Intervention program helps kids eat healthier

A new Iowa State University study found that a family, school and community intervention program helps children live healthier lives and could be a new tool in the fight against the nation's childhood obesity epidemic.

In the study, children who participated in The Switch® program -- a program developed by the Minneapolis-based National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) -- watched an average of two fewer hours of television and also consumed two more servings of fruits and vegetables per week than those who weren't in the program. Program participants also walked 300 more steps per day.

"The successes in this study were modest, which is what one would expect," said Iowa State Assistant Professor of Psychology Douglas Gentile, the lead researcher and director of research for NIMF. "People usually make incremental changes, but those add up over time."

In addition to Gentile, the 10-member research team included ISU researchers Greg Welk, an associate professor of kinesiology; and Dan Russell, a professor of human development and family studies; as well as former Iowa State kinesiology professor Joey Eisenmann. The research team authored a paper on their results, which has been posted online in BMC Medicine, a professional journal in the United Kingdom.
The researchers evaluated the eight-month intervention program in a group of 1,323 students (third, fourth and fifth graders) and their parents from 10 schools -- split between Lakeville, Minn., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Measures of the key behaviors were collected three times from the children -- prior to administering the program, immediately after it was completed, and six months following its completion.
The Switch® program encourages children to "Switch what they Do, View and Chew™" and features three components: community, school and family. The community component promotes awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyles using paid advertising, such as billboards; and unpaid media, including editorials. The school component reinforces the Switch messages by providing teachers with materials and methods to integrate key health concepts into the school day. And in the family component, participating families receive monthly packets containing behavioral tools to assist them in altering their health behaviors.

"The program is designed to be a more comprehensive approach to childhood obesity prevention," Gentile said. "It results from several lessons we learned, while creating interventions over the past 15 years. One is that focusing on kids can work, but unless the family's on board, you're not going to get much movement. So the ideal program would be to work at multiple ecological levels all at once so that people are getting repeated, parallel, overlapping messages at the individual, family and community levels."

Gentile reports that the positive effects on children remained significant at the six-month follow-up evaluation, indicating maintenance of these differences over time. In fact, they increased slightly following the intervention, which may contribute to reduced weight risks in the future.

"To me, the strongest finding is that we found stronger results in the six-month follow-up than at the end of the intervention -- and that's unique," said ISU's Welk, who studies exercise and health. "That would imply that the lessons took hold after the intervention and families have had time to apply them to their lives."
The ISU researchers are planning further analysis of the data gathered in this research for future studies, including one that will explore a "booster" component of The Switch® program.
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The skinny on 'Lean' education

Educators should learn a thing or two from the Just-In-Time and Lean production techniques used by the automotive industry if they are to add value to the student experience as quickly and effectively as possible. That's the conclusion of a report published in the International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management.

Meera Alagaraja of the Supply Chain Systems Laboratory, at Texas A&M University, explains how "Lean production" techniques have transformed the automotive, construction, and service industries as well as healthcare delivery. The approach is built on the concept of Lean thinking, which looks at the value chain and asks how can work be structured so that it does nothing but add value, and does that as quickly as possible?

A broader interpretation of this concept could readily be adapted to education, and in particular, adult education, Alagaraja believes. Of course, such a shift in approach would require a rethink on current course design and delivery, but the benefits could be enormous, she says.

It is globalization and the emergence of novel technologies that have spread new business models around the world and from one industry to another. The Toyota Production System is a case in point," says Alagaraja. The quality movement practices implemented at Toyota's factories in Japan during the 1950s have been applied across industries with Total Quality Management becoming common in US business and industry.

In the late 1990s, Lean principles emerged as the next step in improving industry processes. Lean production is based on so-called Just-In-Time manufacturing and Total Quality Control, and Total Quality Management, which use teams that can work flexibly enhance production flow and simultaneously make high-quality products and minimize waste. It was the recognition that such approaches were not a uniquely Japanese cultural legacy that allowed them to spread into industries across the globe.

The key to their success is that Lean thinking addresses individual, organizational and customer perspectives, rather than the simplistic approach of generic mass production. It also quickly identifies the sometimes competing perspectives of those involved in a process and addresses them directly to resolve potential conflicts that would otherwise lead to inefficiency and waste.

Alagaraja points out that traditional educational methods have for decades adopted a mass production stance with respect to teaching and learning, with all its limitations. To be effective today, education must take the Lean thinking approach, which is to adapt traditional educational methods to solve the learner's "problems" completely and give each exactly what they need and want in a cost-effective way, at an attractive price, and with minimal time wasted.

There are several key principles of Lean thinking that can be adapted to adult education and online learning, Alagaraja explains:

Cellular processes: allow chunking of coursework so that it can be taught as valid, standalone sub-units of a complete whole.
Policy deployment: is a strategic planning process that correlates the purpose of a course with objectives and activities.
Flow: encourages learner ownership so that they can dwell on a topic or move along more swiftly depending on their understanding.
Just-in-time: provides feedback on projects in time for discussion in next class session/meeting.
"Kaizen": Allows educators to adapt the course to learner feedback.
"Kanban": Offers learners timely feedback on their mistakes so that they can correct their understanding quickly and effectively.
"Poka-yoke": Is mistake proofing, which involves standardizing the syllabus to prevent recurrent problems.
"Quality function deployment": Incorporates learner needs into the design and updating of the course content.
Standardization: Simplifies assignments to meet learner requirements.
Theory of constraints: Identifies barriers, such as technological limitations, and removes them.
Throughput: Designs assignments with real-life relevance.
Value stream mapping, visual controls, and visual management: Provides a map of the course flow.
Waste elimination: Eliminates extraneous material.
Today's adult learning environment emphasizes technology, but beyond the rhetoric of customizing education around learners' needs, the concept of Lean Thinking has the potential to improve learning, reduce time wasted, and make adult and online courses truly applicable to real life beyond the virtual school halls.
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School Stimulus Funding Not = To Poverty

As students and their tax paying parents settle into the return to school, most are in the dark about the unprecedented $100 billion in education funds made available through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This historic investment, focused on turning around the nation's 5,000 worst performing schools, is equal to nearly 16 percent of the nation's annual expenditures on public K-12 education.

By combining the datasets, Socrata provides a resource that allows for a clearer view of where Recovery Act education funds are actually being distributed. A quick scan shows that not one of the schools with the top ten highest percentages of free and reduced lunch is in the list of the top ten schools for highest stimulus funding per child.

$10 billion of the new funding has been slated for Title I programs to provide additional assistance to schools with a high concentration of families that live in poverty. By looking at the U.S. Department of Education's website for Title I funding, parents can find nearly 14,000 data points. Making sense of the data, however, requires file downloads and proprietary desktop software. For many economically-disadvantaged constituents - the same constituents who may benefit the most from this information - sorting, filtering, and sharing this data may be out of reach. The average citizen can find information about their next cell phone more easily than they can about their child's school.

To help average citizens clarify these figures, Socrata transformed the U.S. Department of Education's data in a Social Data Player, making the data easier to access. Now parents can filter, sort, and share the data without proprietary software. Socrata has also combined data from The National Center for Education Statistics to add much needed perspective of school poverty. The data looks at how many students qualify for free and reduced lunch in each district -- a leading indicator for poverty levels at schools in the United States.
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Teacher Strategies 4th Grade Reading

Teacher Strategies to Help Fourth-Graders Having Difficulty in Reading: An International Perspective

Presenting data from the United States and the 44 other jurisdictions that participated in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006, this Statistics in Brief describes international patterns in the strategies reported by teachers to help fourth-graders falling behind in reading. The National Center for Education Statistics has released Teacher Strategies to Help Fourth-Graders Having Difficulty in Reading: An International Perspective. Findings include:

- The most common teacher response to a question about what they usually do if a student begins to fall behind in reading was to ask parents to help (among the highest responses in 44 of the 45 jurisdictions).

- The study found that the second most common teacher response for what they usually do if a student begins to fall behind in reading was spend more time working with the student individually (among the highest responses in 20 of the jurisdictions).

- The least common response was to have the student work with a reading specialist in a regular classroom (among the lowest responses in 40 jurisdictions).

PIRLS assesses the reading achievement of fourth-graders and collects data on teachers' reading instruction practices and strategies. These strategies include: (a) waiting to see if performance improves with maturation, (b) spending more time working on reading individually with that student, (c) having other students work on reading with the student having difficulty, (d) having the student work in the regular classroom with a teacher-aide, (e) having the student work in the regular classroom with a reading specialist, (f) having the student work in a remedial reading classroom with a reading specialist, (g) assigning homework to help the student catch up, (h) and asking the parents to help the student with reading.

