Systemic issues in California’s public education have created a majority of high school English Learners who despite many years in our schools are still not English proficient and have developed major academic deficits, according to a recent study authored by Californians Together.

The report, Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California’s Long Term English Learners, calls upon state policymakers and leaders to provide solutions and outlines basic principles and promising approaches for school districts to meet the needs of English Learners more effectively.

Key findings and recommendations from the report include:

• 59 percent of California’s high school English Learners are Long Term English Learners (defined as students in U.S. schools for six or more years who have not been able to achieve English proficiency), according to a survey of 40 school districts across California

• In some districts, Long Term English Learners make up 75 percent of all English Learners

• State policy should require the districts to collect data ad monitor the progress of English learners to prevent the development of Long Term English learners

• Policymakers must commit to providing materials, program, ,professional development and curriculum support to help English Learners succeed and ensure that students do not become Long Term English Learners

While state policy provides no definitions for Long Term English Learners and little to no direction about this issue or how to address it, a number of school districts are stepping up to take responsibility. “In El Monte, this is a problem we refuse to ignore, said Nick Salerno, superintendent of the El Monte Union High School District. “We’re mobilizing administrative, certificated, and classified staff and resources to promote success for these students. Through our work with Californians Together, we have an invaluable forum from which to learn, share ideas, and make real progress for our English learners.”

In addition to the survey upon which the report is based, Californians Together has convened interested school districts to deepen their understanding of these issues and how they might prevent the systemic issues that have caused high numbers of Long Term English Learners. Californians Together will also head efforts to mobilize legislators and policy makers, as well as convening future workshops, to provide leadership on how best to accelerate language and academic development for Long Term English learners.

Californians Together is a statewide coalition of 22 parent, professional and civil rights organizations that mobilize communities to protect and promote the rights of 1.6 million English Learners, 25 percent of California’s students. Californians Together has served for 11 years as a statewide voice on behalf of language minority students in California public schools. The coalition is committed to securing equal access to quality education for all children.

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The Condition of Education 2010

The National Center for Education Statistics today released The Condition of Education 2010, a Congressionally mandated report to the nation on education in America today. It covers all aspects of education, with 49 indicators that include findings on enrollment trends, demographics, and outcomes.

The report projects that public school enrollment will rise from 49 million in 2008 to 52 million by 2019, with the largest increase expected in the South. Over the past decade, more students attended both charter schools and high-poverty schools (those in which more than 75 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch). One in six U.S. students attends a high-poverty school; and the number of charter school students has tripled since 1999.

This year’s report features a special section that looks closer at these high-poverty schools in America, examining the types and locations of schools, the characteristics of the students and their teachers and principals; and student achievement. It finds a wide and persistent gap in educational achievement.

Report findings include:
• In 2007-2008, about 20 percent of all elementary students and 9 percent of secondary school students attended high-poverty schools, compared with 15 percent and 5 percent respectively in 1999-2000.
• The reading achievement gap between low- and high-poverty 8th-grade students was 34 points in 2009 and the mathematics achievement gap was 38 points.
• In 2007-08, about 28 percent of high school graduates from high-poverty schools attended 4-year institutions after graduation, compared with 52 percent of high school graduates from low-poverty schools, based on reports from school administrators.
• Between 1971 and 2009, the percentage of White, Black and Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds who had a bachelor’s degree increased. But, during this period, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment between Blacks and Whites increased from 12 to 18 percentage points and the gap between Hispanics and Whites increased from 14 to 25 percentage points.
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Physical Activity Lacking In Schools and In Public

Many states do not have the policy or environmental measures in place to help their residents meet the recommended levels of physical activity to promote health, according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The State Indicator Report on Physical Activity 2010 includes data about individual behaviors related to physical activity, as well as the presence or absence of physical features and policies that can make being physically active either easy or hard to do.  

The report looks at community access to parks or playgrounds, community centers, and sidewalks or walking paths in neighborhoods.  The data showed substantial limits to the number of parks and other areas where physical activity would be convenient.  

According to the report, only 20 percent of blocks have parks within a half mile of their boundaries, and only 17 percent of blocks have a fitness or recreation center within that distance.  

