexual activity as those who did not take part in the program.

The study, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, will appear in the August, 2009, print issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The online version of the article is viewable today.

"This study provides compelling evidence that intervening with young children is a promising approach to preventing drug use and other problem behaviors," said NIDA Director Nora Volkow. "The fact that an intervention beginning in the first grade produced a significant effect on children's behavior in the fifth grade strengthens the case for initiating prevention programs in elementary school, before most children have begun to engage in problem behaviors."

The study was conducted in 20 public elementary schools in Hawaii. Participating schools had below-average standardized test scores and diverse student populations with an average of 55 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

The intervention tested was Positive Action (PA), a comprehensive K-12 social and emotional development program for enhancing behavior and academic achievement. Schools were randomly assigned from matched pairs to implement PA or not. The program consists of daily 15-20 minute interactive lessons focusing on such topics as responsible self-management, getting along with others, and self-improvement. At schools implementing the intervention, these lessons occupied a total of about one hour a week beginning in the first or second grade.

In fifth grade, 976 students (most aged 10 or 11) responded to a written questionnaire that asked about their use of substances, including tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs; involvement in violent behaviors, such as carrying a knife or threatening someone; and voluntary sexual activity. The total number of students reporting that they had engaged in any of these behaviors was small. Strikingly, however, students exposed to the PA program were about half as likely to report engaging in any of these behaviors as students not exposed to PA. Among students who were exposed to PA, those who had received the lessons for three or more years reported the lowest rates of experience with any of these problem behaviors.

"This study demonstrates that a comprehensive, school wide social and character development program can have a substantial impact on reducing problem behaviors of public health importance in elementary-school-age youth," said Brian Flay, professor of public health at OSU and the study's principal investigator.

PA is an interactive program that integrates teacher/student contact and opportunities for the exchange of ideas as well as feedback and constructive criticism. The program is school wide and involves teachers and parents as well as students. It takes a positive, holistic approach to social and emotional development rather than focusing on the negative aspects of engaging in substance abuse and violence. Finally, at one hour a week, students' exposure to the program was intensive. "These features likely account for the large effect observed," said Flay.

Flay plans to conduct a follow-up study to determine whether the beneficial effects of the PA program on fifth graders are sustained as the children grow older.

Study promotes educational reform based on school self-management

Researchers from the University of Murcia (UM) have investigated the issue of cooperation between families and schools, and are proposing changes be made to the organisational structure of schools to allow families to take an active part in managing them and to take on joint responsibility for their educational programmes. The study underscores the crucial educational role of the family as a great environment within which to teach children ethical values.

The debate about dividing teaching between the classroom and the home is nothing new. Teachers argue that education should not be limited to the confines nor the timetable of the classroom, but that it should continue beyond this through the help of parents – but what subjects should be shared in this way?

Pedro Ortega, a senior professor at the University of Murcia who led this research, tells SINC that "the conflict aroused by the new subject Education for Citizenship has awoken many families from their lengthy lethargy and led to them exercising their rights to play an active role in the educational work carried out by schools".

The study, published in the latest issue of the Revista Española de Pedagogía includes warnings from teachers about the fact that families "are starting to see themselves as clients, as consumers of education services, demanding greater product quality. They do nothing more than demand services and choose those schools that best reflect their preferences". The socialisation and educative functions of the student's immediate emotional environment have thus been delegated to schools.

The researchers say that the heart of the problem lies in "the lack of collective consciousness about the need for families to be effectively involved in the entire range of pupils' educational and socialising processes", and "the lack of political will to enact the changes that the old organisational structure of our school system has been demanding for so long".

The problem, from the teaching point of view, is two-pronged. The first problem is parents' lack of trust in the professional work carried out by teachers and, as Ortega points out, "their resistance to becoming involved in a task they do not believe they share responsibility for". The other side of the coin, according to the study, is the lack of will among teaching staff to implement mechanisms that would make it possible for families to become effectively involved in managing schools.

How to involve families

The study proposes promoting the "effective autonomy" of schools in order to help "each school find its own identity, according to its socio cultural context, so that its educational programmes can be designed to meet the needs of its pupils, and to ensure that these programmes really act to guide the entire range of educational activities", say Ortega and his team.

There are, however, obstacles to putting these measures into action, because the current legal framework governing families' participation in school management is, according to the experts, ineffective. "The experience of the AMPAS (parents' associations) is clear evidence of this", say the researchers at the University of Murcia.

The research team adds that "it would be worth taking a risk in some places and testing out a new model of school self-management that would ensure provision of the minimum nationally-required curriculum contents and also comply with our constitutional principles". This solution, they say, would make it possible for the centre to be governed by regulations stemming from the school community itself and for it to follow an educational programme "that would fulfil the needs and interests of both the students and the actual context of the school itself".

Anime's Fan Girls

Girls are gathering online to remake male-oriented Japanese animation videos into romances -- and in the process are picking up skills in film editing, storytelling and feminist literary criticism.

"Boys are more into the fighting aspects of anime," says Elizabeth Birmingham, an associate professor of English at North Dakota State University. "Girls have created this subculture where they cut the animation videos up, mix them around, and create their own stories, often romances."

One anime video, "Full Metal Alchemist," has inspired some 35,000 fan-girl remakes, says Birmingham, who has found that most fan girls are teenagers. She estimates there are hundreds of thousands of fan-girl videos on YouTube and other sites.

Anime is a style of animation that originated in Japan and favors action-filled plots with fantastic or futuristic themes. It is used in comic books, computer games and videos.

Birmingham, who also teaches gender studies, decided to research the fan-girl subculture when she discovered that fan-girl versions of anime stories often involve romances between male characters.

"I'm interested in why straight teenage girls are interested in this sexuality," she says.

One hypothesis: Fan girls choose to identify with male anime characters rather than create female characters because female anime characters often exist only as monster bait.

"By expressing themselves through boy characters, the girls can experience more active roles," Birmingham suggests. "They're dealing with the sexist artifacts of our culture, and deciding 'I'm not going to let them do this to me. I'm going to turn it on its head.'"
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New Study Finds Little Evidence That Federal Emphasis on “Proficient” Performance Has Shortchanged Advanced or Low-Achieving Students

Many States Show Gains Since 2002 at All Achievement Levels

Student performance on state reading and math tests has generally risen at three achievement levels, according to a 50-state study by the Center on Education Policy (CEP). The study found more states with gains than declines in the percentages of students reaching or exceeding the basic, proficient, and advanced levels of achievement, and relatively few instances of sizeable declines in the percentage scoring below the basic level.

