School Districts Struggling

Study Finds School Districts Struggling in Response to Economic Downturn, Bracing For More Cuts

The economic downturn continues to threaten the capacity of school districts nationwide, even in light of federal stimulus funds, according to a study released today by the American Association of School Administrators. “One Year Later: How the Economic Downturn Continues to Impact School Districts,” is the sixth in a series of studies conducted by AASA. The study is based on a survey of 875 school administrators conducted in September and October 2009 and finds that while funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have provided some relief, districts in every part of the nation are being forced to make cuts that directly impact student learning. The data also suggest a “shell game” in which state budgets were cut after it was known that ARRA included money for education.

Full survey:

Survey Highlights

Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents reported having to eliminate personnel positions for the 2009-10 school year, and 83 percent anticipate having to eliminate further positions in 2010-11.

While ARRA funds have allowed districts so save some of the positions slated for elimination, many still had to make cuts. One-quarter (26 percent) of respondents were able to save all of the core-subject teaching positions slated for elimination in their district. One-third (33 percent) were able to save some, though not all, of the core subject positions slated for elimination. An additional third (35 percent) were unable to save any of the core-subject teaching positions slated for elimination.
The trend reaches beyond instructional positions. Roughly 59 percent of respondents were unable to save any of the central-office or administrative positions; maintenance, cafeteria or transportation staff positions; school librarian positions; or school nursing positions slated for elimination in their district.

When asked how ARRA dollars impacted their state and local revenues, 83 percent reported that ARRA dollars did not represent a funding increase.

The percentage of districts increasing class size, eliminating field trips and cutting bus transportation routes increased from 2008-09 to 2010-11.

"Federal stimulus funds have helped schools, but not as much as hoped," said Mark Bielang, AASA president and superintendent in Paw Paw, Mich. "It is critical that Congress and the U.S. Department of Education continue to work to ensure schools have the flexible resources they need to fuel economic recovery and growth."

“This year is bad, but next year could be worse,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director. “School districts are bracing themselves for a ‘one-two punch’ as they budget for the 2010-11 school year and anticipate the end of ARRA funds.”
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Redesigning Teacher Pay

The long-established structure that determines how teachers are paid, as a growing number of educational leaders are concluding, needs an overhaul to enable it to meet the challenges of a 21st century education. That pay structure, which dates back to the 1920s, is based on a single salary system in which teachers with the same “paper” credentials and years of service receive the same compensation. Originally created to prevent favoritism, this pay system has become increasingly out of sync with current research, trends, and goals in education, according to a new study published by the Economic Policy Institute, and should be replaced. The question for schools then becomes: With what?

In Redesigning Teacher Pay: A System for the Next Generation of Educators, Harvard experts Susan Moore Johnson and John P. Papay offer an answer. The authors make the case for a new pay structure designed to both reward and foster leadership and excellence in the teaching profession. This proposed new structure is carefully built to align teacher pay with broader educational goals such as improving educational outcomes and enabling school districts to attract and retain high-quality teachers. The structure also provides a way for schools to leverage the skills of the most gifted and accomplished teachers by enlisting them as trainers and mentors in efforts to raise the quality of teaching school-wide.

The study recognizes that efforts to create pay-for-performance structures have met with largely unsuccessful results. The authors built their plan on an examination of those previous and current results, positive and negative, to learn from and avoid the pitfalls of changing from a familiar system to an unknown one that poses such daunting challenges as deciding how to measure teacher performance.

The system Johnson and Papay propose has two interrelated parts. The “tiered pay-and-career structure” is a four-level system of increasing responsibility, professional skill, and pay, and through which teachers can advance as they develop and exhibit leadership skills. The second part is the “learning and development fund” for investing in the ongoing development of skills that advance the school’s core goals of promoting excellence in teaching and learning.

Among the school districts with pay-for-performance plans described by the authors as case studies are: Houston, TX; Hillsborough County (Tampa), FL; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC; and Minneapolis, MN. The authors also cite as examples of schools that have been experimenting in this area: Denver and Douglas County, CO; Toledo, OH; Rochester, NY; Boston, MA; Cincinnati, OH; Montgomery County, MD; New
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ELL Students In LA Stuck


Nearly 30 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District students placed in English language learning programs are not reclassified as proficient by the end of middle school, according to a report released today by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California.

The study – ¿Qué Pasa?: Are English Language Learning Students Remaining in English Learning Classes Too Long? details the value of redesignating students as fluent English proficient. Researchers found that reclassification as late as the eighth grade is associated with improved academic outcomes when compared to students who remain in the English language learning (ELL) programs.

The findings have national significance because LAUSD is the nation's second largest school district with substantial numbers of English language learners. The study is also unique because it is based on thousands of student records and seven years of data. Most other studies into the subject take just a snapshot of student outcomes within a short time frame.
The study’s authors are: Edward Flores, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at USC; Gary Painter, a professor at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development; and Harry Pachon, president of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) and a professor at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

Data for this report was gathered by following and analyzing an entire cohort of non-special education students who started out as sixth graders in 1999 (N=28,714) and who would have graduated in 2005. Of those students, 65 percent were in ELL classes during one point of their schooling.

Researchers determined that about three-fourths of the students who were English language learners entering the 9th grade had been in U.S. schools eight years or more, and 29.1 percent were still in ELL programs by the beginning of freshman year in high school.

Students who were able to transition into mainstream English classes demonstrated a reduced likelihood of dropping out of school, and higher likelihood of passing the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and taking advanced placement (AP) courses, according to the study.

Reclassification by 5th grade was associated with SAT9 reading scores that were 10 points higher than those who remained in ELL classes. Students who were reclassified as late as 8th grade as "proficient" in English were also more likely to pass their classes and continue in school than the students who stayed in ELL classes, according to the study.

“Implementation of ELL programs needs to be evaluated and improved.” said Dr. Harry Pachon, President of TRPI and professor of public policy at USC. “Latino parents want their children to learn English...parents know that full English fluency increases their children’s ability to attend college and to have rewarding careers."

In LAUSD, 69.1 percent of students who have been classified at some point of their schooling as English language learners are native born U.S. citizens. “Surprisingly, we have American children outnumbering foreign born students by a ratio of about 2:1 in English language learning” said Edward Flores, TRPI researcher who worked on the study.
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Closing Schools in Chicago Didn't Help Students

When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools

This report reveals that eight in 10 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students displaced by school closings transferred to schools ranking in the bottom half of system schools on standardized tests. However, because most displaced students transferred from one low-performing school to another, the move did not, on average, significantly affect student achievement.

The report demonstrates that the success of a school closing policy hinges on the quality of the receiving schools that accept the displaced students. One year after school closings, displaced students who re-enrolled in the weakest receiving schools (those with test scores in the bottom quartile of all system schools) experienced an achievement loss of more than a month in reading and half-a-month in math. Meanwhile, students who re-enrolled in the strongest receiving schools (those in the top quartile) experienced an achievement gain of nearly one month in reading and more than two months in math.

The authors focused on 18 CPS elementary schools closed between 2001 and 2006 due to chronically poor academic performance or enrollment significantly below capacity. The schools enrolled 5,445 students at the time of their closings. To assess the academic effects of closing on these students, the study compares students ages 8 and older displaced by school closings with students in similar schools that did not close. The comparison group provides an estimate of how the displaced students should have performed on a range of outcomes had their schools not been closed.

The study reflects CCSR’s commitment to studying education issues that are top priorities in Chicago and districts nationwide. In Chicago, multiple rounds of school closings have prompted a powerful backlash from some teachers, students, community members and advocacy groups. Nevertheless, CPS and many other large urban school systems continue to make school closings a cornerstone of reform, touting the financial and academic benefits of closing underutilized or underperforming campuses.
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Enabling Mandatory Public School Choice

New Education Sector Idea at Work highlights mandatory school choice programs in New York City and Boston.

School choice requires that students and their parents have meaningful choices. In a new Education Sector Idea at Work, Matchmaking: Enabling Mandatory Public School Choice in New York and Boston takes a close look at the choice systems in New York and Boston.

Too often, school choice programs offer students limited options, or are not able to match students with the schools they choose to attend. The report commends the two school systems for implementing fair matching systems that now accommodate the wishes of virtually every student.

Consider New York City, where each year, middle-school students and their parents determine which of the city's 693 high school programs will suit them best. They choose 12 and rank them accordingly. The school system has adopted new computer software that allows it to place students in the schools on their lists "far more efficiently and fairly than most public school choice programs," according to Toch and Aldeman. As a result, this year 99 percent of students will attend a school they selected.