"Regular physical activity is essential to overall health and can also help people maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  "This state indicator report provides a measure for a state's ability to support physical activity and shows where a state has been successful and where more work may be needed."  

The report also noted that only 17 percent of the nation's high school students say they get at least an hour of physical activity each day, the minimum recommended for this age group.

One underlying reason for adolescents' sedentary lifestyles may be the lack of easy ways for youth to be physically active in their communities and schools.  Only 50 percent of young people reported having access to parks, playgrounds, community centers, and sidewalks that make physical activity convenient.  

The report also finds that schools and childcare centers cannot be counted on as a place where young people can get the physical activity they need during the week.  Only eight states require children to be engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activity in their licensed, regulated child care centers.  Only 20 states require or recommend scheduled recess for elementary students, while 37 states require elementary, middle and high schools to teach physical education.  

"Today's report shows that too many kids are spending too much time in front of a computer or a TV or a video game or have limited access to physical activity because they live in neighborhoods that aren't safe, go to schools where P.E. classes have been cut or live in communities where there are no sports leagues or afterschool activity programs," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "We need parents and teachers, business and community leaders and the public and private sectors to come together to create more opportunities for our kids to be active so they can lead happy healthy lives."  

"An active lifestyle, combined with healthy eating, is the number one way to prevent obesity and key to preventing a host of serious obesity-related diseases," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "As we mark National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in May, President Obama is challenging every American to make physical activity, fitness, and sports part of their daily routine. Today's report shines a spotlight on the additional need for safe and convenient places for Americans to be physically active in their communities."

"The places where we live, work, learn, and play affect the choices we make, and in turn, our health," said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. "As chronic diseases place an increasing burden on the nation's health care system, the need for improving policies and environments for physical activity is more important than ever.  This report can help states, communities and others work together to increase the number of Americans who live healthier lives by creating communities that support and encourage physical activity."

The full report is available at

For more information about physical activity, visit

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Disparity in public funding of charter, traditional schools


The nation's public charter schools received, on average, $2,247 less per pupil than traditional public schools in the same school district, according to a new analysis of 2006-07 school year data from 24 states and Washington, D.C. The study, administered by Professor Holmes Finch, is the most comprehensive and rigorous review of public charter school funding undertaken to date.

The state-by-state analysis reveals how charter revenues compare to dollars provided to traditional public schools. For a typical 250-student charter school, the disparity amounts to nearly $562,000 annually. The differential was even larger across 40 focus districts, most of which are located in major metropolitan areas.

Titled "Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists," the new report is a follow-up of a 2005 survey by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. It includes the original 16 states and Washington, D.C., scrutinized in that study as well as eight additional states. All told, the research encompassed 93 percent of all charter school students in FY 2006-07 — the last full year for which all of the appropriate statistics were available.

The most recent report also represents an improvement in the method of analyzing state-level disparities to provide a better estimate of how much funding charter schools receive compared to their traditional public school counterparts that would have otherwise received the same students.

Several members of the 2005 survey research team, including Bryan Hassel, Larry Maloney and Meagan Batdorff, worked for two years collecting and analyzing data for the latest study.

The findings paint a picture of an ongoing funding challenge for charter schools. Among the chief conclusions:

• Overall, charter school funding lagged significantly behind district schools. On average, charter schools received 19.2 percent less support than traditional public schools, or $2,247 per pupil. Student demographics only accounted for a small percentage of the differences.
• Funding disparities were even wider in most of the 40 focus school districts examined. In cities, where almost half of all charter schools in the study are located, the average disparity was 27.8 percent, or $3,727 per pupil. For eight focus districts, however, charters received at minimum 40 percent less than traditional public schools.
• Local funding accounts for the largest disparity, because many states' laws do not allow for allocation of local funding to charter schools. The local funding gap is $1,884 for each charter school pupil, or roughly 84 percent of the of the total $2,247 disparity. "Disparities in local funding suggest a two-tier public education system," said Larry Maloney, one of the study's researchers. "The data clearly show that charter schools enroll some of the country's most high-need students, and yet this study demonstrates that charter schools continue to receive diminished support."