Achievement also improved in most states at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

The CEP study analyzed test score trends, where available, from 2002, the year the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) took effect, through 2008. (Some states did not have trends going back to 2002 because they had adopted new tests or made other major changes in their testing systems.) The study expands on CEP’s previous two reports on achievement by examining, for the first time, test results at the “advanced” level and at the “basic” level-and-above—as well as at the “proficient” level and above, which is the benchmark that matters most for federal accountability under NCLB.


CEP found that, even though NCLB creates incentives for schools to focus on ensuring students reach the proficient level, states posted gains at the advanced and basic-and-above levels as well. At the basic-and-above level, 73 percent of the trend lines analyzed across various subjects and grades showed gains. At the advanced level, 71 percent of the trend lines analyzed showed improvement.

“If accountability policies were indeed shortchanging high- and low-achieving students, we would expect to see stagnation or decline at the basic and advanced levels,” said Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO. “Instead, the percentages of students scoring at the basic-and-above and advanced levels have increased much more often than they have decreased, especially in the lower grades.”

Gains were somewhat more prevalent at the proficient-and-above level than at the other two achievement levels. Of the trend lines analyzed at the proficient-and-above level, 83 percent displayed gains, while 15 percent showed declines. The size of the gains was also larger, on average, at the proficient-and-above level. However, this may be partly due to a test-related statistical issue: When average test scores go up, the percentage of students at the proficient level tends to grow faster than at the basic and advanced levels because more students’ scores tend to be clustered near the proficient level.

At the advanced level, the size of the gains in elementary and middle school math were close or equal to those at the proficient level and there were more upward trends than downward. These findings generally point to a significant movement of students from proficient to advanced. At the basic level, too, there were more gains than declines. Although some states posted declines at the basic level, most were slight.

“There are several possible explanations for the upward trends. The most hopeful explanation is that students are learning more and consequently are performing better on state tests,” Jennings said. “There is probably also a cumulative effect of test-focused instruction at work.”

More gains have been made in math than in reading, according to the report. The size of the percentage gains across all states was greater in math than in reading, data which is confirmed by the results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.


The report notes that achievement at the high school level has improved but still lags behind elementary and middle school achievement. The average annual percentage point gains for high school students tended to be lower than at the elementary or middle school levels. There may be several reasons for the divergence in performance between students at the lower and higher grades, among them that it is more difficult to engage and motive high school students or that high schools receive fewer federal resources.

Although CEP collected test data from all 50 states, achievement trends were included in the report only for states with at least three years of comparable test data for a particular subject, grade, and achievement level. A change in test results was considered to be a “trend” only if it was based on at least three years of data in order to account for yearly fluctuations in test scores that are unrelated to students’ learning.

The report, titled State Test Score Trends Through 2007-08, Part I: Is the Emphasis on “Proficiency” Shortchanging Higher- and Lower-Achieving Students?, is available at

Individual state profiles are available at:


A new report issued today by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that there is a wide variance in the quality of the nation’s several thousand charter schools with, in the aggregate, students in charter schools not faring as well as students in traditional public schools.

While the report recognized a robust national demand for more charter schools from parents and local communities, it found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference.

The report found that the academic success of students in charter schools was affected by the individual state policy environment. States with caps limiting the number of charter schools reported significantly lower academic results than states without caps limiting charter growth. States that have the presence of multiple charter school authorizers also reported lower academic results than states with fewer authorizers in place. Finally, states with charter legislation allowing for appeals of previously denied charter school applications saw a small but significant increase in student performance.

The Stanford report, entitled, “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States,” is the first detailed national assessment of charter school impacts since its longitudinal, student-level analysis covers more than 70 percent of the nation’s students attending charter schools.

The peer-reviewed analysis looks at student achievement growth on state achievement tests in both reading and math with controls for student demographics and eligibility for program support such as free or reduced-price lunch and special education. The analysis includes the most current student achievement data from 15 states and the District of Columbia and gauges whether students who attend charter schools fare better than if they would have attended a traditional public school.

“The issue of quality is the most pressing problem that the charter school movement faces,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO at Stanford University. “The charter school movement continues to work hard to remove barriers to charter school entry into the market, making notable strides to level the playing field and improve access to facilities funding, but now it needs to equally focus on removing the barriers to exit, which means closing underperforming schools.”

The report found several key positive findings regarding the academic performance of students attending charter schools. For students that are low income, charter schools had a larger and more positive effect than for similar students in traditional public schools. English Language Learner students also reported significantly better gains in charter schools, while special education students showed similar results to their traditional public school peers. The report also found that students do better in charter schools over time.

While first year charter school students on average experienced a decline in learning, students in their second and third years in charter schools saw a significant reversal, experiencing positive achievement gains.

The report found that achievement results varied by states that reported individual data.

States with reading and math gains that were significantly higher for charter school students than would have occurred in traditional schools included: Arkansas, Colorado (Denver), Illinois (Chicago), Louisiana and Missouri.

States with reading and math gains that were either mixed or were not different than their peers in the traditional public school system included: California, the District of Columbia, Georgia and North Carolina.

States with reading and math gains that were significantly below their peers in the traditional public school system included: Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas.

"If the supporters of charter schools fail to address the quality challenge, they run the risk of having it addressed for them," said Dr. Raymond. "If the charter school movement is to flourish, a deliberate and sustained effort to increase the proportion of high quality schools is essential.

The replication of successful charter school models is one important element of this effort. On the other side of the equation, however, authorizers, charter school advocates and policymakers must be willing and able to fulfill their end of the original charter school bargain, which is accountability in exchange for flexibility."

To download a copy of the full report: http://r.smartbrief.com/resp/qIdIlewpBrjnsKCiceobCicNiLjj
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The Nation's Report Card: 2008 Arts: Music and Visual Arts at Grade 8

A nationally representative sample of approximately 7,900 eighth-grade students from about 260 public and private schools participated in the 2008 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) arts assessment. Approximately one-half of these students were assessed in music, and the other half were assessed in visual arts.