In addition, the authors note, the two districts offer a diverse array of schooling options. Although choice is mandatory, students in New York, for instance, can choose from among schools focused on animal science, architecture, communications, computer science and technology, cosmetology, culinary arts, engineering, environmental science, film and video, health, hospitality and tourism, humanities, law and government, performing arts, science and math, teaching, and visual art and design.

The results have been impressive—stimulating a new entrepreneurialism among many public educators, improving the perception of public education among middle-class families, and serving as a catalyst for school reform. The model, say authors Toch and Aldeman, could serve "as a model strategy for harnessing the power of the marketplace to better serve students' diverse educational interests and needs and to stimulate improvement through competition for students." It could also "improve both the quality and equity of court-ordered school choice programs."
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Iimproving teaching quality

High-quality teachers have an enormous impact on student achievement. Over the years, schools and districts have looked at a variety of ways to attract better teachers to public schools, especially those serving the poorest students.

Reforms for improving teaching quality have largely centered on two goals: recruiting more talented people into the teaching profession, and raising the stakes and incentives for existing teachers—particularly those in high-poverty schools—to help students thrive and learn.

"But these reforms are likely to disappoint if nothing is done to fundamentally overhaul the way the work of teachers is organized," argues Senior Policy Analyst Elena Silva in a new Education Sector report, Teachers at Work: Improving Teacher Quality Through School Design. Better teaching, she argues, will in the long run come not only from attracting a strong pool of talent and giving them boosts in pay, but from "changing the nature of the job."

The key issues that need to be addressed in reshaping teachers' work, Silva argues, include:

Redesigning how teachers' time is used
Combining and distributing teachers' talent strategically
Making trade-offs to focus resources on what's most important.
Teachers at Work highlights several promising programs that address these issues. Generation Schools in New York City, for example, provides a school model that focuses on the strategic use of people and time.

This school design provides teachers with substantial time for preparation, planning, and evaluation. It also lengthens the school calendar for students—who attend school for 200 days, 20 more than a typical New York City School. Yet the model does not involve extended work time for teachers.

That marks a key difference between the Generation Schools model and other extended time models across the country. Many of these schools, which expand teacher time in order to expand student learning time, are now struggling with teacher burnout or the higher cost of paying teachers for extra hours.

Public Agenda's recent nationwide survey of teachers finds 40 percent of teachers are "disheartened" by their jobs, citing burnout and a lack of a supportive administration among major issues feeding their discontent. Teachers at Work draws on similar findings and lays out a compelling case for why we need to take a new look at the work teachers do in order to elevate the profession.

The report also outlines next steps for state policymakers and local officials who are considering how to make the best use of their most significant investment—the quality of their teaching force.

Teachers at Work comes at a time when teacher quality is receiving renewed attention at all levels. The U.S. Department of Education spends several billion each year on improving teacher quality, and U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan has proposed billions more to improve the effectiveness of all teachers and to ensure that all children get access to effective teachers. The intensity of focus, combined with insights learned from successful models like those outlined in Teachers at Work, offer an extraordinary opportunity to invest in and evaluate new designs that will lift the teaching profession to its deserved status and serve students better than many are today.

"As the student population grows increasingly diverse and the pressure to demonstrate results at the school and district level intensifies, teaching will only become more demanding, increasing the urgency to not just attract a new generation of workers, but to create more effective workplaces to receive and develop them," Silva says.
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Two out of five of America’s teachers appear disheartened and disappointed about their jobs, according to new research. This new report probes why people become teachers, their frustrations, and what reforms they favor. The report divides teachers into three groups: the Disheartened, the Contented and the Idealists.
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The relative stringency of state standards

States vary widely in where they set their student proficiency standards in 4th and 8th grade reading and mathematics, according to a new report released today by the National Center for Education Statistics. The report compares proficiency standards of states using the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as the common yardstick.

The report, "Mapping State Proficiency Standards onto NAEP Scales: 2005-2007," uses NAEP to provide context for understanding the relative stringency of state standards given that each state has its own assessment system and standards for proficiency. The study compared the range of state standards in both 2005 and 2007 and measured changes in the rigor of state proficiency standards when new state standards were set after key aspects of the state assessment system changed.

Other key findings include:

* The range of state standards was wide in the four comparisons made in the study-- 4th and 8th grade reading and mathematics.

* Using NAEP achievement levels as a reference point for understanding the stringency of state standards, most were within the NAEP Basic achievement level range, except in 4th grade Reading, where most were below NAEP's Basic level.

* Overall, only two states set standards within the NAEP Proficient achievement level.

Here's the complete Executive Summary:

Since 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has sponsored the development of a method for mapping each state’s standard for proficient performance onto a common scale—the achievement scale of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). When states’ standards are placed onto the NAEP reading or mathematics scales, the level of achievement required for proficient performance in one state can then be compared with the level of achievement required in another state. This allows one to compare the standards for proficiency across states.

The mapping procedure offers an approximate way to assess the relative rigor of the states’ adequate yearly progress (AYP) standards established under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Once mapped, the NAEP scale equivalent score representing the state’s proficiency standards can be compared to indicate the relative rigor of those standards. The term rigor as used here does not imply a judgment about state standards. Rather, it is intended to be descriptive of state-to-state variation in the location of the state standards on a common metric.

This report presents mapping results using the 2005 and 2007 NAEP assessments in mathematics and reading for grades 4 and 8. The analyses conducted for this study addressed the following questions:

How do states’ 2007 standards for proficient performance compare with each other when mapped on the NAEP scale?
How do the 2007 NAEP scale equivalents for state standards compare with those estimated for 2005?
Using the 2005 NAEP scale equivalent for state standards to define a state’s proficient level of performance on NAEP, do NAEP and that state’s assessment agree on the changes in the proportion of students meeting that state’s standard for proficiency from 2005 to 2007?

To address the first question, the 2007 NAEP scale equivalent of each state reading and mathematics proficiency standard for each grade was identified. The mapping procedure was applied to the test data of 48 states.1 Key findings of the analysis presented in Section 3 of the report are:

In 2007, as in 2003 and 2005, state standards for proficient performance in reading and mathematics (as measured on the NAEP scale) vary across states in terms of the levels of achievement required. For example, the distance separating the five states with the highest standards and the five states with the lowest standards in grade 4 reading was comparable to the difference between Basic and Proficient performance on NAEP.2 The distance was as large in reading at grade 8 and as large in mathematics in both grades.
In both reading and mathematics, the 29- to 30-point distance separating the five highest and the five lowest NAEP scale equivalent of state standards for proficient performance was nearly as large as the 35 points that represent approximately one standard deviation in student achievement on the NAEP scale.
In grade 4 reading, 31 states set grade 4 standards for proficiency (as measured on the NAEP scale) that were lower than the cut point for Basic performance on NAEP (208). In grade 8 reading, 15 states set standards that were lower than the Basic performance on NAEP (243).
In grade 4 mathematics, seven states set standards for proficiency (as measured on the NAEP scale) that were lower than the Basic performance on NAEP (214). In grade 8 mathematics, eight states set standards that were lower than the Basic performance on NAEP (262).
Most of the variation (approximately 70 percent) from state to state in the percentage of students scoring proficient or above on state tests can be explained by the variation in the level of difficulty of state standards for proficient performance. States with higher standards (as measured on the NAEP scale) had fewer students scoring proficient on state tests.
The rigor of the state standards is not consistently associated with higher performance on NAEP. This association is measured by the squared correlation between the NAEP scale equivalent of the state standards and the percentages of students who scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level. In grade 4 reading and mathematics, the squared correlations are around .10 and statistically significant. In grade 8 reading and mathematics, the squared correlations are less than .07 and are not statistically significant.