The authors also compared the current results to the 2005 Fordham report and determined that:
• Although the statewide funding disparity was slightly lower than in the 2005 report—by 3.3 percentage points—improvements in data quality, rather than true policy changes drove the shift.
• Across the 40 focus districts, the disparity increased by 4.6 percentage points.
• Although data quality has improved, high-quality data were still difficult to collect in a timely fashion and therefore is largely inaccessible to the general public. For example, the research team tried for 18 months to acquire data from a single state. Meanwhile, New York and Florida have no financial reporting requirement for charters beyond the submission of routine or occasional audits.

Individual state reports

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A Smarter Teacher Layoff System


“A Smarter Teacher Layoff System: How Quality-Based Layoffs Can Help Schools Keep Great Teachers in Tough Economic Times"

Amid financial crunches and budget cuts, many school districts are now grappling with the prospect of letting go large numbers of teachers. Worse, most districts are forced to make “quality-blind” decisions, taking only seniority into account. In several districts, these regulations have forced schools to layoff “teacher of the year” award winners and nominees and other superstar teachers. This policy brief calls for a new layoff system that uses multiple factors to make quality-based layoff decisions, including evaluation ratings, attendance, and additional school responsibilities—as well as length of service. The report also includes results of a 9,000-teacher survey in two large urban districts. Contrary to most assumptions, teachers support a quality-based layoff policy: a majority of teachers at every experience level (including those with over 30 years of service) said that factors besides seniority should be considered.

CT Context

Connecticut school districts, like those nationwide, face financial crunches and tough choices about where to make needed budget cuts, including reducing staff. Quality-based decisions about layoffs would go a long way towards making sure that our most talented teachers stay in our classrooms. Some districts are already making great strides toward this end. In March, New Haven ratified a new teachers' contract that revamped evaluation policies to include student achievement growth as one of several factors to be included in teacher evaluations. And, in May, the state legislature passed a key reform bill, SB 438, that, for the first time, links student data to teachers and requires every district in the state to evaluate teachers based on their students’ achievement and other important factors. When this new system is in place, districts facing teacher layoffs will have the tools they need to put quality first when making those tough choices.

Source: The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), an advocacy organization building a new movement of concerned Connecticut citizens working to create fundamental change in our education system.

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“School Leadership Matters"

“School Leadership Matters: A guide for Connecticut donors, and education and legislative leaders”

Fairfield County boasts levels of education and wealth that are among the highest in the nation—but it is also home to one of the nation’s widest achievement gaps between African-American and Latino students and their white peers. This guide starts from the idea that principals are “ground zero” in the work of closing this gap. Recent studies have found that principals have a profound impact on student achievement, second only to that of classroom teachers. Yet the pipeline of excellent school leaders is faulty--principal preparation programs are inconsistent in rigor and quality, and have been too slow to adapt their programs to adequately prepare graduates to meet the real demands of the principalship. This guide outlines features of a strong principal preparation program. It also puts forth a model alternate route to the principal’s desk to ensure our new principals can turn urban schools into places where children succeed and teachers thrive. Readers can take note of the guide’s suggested action steps to help reach this goal.

CT Context

In May, Connecticut’s state legislature took a crucial step forward by passing SB 438 that created new pathways for our most talented classroom teachers to become principals. By maintaining selective admissions criteria but reducing burdensome coursework requirements—just as programs like Teach for America do for teacher certification—alternative certification programs can bring talented new principals to schools that need them. These programs will be critical for areas like Fairfield County, which—as this study points out—faces an impending school leader shortage, as 92 percent of current principals in Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford plan to retire by 2012.

Source: The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), an advocacy organization building a new movement of concerned Connecticut citizens working to create fundamental change in our education system.

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Review of the Article ‘Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Close the Achievement Gap? Evidence from a Social Experiment in Harlem'”


In the world of education research, approval from the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) is about as good as it gets. The WWC issues “quick reviews” taking a second look at studies that have earned heavy media coverage. So, it is no small feat that this study of charter student achievement earned the WWC’s highest approval rating: “consistent with WWC evidence standards.” The Harvard study centered on Promise Academy Charter Middle School. The school is part of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which combines inventive charter schools with a network of community services and supports. Focusing on 470 students who entered Promise Academy’s random entrance lottery in 2005 and 2006, the study compared the state test scores of students who enrolled at the school with the scores of students who were denied a seat. The study is equivalent to a randomized controlled trial—the “gold standard” in research—because the groups of students contrasted in the study were formed by random lottery. Through this design, the study controls for other factors that might influence achievement, such as parent engagement. The results showed that the Promise Academy students significantly outperformed the lottery losers, particularly in math: by 8th grade, Promise Academy students outpaced their peers on state math tests by the equivalent of a jump from 50th to 71st percentile.