Complete report:
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Student achievement data and decision making

The latest practice guide on "Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making" provides a framework for using student achievement data to support instructional decision making, including how to adapt lessons or assignments in response to students' needs, and how to alter classroom goals or objectives or modify student-grouping arrangements.

Just released today, this practice guide offers five recommendations for creating the organizational and technological conditions that foster effective data use, including: 1) make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement; 2) teach students to examine their own data and set learning goals; 3) establish a clear vision for school wide data use; 4) provide supports that foster a data-driven culture within the school; and 5) develop and maintain a district wide data system. Each recommendation describes action steps for implementation, as well as suggestions for tackling obstacles that may impede progress. The practice guide was released by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance at the Institute for Education Sciences.

Complete report:
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Enhanced Academics: After-School Programs

The report, The Evaluation of Enhanced Academic Instruction in After-School Programs: Final Report, includes two parallel impact studies, a math program study ("Mathletics" developed by Harcourt School Publishers) and a reading program study ("Adventure Island" developed by the Success for All Foundation) in which students attending an afterschool program are assigned by lottery to either receive the structured academic programming or the after-school programming regularly offered.

Findings from two parallel studies of structured afterschool programs found that a math program produced significant gains in achievements, while a reading program did not. "The Evaluation of Enhanced Academic Instruction in After-School Programs: Final Report" included 27 afterschool centers, 15 providing the math program "Mathletics" (developed by Harcourt School Publishers) and 12 providing the reading program "Adventure Island" (developed by the Success for All Foundation). Students attending the afterschool program in grades 2 through 5 were assigned by lottery to either receive the structured academic programming or the regular after-school programming. The report was released by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance at the Institute of Education Sciences.

For each academic program, the evaluation design allows for information about the one-year impact in the first and second years of operation as well as the two-year impact in which the program was offered to students for two consecutive years. Data on after-school staff characteristics, program implementation, and student outcomes were collected in the first and second years in 27 centers (12 providing the reading program and 15 providing the math program).

Key findings include:
- One year of the math program produced positive and statistically significant impacts on student achievement representing approximately one month's worth of extra math learning.
- Two years of the math program produced no additional achievement benefit beyond the one-year impact.
- One year of the reading program produced no impact on total reading test scores after one year.
- Two years of the reading program resulted in less gains in reading achievement than their counterparts.
- The reading program was staffed and supported as planned; however, in both years program staff experienced issues with delivering some aspects of the program - especially related to the pacing of lessons.

Full report:
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Studying Teacher Supply and Demand

This report describes how state education agencies in the Midwest Region monitor teacher supply, demand, and shortage; details why they monitor these data; and offers estimates of the monetary costs incurred in performing such studies.
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NYC Charter Schools Outperform Public Schools

Students in New York City's charter schools outperformed their public-school peers on standardized tests:

'The Effects of New York City's Charter Schools on Student Achievement'
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Improving college access for low-income students

New study shows simplifying financial aid process improves college access for low-income students

More low-income students would make it to college if changes were made to streamline the complicated financial aid process, according to a groundbreaking study released today by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Stanford University School of Education, the University of Toronto, and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The new study, conducted by Stanford University Associate Professor Eric Bettinger, Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Bridget Terry Long, and University of Toronto Associate Professor Philip Oreopoulos, tracked nearly 17,000 low-income individuals and determined that cumbersome financial aid forms and lack of information about higher education costs and financial aid prevented access to higher education.

At H&R Block offices during the 2008 tax season, the researchers invited individuals aged 17 to 30, who earned less than $45,000 annually in Ohio and North Carolina, to participate and randomly assigned them to one of three groups. For one group of participants, employees helped fill out the 102-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that serves as the critical application and gatekeeper for federal aid, as well as most state and institutional aid.

In order to streamline the process, the researchers prepopulated the application with already-collected tax information and then helped participants answer remaining questions. This significantly reduced the FAFSA form completion time from 13 hours to less than 10 minutes. Participants were also given personalized information about their financial aid options. Following the application process, the researchers tracked the progress of participants who were given aid information alongside those participants who did not receive help to determine whether streamlining the application process and providing information increased college enrollment.

"Making college aid applications almost effortless to complete had an extremely powerful impact on the number of low-income students who made it to college," said Oreopoulos. "For high school seniors, just helping their parents fill out the financial aid form and apply increased college enrollment rates by 30 percent."

Other program outcomes included:

The program increased college enrollment by 20 percent for young adults already out of high school with particularly large results for those with annual incomes less than $22,000.
The program increased the percentage who received a federal grant by 33 percent for high school seniors with positive effects also for older adults.
The program increased FAFSA submissions by 39 percent for seniors in high school; 186 percent for independent students who had never been to college; and 58 percent for independent students who had previously attended college.
The program also resulted in FAFSA applications being filed significantly earlier than those in the control group: over one month earlier for high school students and almost three months earlier for independent students. This allowed students to maximize their state and institutional financial aid awards in additional to federal aid.
On the other hand, the researchers said that participants who were only given information about aid (without help with the FAFSA) did not have higher aid application submission rates than those who did not receive any help.

"This suggests that simply informing individuals about their aid eligibility does not appear to improve college access," said Bettinger, "The real barrier is the complexity in actually filling out the form and finding the time to complete it. We were able to provide individuals with accurate aid information and submit the form for them, which greatly increased their chances of accessing higher education."

Long said the study proves there are simple, efficient ways to streamline the FAFSA process that can increase its visibility and prevent the misinformation, missed deadlines, and complexity that block some students from going to college.

"In most cases, two-thirds of the FAFSA form can be completed using tax information, so in less than 10 minutes, we were able to address a major educational problem and had a substantial impact on aid applications and college enrollment," Long said. "The next step is to think beyond one company to how we can implement these lessons on a larger scale, perhaps in schools or with community organizations, and ideally by changing the aid application process at the federal level."

This research has informed deliberations of the U.S. Department of Education and the White House regarding simplifying the financial aid process. Just this summer, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced plans to streamline FAFSA and explore ways to transfer information directly from the Internal Revenue Service to an online financial aid application. The researchers note that such a change should substantially reduce the time necessary to complete the FAFSA form and improve the accuracy of the information submitted. Additional outreach and assistance, such as that provided to study participants, would also greatly improve the current system of financial aid.
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School-Family-Community Partnership Success Stories

The National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) at Johns Hopkins University has published Promising Partnership Practices 2009, a collection of more than 110 best practices chosen from schools, districts, and organizations across the country. The activities are used to improve reading, math, science, attendance, and multicultural understanding, and to create a family-friendly school environment.

"This year's collection is especially strong," said Joyce Epstein, director of NNPS. "The innovative, goal-oriented activities include several designed to increase the involvement of dads and father figures and involve families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds."

The study includes activities designed to improve school, family and community partnerships from 82 schools in 21 states. Also included are projects from 10 school districts, 6 organizations and 3 state departments of education. The activities describe how to involve families and the community in math and reading nights, science and social studies projects, back-to-school events, and health and safety programs.

The NNPS guides schools, districts, states, and organizations across the country to develop effective programs of family and community involvement. Members of NNPS share their best practices to help others improve their programs of school, family, and community partnerships.

Complete study.
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Dropout /Completion Rates - United States 2007

Some 73 percent of high school freshman nationwide graduated on time with their peers, but this four-year graduation rate in 2006 varied widely across states--from a low of 55.9 percent to a high of 87.5 percent, according to "High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2007." The report, released by the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences, builds upon a series of NCES reports on high school dropout and completion rates that began in 1988. It includes national and regional population estimates for the percentage of students who dropped out of high school between 2006 and 2007, the percentage of young people who were dropouts in 2007, and the percentage of young people who were not in high school and had some form of high school credential in 2007.

Annual data from 1972-2007 reveals trends by race, gender, income and other characteristics. It also includes state from national level estimates for public school students for the end of the 2005-06 school year showing estimates of how many beginning freshmen in the 2002-03 school year had graduated with their class in 2006, and how many students had dropped out between 2004-05 and 2005-06.