To address the second question, the analyses focused on the consistency of mapping outcomes over time using both 2005 and 2007 assessments. Although NAEP did not change between 2005 and 2007, some states made changes in their state assessments in the same period, changes substantial enough that states indicated that their 2005 scores were not comparable to their 2007 scores. Other states indicated that their scores for those years are comparable. Comparisons between the 2005 and 2007 mappings in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 were made separately for states that made changes in their testing systems and for those that made no such changes.3 Key findings of the analysis presented in Section 4 are:

In grade 4 reading, 12 of the 34 states with available data in both years indicated substantive changes in their assessments. Of those, eight showed significant differences between the 2005 and 2007 estimates of the NAEP scale equivalent of their state standards, half of which showed an increase and half a decrease.
In grade 8 reading, 14 of the 38 states with available data in both years indicated substantive changes in their assessments. Of those, seven showed significant differences between the 2005 and 2007 estimates of the NAEP scale equivalent of their state standards, all seven showed lower 2007 estimates of the NAEP scale equivalents.
In grade 4 mathematics, 14 of the 35 states with available data in both years indicated substantive changes in their assessments. Of those, 11 showed significant differences between the 2005 and 2007 estimates of the NAEP scale equivalent of their state standards: 6 states showed a decrease and 5 showed an increase.
In grade 8 mathematics, 18 of the 39 states with available data in both years indicated substantive changes in their assessments. Of those, 12 showed significant differences between the 2005 and 2007 estimates of the NAEP scale equivalent of their state standards: 9 showed a decrease and 3 showed an increase.

For the states with no substantive changes in their state assessments in the same period, the analyses presented in Section 4 indicate that for the majority of states in the comparison sample (14 of 22 in grade 4 reading, 13 of 24 in grade 8 reading, 15 of 21 in grade 4 mathematics and 14 of 21 in grade 8 mathematics), the differences in the estimates of NAEP scale equivalents of their state standards were not statistically significant.

To address the third question, NAEP and state changes in achievement from 2005 to 2007 were compared. The percentage of students reported to be meeting the state standard in 2007 is compared with the percentage of the NAEP students in 2007 that is above the NAEP scale equivalent of the same state standard in 2005. The analysis was limited to states with (a) available data in both years and (b) no substantive changes in their state tests. The number of states included in the analyses ranged from 21 to 24, depending on the subject and grade. The expectation was that both the state assessments and NAEP would show the same changes in achievement between the two years. Statistically significant differences between NAEP and state measures of changes in achievement indicate that more progress is made on either the NAEP skill domain or the state-specific skill domain between 2005 and 2007. A more positive change on the state test indicates students gained more on the state-specific skill domain. For example, a focus in instruction on state-specific content might lead a state assessment to show more progress in achievement than NAEP. Similarly, a less positive change on the state test indicates students gained more on the NAEP skill domain. For example, focus in instruction on NAEP content that is not a part of the state assessment might lead the state assessment to show progress in achievement that is less than that of NAEP. Key findings from Section 5 are:4

In grade 4 reading, 11 of 22 states showed no statistically significant difference between NAEP and state assessment measures of changes in achievement; 5 states showed changes that are more positive than the changes measured by NAEP, and 6 states showed changes that are less positive than those measured by NAEP.
In grade 8 reading, 9 of 24 states showed no statistically significant difference between NAEP and state assessment measures of achievement changes; 10 states showed changes that are more positive than the changes measured by NAEP, and 5 states showed changes that are less positive than those measured by NAEP.
In grade 4 mathematics, 13 of 21 states showed no statistically significant difference between NAEP and state assessment measures of achievement changes; 5 states showed changes that are more positive than the changes measured by NAEP, and 3 states showed changes that are less positive than those measured by NAEP.
In grade 8 mathematics, 9 of 21 states showed no statistically significant difference between NAEP and state assessment measures of achievement changes, 7 states showed changes that are more positive than the changes measured by NAEP, and 5 states showed changes that are less positive than those measured by NAEP.

In considering the results described above, the reader should note that state assessments and NAEP are designed for different, though related purposes. State assessments and their associated proficiency standards are designed to provide pedagogical information about individual students to their parents and teachers, whereas NAEP is designed for summary assessment at an aggregate level. NAEP’s achievement levels are used to interpret the meaning of the NAEP scales. NCES has determined (as provided by NAEP’s authorizing legislation) that NAEP achievement levels should continue to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution.

In conclusion, these mapping analyses offer several important contributions. First, they allow each state to compare the stringency of its criteria for proficiency with that of other states. Second, mapping analyses inform states whether the rigor of their proficiency standards as represented by NAEP scale equivalents changed from 2005 to 2007. Significant differences in NAEP scale equivalents might reflect changes in state assessments and standards and/or other changes such as changes in policies or practices that occurred between the years. Finally, when key aspects of a state’s assessment or standards remained the same, these mapping analyses allow NAEP to corroborate state-reported changes in student achievement and provide states with an indicator of the construct validity and generalizability of their test results.

1: Test data for the District of Columbia, Nebraska, and Utah were not available to be included in the analysis. California does not test general mathematics in grade 8.

2: NAEP defines Proficient as competency over challenging subject matter, not grade-level performance. Basic is defined as partial mastery of the skills necessary for Proficient performance.

3: The 2005 mappings in this report will not necessarily match previously published results (U.S. Department of Education 2007). Methodological differences between the procedures used in both analyses will generally cause empirical results to show small differences that are not large enough to change the whole-number scale value reported as the NAEP equivalent.

4: Because differences between changes in achievement measured by NAEP and changes measured by the state assessment and the NAEP scale equivalents are based on the same data but are analyzed in different ways, statistically significant differences can be found in one and not the other because of the nonlinear relationship between scale scores and percentiles.
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Nonparental Preschool Care = Higher Grades


Children who participated in a regular nonparental early care and education arrangement the year before kindergarten scored higher on reading and math assessments than children who did not have those experiences, according to a new early childhood report from the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences.

Using data from the final two rounds of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, a study begun in 2001, this First Look provides a snapshot of the demographic characteristics, reading and mathematics knowledge, fine motor skills, school characteristics, and before- and after-school care arrangements of the cohort at the time they first began kindergarten. Information has been collected from and about these children when they were 9 months old, 2 years old, 4 years old, and at kindergarten entry. This survey provides a comprehensive and reliable data about children’s early development; their home learning experiences; their experiences in early care and education programs; their health care, nutrition, and physical well-being; and how their early experiences relate to their later development, learning, and success in school.

Other findings include:

* About four out of five (83.2 percent) participated in a regular nonparental early care and education arrangement the year before kindergarten.

* Forty percent of the children had some kind of regular before- or after-school care arrangement.
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Music makes you smarter

Regularly playing a musical instrument changes the anatomy and function of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.

There is growing evidence that musicians have structurally and functionally different brains compared with non-musicians. In particular, the areas of the brain used to process music are larger or more active in musicians. Even just starting to learn a musical instrument can changes the neurophysiology of the brain.

Lutz Jäncke, a member of Faculty of 1000 Medicine, proposes using music in neuropsychological therapy, for example to improve language skills, memory, or mood. In a review for Faculty of 1000 Biology Reports, an online publication in which leading researchers highlight advances in their field, Jäncke summarizes recent studies of professional musicians.

The brain regions involved in music processing are also required for other tasks, such as memory or language skills. "If music has such a strong influence on brain plasticity," writes Jäncke, "this raises the question of whether this effect can be used to enhance cognitive performance."

Several studies indeed show that musical practice increases memory and language skills, and Jäncke suggests expanding this field: "Hopefully, the current trend in the use of musicians as a model for brain plasticity will continue ... and extend to the field of neuropsychological rehabilitation."
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Teacher talk strains voices, especially for women

Teachers tend to spend more time speaking than most professionals, putting them at a greater risk for hurting their voices -- they're 32 times more likely to experience voice problems, according to one study. And unlike singers or actors, teachers can't take a day off when their voices hurt.

Now a new study by the National Center for Voice and Speech (NCVS) reveals how teachers use their voices at work and at home and uncovers differences between male and female teachers. Its findings will be presented at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) next week in San Antonio, TX.

Eric Hunter, deputy director of the NCVS, and colleagues equipped teachers with the NCVS voice dosimeter, a device which captures voicing characteristics such as pitch and loudness rather than actual speech. The dosimeter sampled their voices 33 times per second. The researchers analyzed 20 million of these samplings which were collected during waking hours over a 14 day period for each teacher.

Female teachers used their voices about 10 percent more than males when teaching and 7 percent more when not teaching. The data also indicated that female teachers speak louder than male teachers at work.

"These results may indicate an underlying reason for female teachers' increased voice problems," writes Hunter.

All of the teachers spoke about 50 percent more when at work, at both a higher pitch and a volume (about 3 decibels louder). Instead of resting their overworked voices at home, the teachers also spent significant amounts of time speaking outside of work.