CT Context

When it comes to boosting achievement in at-risk groups, Connecticut’s charter schools are among the most effective in the state. Based on percentages of students performing at goal on state tests, three of the top 10 schools in the state for African-American performance were charters. So it was a key victory for Connecticut’s kids when, on the last day of this spring’s legislative session, the state legislature passed SB 438 that lifted enrollment caps on Connecticut’s high-performing charter schools. But if high-performing charters are to realize this new opportunity to grow, the next Governor will have to tackle the unfinished business from this legislative session including fixing the unsustainable and unequal funding system for our public charter schools.

Source: The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), an advocacy organization building a new movement of concerned Connecticut citizens working to create fundamental change in our education system.

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Beyond Demographic Destiny: An Analysis of Massachusetts' Minority and White Student Achievement Gaps

In this report, the Pioneer Institute analyzes the performance of specific student groups on state tests and tracks achievement gaps in school districts in Massachusetts. In addition to calculating actual achievement gaps, the study uses demographic factors (including parent income and education levels) to identify “predicted” achievement gaps for each district based on the achievement gaps of demographically similar students in the state. Then, they identify districts where actual achievement gaps are lower or higher than expected—i.e., where districts seem to be doing a better or worse job at reducing the achievement gap. Their findings are hopeful: a significant number of districts have lower achievement gaps than expected. However, the authors caution that identifying smaller-than-predicted gaps should never be an excuse—the very existence of these gaps means that much work remains to be done.

Beyond Demographic Destiny: An Analysis of Massachusetts' Minority and White Student Achievement Gaps

CT Context

Connecticut’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveals that our state has worst-in-the-nation achievement gaps in both reading and math. For example, ConnCAN’s analysis of NAEP reading scores shows that Connecticut’s achievement gap between poor students and their wealthier peers remains the largest in the nation, with poor students reading nearly three grade levels behind their wealthier peers. ConnCAN’s annual Success Story schools show what is possible here in the Constitution State and provide evidence in our own backyard that we can eradicate our worst-in-the-nation achievement gap.

Source: The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), an advocacy organization building a new movement of concerned Connecticut citizens working to create fundamental change in our education system.

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Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go?


Center on Reinventing Public Education, Marguerite Roza, 2010

As federal and local budgets tighten, pressure mounts to spend every dollar right. Yet our current school funding system is so messy and complex that officials often have a hard time even comparing per-pupil funding from one school and program to another. In this concise analysis, Marguerite Roza tracks the often inequitable and illogical results of a finance system split between federal block funding, foundation grants, earmarks, set-asides and union mandates. Nationwide, resources flow toward upper-income and high-achieving students rather than their at-risk peers. Schools are forced to fund electives and athletics above core subjects. And per-pupil allocations can vary widely even within a district. Given the messy, circular nature of the problem, Roza advocates a sweeping set of reforms. Among the elements she proposes: an open market for providers and a money-follows-the-child system, weighted based on student characteristics.

CT Context

Roza’s call for an overhaul of school finance parallels ConnCAN’s report on Connecticut’s antiquated, opaque funding system in our 2009 publication The Tab. As that report argued, it is high time that we begin the transition to a common sense, transparent funding system where money follows children based on their learning needs. A “money follows the child” system would fund charter school students equally instead of at the 75 percent of per-pupil funding they currently receive compared to traditional public schools. It would also give schools and districts greater flexibility to direct money toward student achievement, eliminating the strings attached to the current patchwork of funding. It will be up to our next Governor to provide leadership needed to overhaul our unsustainable and unequal funding system.

Source: The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), an advocacy organization building a new movement of concerned Connecticut citizens working to create fundamental change in our education system.