Other key findings include:

* Among reporting states, fourteen states had freshman graduation rates of 80 percent or higher, and 10 states had rates below 70 percent. Twenty-three states had higher AFGRs in 2005-06 compare with 2004-05, and 23 had lower rates.

* Students living in low-income families were approximately ten times more likely to drop out of high school between 2006 and 2007 than were students living in high-income families.

* One-year dropout rates have declined since 1972 among all racial/ethnic groups, although the decreases happened at different times over this 35-year period for these groups.

* About 3.3 million 16- through 24-year-olds were not enrolled in high school and had not earned a high school diploma or alternative credential, as of October 2007.

* The percentage of young White and Hispanic females who completed high school by earning a diploma or GED was higher than their male counterparts. Specifically, 94.6 percent of White females and 77.6 percent of Hispanic females had completed high school in 2007, compared with 92.4 percent of White males and 68.1 percent of Hispanic males. Overall, 89 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds nationwide have completed high school.

Full report.
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Let underachieving kids get frustrated by math

New Jersey teachers have found a surprising way to keep students engaged and successful: They let underachieving youngsters get frustrated by math.

While working with minority and low-income students at low-performing schools in Newark for the past seven years, researchers at Rutgers University have found that allowing students to struggle with challenging math problems can lead to dramatically improved achievement and test scores.

"We've found there is a healthy amount of frustration that's productive; there is a satisfaction after having struggled with it," says Roberta Schorr, associate professor in Rutgers University at Newark's Urban Education Department. Her group has also found that, though conventional wisdom says certain abilities are innate, a lot of kids' talents and abilities go unnoticed unless they are effectively challenged; the key is to do it in a nurturing environment.

"Most of the literature describes student engagement and motivation as having to do with their attitudes about math -- whether they like it or not," Schorr says. "That's different from the engagement we've found. When students are working on conceptually complex problems in a supportive environment, they do better. They report feeling frustrated, but also satisfaction, pride and a willingness to work harder next time."

Complete article and comments here.
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Advancing Adolescent Literacy

Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success

Reflecting years of research, Time to Act is a watershed report on adolescent literacy from Carnegie Corporation of New York's Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy. The Council also authored five corresponding reports, which delve deeper into how to advance literacy and learning for all students.

Time to Act pinpoints adolescent literacy as a cornerstone of the current education reform movement, upon which efforts such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act must be built. The report's recommendations intersect with the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competitive grant guidelines with their emphasis on standards and assessments, data systems, great teachers and leaders, and re-engineering struggling schools.

Time to Act is released with five corresponding reports, which delve deeper into how to advance literacy and learning for all students, including such topics as the cost of implementing adolescent literacy programs and reading in the disciplines:

Reading in the Disciplines: The Challenges of Adolescent Literacy, by Carol D. Lee Ph.D. and Anika Spratley, Northwestern University

Adolescent Literacy Development in Out of School Time: A Practitioner's Guide,
by Elizabeth Birr Moje and Nicole Tysvaer, University of Michigan

Measure for Measure: A Critical Consumer's Guide to Reading Comprehension Assessments for Adolescents, by Leila Morsey, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Michael Kieffer, Teachers College, Columbia University; Catherine Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Adolescent Literacy Programs: Costs of Implementation, by Henry M. Levin, Doran Catlin, and Alex Elson, Teachers College, Columbia University

Adolescent Literacy and Textbooks: An Annotated Bibliography,
by Michael Kamil, Stanford University
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Classroom behavior: Why it's hard to be good

Being seen as either well behaved or naughty at school is never entirely in the hands of the individual child, this study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council shows.

The research demonstrates that being good is not a simple matter. Once some children acquire poor overall reputations among teachers and other school staff, classmates and parents, it becomes difficult for them to be regarded as good. When young children start school they also have to develop interpretive skills to decode and negotiate mixed messages about how to behave.

This study of four and five year olds in reception classes was undertaken by Professor Maggie MacLure and Professor Liz Jones of Manchester Metropolitan University. They found that two broad types of behaviour in school cause particular concern: physical actions such as kicking and punching and persistent failure to comply with adults' requests. Repeatedly calling out or not sitting properly in class, failing to listen or being noisy in queues are all examples of conduct likely to arouse the concern of teachers and other staff.

Yet such behaviour does not always result in children gaining poor reputations. This is most likely to happen when a child's immediate conduct is regarded as a sign of a wider problem.

Children's reputations may be linked, for example, to teachers' views of their home background. Some parents risk being judged as neglectful, indulgent, anxious, uncooperative or interfering, and therefore as failing to adequately prepare their son or daughter for school. This in turn feeds into teachers' perceptions of that child's behaviour as a 'problem'. Medical explanations such as undiagnosed autism or deafness are sometimes applied to explain behaviour, as are characterisations of particular children as lazy or manipulative.

The research shows that once such reputations are formed they will be used to read children's day-to-day behaviour and, when the reputations spread to classmates and other parents, it becomes very difficult for such children to be recognised as good.

"Once children's reputations have started to circulate in the staffroom, dining hall and among parents, their behaviour easily becomes interpreted as a sign of particular character traits," says Professor MacLure. "One of the main functions of the reception year is to form a crowd of individual children into a class and tolerance of diversity is generally low. Classroom discipline is a very public activity and children who do not conform to the rules will be publicly marked as different."

Young children must learn to perform emotions that are valued in the reception class – such as happiness, sadness, fairness, sharing, kindness and being nice – and accept that other emotions are regarded as less appropriate. They need to be able to negotiate mixed messages. Reporting the misbehaviour of classmates is an example of the type of mixed message which circulates in classrooms – while it sometimes earned teachers' approval it might also be interpreted as telling-tales, an unpopular practice with both children and adults.

"The research shows that classroom culture is an important factor in generating problematic reputations for some children, says Professor Jones. "Disciplinary practices that produce social order and forge a collective identity may marginalise a minority. Some cherished principles of early years education may also have unintended consequences. The principle of strong home-school links, for instance, may contribute to certain families being identified as sources of their children's problematic behaviour."
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Study: Arizona civics education needs resuscitation

A state civics coalition has concluded that civics education is in need of resuscitation and Arizona public schools have focused energy and resources on preparing students for high-stakes testing at the expense of teaching foundational principles of our democracy.

The Arizona Civic Education Study, which was authored by the Arizona Civics Coalition and The Center for Civic Education and Leadership, states that standardized testing is taking away from civics education because it is not a tested topic; the subject is being taught without relevance to students’ lives and teachers are already overstretched and overstressed by existing mandates to beef-up scores in reading, writing and math.

“We live in an era where everybody is teaching sustainability, which is wonderful, but what about the sustainability of democracy?” says Sherman Elliott, director of the Center for Civic Education and Leadership in ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership. “The foundation of democracy starts in our public schools, and our findings prove that Arizona has pushed civics education to the backburner. We need to teach our children how to participate fully and responsibly as a citizen.”

Elliott said the Arizona Civic Education Study was administered in 2006 for the purposes of evaluating the perception of civic education within the Arizona public school curriculum and identifying the civic education needs of Arizona schools and districts. To achieve this goal, a working group of the Arizona Civics Coalition, in partnership with ASU, compiled a comprehensive measure of civic engagement policy and practice in Arizona public schools. The study was supported by grants from the national Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools and the Arizona Community Foundation.

Key study recommendations include integration of civics education in reading and writing curriculums; creation of a standards-based social studies test or the addition of a category for AIMS; provision of opportunities for voluntarism, service learning and civic participation in schools; encouragement of students to be politically and civically active in their communities; and the engagement of students in relevant, meaningful curriculum with active learning strategies that stimulate democracy in action.

The crafters of the study are hopeful policymakers can find a solution to introduce the subject back into public school curriculum.

Go to here to view an electronic copy of the study.

The Center for Civic Education and Leadership (CCEL) is an initiative of Arizona State University’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership. Through partnerships with university, community and civic organizations throughout the region and world, CCEL hopes to increase civic engagement through research and education. CCEL was created to address the need for inquiry and action in order to increase the quantity and quality of participation in a civil society.
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Teacher support is key to self-esteem

As children go back to school this fall, a new cross-cultural study finds that for both Chinese and American middle schoolers, students who feel supported by their teachers tend to have higher self-esteem, and those who don't feel supported by fellow students are more likely to be depressed.

The study, which explores commonalities between Chinese and U.S. students as well as the ways in which they differ, appears in the September/October 2009 issue of Child Development. It was conducted by researchers at Southeast University (in Nanjing, China), New York University, the Educational Testing Service, Harvard University, the University of Western Ontario, and Nanjing Brain Hospital.