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Ninth Grade Retention Rates and Early Intervention

More than 90,000 students from six states repeated ninth grade in 2004-05, with nearly three in 10 students repeating ninth-grade in one of them, according to a new report from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.

"Still a Freshman: Examining the Prevalence and Characteristics of Ninth-Grade Retention Across Six States," introduces a new measure, the first-time ninth-grade estimate, to study ninth-grade retention rates that can help teachers and administrators identify and help students while there is time to keep them on the graduation path. The report also looks at students who are repeating ninth grade by school size, location, percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, race/ethnicity, and pupil/teacher ratio.

The states are Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Because states do not distinguish between repeat and first-time ninth-graders when they report fall enrollments, the estimate uses adjusted counts of first-time ninth-graders who are used by the states to calculate graduation rates, explained the report's author Thomas C. West, a senior research analyst at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The estimate is calculated by dividing the adjusted number of first-time ninth-graders from the graduation rate by the total number of ninth-grade students reported for the same school year. The study focuses on the class of 2008, whose members were ninth-graders in 2004-05.

The six states were chosen because they use the same method to calculate graduation rates for the Class of 2008 and because they represent not only the areas producing the most dropouts, but also those with average dropout rates, showing that the new measure is reliable in different conditions.

Data from Colorado, New Mexico and Rhode Island are also available there.

Ninth grade is found to be a critical year because students who are not successful often drop out. Most schools and districts depend on graduation rates to measure student success, but they are reported too late to get help to students who need it.

Other findings include:

- In South Carolina more than 40 percent of high schools had ninth-grade retention rates above 30 percent. In Massachusetts, New York, Indiana and Virginia, 5 to 8 percent of the schools had retention rates above 30 percent.

- Nearly three in 10 students repeated ninth grade in South Carolina; two in 10 in North Carolina and slightly more than 10 percent in New York, Indiana and Virginia.

- One in 10 students repeated ninth grade in Massachusetts.

- In Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina, more than one-third of the students attended schools with first-time ninth-grade estimates below the state average. In South Carolina, more than two-third s of the students attended schools with estimates below the state average.

- As concentrations of poor and minority students increase in a school, the percentage of students repeating ninth grade also rises.

The value of this new measure is in identifying struggling students early enough to get them help, said West. If states and districts were asked to report the enrollments for both first-time ninth-graders and repeating ninth-graders as of Oct. 1 of each school year, then administrators would know if they had a population of students who need assistance long before those students became part of the graduation -- or dropout -- rate, he recommended.
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Investment in School Turnaround Efforts Questioned

As the Obama administration pushes states, districts, and education organizations to embrace school “turnarounds” and prepares to spend billions of dollars in federal funds on such efforts, education researcher Andy Smarick of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute warns that the evidence strongly suggests that this policy is not the solution for the nation’s mounting number of failing schools.

“We need to begin this discussion by acknowledging that the vast majority of persistently low performing schools remain that way despite interventions,” says Smarick in his article, "The Turnaround Fallacy,” which appears in the forthcoming issue of Education Next

To illustrate, Smarick points to national data on the results of No Child Left Behind-mandated school restructuring for schools that fail to meet minimum achievement targets for five years or more. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, of the schools required to restructure in 2004-05, only 19 percent were able to exit improvement status two years later.

To get a perspective on the value of turnaround strategies more broadly, Smarick also looked at research from the private sector.

“Education leaders seem to believe that, outside of the world of schools, persistent failures are easily fixed,” Smarick writes. “Far from it: The limited success of turnarounds is a common theme in other fields.” He points to research by the American Enterprise Institute on the success rates of Total Quality Management (TQM) and Business Process Reengineering (BPR), the two most common approaches to organizational reform in the private sector. Both have failed to generate the desired results two-thirds of the time or more.

If failure is also the norm for turnaround efforts in the business world, where flexibility and competitive pressure are present, Smarick argues that we should have little confidence that turnaround strategies will be successful in urban school districts, which are subject to severe political and regulatory restrictions.

A better solution is being tried by reform-minded district superintendents who are closing the lowest performing schools and making room for new school start ups and replication of high-performing charter school models that are recording impressive achievement gains.

For decades, states and districts have tried to fix their worst schools, investing incalculable resources into these efforts. The NCLB restructuring provision provided more resources and gave districts four specific strategies to address these schools and a fifth option that allowed even more interventions. And yet, we still have thousands of failing schools. Now the current administration wants to invest billions more in these turnaround efforts.

Instead, Smarick argues that the charter model ought to be applied as a solution. Schools that fail to live up to expectations should be closed, new schools should be started in their place, and the best schools should be expanded and replicated.

“Our relentless preoccupation with improving the worst schools actually inhibits the development of a healthy urban public-education industry,” Smarick says.
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Managing for Results in America's Great City Schools

This report defines and presents an extensive array of statistical indicators developed by the Council of the Great City Schools and its member urban school districts to measure performance on a broad range of operational functions, including business services, finances, human resources and technology. The purpose of this project is to help the nation’s urban public school systems measure their performance, improve their non-instructional operations, strengthen their decision making, and build on their attempts at continuous improvement. This report marks the third time that the Council has published data on such indicators, but it is the first time that the organization has assembled in one place the complete set of data on all four broad operational areas. It is also the first time that we have distilled the indicators into an “essential few” and drafted a set of initial “power indicators.” And it is the first report to include such a large number of participating cities.

Managing for Results in America's Great City Schools
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Succeeding with English Language Learners

Lessons Learned from the Great City Schools

School districts have been struggling with the challenges of teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) for decades. Yet few studies have examined strategies for districtwide instructional reform for ELLs. To address this need, The Council of the Great City Schools sought to explore the experiences of large, urban districts with differing levels of success in raising ELL student achievement to shed light on potential strategies for ELL reform. The four districts selected for the study were Dallas, New York City, San Francisco, and St. Paul.

There are a number of clear parallels in the stories of districts that experienced gains in ELL achievement over the study period, as well as some striking contrasts with the experiences of districts that showed little improvement. These key themes and patterns can be grouped into three categories: 1) contextual features—the steps that improving districts took or events that occurred that helped set the stage for districtwide change, 2) promising practices—the shared characteristics of and strategies employed by improving districts, and 3) limiting factors—factors that seemed to inhibit quality instruction and support for ELLs in districts with less success in raising student achievement.

Full report: Succeeding with English Language Learners: Lessons: Learned from the Great City Schools
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Most States Protect Pre-Kindergarten

Despite Facing Historic Budget Gaps

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia -- which faced budget gaps of up to 35 percent -- chose to increase or hold steady funding for pre-kindergarten education, according to an analysis released today by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States. Legislators added dollars for existing pre-k initiatives in 13 states and approved new programs in two others, creating a modest national net gain in funding despite cuts in ten states.

The non-partisan annual report, "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2010," evaluates state budgets to determine which legislatures count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform strategies. Using these numbers, Americans can determine whether their elected leaders are committing the resources necessary to develop the successful students and workers central to economic recovery.

The report sheds light on the advantages of one particular funding strategy for early education. Nine states and the District of Columbia include pre-k in their school funding formulas, allocating per-child funding for 4-year-olds based on enrollment, just as they do for K-12 students. All of these states expect spending to grow as more parents choose high-quality early education for their children. By contrast, in all the states that reduced investments, pre-k is funded through the general appropriations process, which is more vulnerable to cuts.

"Votes Count" also provides examples of how state legislatures and program administrators from Florida, Maine, Maryland and Oregon have used resources from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- the federal stimulus package -- to bolster pre-k programs in these lean fiscal times.

Highlights of this year's analysis include:

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia increased or are projected to increase pre-k investments by a total of more than $187 million.

Thirteen legislatures increased investment in existing programs by nearly $130 million: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Two states that previously had no state pre-k programs approved pilot initiatives: Alaska and Rhode Island.

Nine states and the District of Columbia anticipate increases through the school funding formula (Texas is included in this group as well but counted only once in the tally of 23 states with increased investments).

Six states maintained investments at FY09 levels: Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Among the states suffering the 10 worst budget shortfalls (measured as a percentage of the budget), only Connecticut and New York approved a cut to early education programs.
Ten states decreased funding: Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington.

Ohio's cut is estimated to deny pre-k to the largest number of children, at least 12,000.

Arizona had not finalized its pre-k budget at press time.

"A tough economy is even more reason states should invest in pre-k," continued Young. "These programs give children and families a stable, high-quality early education that many could not afford on their own."