Major findings include:

* Average responding scores in both music and visual arts were higher for White and Asian/Pacific Islander students than Black and Hispanic students. The pattern was also the same for the visual arts creating task scores.

* Female students had higher average responding scores in both music and visual arts than male students. Female students also had a higher average creating task score in visual arts.

• Thirty-three percent of eighth-graders reported that their teachers asked them to write down music at least once a month in class; this figure has increased by seven percent since 1997, when only 26 percent of students reported the same.

Full report:


Examining Independent Study High Schools in California

This examination of California's independent study high schools--alternative schools in which 75 percent or more of students in grades 9–12 are enrolled in full-time independent study--describes enrollment trends since 2001/02 and the number and characteristics of schools and students as well as teacher qualifications in 2006/07.

Full report:


Two New Science Education Resources

1. There’s a new place where middle school students, teachers and parents can have fun, solve CSI-like mysteries and learn more about the amazing world of materials.

“City of Materials (www.cityofmaterials.com) is an interactive online environment where you can explore the materials that are part of our everyday lives,” said Jan Edwards, leader of the K-12 Education Committee of ASM International, the materials information society.

Developed by ASM volunteers representing the materials science and engineering community, along with the participation of pre-college teachers and graduate students, City of Materials is technology rich, web based, visual and interactive.

The goal is for students to connect with Materials Science and Engineering both as a real world engineering discipline and as a possible career.

The cornerstone of the website is the City Tour game, available free to all visitors. “It’s all about making materials science and engineering more interesting and accessible while exposing younger students to important scientific and engineering processes,” Edwards said.

What to See in the City: Tour the city to see how materials are used in everyday living. Along the way, you can help solve a few cases and learn about the latest advances.

Mayor Charpy’s House: Make yourself at home in the kitchen, just don’t leave the water running in the sink for too long. Simple and safe experiments to try in your own kitchen are available.

Austen Detective Agency: We need a new Private Investigator! Here’s your opportunity to solve the latest materials mystery.

CSI Lab: Sift through the evidence to crack the case. Tour the lab and you’ll find all of the equipment you need to put materials to the test.

“Materials are the stuff the world is made of, from spacecraft to artificial hearts,” Edwards said. “Through City of Materials, we hope to intrigue young people about the realities and possibilities of metals, ceramics, composites, electronic materials, polymers, and textiles.”

2. “What makes thunder?” “Why do frogs jump?” “What are we made of?”

Those are the sorts of questions that curious children often spring on unsuspecting schoolteachers -- and that their teachers sometimes struggle to answer.

To make teachers’ jobs a little easier, Florida State University researchers have created GEOSET http://www.geoset.fsu.edu/ -- short for “Global Educational Outreach for Science, Engineering and Technology.” Employing a broad range of interactive media, GEOSET provides short educational segments on topics ranging from algebra to penicillin to the origins of the universe. From anywhere in the world, teachers can access them via the Internet to increase their understanding of various scientific or mathematical principles -- or even share the segments directly with their students.

“Teachers can utilize a tremendous database of knowledge and then pick and choose what they wish to use in their lesson plans,” said Harold Kroto, Florida State’s Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996. “Meanwhile, there are a million people out there with a passion for some specific topic and the altruistic desire to make that expertise available to the world. GEOSET lets them do so.”
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June ERR #6

The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy

In this new report the Carnegie-IAS Commission on Mathematics and Science Education challenges the nation to mobilize for coordinated action to:

* Establish common standards for the nation in mathematics and science—standards that are fewer, clearer, and higher—along with high-quality assessments

* Improve math and science teaching—and our methods for recruiting and preparing teachers and for managing the nation’s teaching talent

* Redesign schools and systems to deliver excellent, equitable math and science learning

The American Museum of Natural History added its support to the Carnegie Corporation of New York–Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education in its call to "do school differently," kicked off by today's release of the Commission's report The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy. Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and a member of the Carnegie Commission, joined prominent educators, funders, policymakers, mathematicians, and scientists to present the Commission's findings at a press conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, June 10.

The Commission's report details what innovations are needed and who must implement them to transform math and science education in America. The report also highlights success stories that can serve as models for improvement. One of the major recommendations, building community assets into schools through intensive partnerships with math and science institutions, specifically credits the Urban Advantage Middle School Science Initiative spearheaded by AMNH with producing "significant learning gains in middle grades science."

"We are at a unique moment in history," said Ellen V. Futter. "There is a powerful confluence of the President's leadership in education, the Commission's report, and the growing recognition of the critical nature of science and mathematics education to our country's long-term prosperity. It yields a clarion call for all sectors of our society to mobilize and work together in new ways to address the challenge of improving science and math education.

"Partnership programs like Urban Advantage are exemplars of this mobilization, broadening the definition of the 'schoolhouse' to encompass the assets and expertise of science-based cultural institutions like ours, and working in tandem with school systems and government to elevate teaching and learning on the local and national level. These programs also prepare the next generation to enter the 21st century workforce."

The Commission report provides a roadmap for the transformation of the nation's education system and clearly illustrates the roles various sectors must play if the U.S. is to ensure every student has knowledge and skills from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics upon high school graduation. The report praises AMNH and the Museum of Science in Boston as "leaders in a growing universe of museums that are developing new curricula and professional learning resources." The report goes on to cite Urban Advantage as a program "giving hundreds of thousands of students and teachers access to museum collections and staff expertise—along with powerful insights into what people find most fascinating about science."

Urban Advantage is guiding teachers and students on how best to use the incomparable science resources and expertise of eight New York institutions: the American Museum of Natural History, which spearheaded and also leads the initiative; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; The New York Botanical Garden; New York Hall of Science; Queens Botanical Garden; Staten Island Zoological Society; and the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium.

Urban Advantage, now under the umbrella of the David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Center for Science Teaching and Learning at AMNH, has grown dramatically since its inception in 2004 to include 24,793 students and 257 teachers from 147 schools throughout New York City, serving all five boroughs. The Urban Advantage program directly addresses two major issues in New York City education: the critical shortage of teachers with adequate qualifications and preparation in science, and the challenge of preparing 8th-grade students for their science "exit projects," a city-mandated performance requirement.