The researchers looked at almost 1,500 urban middle school students in China and the United States. They considered students' perceptions of three aspects of school climate: teacher support, student support, and opportunities for autonomy in the classroom. And they looked at the ties between these three aspects and students' self-esteem, symptoms of depression, and grades.

The study found that students in China got more support from teachers and other students and more opportunities for autonomy than students in the United States. For both Chinese and American middle schoolers, students who felt supported by their teachers were more likely to have higher self-esteem, while students who didn't feel supported by their fellow students were more likely to be depressed. And although middle school youths had more opportunities for autonomy in the classroom in China, increased opportunity for autonomy translated into lower grade point averages for children in both countries.

"Our results underscore the importance of examining the cultural context in studies of adolescent adjustment," according to Yueming Jia, a research scientist of psychology at Southeast University, who led the study. "Practical implications that can be drawn from the study include paying more attention to the ways in which the context influences children's adjustment, as well as emphasizing the impact of social and emotional support from teachers and peers on adolescents' academic and emotional adjustment."
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Children under 3 can't learn action words from TV

-- unless an adult helps

American infants and toddlers watch TV an average of two hours a day, and much of the programming is billed as educational. A new study finds that children under age 3 learn less from these videos that we might think—unless there's an adult present to interact with them and support their learning.

The study, by researchers at Temple University and the University of Delaware, can be found in the September/October 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers studied children who ranged in age from 30 to 42 months to explore whether they could learn the names of actions (verbs) from videos. The names of verbs are generally harder for children to learn than names of objects. Yet verb learning is critical because verbs are the centerpiece of sentences, the glue that holds the words together. Using modified clips from the program Sesame Beginnings, the researchers showed children a video of characters performing unfamiliar actions that were labeled with new words (for example, "Look, she's daxing"). In some instances, the children watched without adult support, while in others, they watched with an adult who demonstrated the action that later appeared on the screen. The researchers then measured the children's ability to learn a new verb and apply that word to a new scene.

Without adult support, children under age 3 could not learn the words directly from the program, nor could they understand them when they appeared in a different context within the video. When they watched with an adult who reinforced what they were viewing, they could learn the words. In contrast, children over age 3 were able to learn the verbs from the video program and understand them later, even without an adult interacting with them.

"Learning verbs is difficult," suggests Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Lefkowitz Professor of Psychology at Temple University and one of the study's authors. "Young children need social support from adults to help them learn verbs from television. Watching on their own is not as 'educational' as watching with an engaged adult."

The study's take-home message, according to Hirsh-Pasek: "Amid the plethora of videos in the marketplace aimed at children under 3, our findings caution against using videos to teach language to very young children."
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High-quality child care can negate poverty impact

High-quality child care leads to academic success for low-income kids

For low income parents, finding high quality child care not only boosts the performance of their children in school, but actually combats the effects of poverty, according to a new study in the journal Child Development.

Children who spent more time in high-quality child care in the first five years of their lives had better reading and math scores in middle school, according to researchers from Boston College, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Samford University, who studied 1,300 middle school students.

Looking deeper, researchers found that low income children who received high-quality child care achieved at similar academic levels as their more affluent peers, even after taking into account factors such as levels of parental education and employment.

"The real takeaway here is that even minimal exposure to higher quality child care protects children from the harm done by living in poverty," co-author Eric Dearing, an associate professor of applied developmental psychology in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, said. "When it comes to early child care, quality matters more for children in poverty than for affluent children in promoting the long term academic achievement of the former up to similar levels as the latter."

The researchers looked at reading and math achievement of more than 1,300 children in middle childhood from economic backgrounds ranging from poor to affluent. They used information from the longitudinal Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, which was carried out under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
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Surrealism Makes You Smarter

Reading Kafka Improves Learning, Suggests UCSB Psychology Study

Reading a book by Franz Kafka –– or watching a film by director David Lynch –– could make you smarter.

According to research by psychologists at UC Santa Barbara and the University of British Columbia, exposure to the surrealism in, say, Kafka's "The Country Doctor" or Lynch's "Blue Velvet" enhances the cognitive mechanisms that oversee implicit learning functions. The researchers' findings appear in an article published in the September issue of the journal Psychological Science.

"The idea is that when you're exposed to a meaning threat –– something that fundamentally does not make sense –– your brain is going to respond by looking for some other kind of structure within your environment," said Travis Proulx, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB and co-author of the article. "And, it turns out, that structure can be completely unrelated to the meaning threat."

Meaning, according to Proulx, is an expected association within one's environment. Fire, for example, is associated with extreme heat, and putting your hand in a flame and finding it icy cold would constitute a threat to that meaning. "It would be very disturbing to you because it wouldn't make sense," he said.

As part of their research, Proulx and Steven J. Heine, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and the article's second co-author, asked a group of subjects to read an abridged and slightly edited version of Kafka's "The Country Doctor," which involves a nonsensical –– and in some ways disturbing –– series of events. A second group read a different version of the same short story, one that had been rewritten so that the plot and literary elements made sense. The subjects were then asked to complete an artificial-grammar learning task in which they were exposed to hidden patterns in letter strings. They were asked to copy the individual letter strings and then to put a mark next to those that followed a similar pattern.

"People who read the nonsensical story checked off more letter strings –– clearly they were motivated to find structure," said Proulx. "But what's more important is that they were actually more accurate than those who read the more normal version of the story. They really did learn the pattern better than the other participants did."

In a second study, the same results were evident among people who were led to feel alienated about themselves as they considered how their past actions were often contradictory. "You get the same pattern of effects whether you're reading Kafka or experiencing a breakdown in your sense of identity," Proulx explained. "People feel uncomfortable when their expected associations are violated, and that creates an unconscious desire to make sense of their surroundings. That feeling of discomfort may come from a surreal story, or from contemplating their own contradictory behaviors, but either way, people want to get rid of it. So they're motivated to learn new patterns."

Thus far, the researchers have identified the beneficial effects of unusual experiences only in implicit pattern learning. It remains to be seen whether or not reading surreal literature would aid in the learning of studied material as well. "It's important to note that sitting down with a Kafka story before exam time probably wouldn't boost your performance on a test," said Proulx.

"What is critical here is that our participants were not expecting to encounter this bizarre story," he continued. "If you expect that you'll encounter something strange or out of the ordinary, you won't experience the same sense of alienation. You may be disturbed by it, but you won't show the same learning ability. The key to our study is that our participants were surprised by the series of unexpected events, and they had no way to make sense of them. Hence, they strived to make sense of something else."
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Lower lexical recall in bilingual kids OK

If your French Immersion student is scratching their tête over not being able to think of the English word for sifflet or the French word for keyboard, a University of Alberta researcher has a sage piece of advice.

Relax, it's completely normal.

Elena Nicoladis, an experimental psychologist, recently published a study of unilingual and bilingual children's ability to recall words in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Nicoladis' research with students between the ages of seven and 10 showed that bilingual children's lexical recall was slightly lower than their unilingual counterparts.

However, Nicoladis notes that this is not an alarm bell to pull children from French Immersion programs and put them into an English-only classroom. She says that the results of the study show only a small part of the children's overall language skills.

"The results are not a deficit of bilingualism," said Nicoladis."We know from other studies that the same challenges can be found in bilingual adults. But you don't see bilinguals stuttering more or having a difficult time expressing themselves."

In the study, a group of unilingual and bilingual students were initially asked to name a series of objects that, while familiar to them, were not everyday words, such as a weather vane. The bilingual students scored slightly below their English-language peers.

However, the bilingual students were equally able to recognize an object's name in both languages at a later period during the testing. The bilinguals also showed a stronger capacity to describe the object or even literally translate the name of the object.

"The bilingual children displayed what were clearly some influences from a literal translation or some other translation," said Nicoladis. "For example, a couple of students called a pine cone a pineapple, which, in French is pomme de pin, so, literally, pine apple in English."

The children also demonstrated some distinct behaviours during the study. Some students would occasionally answer in French during the English interview portion or in English during the French interview. Nicoladis notes that these types of responses did not occur with researchers working with adults. Nicoladis believes that it is likely a developmental issue related to filtering language context and accessing two separate lexical files, akin to picking up the wrong dictionary.