Pre-k is one of the most well-researched public education strategies of the last forty years. The vast body of evidence shows that quality early learning helps children succeed in school and in life, and results in savings to states for every dollar invested. Children who complete quality pre-k programs are more academically and socially prepared when they enter school, less likely to be held back or need special education services, and more likely to complete high school and contribute to their community as adults. For more details about "Votes Count," please visit

About the Pew Center on the States and Pre-K Now

Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States, collaborates with advocates and policymakers to lead a movement toward high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds.

The Pew Center on the States (, a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts, identifies and advocates effective policy approaches to critical issues facing the states. The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.
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Why America Needs an Education Amendment

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) has released its report, “No Time to Lose: Why America Needs an Education Amendment to the US Constitution to Improve Public Education,” outlining the case for an education amendment to reduce gross disparities in the allocation of resources and funds for the education of the nation’s public school students.

The report analyzes the current imperatives for improving US public schools; recent trends in interstate and intrastate financing of public education; and the effects of radical disparities in educational resources at local, state and federal levels.

SEF’s report argues that education is now so vital to the nation’s well-being that Americans can no longer afford to maintain the current antiquated systems of public education, which fail to ensure all students a high-quality opportunity to learn irrespective of place, class or race.

The report also makes the case for why an education amendment to the US Constitution would provide a permanent framework to address gross disparities in educational resources and foster new, more effective relations between levels of government fro the advancement of public education.
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New Orleans Schools Four Years After Katrina

The latest report from the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), “New Orleans Schools Four Years after Katrina: A Lingering Federal Responsibility,” finds that K-12 students in New Orleans have made significant gains in school achievement during the last few years, but that this progress is in jeopardy unless the federal government fulfills its “lingering responsibility” to help rebuild the city’s public schools destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The SEF report reviews how New Orleans public schools have changed and how they have remained the same since Hurricane Katrina. It examines the changing educational landscape of New Orleans with data on per pupil funding, school enrollment, and student achievement by type of school (state controlled and local controlled; selective admission and open admission; charter and regular schools).

The report also examines New Orleans schools’ looming financial problems that stem from existing debt incurred before Hurricane Katrina and from the financial challenges of rebuilding an entire city’s devastated schools.

Serving students who are 90 percent African American and 74 percent from families in poverty, the public schools in New Orleans constitute an urban school district that is more than a “lingering federal responsibility,” SEF’s report states. It also offers an important opportunity to the nation to explore how America can develop an urban school district where most students achieve at high levels.
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Portfolio school districts: 'promising'

but 'works in progress'

"Portfolio school districts are promising new developments but they still have big problems to solve," is how Dr. Paul Hill describes reforms in the four big cities being studied by his team at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), University of Washington Bothell.

In New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, school officials are revamping the traditional school district model: from being an operator of a uniform set of schools and related services to being a holder of a diverse portfolio of schools, each meant to meet a particular need, and all subject to evaluation in light of evidence.

"A portfolio district is built for continuous improvement via expansion and imitation of the highest-performing schools, closure and replacement of the lowest-performing, and constant search for new ideas," says Hill. "So far we've found that each city is taking a different approach to developing their portfolio. By the end of our study (in 2011), we think this will tell us a lot more about this approach to public education."

Portfolio School Districts for Big Cities: An Interim Report, introduces the subject of portfolio districts and opens a window on the particular approaches being taken in the four cities.

New York City - gave schools freedom over hiring and use of funds in return for accepting performance-based accountability and by adopting pupil-based funding of schools citywide.

Chicago - established a Renaissance 2010 zone for 100 new schools on the near South Side where many low-performing schools were most concentrated, closed many schools to make room for new ones, and gradually expanded new schools throughout the rest of the district.

Washington, D.C. - committed to, but delayed new school creation in favor of attracting new teachers and principals from outside the district and trying to negotiate a new teacher contract that traded tenure for much higher productivity-based pay.

New Orleans - decimated by Hurricane Katrina, the district has opened new schools and staffed them with educators both traditional and from alternative resources from across the nation.

In the interim report, Hill says a portfolio district is based upon three key ideas:

The school, not the district, is directly responsible for instruction and must therefore have the freedom of action necessary to adapt its use of time, money, talent, and instructional materials to meet the particular needs of its students;

Differences among schools are good and necessary as long as they represent efforts to meet distinctive needs of groups of students, take advantage of special teacher talents, or represent disciplined efforts to try out new ideas; and

Schools' existence and freedom of action are contingent on performance, so that every school is under pressure to improve and the district as a whole is constantly searching for a mix of schools that will better meet the needs of the city's population.

Hill says there are encouraging signs in each of the four districts under his team's microscope. But he adds this cautionary observation: "Rebuilding a school district on the portfolio model involves challenges of many kinds: technical, organizational, and political. Reform leaders in the districts we have studied have made great progress but they are still learning what needs to be done to provide effective schools for all kids."

The study is supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Joyce Foundation. A portfolio project in the Denver School District will soon be added to the study, Hill said.
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Increased Supports for New Teachers

Have No Additional Effect on Student Achievement, Teacher Retention After Two Years

Less Intensive Induction Programs Just as Effective, Mathematica Study Finds

Results from a study on programs offering in-depth support, known as comprehensive teacher induction, for new teachers suggest that in the first two years these programs have no additional effect on improving teacher retention or student achievement when compared to the services normally offered in the 17 districts participating in the study.

The study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, finds that teachers who were offered one or two years of comprehensive induction support were more likely to have a mentor and spent more time with a mentor than were teachers in a randomly assigned control group who received the prevailing induction offered by the district, which was less comprehensive and intensive. However, the increased resources did not lead to measurable improvements in student test scores, percentage of teachers remaining in their district or in the profession, or in qualifications of the teachers who were retained.

Teacher induction programs—those designed to support new teachers and reduce teacher turnover—are common in most schools across the country. Comprehensive teacher induction, however, goes beyond traditional teacher induction by relying on carefully selected and trained full-time mentors. Comprehensive induction also includes an intensive curriculum involving instructional support and professional development, opportunities to observe experienced teachers, and assessment tools for teachers that permit ongoing evaluation of practice and constructive feedback.

“While the study is continuing to collect and analyze longer-term follow-up data, we have yet to find that more comprehensive induction is having a significant impact in the areas we expected,” said Amy Johnson, director of the study and a senior vice president at Mathematica. “The findings held whether we looked at one year or two years of intervention.”

The study involved 1,009 teachers in 418 elementary schools in 17 medium and large urban school districts in 13 states. Researchers implemented induction programs provided by Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., and the New Teacher Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Researchers selected the service providers based on a formal competition judged by an independent panel of experts in the field. WestEd, a national nonprofit research and service agency, monitored the fidelity of program implementation.

The study design used random assignment to form a group of teachers exposed to the more intensive and comprehensive teacher induction (treatment) and an equivalent group exposed to the district’s prevailing set of induction services (control). The design enabled researchers to compare outcomes for these two groups and measure impacts of the more intensive supports. The treatment groups in 9 districts were offered one year of comprehensive services. The treatment groups in the remaining 8 districts were offered two years of such services. Researchers used surveys and school records to measure teachers’ backgrounds; receipt of induction services and alternative support services; attitudes; and outcomes related to classroom practices, student achievement, and teacher retention.

The report is entitled “Impacts of Comprehensive Teacher Induction: Results from the Second Year of a Randomized Controlled Study.”

To read more about the research.
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Errors Enhance Learning

Taking tests enhances learning. But what happens when one cannot answer a test question—does an unsuccessful retrieval attempt impede future learning or enhance it? The authors examined this question using materials that ensured that retrieval attempts would be unsuccessful.

In Experiments 1 and 2, participants were asked fictional general-knowledge questions (e.g., “What peace treaty ended the Calumet War?”).

In Experiments 3–6, participants were shown a cue word (e.g., whale) and were asked to guess a weak associate (e.g., mammal); the rare trials on which participants guessed the correct response were excluded from the analyses.

In the test condition, participants attempted to answer the question before being shown the answer; in the read-only condition, the question and answer were presented together. Unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhanced learning with both types of materials. These results demonstrate that retrieval attempts enhance future learning; they also suggest that taking challenging tests—instead of avoiding errors—may be one key to effective learning.

Unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance subsequent learning.
By Kornell, Nate; Hays, Matthew Jensen; Bjork, Robert A.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Vol 35(4), Jul 2009, 989-998.