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Creating a New Teaching Profession


Urban Institute, Eds. Dan Goldhaber and Jane Hannaway, April 2010

Studies show that teachers are the most important schooling factor in whether or not a student achieves in the classroom. In this new book, Goldhaber and Hannaway set forth a range of ideas for strengthening the teaching corps—from a selective, portable national teaching credential to a revamped retirement system. The book suggests that coherence and coordination are key: smart hiring, for instance, needs to be supported by smart salary policies. Whereas current school policies tend to treat all teachers as interchangeable, the book advocates the creation of more specialized, differentiated teaching positions and a more flexible, performance-based pay scale.

CT Context

By passing SB 438 in May to make student performance a factor in teacher evaluations, Connecticut’s state legislature took a major step toward identifying and rewarding teachers who can raise student achievement. The 2010 New Haven teachers’ contract also shows important progress: supported by unions, the contract revamps the evaluation system to include student achievement growth as one of several factors to be included in teacher evaluations. The contract also establishes school-wide performance bonuses in addition to the normal salary schedule. However, if we want to close our unacceptable achievement gaps and boost performance statewide, we need to ensure that student achievement is the primary factor in teacher evaluations, and attach consequences for teachers whose students don’t achieve. We’ll also need inventive ways to bring great teachers to our classrooms and keep them there.

Source: The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), an advocacy organization building a new movement of concerned Connecticut citizens working to create fundamental change in our education system.
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Books in home as important as parents' education in determining children's education level


Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.

For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home. She has been looking for ways to help Nevada's rural communities, in terms of economic development and education.

"What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?" she asked. "The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed."

Evans said, "Even a little bit goes a long way," in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit.

"You get a lot of 'bang for your book'," she said. "It's quite a good return-on-investment in a time of scarce resources."

In some countries, such as China, having 500 or more books in the home propels children 6.6 years further in their education. In the United States, the effect is less, 2.4 years, than the 3.2-year average advantage experienced across all 27 countries in the study. But, Evans points out that 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.

For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, Americans who have some college or an associate's degree, but not a bachelor's degree, earn an average of $7,213 more annually than those with just a high school education. Those who attain a bachelor's degree earn $21,185 more each year, on average, than those with just high school diplomas.

The study by Evans and her colleagues at Nevada, UCLA and Australian National University is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on what influences the level of education a child will attain.

The researchers were struck by the strong effect having books in the home had on children's educational attainment even above and beyond such factors as education level of the parents, the country's GDP, the father's occupation or the political system of the country.

Having books in the home is twice as important as the father's education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Surprisingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was just 2 years, less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children (3.2 years).

The study, "Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations," was published in the journal, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility (online at
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Teacher-School Matches Matter

Kirabo Jackson finds that teachers who change schools have a greater positive effect on their students' test scores at their new school than at their old school. Analyzing data from North Carolina, Jackson also observes that teacher "match quality" -- that is, how good a fit the teacher is for a particular school -- and teacher quality are positively correlated. He concludes that ”part of what we typically interpret as a teacher quality effect [on student performance] is in fact a match quality effect that may not be portable across schooling environments."

Full paper
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More than 60 percent of teachers have voice problems

Researchers at the University of Malaga (UMA) have analysed the presence of voice disorders in male and female teachers, in order to obtain a representative statistic: 62.7% of the Early Childhood and Primary Education teaching body suffer from these complaints on a daily or weekly basis.

Professions such as teaching require a high resistance to voice fatigue to be able to deal with vocal overload. "Our aim was to analyse the vocal problems of Early Childhood and Primary Education teachers, and the psychosocial dimensions associated with said disorders in Spain", Rosa Bermúdez, main author of the study and researcher at UMA, explains to SINC.

During the 2004-05 academic year, the scientists studied 282 teachers from 51 public education centres in the Malaga capital, which represented 13% of the teaching population of this sector. To do so, they used two types of questionnaire: one created expressly to assess the profile of voice problems caused by the work of the teachers, and the ISTAS-21 on psychosocial risk factors in the workplace.

The results, which appear in the magazine Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, indicate that 62.7% of male and female teachers experience voice problems on a daily or weekly basis, and state that their work involves more psychological demands and less personal and professional compensation.