Nicoladis notes that there are some positives to the study. If the adult research is any indication, the bilingual children will improve their recall ability as they grow older. Nicoladis also sees the thinking process that the bilinguals displayed in responding to the questions as a benefit to the students' linguistic duality.

"The kids are already showing incredibly clever ways at coming up with words or expressions that convey what they're trying to say," she said. "One argument about an advantage of bilingualism is that it could lead to creativity, and we're already seeing the signs of that now in that age range here in the study."
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Pen Betetr Than Computer For Kid's Writing

Second, fourth and sixth grade children with and without handwriting disabilities were able to write more and faster when using a pen than a keyboard to compose essays, according to new research.

The study, headed by Virginia Berninger, a University of Washington professor of educational psychology who studies normal writing development and writing disabilities, looked at children's ability to write the alphabet, sentences and essays using a pen and a keyboard.

"Children consistently did better writing with a pen when they wrote essays. They wrote more and they wrote faster." said Berninger. Only for writing the alphabet was the keyboard better than the pen. For sentences results were mixed. But when using a pen, the children in all three grade levels produced longer essays and composed them at a faster pace. In addition, fourth and sixth graders wrote more complete sentences when they used a pen. The ability to write complete sentences was not affected by the children's spelling skills.

The research also showed that many children don't have a reliable idea of what a sentence is until the third or fourth grade.

"Children first have to understand what a sentence or a complete thought is before they can write one," Berninger said. "Talking is very different from writing. We don't talk in complete sentence. In conversation we produce units smaller and larger than sentences."

The study was designed to compare methods of transcription, a basic cognitive process involved in writing that enables a writer to translate thoughts or ideas into written language. Both handwriting and spelling are transcription processes. Previous research by Berninger's group showed that transcription predicts composition length and quality in developing writers. Transcription by both pen and keyboard involves the hands. Researchers, she said, are trying to understand why units of language are affected differently when hands write by pen and by keyboard.

"People think language is a single thing. But it's not," said Berninger. "It has multiple levels like a tall building with a different floor plan for each story. In written language there are letters, words, sentences and paragraphs, which are different levels of language. It turns out that they are related, but not in a simple way. Spelling is at the word level, but sentences are at the syntax level. Words and syntax (patterns for organizing the order of words) are semi-independent. Organizing sentences to create text is yet another level. That's why some children need spelling help while others need help in constructing sentences and others in composing text with many sentences."

Berninger and her colleagues recruited more than 200 normally developing children for the study. When the children were in the second, fourth and sixth grades they were given three tasks. For one task they were told to print all lower case letters in alphabetic order with a pen. They were also asked to select each letter of the alphabet in order on a keyboard. In both cases they were told to work as quickly and accurately as possible. In the second task they were asked to write one sentence that began with the word "writing" while using a pen and to write one sentence that began with "reading" while using the keyboard. Finally, the children were asked to write essays on provided topics for 10 minutes both by pen and by keyboard.

Although most children in the study developed transcriptions skills in an age-appropriate way, a small number showed signs of a specific learning disability – transcription disability. Both the normally developing and those with the disability wrote extended text better by pen than keyboard.

"Federal accommodations for disabilities now mean that schools often allow children to use laptops to bypass handwriting or spelling problems. Just giving them a laptop may not be enough," Berninger said. "Children with this disability also need appropriate education in the form of explicit transcription and composition instruction.

"We need to learn more about the process of writing with a computer, and even though schools have computers they haven't integrated them in teaching at the early grades. We need to help children become bilingual writers so they can write by both the pen and the computer. So don't throw away your pen or your keyboard. We need them both.

"But we don't want to lose sight of the fact that it is important for developing writers and children with transcription disability to be able to form letters by hand. A keyboard doesn't allow a child to have the same opportunity to engage the hand while forming letters – on a keyboard a letter is selected by pressing a key and is not formed. Brain imaging studies with adults have shown an advantage for forming letters over selecting or viewing letters. A brain imaging study at the University of Washington with children showed that sequencing fingers may engage thinking. We need more research to figure out how forming letters by a pen and selecting them by pressing a key may engage our thinking brains differently," she said.
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Adolescent literacy key to education reform

A new report from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY), Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Readiness, pinpoints adolescent literacy as a cornerstone of the current education reform movement, upon which efforts such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act must be built. The report's recommended actions point out important intersections with the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competitive grant guidelines with their emphasis on standards and assessments, data systems, great teachers and leaders, and efforts to turn around struggling schools. Additionally, the report is released as the Senate considers the introduction of a bill that would authorize $2.35 billion annually for five years for birth to grade twelve literacy instruction, 40 percent of which would go to adolescent literacy. These funds would dramatically increase the federal support for adolescent literacy efforts.

On the heels of the World Economic Forum's recent pronouncement that the United States lost its place to Switzerland as the world's most competitive economy, education thought leaders convened today to discuss this watershed report that culminates and analyzes years of research on literacy instruction. The report notes the downward spiral of adolescent reading achievement levels: U.S. students in grade four score among the best in the world, yet by tenth-grade students score among the lowest in the world. The report provides steps for leaders at all levels to combat this unsustainable trend for the United States.

"As schools consider how to re-engineer to meet the demands of the 21st century, they must also establish a culture of literacy," stated Vartan Gregorian, president of CCNY. "Integrating literacy instruction across the curriculum is critical for students to master the skills required for college and careers."

Complementing the recently released The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy by CCNY and the Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education, which is a call to action to transform math and science education, Time to Act gives concrete examples of how to redesign schools and promote excellence in all content areas through a renewed focus on literacy. Specifically, Time To Act recommends the nation (1) give teachers literacy-focused instructional tools and formative assessments, (2) encourage schools and districts to collect and use information about student literacy performance more efficiently, and (3) call upon state-level leaders to maximize the use of limited resources for literacy efforts in a strategic way.

"Addressing the literacy gap that emerges in middle school is a key element in driving forward national education reform efforts," stated Andres Henriquez, program officer of CCNY's Advancing Literacy Initiative. "This requires schools to provide improved literacy instruction in all content areas, particularly to those who struggle, as well as continual assessments of needs and progress."

Time to Act is the capstone report of Carnegie Council for Advancing Adolescent Literacy (Council). Since 2004, under the direction of Council Chairperson Catherine Snow, professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Council has gathered knowledge and ideas from experts nationwide on topics ranging from linguistics to the social science of teaching. Time to Act is released with five corresponding reports, which delve deeper into how to advance literacy and learning for all students, including such topics as the cost of implementing adolescent literacy programs and reading in the disciplines.

At the report release, former Governor Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, led a discussion on Time to Act's policy implications for pressing issues in education with Marshall Smith, senior advisor in the Department of Education; Bethany Little, chief education counsel for the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; and Adrienne Dunbar, education policy advisor for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor.

To underscore the linkage of literacy in all education reform efforts, Michele Cahill, vice president of CCNY, led a panel discussion between Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers; David Coleman, CEO and founder of Student Achievement Partners; and John Garvey, former dean of the Teacher Academy and Collaborative Programs at City University of New York, on Time to Act's implications for common core standards; post-secondary academic demands; and college and career readiness to highlight the necessity of adolescent literacy in each of those areas.

Full report.
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Helping Students Navigate the Path to College

"Helping Students Navigate the Path to College: What High Schools Can Do" recommends steps that educators, administrators, and policymakers can take, beginning in the 9th grade, to increase access to higher education. This latest IES Practice Guide, produced by the What Works Clearinghouse (), targets high schools and school districts and focuses on effective practices that prepare students academically for college, assist them in completing the steps to college entry, and improve their likelihood of enrolling in college.

The recommendations address the discrete steps that students need to take throughout high school, and describe how high schools can use mentors and peers to support students' college aspirations. Recognizing that simply providing students with information is insufficient, the guide recommends that high schools offer hands-on assistance and guidance in preparing students for college. The guide also acknowledges possible implementation challenges and suggests solutions for circumventing the roadblocks.

To view the practice guide.
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Enrollment Statistics

The Projections of Education Statistics to 2018, released today by the National Center for Education Statistics, provides data on enrollments in elementary and secondary schools and high school graduates for the 50 States and the District of Columbia. At the postsecondary level, it includes data on enrollment and earned degrees for the past 14 years and projections to the year 2018.

Postsecondary enrollment rose by 28 percent between 1993 and 2007, and is projected to increase a further 13 percent with an estimated 21 million students enrolled in colleges, universities and training programs by 2018, according to The Projections report -- the 37th in a series first published in 1964 -- provides national-level data on enrollment, teachers, high school graduates, and expenditures at the elementary and secondary school level.