Read Discussion:
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blic Four-Year Tuition Continues to Rise

Puat Faster Rate than Private Four-Year Tuition

Informed Sources (.pdf/58KB)
Paying for College: Students from Middle-Income Backgrounds (.pdf/388KB)
Community Colleges (.pdf/281KB)
Distribution of Grant Aid by Income Level and Institution Type (.pdf/316KB)
What Every Parent Should Know About Paying for College (.pdf/315KB)
Trends Press Briefing Presentation (.ppt/1.5MB)

The College Board announced today that college prices for the 2009-10 academic year continue to rise as state funding and endowment values decline. The financial difficulties facing households across the nation are putting increased pressure on financial aid budgets. Although grant aid also rose significantly in 2008-09 (the latest year for which data are available), student borrowing continues to increase, as does the gap between available resources and the overall cost of attending college.

Trends in College Pricing 2009 and Trends in Student Aid 2009 provide insight into how colleges and universities and their students are grappling with recent economic pressures.

College Board President Gaston Caperton said, “It is vital that we assure access to a high-quality college education for all students. While a college education is critical to long-term financial security, it feels out of reach to many students and families in today’s economy.

“States and institutions must increase their efforts to reduce costs and to prevent tuition from rising as rapidly as it has in the past. We must provide generous financial aid for those who most need the funds and help students and families to understand the wide array of options available to them in our diverse educational system.”

The average published price of tuition and fees for in-state students at four-year public colleges in the U.S. is $7,020 in 2009-10, $429 (6.5%) higher than a year ago. After adjusting for inflation, the average net price paid for tuition and fees by public four-year college students overall is lower in 2009-10 than it was five years ago — but higher than it was last year.

Like published prices for tuition and fees, expenses for food, housing, books and supplies, and other living costs continue to rise more rapidly than the rate of inflation, and only at public two-year colleges does grant aid for the average student stretch beyond tuition and fees.

Published Prices

Undergraduate tuition and fees at public two-year colleges in 2009-10 average $2,544, compared to $5,930 at public baccalaureate colleges, $6,094 at public master’s universities, and $7,797 at public doctorate-granting universities. In the private not-for-profit sector, tuition and fees average $24,040 at baccalaureate colleges, $23,700 at master’s universities, and $32,349 at doctorate-granting universities. About 19% of full-time private college students are enrolled in institutions with published prices below $18,000, and 20% attend institutions with prices $36,000 or higher.

Published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities rose at an average annual rate of 4.9% per year beyond general inflation from 1999-2000 to 2009-10, more rapidly than the 3.0% and 4.0% of the previous two decades. However, the rate of growth of published tuition and fees at both private four-year institutions (2.6%) and public two-year colleges (1.8%) was lower from 1999-2000 to 2009-10 than in either of the previous two decades.

Room and board and other expenses are similar for all full-time students. While many of these are expenses individuals face whether or not they are in school, paying for them without full participation in the labor force presents a serious challenge for many students. Tuition and fees account for 67% of the average estimated budget for students living on campus at private four-year colleges, but only 36% for in-state public four-year college students and 18% for students not living with parents and commuting to public two-year colleges.

Grant Aid
About two-thirds of full-time undergraduates receive grants. In 2008-09, they received an average of $5,041 in grant aid per full-time equivalent student, supplemented by $4,585 in federal loans. Forty-one percent of all grant aid to postsecondary students was provided by colleges and universities, 32% by the federal government, 11% by states, and 16% by employers and other private sources. Over the decade from 1998-99 through 2008-09, grant aid per undergraduate student increased at an average of 3.4% per year after adjusting for inflation.

In 2007-08, public four-year institutions distributed about two-thirds of their institutional grant aid without regard to financial circumstances. Students from families with incomes below $32,500 received an average of $700 in non-need-based and $830 in need-based institutional grant aid, compared to $940 and $300, respectively, for those from families with incomes between $60,000 and $100,000. Students at private not-for-profit four-year institutions receive significantly more institutional grant aid than do those at public colleges and universities, and the patterns of that aid differ considerably at institutions with different prices.

Net Prices
For students from the lowest-income families, on average grant aid covered total tuition and fees at public two-year colleges from 1992-93 through 2007-08 and at public four-year colleges and universities from 1999-2000 through 2007-08, the last year for which data are available. From 2003-04 to 2007-08, after subtracting grant aid, average net tuition and fees declined for lower-middle-income students at public four-year institutions, but increased at an annual rate of 2% to 3% beyond inflation for those from families with higher incomes.

For all dependent students except those from families with incomes of $100,000 or higher, average tuition and fees net of grant aid at for-profit colleges was higher than that at private not-for-profit four-year institutions in 2007-08. On average, net price declined for the lowest-income dependent students at private not-for-profit four-year colleges between 2003-04 and 2007-08.

Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst at the College Board and former professor of economics at Skidmore College, said, “As students and families face the challenge of paying for college in these difficult economic times, it is vital that they have accurate information. There are many colleges and universities providing different educational experiences and charging different prices, and grant aid is available from a variety of providers. It is important to complete the aid application process and to get advice from reliable sources. Students should look for all the grant aid available before borrowing and should rely on federal loans rather than loans from other sources whenever possible.”

Non-tuition Revenues
States appropriated $78.5 billion to fund public colleges and universities in 2008-09. Although this total funding has more than kept up with inflation over the long term, it failed to do so in 2008-09. Moreover, because of increases in enrollments, the $7,953 state tax appropriation per student in 2008-09 was 12% ($1,100) lower in constant dollars than a decade earlier. State appropriations per $1,000 in personal income have declined steadily from a national average of $9.74 in 1989-90 to $7.36 in 1999-2000 and $6.50 in 2008-09. Like tuition levels and state student grant policies, appropriation levels and year-to-year changes vary considerably across states.

Student Borrowing
The College Board’s estimates indicate that nonfederal education loans declined by almost 50% from 2007-08 to 2008-09. Total education borrowing increased 5% from 2007-08 to 2008-09 — a slight decline after adjusting for inflation. Federal loans increased by about $15 billion, while nonfederal loans declined by about $11 billion.

In 2007-08, 35% of undergraduate students took out federal Stafford Loans, and 65% did not. Half of all full-time undergraduates used these loans. Sixty-five percent of 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with education debt, and median debt for those who borrowed was $20,000. Among public four-year bachelor’s degree recipients, 38% graduated with no education debt, while 6% owed $40,000 or more. Among for-profit bachelor’s degree recipients, 4% had no education debt, and 24% owed $40,000 or more.

Among students who earned graduate degrees in 2007-08, 26% had no education debt at all and another 14% had undergraduate debt but no graduate school debt. However, 7% had borrowed $80,000 or more for graduate school, and another 5% had borrowed between $60,000 and $80,000. Graduate debt averaged $35,750 across all students and $61,120 among those who had borrowed. About one-third of this total debt was from undergraduate study.

To access the complete reports and for additional detailed information, visit (
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Public School Graduates and Dropouts

Nationwide, about 74 out of 100 students that entered high school in 2003-04 graduated in 4 years, according to the 2006-07 Public School Graduates and Dropouts Report. This First Look from the National Center for Education Statistics presents the number of high school graduates, the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate, and dropout data for grades 9 through 12 for public schools during the 2006-07 school year. State education agencies provided the data to the Common Core of Data survey. Other findings include:

- Sixteen states had a freshman graduation rate above 80 percent while 12 states and the District of Columbia had graduation rates below 70 percent.
- The high school one-year event dropout rate was 4.4 percent across the 48 states and the District of Columbia. Two states, Pennsylvania and Vermont, did not report adequate data for inclusion in this report. The rate ranged from 2 percent in New Jersey to 7.6 percent in Arizona.

Full report:
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Not Enough Afterschool Programs Available

18 Million Children Need – But Don’t Have – Afterschool Programs, According to New “America After 3PM”

Study Shows Marked Increase in Demand for Afterschool and More Children Unsupervised in the Afternoons Now than in 2004

Despite an increase in the number of children attending afterschool programs over the last five years, today more than a quarter of the nation’s schoolchildren are on their own in the afternoons, and the parents of 18 million children say they would enroll their kids in afterschool programs if programs were available.

The data come from the landmark America After 3PM study, conducted for the Afterschool Alliance and sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund.