According to a preliminary evaluation of the program, 77 percent of participating teachers reported signs of improvement in the quality of Urban Advantage students' knowledge of science content, 81 percent of students reported that their experience with exit projects had increased their ability to understand scientific ideas, and 80 percent of teachers reported an increase in students' interest in science as a result of visits to UA institutions and implementation of exit projects. Based on the 2007 and 2008 results from the New York State Intermediate Level Science Assessment, Urban Advantage Demonstration Schools reported higher gains in student achievement than the citywide average.

This is a moment of urgency and opportunity, a chance for the United States to close the gap between the current state of educational achievement and the educational system our future demands. The world has shifted dramatically — and an equally dramatic shift will be needed in our schools.

Download the report:


Could animated slides be stifling learning?

We've all sat through one of those presentations where the animated slides are more interesting than the speaker. Bold and brassy titles slide into view, tasty slices of pie chart fill the screen one by one, and a hail of arrows spikes the points the lecturer hopes to highlight.

But, are these custom animations and slide fades and dissolves actually adding anything to the lecture, or do they have a dark side that detracts from the message and impacts negatively on the message being presented?

Microsoft PowerPoint has, over the last couple of decades, become the tool of choice for creating instructional slideshows. Long gone for most are the overhead projector with its fickle fan and its high-temperature and temperamental bulb, the smudgy marker pen, and the transparent plastic sheet.

Instead, lecturers, speakers and anyone else with a visual message to present with their talk uses PowerPoint and its ilk to present their digital slides. According to the authors of a study in the International Journal of Innovation and Learning published this month, many instructors use these options regularly with the impression that such effects enhance student learning by allowing concepts to be introduced incrementally.

Stephen Mahar of the University of North Carolina Wilmington and colleagues have explored the impact of custom animation in PowerPoint lectures and examined the idea that custom animation may, in fact, negatively impact student learning.

To test their hypothesis, the team recorded two versions of a PowerPoint lecture. The presentations differed only in the presence of animation to incrementally present information. They then showed students either the animated or non-animated lecture and then tested the students recall and comprehension of the lecture.

The team found a marked difference in average student performance, with those seeing the non-animated lecture performing much better in the tests than those who watched the animated lecture. Students were able to recall details of the static graphics much better. Animated slides meant to present information incrementally actually require greater concentration, which makes it harder to remember content as well as reducing overall exposure time to the "complete" slide, the researchers found.

Although students appear to like the use of animations in lectures delivered using PowerPoint, there is now strong evidence that animation is nothing more than an entertaining distraction.

The team points out that their study was applied only to the teaching of new concepts. It is possible that teaching a technique might work more effectively with animated, rather than static, slides. Follow-up work will investigate that possibility.
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June ERR #5

Late High School Dropouts: Characteristics, Experiences, and Changes Across Cohorts

This report presents information about selected characteristics and experiences of high school sophomores in 2002 who subsequently dropped out of school. It also presents comparative data about late high school dropouts in the years 1982, 1992, and 2004. The findings only address dropping out in late high school and do not cover students who dropped out before the spring of 10th grade. For this reason, the reported rates are lower than those based on the students' entire high school or earlier school career. Key findings include the following:

* Forty-eight percent of all late high school dropouts come from families in the lowest quarter (bottom 25 percent) of the socioeconomic status distribution, and 77 percent of late high school dropouts come from the lowest half of the socioeconomic status distribution.

* Most late high school dropouts (83 percent) listed a school-related (versus a family- or employment-related) reason for leaving. These reasons included missing too many school days, thinking it would be easier to get a GED, getting poor grades, and not liking school.

* The overall late high school dropout rate was lower in 2004 than in 1982 (7 percent versus 11 percent, respectively) and lower in 1992 than in 1982 (6 percent versus 11 percent), but it showed no statistically significant difference in 2004 compared with 1992.

Complete report:


Better sleep is associated with improved academic success

According to a research abstract presented on Wednesday, June 10, at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, getting more high-quality sleep is associated with better academic performance. The positive relationship is especially relevant to performance in math.

Results indicate that higher math scores were related to greater sleep quality, less awakenings and increased sleep efficiency. Higher English and history scores were associated with less difficulty awakening. Increased sleep-onset latency over the weekend was associated with worse academic performance.

According to principal investigator Jennifer C. Cousins, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, it was surprising that although more and better sleep produced overall improvements, different types of sleep measures were related to different types of functioning.

"Sleep deficits cause problems for adolescents, but students differ in their personal resources and in how chaotic their sleep-wake schedules are," said Cousins. "The more regular and predictable their sleep is, the better they are likely to do when confronted with short-term sleep deficits. Therefore, participants with better sleep overall may be affected differently in a sleep condition compared to those who have a more varying sleep/wake schedule."

The study involved data from 56 adolescents (34 female) between the ages of 14 and 18 years who had complaints of daytime sleepiness and or insufficient sleep at night. Participants reported their subject grades and overall academic standing. Sleep was measured objectively with actigraphy and subjectively through sleep diaries.

Higher math scores were related to less night awakenings, less time spent in bed, higher sleep efficiency and great sleep quality; there was also a trend for decreased sleep onset latency (SOL). Higher scores in English were associated with less nighttime awakenings. Increased SOL during the weekends was related to worse academic performance.

According to Cousins, poor sleep and poor sleep habits are associated with substance use, emotional problems, cognitive problems and a general decline in daily functioning. Sleep education may be a preventative tool to help increase awareness of the importance of sleep and of the negative consequences of poor sleep.

Authors of the study state that results provide overwhelming evidence of the importance of sleep during a period of development that is critical in adolescents and highlight the importance of the development of sleep intervention programs for students in order to improve existing problems with sleep and daily functioning.
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June ERR #4

Self-regulation game predicts kindergarten achievement

Early childhood development researchers have discovered that a simple, five-minute self-regulation game not only can predict end-of-year achievement in math, literacy and vocabulary, but also was associated with the equivalent of several months of additional learning in kindergarten.

Claire Ponitz from the University of Virginia and Megan McClelland of Oregon State University assessed the effectiveness of a game called the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS) task, which is a new version of the Head-to-Toes task developed by researchers at the University of Michigan. Both tasks have proved effective at predicting academic skills among preschool age children. Their results were published in the newest issue of the journal, Developmental Psychology.