Other findings include:
- Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools rose 13 percent between 1993 and 2006 and is projected to increase an additional 9 percent between 2006 and 2018
- Between 2006 and 2018 private school enrollment is expected to decrease by 2 percent.
- The number of high school graduates increased by 27 percent between 1993-94 and 2005-06, and a further increase of 9 percent is projected by 2018-19.
- There are more African American and Hispanic students in college than ever before, and their numbers represent a larger share of overall college enrollment. The number of African American college students increased from 1.7 million in 2000 to a projected 2.4 million in 2018. The number of Hispanic college students also will increase, to a projected 2.1 million in 2018 from 1.5 million in 2000.

To view the full report.
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Preschoolers Can Learn A Second Language

Interim results from an international research project which looks at bilingual education reveal that children can learn a second language as early as preschool.
he University of Hertfordshire is one of nine European partners in ELIAS (Early Language and Intercultural Acquisition Studies) which was awarded €300,000 by the European Union last year to research bilingual education and intercultural awareness in children through observational studies and language assessments in six project preschools.

The researchers use a concept called ‘immersion teaching’, whereby children are addressed in each language by the respective native speaker and asked to respond in that language.

The study focuses on bilingual preschools in Germany, Sweden and Belgium, where the staff members are teachers from the respective country, but at least one teacher is a native speaker of English. Data is also collected from nurseries in Hertfordshire and the bilingual nursery of the German school in London. Children’s progress in English is measured through a receptive vocabulary test and a grammar task that was designed within the project. So far, 266 preschool children aged between three and five took part in the tests.

The researchers found that although not all the preschool groups performed equally well in the tests, and there was a large amount of individual variation in children’s comprehension of vocabulary and grammatical phenomena, there was clear evidence that it is feasible for children to start to learn a second language in a preschool context, using immersion methods.

Dr Christina Schelletter, a senior lecturer in English Language and Communication in the School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire, who leads the UK investigation said: “We have found that immersion-type teaching can be of real benefit to children. Immersion is the best and most successful method of foreign language learning at an early age. The natural learning abilities of young children as well as their enthusiasm promise rapid and successful acquisition of the second language.”

ELIAS will continue until October 2010 during which time it will document and assess the development of the children, organise teacher training events and recommend practical work for the preschools. Following the final symposium in 2010, a compilation of the results will be published for general public use.

For more information, see:
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Fantasy Sports Makes Better Math Students

Fantasy sports can help improve mathematics test scores in schools nationwide, based on information gathered by a University of Mississippi researcher surveying elementary and secondary teachers and students.

Last summer, Kim Beason, associate professor of park and recreation management at UM, teamed up with Dan Flockhart, a former California middle school teacher who has written a series of mathematics textbooks, to examine the impact of using fantasy sports in mathematics education. The national study shows that fantasy sports has increased math test scores, in areas ranging from algebraic formulas to fractions, by nearly 50 percent among middle school students.

"This is huge," Beason said. "Across the board, both boys' and girls' test scores are up dramatically."

Since 2003, math scores of 15-year-olds across the U.S. have remained stagnant and continue to trail those recorded of students in many countries, including Finland, China and Estonia, according to a recent U.S. Department of Education study. Flockhart said he believes fantasy sports can help solve the problem.

"Sixty-nine percent of eighth-grade students in America are not proficient in math. I believe fantasy sports can play a significant role in eliminating math illiteracy in our country," said Flockhart, who in 2005 authored Fantasy Sports and Mathematics, a series of math textbooks that addresses nine national math standards and more than 50 national math expectations.

Algebra, perhaps the least liked subject of students due to its abstract nature, is the gateway to higher education, Flockhart said.

"If 'T' equals the number of touchdowns, then students know what they are dealing with," he said. "Fantasy sports links math in the classroom to math in the real world."

Flockhart's belief appears to be supported by Beason's preliminary research at UM. The study indicates that three out of four teachers surveyed believe their students understand mathematical concepts better after relating them to fantasy sports in the classroom. It also shows that nearly eight out of 10 students surveyed said they enjoyed lessons in math more with the innovative teaching method.

"In my opinion, this is one of the most significant applications to teaching English-speaking students mathematics in the last 20 or 30 years," Beason said. "It's interactive teaching using an interdisciplinary approach that combines math education and leisure activity."

Among the teachers surveyed, fantasy sports is not treated as a stand-alone educational tool in their classrooms but instead is employed to augment their other resources. Based on textbook sales, thousands of teachers across the country are using fantasy sports in their math classes.

"If there's one teacher in a school who purchased the textbook, then there's another three or four possibly using it in their own class," Beason said. "There could be as many as 80,000 students learning math through fantasy sports."

Fantasy sports originated in the late 1960s and early '70s. Beason started studying the consumer behavior aspects of fantasy sports in 2001, and according to his research, 20 million Americans play fantasy football alone, resulting in an $800 million-dollar industry.

"I started playing fantasy sports nearly 20 years ago, and that's all it was, just a game," Beason said. "Now we see that fantasy sports can actually be used to make inroads when it comes to leaving no child behind."

Flockhart agreed, saying, "Mathematics education is not working in this country. Motivation is a large part of the battle, and kids love fantasy sports. In particular, girls enjoy beating the boys. If fantasy sports were used extensively in urban areas, overnight we could have millions of students enjoying math."

For more information, visit

A sample question from Dan Flockhart's textbook Fantasy Sports and Mathematics: _How many more points did Eli Manning earn compared to Ben Roethlisberger for Week 1 of the 2007 NFL season if Manning had 312 yards passing, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception, while Roethlisberger had 161 yards passing and 1 touchdown?
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Schools Failing In Preventing Bullying/Violence

Key to a child’s successful education is an environment in which he or she can learn safely. According to a report released today by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, only 26 percent of parents would give their child’s high school an “A” for preventing bullying and school violence, and 38 percent of parents would give their child’s elementary or junior high an “A.”

“Children who are victims of bullying can have serious health effects, including physical injuries and emotional problems such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and actions,” says Matthew Davis, M.D., director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. “Unfortunately, in the United States, we’ve seen some tragedies in the past few years regarding episodes of school violence that have gotten a lot of media coverage and upset many parents.”

In the U.S., an estimated 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to the National Education Association. Since 1992, there have been 250 violent deaths in schools, and bullying has been a factor in many school shootings.

“What this poll shows is that parents are still very concerned about bullying in their schools. About three-quarters of states nationwide have implemented bullying prevention laws that are designed to encourage, and in some cases force schools to present and deliver bullying prevention curriculum to students,” says Davis, who is also an associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “But based on these findings, it doesn’t appear that those curricula or programs are working effectively.”

The poll asked 1,087 parents across the U.S. in May 2009 to assign their child’s school an A through F grade in five categories: overall safety, building security, bullying and school violence prevention, keeping students safe during a school-wide emergency, and keeping parents informed in the event of a school-wide emergency.

Parents grades for other school safety concerns:

- Overall safety: 59 percent of parents would give their child’s primary school an “A,” while 33 percent of parents would give their child’s secondary school an “A.”_- Keeping parents informed in a school-wide emergency: 64 percent of parents would give their child’s primary school an “A,” while 46 percent of parents would give their child’s secondary school an “A.” _- Keeping their child safe during a school-wide emergency: 62 percent of parents would give their child’s primary school an “A,” while 36 percent of parents would give their child’s secondary school an “A.”_- Building security: 49 percent of parents would give their child’s primary school an “A,” while 33 percent of parents would give their child’s secondary school an “A.”

What parents can do

Parents who have concerns about bullying in their child’s school can get involved in a few ways. Davis suggests parents become active in local safe school and safe community programs where bullying and violence prevention programs already exist.

In the few states where bullying prevention programs do not exist, Davis suggests parents get involved in the legislative process by advocating for bullying programs to be put in place using other states as examples.

“But right at home, there’s a way for parents to make a difference too,” he says. “Parents can listen to their kids who are their eyes and ears in the schools, especially about issues of bullying. It can be really hard for children to bring up the topic of bullying so parents may need to ask directly about it and make home a safe place to talk about this important problem.”