As regards the psychosocial compensations of the work, the teaching staff with vocal problems perceive less social support from their colleagues and superiors, less control and influence over decisions, more role conflict, less respect for their work and more insecurity in their duties. Furthermore, the evaluation of the leadership capacity of their superiors was also reduced.

"We have observed a psychosocial work model characterised by an imbalance between professional demands and compensations", highlights Bermúdez, for whom "this combination of great effort and little reward creates cognitive, somatic and behavioural stress, as well as worse indicators of health and professional satisfaction".

For this reason, "it is advisable to promote more institutional policies and changes which favour prevention, in order to reduce the vocal and psychosocial health risks present in the teaching sector", the researcher points out.

Being a teacher isn't such a cushy job

Teaching is an occupation that presents a high risk of developing vocal problems, since the voice is the main tool in interactions with the students, and it is used for long periods of time and in noisy environments. Teachers frequently have to adapt their phonatory pattern to the size of the classroom, its acoustic set-up, the type of audience, the air quality and changes in humidity and temperature.

"Taking into account that the main factors affecting the vocal health of teachers are occupational, these vocal disorders must be prevented, diagnosed and treated as a disease with a professional origin, as has been recommended by the EU for decades", Bermúdez concludes.
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New Orleans schools fail to provide equal education opportunity, new U of Minnesota study says

Separate but unequal tiered system of schools created post-Katrina

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the public school infrastructure in New Orleans, Louisiana embarked on a massive effort to rebuild the entire New Orleans public school system, launching the nation's most extensive charter school experiment. The goal was to provide a quality education to all New Orleans students, regardless of race, socioeconomic class, or where they live.

The University of Minnesota Law School's Institute on Race and Poverty (IRP) evaluated the success of the rebuilding efforts in a new study --The State of Public Schools In Post-Katrina New Orleans: The Challenge of Creating Equal Opportunity -- which found that the rebuilt public school system fails to adequately provide equal educational opportunity to all New Orleans students.

The study finds that the state-driven reorganization has created a "separate but unequal tiered system of schools" which sorts white students and a relatively small share of students of color into selective, high-performing schools, while steering the majority of low-income students of color to high-poverty, low-performing schools.

The study also finds racial and economic segregation in the city and metropolitan area to be a continuing concern, still undermining the life chances and educational opportunities of low-income students and students of color. It documents that school choice in the form of charter schools does not by itself empower students of color to escape the negative consequences of segregation, especially when it leads them to racially-segregated, high-poverty, low-performing schools.

The IRP report details how the growing charter sector in New Orleans has undermined equality of opportunity in the city's schools by directly selecting their students (through selective admission requirements in the case of Orleans Parish School Board- and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education-run charter sectors) and by skimming the most motivated students (through their enrollment strategies, discipline and expulsion practices, transportation policies, location decisions, and marketing and recruitment efforts in the case of Recovery School District-run charters). The report shows that school performance varies significantly across five sectors, and not so much by charter versus traditional schools, because schools in each sector have different abilities to select their students.

The report criticizes the single-strategy approach that exclusively relies on the expansion of the charter sector, recommending instead a multi-pronged strategy which expands school choice on a regional basis. It calls for a more balanced, regional approach to public education, including a renewed commitment to the city's traditional public schools and enhanced choices for students in the form of regional magnet schools and new inter-district programs.

The study was commissioned by the Loyola Institute for Quality and Equity in Education in New Orleans. A copy of the report's executive summary can be found on the Institute's Web site, at (
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Arsenic in playgrounds nothing to worry about:


Pressure treated wooden playground structures do not live up to the bad reputation they have earned as being harmful to children, according to the findings of a new University of Alberta study.

Chris Le, a scientist in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, can put to rest any safety concerns regarding playgrounds made of chromated copper arsenate-treated wood. This is good news to parents planning to begin the summer ritual of taking their children to the local playground.

The study compared arsenic levels in urine and saliva samples of children playing in eight pressure treated wooden playgrounds and those in eight playgrounds made of other materials. The study found no significant difference in the concentration of arsenic species in children playing on playgrounds with or without the chemically-treated wood. The study suggests that contact with CCA treated wood in playgrounds is not likely to significantly contribute to the overall arsenic exposure in children.