The researchers assessed a group of 343 kindergarteners from Oregon and Michigan. Their self-regulation, or ability to control behavior, was measured with the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task, a structured observation requiring children to perform the opposite of a response to four different oral commands. For example, children were instructed to touch their toes if told to touch their head, and vice versa.

They found that students who performed well on his behavior task in the fall achieved strong scores in reading, vocabulary and math in the spring, compared to students who had low performance on the task. In addition, the research showed that the children who performed well on the task scored 3.4 months ahead of peers who performed at average levels on mathematics learning.

"It's amazing that this game works as well as it does," McClelland said. "It is simple to administer, fun for the kids, and predicts children's academic achievement."

One area where the task did not make a difference was assessing children's interpersonal skills. McClelland explained that the game is not "emotion-oriented," meaning it is not set up to trigger an emotional response. Instead, the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task tests children on important classroom-related behavior such as listening, following directions and remembering instructions.

"We know this task predicts end-of-year achievement," she said. "Now we want to take the game to the next level."

McClelland is planning to do an extensive evaluation of the task for her next research project, testing the task with an even larger group of children. She also has a number of research projects under way with OSU graduate students, including one that uses a variety of fun games to improve a child's ability to regulate their behavior.

She said she has made a simple DVD that demonstrates the task, and in response has received requests from around the world from researchers who want to use the task with young children.

"The evidence strongly suggests that improving self-regulation is directly related to academic achievement and behavior," McClelland said. "If we can make a difference early in a child's life, they have that much more of a chance at success."


1. The authors examined a new assessment of behavioral regulation and contributions to achievement and teacher-rated classroom functioning in a sample (N = 343) of kindergarteners from 2 geographical sites in the United States. Behavioral regulation was measured with the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS) task, a structured observation requiring children to perform the opposite of a dominant response to 4 different oral commands. Results revealed considerable variability in HTKS scores. Evidence for construct validity was found in positive correlations with parent ratings of attentional focusing and inhibitory control and teacher ratings of classroom behavioral regulation.

3. Hierarchical linear modeling indicated that higher levels of behavioral regulation in the fall predicted stronger levels of achievement in the spring and better teacher-rated classroom self-regulation (all ps < .01) but not interpersonal skills. Evidence for domain specificity emerged, in which gains in behavioral regulation predicted gains in mathematics but not in language and literacy over the kindergarten year (p < .01) after site, child gender, and other background variables were controlled. Discussion focuses on the importance of behavioral regulation for successful adjustment to the demands of kindergarten.

Full article:


Response to Intervention Thought Leaders 2009 RTI findings

Spectrum K12 School Solutions, Inc., and leading education organizations including the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE), American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), and State Title 1 Directors have announced the results of their 2009 survey of K-12 district administrators to gauge the extent to which Response to Intervention (RTI) has been adopted and implemented.

The survey results can be downloaded at www.spectrumk12.com/campaign/rti_survey_results.

Spectrum K12 and these organizations teamed to determine the Response to Intervention rate of adoption, the effectiveness of RTI implementation and perceived critical implementation factors to provide a roadmap for districts nationwide.

The 2009 survey results indicate strong and rapid support for Response to Intervention with 71% of districts in some stage of implementing RTI – up from 60% in 2008 and 44% in 2007. The survey results also showed RTI is being increasingly implemented across all grade levels with a significant increase in high school implementation compared to 2008.

Districts reported the three primary obstacles to implementing RTI as insufficient teacher training, lack of intervention resources and lack of an easy, comprehensive way to monitor and drive student achievement.

Of districts with enough data, 83% indicated RTI has reduced the number of referrals to special education

“The Response to Intervention National Survey is a valuable tool to provide school districts with data that provide a realistic picture of RtI implementation across the United States,” commented George Batsche Co-Director of the Institute for School Reform, Florida Statewide Problem-Solving/RtI Project, University of South Florida. “These data provide information that districts can use to develop timelines and priorities for their own implementation plans. Comparing data year-to-year provides districts with realistic implementation schedules.”

“The survey results indicate how rapidly districts are adopting and formalizing an intervention centric approach to driving student achievement,” Spectrum K12 School Solutions’ CEO, Jim Marshall commented. “Our relationship with CASE, AASA, NASDSE and State Title 1 Directors has been instrumental in helping Spectrum K12 provide districts with what they need to drive student achievement including our EXCEED™ product.”

“This follow up survey shows the continued need for additional resources and unique partnerships if we are to be successful with Response to Intervention in our schools,” said Luann Purcell, Ed.D., CASE executive director. “CASE is proud to have been a partner in the first survey and in this follow up survey with Spectrum K12 School Solutions. The more we all know about each other, the better we can join together to improve academic performance for ALL students.”

“The results from the 2009 Response to Intervention National Survey give our members—and education and policy makers across the country—a snapshot of how RtI implementation is growing,” said Noelle Ellerson, Policy Analyst at the American Association of School Administrators. “This type of data, from where schools are in the implementation process to implementation obstacles and impacts on student achievement, is valuable information as schools and districts move forward in their RtI efforts.

High School Graduation Rate Improves Over Past Decade;

Recent Declines Threaten Progress

Report Identifies Big-City School Districts Beating Graduation Expectations;

Examines Efforts to Prepare All Students for College

A new national report from Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center paints a cautiously optimistic picture of high school graduation trends, finding that the national graduation rate has improved over the past decade, though a recent one-year downturn—the first significant annual decline in that 10-year period—raises cause for concern.

Despite overall progress, three out of every 10 students in U.S. public schools still fail to finish high school with a diploma, the report finds. That amounts to 1.3 million students lost from the graduation pipeline every year, or almost 7,200 students lost every day, it adds. The report also points out that there is no firm consensus among states, schools, and policymakers on what it means to be ready for postsecondary education or how to measure college readiness.

The report, Diplomas Count 2009: Broader Horizons: The Challenge of College Readiness for All Students, investigates one of the most critical issues facing the nation’s educational and economic future—the challenge to prepare all students for college. As leaders at all levels of public life call for Americans to engage in some education beyond high school, Diplomas Count examines this growing movement by:

Mapping the policy and reform landscape that defines the college-ready agenda;

Profiling one high school’s efforts to nurture a college-going culture;

Examining how better data and accountability systems can help support readiness initiatives; and

Highlighting the cutting-edge efforts of a state working to put actionable information about college preparation in the hands of educators.