Resources for parents:

U-M Health Topics: FAQs on bullying:

U.S. Heath Resources and Services Administration Stop Bullying Now:

Pacer Center:

National PTA:

National Education Association:

School Social Work Association of America:

Methodology: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in May 2009 to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents aged 18 and older (n=1,087) from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 59 percent among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 to 6 percentage points for the main analysis. For results based on subgroups, the margin of error is higher.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit
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Effect on Schools From Evacuees

Katrina's Children: Evidence on the Structure of Peer Effects From Hurricane Evacuees

In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita forced many children to relocate across the Southeast. While schools quickly enrolled evacuees, receiving families worried about the impact of evacuees on non-evacuee students. Data from Houston and Louisiana show that, on average, the influx of evacuees moderately reduced elementary math test scores in Houston. We reject linear-in-means models of peer effects and find evidence of a highly non-linear but monotonic model - student achievement improves with high ability and worsens with low ability peers. Moreover, exposure to undisciplined evacuees increased native absenteeism and disciplinary problems, supporting a "bad apple" model in behavior.
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Performance Management in Portfolio School Districts

Under pressure from state standards-based reform and No Child Left Behind, and with increasing competition from schools of choice, urban school districts are looking for ways to offer a high-performing mix of schools that meet the diverse needs of their communities.

Many districts see themselves as portfolio managers, operating some schools in the traditional way, hiring independent groups to run other schools, and holding all schools accountable under the same performance standards.

Portfolio management requires school districts to do three things they were not designed to do: judge the performance of individual schools, decide which are effective enough to continue supporting, and decide whether to shore up struggling schools or create new ones. Districts currently adopting a portfolio strategy, partially or fully, include New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Denver, Philadelphia, Hartford, and the District of Columbia. Many other districts are considering the strategy.

Performance Management in Portfolio School Districts provides ideas for portfolio school districts and others that are trying to manage schools for performance. Based on studies of other government agencies and businesses that have shifted from inputs- to performance-based accountability, this report:

Contrasts traditional compliance-based and the new performance-based accountability

Shows how portfolio school districts can organize to

* Judge schools on performance
* Accept some school closings as necessary and desirable
* Maintain neutrality about who runs a school
* Make sure they are never stuck with an unproductive school and no alternative
* Constantly search for new school providers and more effective forms of schooling
* Look outside the district central office to independent providers and voluntary school networks for advice and assistance to schools
* Use common standards to judge schools but pay attention to unique circumstances

Suggests how portfolio districts can develop necessary technical and staff capacities

As the report concludes, a portfolio strategy transforms the role of district central offices and makes most of their current functions unnecessary. Districts committed to portfolio strategies will need to eliminate many existing central office structures to avoid mixed signals about whether schools will be judged on performance or compliance. Those savings could pay the operating costs of portfolio oversight once a district’s basic capacity has been built.

This is the first in a series of reports on portfolio school districts. An interim report on CRPE’s study of four cities (New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and D.C.) that have initiated portfolio strategies will be published in fall 2009. That report analyzes progress to date and draws lessons for other big cities.

Performance Management in Portfolio School Districts
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Expansion of K-12 Engineering Education Advocated

New Report Calls for Improvements and Expansion of K-12 Engineering Education;
Teaching Engineering Design May Boost Learning of Science and Math

The introduction of K-12 engineering education has the potential to improve student learning and achievement in science and mathematics, increase awareness about what engineers do and of engineering as a potential career, and boost students' technological literacy, according to a new report from the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council. The report examines the status and nature of efforts to teach engineering in U.S. schools.

"The problem solving, systems thinking, and teamwork aspects of engineering can benefit all students, whether or not they ever pursue an engineering career," said Linda Katehi, chancellor of the University of California, Davis, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "A K-12 education that does not include at least some exposure to engineering is a lost opportunity for students and for the nation."

Engineering education at the K-12 level should emphasize engineering design and a creative problem-solving process, the committee said. It should include relevant concepts in mathematics, science, and technology, as well as support the development of skills many believe essential for the 21st century, including systems thinking, collaboration, and communication.

While science, technology, engineering, and mathematics instruction is collectively referred to as "STEM education," the report finds that the engineering component is often absent in policy discussions and in the classroom. In fact, engineering might be called the missing letter in STEM, the report says.

In preparing the report, the committee conducted an in-depth analysis of 15 K-12 engineering curricula; reviewed scientific literature related to learning engineering concepts and skills; evaluated evidence on the impact of K-12 engineering education initiatives; and collected preliminary information about pre-collegiate engineering education programs in other countries.

The committee found that engineering education opportunities in K-12 schools have expanded considerably in the past 15 years. Since the early 1990s, the report estimates, about 6 million children have been exposed to some formal engineering coursework. However, this number is still small compared with the overall number of students in K-12 schools (approximately 56 million in 2008). The committee noted that many challenges remain to expanding the availability and improving the quality of these programs, including the absence of content standards to guide development of instructional materials, limited pre-service education for engineering teachers, and structural and policy impediments to including this new subject in an already crowded school curriculum.

With these challenges in mind, the committee recommended that:

· the National Science Foundation or U.S. Department of Education fund research to determine how science inquiry and mathematical reasoning can be connected to engineering design in curricula and professional development;
· foundations and federal agencies with an interest in K-12 engineering education conduct long-term research to confirm and refine findings of studies of the impacts of engineering education;
· the American Society of Engineering Education begin a national dialogue on preparing K-12 engineering teachers, and on the pros and cons of establishing a formal credentialing process; and
· philanthropic foundations or federal agencies with an interest in STEM education and school reform identify models of implementation for K-12 engineering education that will work for different American school systems.

The committee also noted the importance of clarifying the meaning of "STEM literacy" and of developing curricula that would particularly appeal to groups typically underrepresented in engineering, such as girls, African Americans, and Hispanics.
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Research methodology videos available

The Institute of Education Sciences has announced the availability of a series of research methodology videos from the 2009 IES Research Conference on the following topics:

"The Problem of False Discoveries: How to Balance Objectives"

"Problems with the Design and Implementation of Randomized Experiments"

"Reversion to the Mean, or Does Dosage Matter?"

"Assessing Intervention Fidelity: Models, Methods, and Modes of Analysis"

"Why the Research Community Should Take Notice of State Longitudinal Data Systems".

These videos are available for viewing at
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Revenues and Expenditures by Public School Districts

This brief publication contains data on revenues and expenditures per pupil made by school districts for school year 2006-07. Median per pupil revenue and expenditure data are reported by state, as well as values at the 5th and 95th percentiles. Data for charter schools are reported separately. There are also discussions on the different types of school districts, and other resources that may be helpful in analyzing school district level data. Revenues and expenditures for the 100 largest school districts are included, as well as federal revenues by program. For total revenues and expenditures for public education made by states and the nation, readers should refer to the state-level "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2006-07" (NCES 2008-337)
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Children of Immigrants: 1 in 5 in U.S.

In 2007, about 16.4 million children, or more than one in five children in the United States, had at least one immigrant parent. The number of children of immigrants doubled from 8 million in 1990, and their share of all children age 0 to 17 increased from 13 to 23 percent during this period. This large demographic group deserves particular attention because its growth has important implications for federal, state, and local education, health, housing, and family policies.

Children of immigrants are also likely to represent a large share of the nation's future labor force. In addition, children of immigrants deserve special attention because they face many universal risk factors to children's well-being, such as lower parental education and family incomes, but they are also adversely affected by factors unique to immigration, such as lack of parental citizenship and English proficiency.

Yet, no single portrait of children of immigrants holds for every state. Diverse groups of immigrants have dispersed in large numbers to states with historically few immigrants. States also have differing policies for integrating newcomers. While children of immigrants make up 23 percent of all children nationwide, their shares vary significantly by state; children of immigrants make up close to 50 percent of children in California but only 8 percent of children in Arkansas. Similarly, the rate at which their shares grew between 1990 and 2007 varies across states; it more than doubled in Nevada (from 15 to 34 percent) but increased by only a third in Rhode Island (from 18 to 24 percent). Nevertheless, there are also similarities across states; for example, young children are more likely than older children to have immigrant parents.

Up-to-date state information on the characteristics and population size of children of immigrants is essential for planning and implementing educational, health, housing, labor, and other social programs that affect children, their families, and other residents.