America After 3 PM is the most extensive research on how America’s children are spending their afternoons. It found that the number of children left alone after the school day ends has risen to 15.1 million children (26 percent of school-age children) – an increase of 800,000 children since the 2004 edition of the study. Thirty percent of middle schoolers (3.7 million kids) are on their own, as are four percent of elementary school children (1.1 million children). At the same time, Americans see afterschool programs as a solution: Nine in 10 adults surveyed agree that there should be “some type of organized activity or place for children and teens to go after school every day that provides opportunities to learn.”

Other key findings from America After 3 PM:

• Americans believe afterschool programs work and support them. The vast majority of parents of children in afterschool programs are satisfied with the programs their children attend, and overall public support for afterschool programs is similarly strong. Nine in 10 parents (89 percent) are satisfied with the afterschool programs their children attend. Eight in 10 parents support public funding for afterschool programs.

• The availability of afterschool programs has improved in the last five years, and families are taking good advantage. But availability is not keeping pace with rising need and demand. The number and percentage of children participating in afterschool programs has increased significantly in the last five years, with 8.4 million children (15 percent) now participating. That compares with 6.5 million children in 2004 (11 percent). But the parents of 18.5 million children (38 percent) not currently participating in an afterschool program would enroll their children in a program if one were available to them, a significant increase from the 15.3 million (30 percent) seen in 2004.

• While African American and Hispanic children are more likely than others to be in afterschool programs, millions are unsupervised each afternoon and the unmet need is tremendous. One in four African American and one in five Hispanic children attend afterschool programs, compared to 15 percent of all children in the United States. Yet 28 percent of African American and 21 percent of Hispanic children have no adult supervision after the school day ends. More Hispanic and African American parents say the economy is impacting their ability to pay for care for their children after school. Nearly two in five parents overall (38 percent) would enroll their children if afterschool programs were available, as would 47 percent of Hispanic parents and 61 percent of African American parents.

• The economy has taken a toll on participation in afterschool programs. Nearly one in three households (31 percent) report that their children are spending more time in the care of a parent after school now than a year ago. The primary reasons include changes in work status (fewer parents are employed) and availability and affordability of care (some afterschool programs are cutting hours or closing, and parents are less able to afford fees). Parents cite a number of barriers to enrolling their children in afterschool programs with more than half of parents (52 percent) citing cost and more than one in four reporting hours of operation (26 percent) and availability of programs (27 percent) as reasons for nonparticipation.
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School Lunch, Breakfast Need New Standards

The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program should adopt a new set of nutrient targets and standards for menu planning, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. The recommended targets and standards would update and improve the programs' abilities to meet children's nutritional needs and foster healthy eating habits.

The report's recommendations will bring school meals in line with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Dietary Reference Intakes. They will limit sodium and the maximum number of calories, and encourage children to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The programs' current nutrition standards and meal requirements are based on the 1995 Dietary Guidelines and the 1989 Recommended Dietary Allowances.

Implementation of the recommendations will likely raise the costs of providing school meals -- particularly breakfasts -- largely because of the increased amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods involved, stated the committee that wrote the report. A combination of higher federal meal reimbursement, capital investment, and additional money for training food service operators will be needed to make the necessary changes in school cafeterias.

"The programs that nourish so many American schoolchildren need to reflect the latest child health and nutrition science given the extent to which dietary habits shape lifelong health," said committee chair Virginia A. Stallings, Jean A. Cortner Endowed Chair in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Since the school meal programs were last updated, we've gained greater understanding of children's nutritional needs and the dietary factors that contribute to obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health problems. The changes recommended in this report are needed to assure parents that schools are providing healthful, satisfying meals."

The report updates the school meals programs' nutrition standards with a recommended set of nutrient targets that are higher for protein, vitamins, and minerals and lower for sodium. The committee also set maximum calorie levels for the first time. Lunches should not exceed 650 calories for students in grades K-five, 700 for children in grades six-eight, and 850 for those in grades nine-12. Breakfast calories should not exceed 500, 550, and 600 respectively for these grade groups.

To reduce the health risks associated with excessive salt intake, the sodium content of school meals should be gradually reduced over the next 10 years. For example, recent data show that a typical high school lunch contains around 1,600 milligrams of sodium. The report recommends that lunches for high school students should eventually contain no more than 740 milligrams. The committee recognized that consumers are less likely to detect incremental changes, and it is unrealistic to expect food preparers to make rapid, dramatic changes and still produce meals children would eat.

Schools should plan weekly menus around foods rather than a set of nutrients, the committee concluded. The report recommends new standards for the kinds and amounts of foods that should be part of menu planning that would largely achieve the nutrient targets. The main changes are the greater amounts and variety of vegetables and fruits that schools should offer, the replacement of a substantial amount of refined grain products with products rich in whole grains, and the replacement of whole or 2 percent milk with 1 percent or nonfat milk. Schools that allow students to decline individual items rather than take a whole meal should require them to take at least one serving of fruits or vegetables at each meal. The meal programs currently have no such requirements.

The amount of fruit offered in breakfasts should increase to 1 cup per day for all grades and in lunches should increase to 1 cup per day for students in grades nine-12. No more than half the fruit schools provide should be in the form of juice.

The amount of vegetables offered should increase to 3/4 cup per day for grades K-eight, and 1 cup per day for grades nine-12. Schools should offer starchy vegetables such as potatoes less often and provide at least 1/2 cup each of green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, and legumes per week.

Schools should ensure that half or more of the grains and breads they provide are whole grain-rich, meaning they contain 50 percent or more whole grains. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should require food manufacturers to label products with their whole-grain content to help food preparers ensure they are meeting the standards.

Students should be provided 1 cup of 1 percent or nonfat milk at breakfast and at lunch each day. This will help ensure schools meet requirements to keep the saturated fat content of meals below 10 percent of total calories.

The amount of meat or meat alternatives in lunches should be 2 ounces on most days for all grades, but schools should have the flexibility to provide greater amounts to students in higher grades. The amount of meat or meat alternatives in breakfasts should be 1 ounce per day for children in grades K-eight and 2 ounces on most days for high school students.

The National School Lunch Program is available in 99 percent of U.S. public schools and in 83 percent of private and public schools combined. The School Breakfast Program is available in 85 percent of public schools. About 30.6 million schoolchildren -- 60 percent -- participated daily in the school lunch program in fiscal year 2007, and 10.1 million children ate school breakfasts. Participating schools served about 5.1 billion lunches and 1.7 billion breakfasts that year.

Food and beverages are also available through a la carte service in cafeterias, school stores, snack bars, and vending machines in many schools. The IOM recommended nutrition standards for these products, which compete with school meals, in a 2008 report, NUTRITION STANDARDS FOR FOODS IN SCHOOLS.
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Teachers' unions don't provide more pay

Teachers' unions have little impact on a school district's allocation of money, including teacher pay and spending per student, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Labor Economics.

Using data from school districts in Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota, Cornell economist Michael Lovenheim compared district spending trends before and after each district became unionized. He also compared trends between union and non-union districts. Specifically, his analysis looked at teacher pay, spending per student, number of teachers employed and student-teacher ratio.

"My results indicate unions have no impact on teacher pay, either in the short or long run," Lovenheim writes. "I also estimate little effect on per-student expenditures, particularly in the long-run."

Unionization does increase the number of teachers that a district employs, the study found. But those increases were offset by increases in student enrollment. As a result, there was no difference in student-teacher ratio attributable to unionization.

The study also found that unionization has no effect on student drop-out rates—an indication that unions do not improve teacher productivity or educational outcomes, Lovenheim says.

The findings are at odds with previous studies on teachers' unions, most of which have found that unions do increase teacher pay and district spending. But Lovenheim argues that those studies used inaccurate data on which districts were actually unionized and when those unions became active.

To correct this, Lovenheim gathered certifications of union elections from state Public Employment Relations Board offices. The certifications mark the exact time when teachers in each district elected someone to represent them at the bargaining table. Knowing exactly which districts unionized and when is essential for an accurate analysis, Lovenheim argues.

The results raise the question: If teachers' unions have no clear impact on such a wide swath of measures, why unionize at all?

"One possible answer to this puzzle is teachers perceive organization increases their pay," Lovenheim writes. "Indeed, when talking to union members during this study, wage increases were the most commonly mentioned benefit of unionization, in contrast to what this analysis shows."