Around 70 per cent of playgrounds in North America are made with pressure-treated wood. Le and his group want to encourage children to stay physically active, just make sure to wash their hands after play.

Le's findings are published in the May 15 edition of Environmental Science & Technology.
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Governors Protecting Pre-Kindergarten Programs Amid Budget Squeeze

In spite of widespread fiscal distress in states, FY11 budget proposals from the nation's governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia keep overall state funding for pre-kindergarten near the previous year's levels. Should all the governors' budgets pass, state pre-k investments would remain at $5.3 billion, increasing by less than 0.2 percent, or slightly more than $8.2 million, according to a new report by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.

Leadership Matters: Governors' Pre-K Budget Proposals Fiscal Year 2011 finds that access to state-funded high-quality pre-k remains largely dependent on where children live, with gubernatorial proposals ranging widely from significant expansion in Alabama to elimination in Arizona.

Highlights from this year's report include:
- Nine governors would increase pre-k investments. These proposals would increase funding for early learning in these states by a total of $78.5 million.
- Three states and the District of Columbia anticipate an increase for pre-k through their school funding formulas.
- Ten governors are proposing to flat fund pre-k. These proposals maintain funding for early learning at FY10 levels and include Alaska and Rhode Island, which both started new programs in FY10.
- Twelve governors are proposing to decrease pre-k funding. In these states, early learning investments would decline by a total of $100.6 million.
- Ten states provide no state-funded pre-k.

Pre-K Now's annual report evaluates budget proposals for the coming school year and documents governors' remarks in recent state of the state addresses to determine which leaders count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform and economic development strategies.

Pre-k played a prominent role in applications from 12 of the 16 states selected as Phase 1 finalists for Race to the Top competitive grants to promote school reform, and the report explores these and other creative state strategies to support early education using federal resources from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Research shows children who complete quality pre-k programs enter school more prepared cognitively, emotionally and socially, are less likely to be held back or need special education services and are more likely to complete high school and become successful and productive adults. States without pre-k programs miss out on these short- and long-term benefits.

The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.
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Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment


The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) describes results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading for public schools in 18 selected urban districts compared with results from public schools in the nation and large cities nationally (cities with populations of 250,000 or more).

Representative samples of between 900 and 2,400 fourth-graders and between 800 and 2,100 eighth-graders were assessed in each of the 18 urban districts that participated in the 2009 assessment. Eleven of the districts also participated in the 2007 and 2005 assessments and 10 participated in 2003. Results from the 2009 TUDA report in reading include:

* In comparison to 2007, scores improved in four districts at grade 4 and in two districts at grade 8. When compared to 2003, scores at grade 4 were higher in seven out of ten districts, and in four out of ten districts at grade 8.

* In 2009, fourth-graders in six districts recorded higher scores than fourth-graders in large cities nationally. Among those six districts, Black students in four districts scored higher than Black students in large cities nationally, and Hispanic students in five districts scored higher than Hispanic students in large cities nationally.

* Five districts at grade 8 had higher scores than large cities nationally in 2009. Within those five districts, Black students in two districts scored higher than Black students in large cities nationally, and Hispanic students in three districts scored higher than Hispanic students in large cities nationally.

NAEP is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences.
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Landmark federal law responsible for gains in math among low-income and Hispanic students, but had no impact on reading achievement.

Just as the Obama administration has signaled that it has made reauthorizing the landmark No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal law a priority in 2010, an Education Next analysis by professors Thomas Dee and Brian Jacob shows that NCLB is responsible for marked gains in math skills, particularly among Latino and low-income students, but produced no improvements in reading achievement.

The impact NCLB has had on student achievement since its implementation in 2002 has always been difficult to gauge. Since the law applied to all public school students, there was no comparison group and it was impossible to determine which of countless factors contributed to student achievement.

However, authors Dee and Jacob conducted groundbreaking research, to be published in the summer issue of Education Next and available now online comparing test score changes in states that did not have NCLB-style accountability systems (both publicizing performance and attaching consequences to the performance) in place before 2002 to changes in those that already did when NCLB was implemented.

Dee’s and Jacob’s findings suggest that “the accountability provisions of NCLB generated large and statistically significant increases in the math achievement of 4th graders and that these gains were concentrated among Hispanic and low-income students.”