This brief, a companion to the Urban Institute's new interactive Children of Immigrants Data Tool, provides a glimpse of the national and state characteristics of children of immigrants based on 2005 and 2006 American Community Survey data.2 This brief highlights national findings and variations across states, while the web tool allows users to obtain more detailed data about individual states. The data tool and accompanying analysis will be updated with new data as they become available, allowing users to track trends over time and study the effects of economic cycles and policy changes. Sample findings discussed in this brief include the following:

• In 2006, children of immigrants made up more than 10 percent of the total child population in 29 states, up from 16 states in 1990.
• Half of children of immigrants live in California, Texas, and New York, but their numbers are growing across the country.
• Young children are more likely to have immigrant parents: 24 percent of children age 0 to 5 have immigrant parents versus 21 percent of children age 6 to 17.
• Almost a third of children of immigrants live in mixed-status families where the children are U.S. citizens but their parents are noncitizens.
• Children of immigrants are substantially more likely to be poor (22 percent) and low income (51 percent) than children of natives (16 and 35 percent, respectively)

Full report
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Achievement Gaps: Black and White Students

Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress

Mathematics and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have increased among students attending elementary and secondary schools since the first time the assessment was administered. These score increases have been observed both for Black and White students; statistically significant score differences between the two racial/ethnic groups have also been observed. This statistical analysis report, Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, examines achievement gaps between Black and White public-school students at both the national and state levels. The report uses data from two assessment programs—main NAEP and Long-term Trend (LTT) NAEP. While both programs assess reading and mathematics, they are different in three major respects: (1) main NAEP assesses performance of students in 4th- and 8th- grades, while LTT NAEP assesses performance of students ages 9 and 13; (2) main NAEP reports results for both the national and state levels, while LTT NAEP reports results for the national level only; (3) main NAEP was first administered in the 1990s, while LTT NAEP was first administered in the 1970s. The report uses results from all assessment years including the 2007 main NAEP and the 2004 LTT NAEP. All results are for public school students. The percentages of Black and White students in individual states vary by state. Some states’ trends could not be reported because there were not enough Black or White students in the sample to have reportable results.

Full report.
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The Achievement Gap Begins Early

Study Finds Disparities in Child Outcomes Among Infants

A new study finds disparities between poor, at-risk children and more advantaged children as early as 9 months of age—extending prior research that primarily focuses on disparities at kindergarten entry and beyond. The study by Child Trends was commissioned by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It identifies low income and low maternal education as the factors most strongly associated with poorer cognitive, social-emotional, and health outcomes among very young children. It also finds that the more risk factors a child has, the more profound the disparities.

The study, Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort, is based on a nationally representative sample of children born in the U.S. in 2001.

Study Highlights

Disparities by Family Income: Compared to their peers from higher-income families, infants and toddlers from low-income families score lower on cognitive assessments, are less likely to be in excellent or very good health, and are less likely to receive positive behavior ratings at both 9 and 24 months. Toddlers from lower-income families are also less likely to have a secure attachment to their primary caregiver compared to toddlers from higher-income families. Small effects were found for all outcomes at 9 months; these effects were larger (moderate) by 24 months.

Disparities by Maternal Education: Compared to infants whose mothers have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, infants and toddlers whose mothers have less than a high school degree score lower on both cognitive and behavioral measures and they are also less likely to be in excellent or very good health. Disparities are typically small at 9 months but become more pronounced at 24 months (moderate to large). In addition, toddlers whose mothers have a Bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely to have a secure attachment to their primary caregiver compared to toddlers whose mothers have less education.

Disparities by Race/Ethnicity: White infants score higher on measures of cognitive development than non-Hispanic black, Asian, and American Indian/Alaskan Native infants at 9 months, but these disparities are small. However, disparities by race/ethnicity are more pronounced among 24-month-olds (moderate to large), with toddlers from racial/ethnic minority backgrounds scoring lower than their white peers on the cognitive assessment.

“This is sobering news and should strengthen the movement and momentum toward investing in high quality, early education programs for poor, at-risk children,” said CCSSO Executive Director Gene Wilhoit. “It is our responsibility to mitigate these growing disparities in the earliest years and it is our challenge – as states, the federal government, the private sector – to support more intensive, comprehensive, and ongoing program efforts for those at highest risk.”

Tamara Halle, Ph.D., Child Trends Senior Research Scientist and lead author of the study added, “Research and evaluation suggest that efforts to address disparities in young children should start early, target low-income children with high-quality comprehensive services, and engage and support parents.”

Based on the analyses conducted in the study, the authors discuss several implications for policy and practice:

Start early

Small but significant differences at 9 months were detected, and moderate to large differences were found at 24 months; this speaks to the value of intervening early in children’s lives to address the gaps in development. Research suggests that interventions should be high-quality, comprehensive and continuous for children ages 0 to 3 as well as ages 3 to 5.

Target low-income children

As income is the most prevalent risk factor at 9 and 24 months, children in low-income households should be the main targets of early interventions aimed at improving children’s health and well-being.

Engage and support parents.

Early childhood interventions should include a parental education component. A promising avenue is to promote the education of parents of infants and toddlers about issues related to early childhood development. In addition, interventions that support parents in their own educational attainment and/or income self-sufficiency are also pertinent.
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States Use Increased Flexibility Under NCLB

States Use Increased Flexibility Under No Child Left Behind Law To Try New Approaches to Helping Lowest Performing Schools

Georgia, Maryland, New York, and Ohio Design Accountability Frameworks That Differ Substantially from Past NCLB Systems

A report released by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) offers new insight on how four states are using flexibility from federal education rules to develop new and diverse strategies to help their lowest performing schools. These strategies are more ambitious and diverse than those originally specified in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, and shed light on innovations that are likely to be in play as the federal law is reauthorized, the report notes.

The report, Mining the Opportunities in “Differentiated Accountability”: Lessons from the No Child Left Behind Pilots in Four States, is part of CEP’s broader ongoing study of school restructuring under NCLB. The states studied for the report are Georgia, Maryland, New York, and Ohio. The four states studied were among 17 states chosen in the last year by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in a Differentiated Accountability Pilot program, giving them new flexibility to intervene in struggling schools. The program allows them to vary the intensity and type of interventions they use and to focus resources on schools with the greatest needs.

Common Themes Across All Four States

The report finds several common themes emerging from the states’ pilot programs. First, all four states have moved away from NCLB labels for schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two consecutive years and instead are opting for fewer labels and their own terminology for struggling schools. Second, all four states are also putting more focus on schools and districts to use data to inform instruction and other decisions. Third, to ensure that improvement plans have been well implemented, the states have created opportunities for on-site monitoring of at least some of their most academically needy schools.

“These states are using the flexibility in these new pilots to try their own approaches because what schools have been required to do under NCLB has not worked in many cases,” said Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO. “This experiment shows the need to re-think NCLB’s approach to school improvement.”

Tailoring Plans to Meet Local Needs

In its report, CEP finds that, overall, the new differentiated accountability systems being implemented in the four states are quite diverse. In particular, each has changed and developed policies and practices for school improvement based on the needs of their schools and what they believe will work best in their states. Georgia, Maryland, and Ohio implemented their differentiated accountability pilots in the 2008-09 school year; New York will begin implementing its pilot in the 2009-10 school year.

Georgia used the new flexibility to accelerate intervention for schools in need of improvement. Interventions that had formerly been reserved for schools that had spent multiple years in NCLB’s school improvement process are now provided much sooner. For example, Georgia now requires schools to offer tutoring in year one of school improvement and offers students school choice transfers to higher-performing schools in year two.

In its accountability pilot program, Maryland labels schools in improvement differently based on the number of years they have failed to make AYP and the number of subgroups that have contributed to this failure to make AYP. All schools in improvement in Maryland complete a needs assessment, but those in school improvement for multiple years or those where the “all students” subgroup failed to make AYP must complete a school climate survey. In addition, these schools must consult with the state’s new “Breakthrough Center” that assists schools improvement.

Beginning in this school year, New York will attempt to simplify accountability by merging the state and federal accountability systems and making no distinctions between the supports and labels for schools that receive federal “Title I” funds for disadvantaged students and those that do not. In addition, schools identified for improvement will be grouped into one of just three phases: improvement, corrective action, or restructuring. Schools at all three phases will conduct diagnostic assessments, create two-year improvement plans, and receive additional oversight and support.

Ohio’s new accountability pilot, called the Ohio Improvement Process, differs from other state approaches by focusing on high-need districts rather than individual schools. Districts in improvement are categorized for support based on the collective percentage of students not meeting AYP targets across the district. Ohio has also developed new interventions to be used with districts at different levels of need.

Full report:
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