This push for college comes amid sobering statistics on the proportion of U.S. students who currently finish high school and on the level of college preparation that comes with a high school diploma. The report—part of a multi-year project supported by the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—also tracks graduation policies for all 50 states and the District of Columbia and presents an updated analysis of graduation rates and trends for the nation, states, and the country’s 50 largest school systems.

“The nation is failing to reach a level necessary to put the United States on a solid footing in a competitive global market,” said EPE Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson. “However, the longer-term trajectory of change for the country’s graduation rate does offer some reason to be cautiously optimistic.”


Overall, graduation rates have made slow but steady progress during the last decade, according to an original analysis by the EPE Research Center using its Cumulative Promotion Index method and data from the U.S. Department of Education. Over this period, the nation’s graduation rate increased by almost 3 percentage points, rising from 66.4 percent in 1996 to 69.2 percent in 2006, the most recent year for which data were available. Graduation rates improved, at least marginally, in 34 states during this time, with several—Arizona, South Carolina, and Tennessee—experiencing double-digit gains. Ten states saw drops of at least 1 percentage point, with the largest decline occurring in Nevada.

Long-term improvements can be found for all major demographic groups, though gains have been considerably stronger among non-Hispanic whites than for racial and ethnic minorities. In most respects, progress has been more rapid in areas where graduation rates have historically languished. Conditions have improved much faster in high-poverty school systems, urban communities, larger districts, and those serving majority-minority student populations.

According to the report, 2006 marked the first time in the past decade that the nation’s graduation rate has posted a noticeable annual decline, falling more than 1 percentage point from 2005 to 2006. Graduation rates fell nationally for all major racial and ethnic groups. In addition, half the states showed a measurable drop, signaling that the consistent improvements found for the nation and many states in recent years may be in jeopardy of eroding.

With Native American, Hispanic, and African-American students from the class of 2006 graduating at rates of no more than 55 percent, a graduation gap of as much as 26 percentage points divides these historically underserved minorities from their white peers. A gulf of 35 points separates the highest-performing state in the nation (New Jersey) and the lowest (Nevada). The report also finds great variation across the nation’s 50 largest school districts. Within that group, Detroit had the lowest graduation rate at 26.8 percent, while Cypress-Fairbanks, Texas, tops the nation at 80.7 percent.

“As a nation, we have a long way to go in order to reconcile the goal of raising college attendance and completion rates with troubling data on the proportion of U.S. students who graduate from high schools in the traditional four-year time span,” Swanson said. “The rates are generally not as high as we would like them to be, and the pace of improvement needs to be much faster.”


Despite recent downturns, Diplomas Count 2009 finds widespread long-term gains at the district level. From 1996 to 2006, the majority of the nation’s local school systems posted improvements in their levels of high school completion. In fact, graduation rates rose by 15 percentage points or more for about 1,500 districts across the country.

The EPE Research Center also conducted a special analysis to identify school systems that exceed expectations for current graduation rates or improvements over the past decade. The report finds stellar performance in some of the nation’s most at-risk communities, recognizing 50 “overachieving” big-city school systems from across the country.

Among these top-ranking urban districts, especially strong showings were posted by: Merced Union High School District (Calif.); Sharyland Independent School District (Mission, Texas); Stockton Unified School District (Calif.); Texarkana Independent School District (Texas); and Metropolitan School District of Warren Township (Indianapolis). In each of these districts, both graduation rates for 2006 and graduation-rate improvements from 1996 to 2006 surpassed expected levels by at least 15 percentage points.


To provide context for high school graduation rates and reform efforts, Diplomas Count 2009 examines state policies in three key areas: definitions of college and work readiness, high school completion credentials, and exit exams. Among the findings:

College and work readiness: Twenty states define what students should know and be able to do to be prepared for credit-bearing courses in college, while 28 states have a definition of work readiness.

Advanced diplomas: Twenty-four states award advanced diplomas or some type of formal recognition to students who exceed standard graduation requirements.

Exit exams: Twenty-four states require exit exams for the class of 2009, with 20 of those states basing exit exams on standards at the 10th grade level or higher.


Nationally, graduation rates have moved upward over the past decade. However, a recent one-year downturn raises cause for concern.

ÿ In the class of 2006, 69.2 percent of all public school students in the nation graduated from high school with a regular diploma. From 1996 to 2006, the nation’s graduation rate increased by 2.8 percentage points, an average of about three-tenths of a point annually.

ÿ From 2005 to 2006, the national graduation rate posted a noticeable annual decline for the first time in the past decade, falling more than 1 percentage point. Half of states showed a similar drop.

ÿ Graduation rates in the majority of states have improved since 1996. South Carolina, Tennessee, and Arizona have seen the greatest increases, of 13.1, 12.8, and 12.1 percentage points, respectively. Ten states saw drops of at least 1 percentage point, with the largest drop occurring in Nevada. At the district level, graduation rates rose by 15 percentages points or more in about 1,500 districts.

While all demographic groups have made progress, nationwide achievement gaps persist, both across states and among different racial and ethnic groups.

ÿ In states leading the nation—Iowa, New Jersey, and Wisconsin—more than 80 percent of all high school students graduate with a diploma. By contrast, just under half of students finish high school in the District of Columbia and Nevada.

ÿ More than three-quarters of white and Asian students earn a high school diploma, while just 55 percent of Latino, 51 percent of African-American, and 50 percent of Native American students do. Though graduation rates for all major racial and ethnic groups have shown long-term improvements, gains have been strongest among non-Hispanic whites.

ÿ Progress has been more rapid in areas where graduation rates have historically been low. From 1996 to 2006, high school completion rates in urban districts rose by 3.1 percentage points, compared with 1.9 percentage points in suburban districts. Similarly, rates rose 50 percent faster in high-poverty districts than in more affluent ones.

A number of urban school systems are performing better than expected given their demographic and structural profiles.

ÿ Thirty-three big-city districts posted 2006 graduation rates at least 10 percentage points higher than expected. Two districts, Warren Township in Indianapolis and Texarkana Independent School District in Texarkana, Texas, exceeded expectations by more than 20 points.