It is also possible that unions provide benefits in working conditions such as hiring and firing rules, pay structure or promotion. "There is anecdotal evidence teachers' unions provide these benefits…, but I lack the data to test for such effects," Lovenheim writes.

Michael Lovenheim, "The Effect of Teachers' Unions on Education Production: Evidence from Union Election Certification in Three Midwestern States." Journal of Labor Economics 27:4 (October 2009).
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Small classes give extra boost

to low-achieving students

Small classes in early grades improve test scores in later grades for students of all achievement levels, but low achievers get an extra boost. That's the finding of a study on the long-term effects of class size in the November issue of the American Journal of Education.

The study suggests that reducing class size in early grades provides a dual benefit: It raises achievement for all students through middle school, while also closing the persistently large gap between high- and low-achievers, say authors Spyros Konstantopoulos from Michigan State University and Vicki Chung from Northwestern University.

According to the study, small classes—13 to 17 students—are most effective when they are consistent from kindergarten through third grade. Students in consistently small early classes had substantially higher test scores in grades four through eight than students who had been in larger classes. Students at all achievement levels benefited, but low achievers showed stronger benefits in reading and science.

Exposure to a small class in third grade alone also had some long-term benefits, the study found. But those benefits were smaller, and about equal for high and low achievers.

"One year of exposure in small classes is not enough [to influence the achievement gap]," Konstantopoulos said. "It appears that class size reduction is most effective for all students and low achievers in particular, if it is implemented early in elementary grades and for multiple years."

The study used data from Project STAR, a major longitudinal study of class size and its effects on more than 11,000 students. Previous research using the Project STAR data has found that small classes in early grades have positive long-term effects on average student achievement. But whether small classes could help close the achievement gap in later grades had remained an open question.

Since Project STAR provides no qualitative data on teacher practices, it's hard to say exactly why small classes benefit low achievers, the authors say.

"One hypothesis is that teachers in small classes are more likely to identify low achievers and hence are more likely to provide instruction designed to benefit these students," Konstantopoulos said. "Alternatively, in small classes there is a higher likelihood for low achievers to interact with teachers and be more engaged in learning."

Regardless of the mechanisms, the study suggests that initiatives to shrink class size, if widely implemented, could play a role in reducing the achievement gap. It also reinforces the findings of previous studies that show strong and lasting benefits of small classes.

"[I]t is remarkable that an intervention that is easily defined and implemented can have important lasting benefits at least to the end of middle school for all students," Konstantopoulos and Chung write.

Spyros Konstantopoulos and Vicki Chung, "What Are the Long-Term Effects of Small Classes on the Achievement Gap? Evidence from the Lasting Benefits Study." American Journal of Education 116:1 (November 2009).
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2009 Nation's Report Card in Mathematics

The 2009 Nation's Report Card in Mathematics has been released at

The Nation's Report Card presents results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 4th and 8th graders in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Schools, and the nation as a whole. Significant results for mathematics in 2009 include:

* For the first time since the assessment began, 4th graders showed no overall increase at the national level, although they scored significantly higher in 2009 than when the assessment began in 1990. For 8th graders, scores in 2009 were higher when compared to both 2007 and 1990. These nationwide patterns also held for most student subgroups. Findings regarding students performing at or above the NAEP achievement levels mirror those of the scale scores at both grades.

* Compared to 2007, five states and jurisdictions made gains at both grades 4 and 8, three states increased at grade 4 only, and ten increased at grade 8 only. Scores declined in four states at grade 4, while no state declined at grade 8.
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Student/teacher ratio: 9.0 in Maine, 23.5 in Utah

Numbers and Types of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2007-08 - First Look

The average student/teacher ratio in U.S. public schools was 15.8 in 2007-08 -- a ratio that ranged from 9.0 in Maine to 23.5 in Utah. This National Center for Education Statistics First Look report presents findings on the numbers and types of public elementary and secondary schools in the United States and the territories in the 2007-08 school year, using data from the Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey of the Common Core of Data (CCD) survey system. Other findings include:

* About 48.9 million students attended 98,916 operating public elementary/secondary schools in the 2007–08 school year.

* Almost 1.3 million students, approximately 3% of public school students, were enrolled in 4,388 charter schools in 2007-08.

* The largest percentage of students attended suburban schools (35 percent), followed by schools in cities (29 percent), rural areas (23 percent), and towns (13 percent).
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$14,378 college tuition and fees average

During 2008-09, full-time, in-state undergraduates at public 4-year institutions paid an average of $6,070 for tuition and fees, and out-of-state undergraduates averaged more than twice that amount ($14,378). The National Center for Education Statistics has released "Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in the United States: Fall 2008, Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2007-08, and 12-Month Enrollment: 2007-08." The report uses the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) fall 2008 data to examine institutions by such characteristics as tuition, fees, enrollment, and number of degrees conferred during the period July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008 by Title IV postsecondary institutions. Other findings include:

* During the 2007-08 academic year, Title IV institutions in the United States reported enrolling 25.9 million individual graduate and undergraduate students.

* About 3.9 million postsecondary awards (degrees or certificates) were conferred by Title IV institutions during the 2007-08 academic year.
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Small classes have long-term benefit for all students

Providing small classes for at least several consecutive grades starting in early elementary school gives students the best chance to succeed in later grades, according to groundbreaking new research from a Michigan State University scholar.

The research by Spyros Konstantopoulos, associate professor of education, is the first to examine the effects of class size over a sustained period and for all levels of students – from low- to high-achievers. The study appears in the American Journal of Education.

Konstantopoulos also is a member of a committee for the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences that will make official recommendations on class size to the states. He said the recommendations will mirror his research: that the best plan of attack is to provide small classes (13 to 17 students) for at least several years starting in kindergarten or first grade.

“For a long time states thought they could just do it in kindergarten or first grade for one year and get the benefits,” Konstantopoulos said. “I don’t believe that. I think you need at least a few years consecutively where all students, and especially low-achievers, receive the treatment, and then you see the benefits later.”

His research used data from the massive Project Star study in Tennessee that analyzed the effects of class size on more than 11,000 students in elementary and middle school. Konstantopoulos found that students who had been in small classes from kindergarten through third grade had substantially higher test scores in grades four through eight than students who had been in larger classes early on.

Students from all achievement levels benefited from small classes, the research found. But low-achievers benefited the most, which narrowed the achievement gap with high-achievers in science, reading and math, Konstantopoulos said.

Although the study didn’t evaluate classroom practices, Konstantopoulos said the reason for the narrowing gap likely is due to low-achieving students receiving more attention from teachers.

"This is especially important in poorer schools because teacher effectiveness matters more in schools with higher proportions of disadvantaged and low-performing students,” he said.
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The draft "Common Core" standards are appraised

Stars By Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards in 2009

The draft “Common Core” standards in math and reading-writing-communications received “B” grades on a new evaluation released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The NAEP frameworks in these subjects also fared moderately well in this appraisal, while TIMSS excelled in math and PISA fared poorly in both areas.

Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards in 2009 examines the “Common Core” drafts released in September as well as other influential barometers and benchmarks of educational performance. The report aims to make sense of these influential national and international models by which schools, districts and states may determine “how good is good enough.” It also aims to provide important feedback to the “Common Core” drafters as they revise their end-of-high-school standards and develop companion standards for lower grades.

“This review shows that the Common Core standards are off to a good start,” said Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr., “though there’s room for improvement—and a sound English curriculum will require plenty more than the valuable skills set forth here.”

Fordham invited expert reviewers to appraise the “Common Core” drafts, which outline college and career readiness standards in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and math. These draft standards were released on September 21 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Fordham’s reviewers also evaluated the reading/writing and math frameworks of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The reviewers awarded these grades:
Common Core Reading/Writing/Speaking & Listening: B
Common Core Math: B
NAEP Reading/Writing: B
NAEP Math: C
PISA Reading: D
PISA Math: D

“Most of the content that is expected of a 15 year-old in PISA [math] is what younger students should have already mastered,” the report noted.

The math reviews were led by W. Stephen Wilson, mathematics professor at Johns Hopkins University and former senior advisor for mathematics at the U.S. Department of Education. The English language arts reviews were led by Sheila Byrd Carmichael, an education policy consultant and founding director of the American Diploma Project. Their work was reviewed by other subject-area experts.

Today’s release is an interim evaluation, to be followed next year by continuing reviews of “Common Core” standards as well as other influential education standards and frameworks (including updates on some in this report.) Fresh evaluations of current state academic standards will follow.

Complete report:
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