ÿ Twenty-seven districts across the country surpassed expected graduation-rate improvements from 1996 to 2006 by at least 10 points. The graduation rate in Stockton Unified School District in Stockton, Calif., for example, rose by 27 percentage points, although the school system’s characteristics would have predicted a 1 point drop.

ÿ A complete list of “overachieving” urban districts is included in the report.

More states are spelling out a definition of “college readiness,” although movement on other high school graduation requirements is slower.

ÿ Currently, 20 states—five more than last year—have described the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in entry-level college work. Fourteen states include academic-content standards in their definitions of college readiness, and 13 recommend or require college-preparatory courses.

ÿ Twenty-eight states have defined work readiness, while seven other states are in the process of crafting such a definition.

ÿ Twenty-four states offer students in the class of 2009 advanced recognition for exceeding standard graduation requirements, the same number as last year.

ÿ Twenty-four states require exit exams for the class of 2009, one more than in 2008. All but one of those states test knowledge in both English and math, and about half also have exams that cover other subjects, such as science and history. The number of states basing exit exams on standards at the 10th grade level or higher has increased from six in 2002 to 20 in 2009.

Enthusiasm and support are building for data systems, which can help educators and policymakers understand and focus on what matters most in preparing students for college.

ÿ Just six states have all 10 of the elements identified by the Data Quality Campaign as necessary to track how well students are prepared for college and how well they do once there.

ÿ Funding of $250 million for data systems was set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help states and school systems build their information systems. This is in addition to $150 million that the Institute of Education Sciences awarded to 27 state agencies earlier this year for use in building data systems.

Graduation in the United States

About 69 percent of all public school students in the nation graduated from high school with a regular diploma in the class of 2006. Thirty-five percentage points separate the graduation rates in the best-performing and worst-performing states. More than eight in 10 students graduate in Iowa, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. But that proportion drops to fewer than six in 10 in the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and New Mexico. Results reported in Diplomas Count 2009 show that, from 2005 to 2006, the nation’s graduation rate decreased by more than 1 percentage point, the first sizable annual decline in the past decade.


Class of 2006 Class of 1996 Change

1996 to 2006

(percentage point) Male Female American

Indian Asian Hispanic Black White
Alabama 61.4% 57.0% +4.4 56.5% 68.0% 63.4% 66.9% 42.2% 51.3% 68.3%
Alaska 65.9 66.1 -0.2 62.1 69.9 45.2 69.0 55.6 59.7 72.4
Arizona 68.6 56.6 +12.1 64.1 72.7 45.6 81.3 60.8 67.6 74.0
Arkansas 71.9 69.4 +2.5 67.7 76.0 50.3 ‡ 60.0 63.6 74.5
California 67.5 67.5 0.0 63.5 70.6 49.6 80.2 56.9 54.6 77.1
Colorado 72.7 71.5 +1.2 69.6 75.9 46.3 80.7 51.2 58.9 80.1
Connecticut 78.9 76.1 +2.7 75.3 81.5 ‡ 80.4 55.3 63.2 85.0
Delaware 66.0 63.2 +2.8 59.3 71.1 ‡ 89.2 ‡ 53.8 71.1
District of Columbia 48.8 49.7 -0.9 † † † † † † †
Florida 57.5 57.5 0.0 50.4 58.9 58.5 81.7 53.7 43.0 58.6
Georgia 55.9 55.1 +0.7 51.5 61.9 37.9 79.8 40.8 45.6 65.1
Hawaii 63.9 59.0 +4.9 61.1 67.1 57.6 65.4 59.7 60.3 59.0
Idaho 76.8 78.6 -1.7 73.9 80.9 50.9 ‡ 56.3 59.5 79.9
Illinois 74.1 78.7 -4.6 70.1 77.0 30.1 86.5 56.7 51.0 83.2
Indiana 73.3 69.8 +3.5 66.3 72.7 48.2 70.3 50.5 52.6 71.1
Iowa 80.7 79.1 +1.6 77.7 81.7 ‡ 73.3 56.0 52.6 82.4
Kansas 75.4 72.8 +2.5 74.7 78.6 61.3 83.5 55.1 58.9 81.0
Kentucky 72.0 62.9 +9.0 64.9 75.3 ‡ 82.7 55.4 59.2 70.3
Louisiana 61.9 54.0 +7.8 55.4 68.7 ‡ 74.1 73.5 51.2 69.3
Maine 76.3 75.1 +1.2 72.8 78.5 40.5 ‡ ‡ ‡ 76.1
Maryland 73.5 73.5 0.0 68.7 78.1 59.1 92.9 65.4 62.7 79.8
Massachusetts 75.9 75.2 +0.7 72.8 78.8 37.2 79.9 50.9 56.3 81.6
Michigan 69.6 69.0 +0.5 65.9 72.8 49.4 75.5 43.5 38.4 76.5
Minnesota 79.2 77.1 +2.1 77.2 83.2 39.8 73.3 37.3 ‡ 84.2
Mississippi 60.5 54.5 +6.0 54.0 67.2 37.1 57.1 43.2 54.9 66.1
Missouri 74.4 70.4 +4.0 71.4 77.2 58.2 77.8 53.9 52.6 78.7
Montana 76.1 76.2 0.0 73.7 77.7 48.3 ‡ 54.8 44.5 79.5
Nebraska 78.7 79.3 -0.6 74.5 79.7 38.3 ‡ 50.9 46.9 84.1
Nevada 47.3 70.5 -23.2 42.7 52.8 37.9 72.1 36.3 34.5 54.0
New Hampshire 77.0 71.3 +5.6 74.4 78.5 † † † † †
New Jersey 82.1 83.1 -1.0 79.7 83.3 ‡ 86.7 66.8 67.3 85.8
New Mexico 56.0 55.3 +0.8 53.2 61.3 49.5 64.7 51.6 49.2 67.8
New York 68.3 61.1 +7.2 63.8 71.0 39.6 75.7 45.8 47.4 79.0
North Carolina 63.3 61.9 +1.4 55.1 65.1 43.6 73.7 49.5 45.4 69.8
North Dakota 79.0 80.9 -1.9 76.7 81.5 39.9 ‡ 27.7 ‡ 83.7
Ohio 74.3 67.8 +6.6 71.9 77.5 31.3 76.0 48.3 47.3 80.3
Oklahoma 70.6 67.0 +3.6 68.7 73.4 64.1 79.7 57.1 54.9 73.2
Oregon 74.9 66.0 +8.9 † † 39.1 72.7 57.6 54.4 73.1
Pennsylvania 77.6 74.8 +2.8 75.0 80.0 36.4 79.1 49.7 49.3 83.9
Rhode Island 72.8 69.0 +3.8 68.6 76.3 40.2 60.7 60.4 63.4 76.5
South Carolina 66.3 53.2 +13.1 ‡ 71.2 ‡ 72.3 ‡ ‡ 69.5
South Dakota 77.1 77.6 -0.5 74.2 76.8 33.5 58.0 41.8 53.0 81.7
Tennessee 69.5 56.7 +12.8 65.0 73.8 ‡ 73.5 51.7 58.1 73.0
Texas 65.3 58.5 +6.8 61.7 68.9 51.7 85.2 56.3 52.7 75.7
Utah 72.2 78.5 -6.3 † † † † † † †
Vermont 78.7 75.2 +3.5 75.8 79.3 41.7 ‡ ‡ ‡ 81.7
Virginia 69.2 73.4 -4.2 64.4 75.3 52.8 83.7 56.5 55.0 75.8
Washington 62.4 68.0 -5.5 60.1 67.6 37.9 71.7 49.3 46.1 66.8
West Virginia 71.8 75.7 -4.0 69.1 75.3 26.7 78.0 ‡ 61.1 72.7
Wisconsin 81.7 77.0 +4.7 78.3 83.8 55.4 78.0 53.8 49.4 85.9
Wyoming 73.2 75.9 -2.7 69.7 75.2 25.8 ‡ ‡ ‡ 76.7
U.S. 69.2% 66.4% +2.8 64.9% 72.2% 50.0% 78.9% 55.0% 51.2% 76.1%

Students Who Get Stuck Look For Computer Malfunctions

When students attempting to solve a mathematical problem, were informed by the computer that their answer was incorrect, they often focused on trying to find the reasons for this in the functions of the educational software itself.

"They would maintain that their answers merely needed to be rephrased, that the computer's answers were wrong in the same way as answers on an answer key of a mathematics textbook could be wrong, or provided other similar explanations," says Annika Lantz-Andersson.

Her study shows that the often-repeated proposition that educational software is self-instructing is just not true.

Her results show that the need for a person providing support is not any less in the case of educational software than in conventional teaching situations.

"There is a kind of silence in the relationship between students and the educational software they use. The computer never gets tired, is not bothered by endless examples of random answers, does not distinguish between students, but on the other hand cannot provide individually-fitted feedback, which is one of the most important tasks of a teacher", she continues.

Annika Lantz-Andersson's study also does not provide any indication that students view digital technology as being a more authentic or realistic to work with, as compared to conventional educational material.

The extremely rapid increase in educational software predicted around the year 2000 has not been realised, although most textbooks today have a digital application linked to their conventional text.

"Educational software has many advantages, not least its interactivity and its opportunity to promote cooperation amongst the students. There is still a strong belief that digital technology improves learning, despite the fact that this has not been proven", declares Annika Lantz-Andersson.

"Instead of getting mired in a debate about how digital tools can solve various types of classical pedagogical problems, it would be more relevant to focus on the new types of interaction and knowledge that can arise from the use of digital tools.


An overarching ambition of this thesis is to study the in situ practices that emerge when technology becomes part of educational activities and, in addition, to examine what students’ definition of such activities will be. By analysing students’ concrete uses of digital technology in regular classroom practices, the study intends to demystify how digital technology codetermines activities in educational settings. A background of this interest is that there are many different claims in the literature and in the public debate regarding what learning will be like when such tools are used. Accordingly, the use of digital technologies is in this thesis studied from the perspective of student activities and rationalities. Analytically, this is done within a sociocultural perspective and, in addition, with the help of the conceptual distinctions of frame analysis. Empirical material have been collected via video recordings of secondary school students’ engaging in solving word problems in mathematics presented by means of educational software. The analyses aim at scrutinizing what the presence of educational software in mathematics implies for the students’ learning practices in situations when they encounter some kind of difficulty in their problem solving.

The results, presented in three studies, show that for long periods of time the students’ interaction involved not only the contents but also different functionalities and design qualities of the digital technology. The findings in this study thus point to the need to question the alleged benefits that surround the implementation of digital technologies. According to the empirical findings in the three studies presented in this thesis, along with knowledge from previous research, digital technology cannot be said to improve learning in any linear sense. Instead, educational activities involving the use of digital technologies imply a different way of learning with new possibilities and new problems; a different pedagogical situation and a different relation between the students and the contents.

Full report:


Evening chronotype in high school students is linked with lower college GPA

Students who consider themselves to be evening types (that is someone who feels more alert and does their best work later in the day) had significantly lower first year college GPA (2.84) than morning and intermediate types (3.18). These evening-type students showed a greater decrease in their GPA during the transition from high school to college than their peers; their grades dropped by .98 GPA points, while others only dropped by .69 GPA points. These evening types also slept on average 41 minutes less than other students on school nights.

Lead author Jennifer Peszka, PhD, psychology department chair at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., said that many students experience deterioration in sleep during their transition from high school to college.

"Although the results of the study aligned with our expectations, the size of the GPA difference between evening types and morning and intermediate types was surprising," said Peszka. "Further, the difference is at a critical point on the GPA scale with evening types scoring below a B average and morning and intermediate types scoring above a B average."

The study was based on data from 89 students (between 17 and 20 years old) preparing to begin their freshman year and 34 of those students as they completed their freshman year at a liberal arts college.

Authors of the study state educating high school and college students about the possible negative effects of poor sleep behaviors on academic performance may result in improvement in academic performance, especially in adolescents who are at risk due to poor sleep hygiene and evening-type status.

It is recommended that adolescents get nine hours of sleep per night, and school-aged children between 10-11 hours. More information about sleep hygiene is available from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) at: http://www.sleepeducation.com/Hygiene.aspx
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