“Specifically, we find evidence that the accountability provisions of NCLB generated large and broad gains in the math achievement of 4th grad ers and somewhat smaller gains for 8th graders,” said the authors. “Our results suggest that NCLB accountability had no impact on read ing achievement for either group.”

The study relied on test-score data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” Data were available in 39 states for 4th-grade math, 38 states for 8th-grade math, 37 states for 4th-grade reading and 34 states for 8th-grade reading. The scholars found that NCLB raised the percentage of students who reached a basic level of proficiency by 10 percentage points in 4th grade math and by 6 percentage points in 8th grade math. The percentages reaching full proficiency in math increased by 6 percentage points in 4th grade, but no detectable gains were identified for the percentage reaching full proficiency in 8th grade math. Those identified as fully proficient in 4th grade reading increased by 2.5 percentage points, but no other significant reading impacts were identified. NCLB impacts on Hispanic math performance were even greater.

The research also found that NCLB increased achievement among higher-achieving students, casting doubt on concerns that the law has harmed this group.

The authors say that as lawmakers consider a redesign of NCLB, they may need to pay more specific attention to understanding what causes differing results by grade and subject.

“Understanding these differences, according to the analysis, will be critical as policymakers discuss the future design of NCLB,” Jacob said. “Our results, much like earlier evaluations of state-level school accountability policies, show that we need to look closely at what’s happening within our schools that can cause these changes in achievement.”
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Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education:


Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2007–08 (Fiscal Year 2008)

This brief publication contains basic revenue and expenditure data, by state, for public elementary and secondary education for school year 2007-08. It contains state-level data on revenues by source and expenditures by function, including expenditures per pupil.

The average current expenditure per pupil topped $10,000 for the first time in the United States in 2007-2008. This First Look report, released by the National Center for Education Statistics, also presents state-level data on revenues by source and expenditures by function for public elementary and secondary education for school year 2007-2008. Other findings include:

* The national expenditure per pupil is $10,297.
* Revenues for public education totaled $585 billion.

The Common Core of Data (CCD) is an annual collection of public elementary and secondary education data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. The data are reported by state education agencies (SEAs). The finance data are reported to the U.S. Census Bureau, which acts as the data collection agent for NCES. The data are collected through an online data collection site. Student membership data are reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s EDFacts data collection system. This report presents findings on public education revenues and expenditures using fiscal year 2008 (FY 08) data from the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) of the CCD survey system. Programs covered in the NPEFS include regular, special, and vocational education; charter schools (if they reported data to the SEA); and state-run education programs (such as special education centers or education programs for incarcerated youth).

The CCD NPEFS is a universe collection of public elementary and secondary education finance data reported annually by SEAs in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the four other jurisdictions of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The NPEFS provides SEA-level data for all revenues and expenditures associated with each reporting state or jurisdiction, including revenues by source and expenditures by function and object.
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Science Achievement and Occupational Career/Technical Education Coursetaking in High School: The Class of 2005


Science Achievement and Occupational Career/Technical Education Coursetaking in High School: The Class of 2005 compares the science coursetaking and science achievement of public high school graduates who were occupational concentrators--those who earned at least two credits in an area of occupational education, such as agriculture or computer and information sciences--with those who did not take such coursework (nonconcentrators). Findings include:

* Overall, occupational concentrators earned fewer science credits than their nonconcentrator peers. Occupational concentrators also scored lower on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 12th-grade science assessment.

* These findings varied, however, depending on students' area of concentration and the number of science credits they earned. For example, no measureable differences were found in the science coursetaking of concentrators in three areas—business finance, engineering technology, and computer and information science—compared with nonconcentrators. Concentrators in these three areas also scored as well as or better than nonconcentrators on the NAEP 12th-grade science assessment.
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Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters

KIDS COUNT Special Report, Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters.

This Special Report focuses attention on the critical importance of achieving grade-level reading proficiency for all children by the end of third grade. The 2010 KIDS COUNT Special Report makes the case that reading proficiently by grade three is a fundamental benchmark in developmental success and overall childhood well-being.
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Home, preschool and school coordination boosts achievement

Children whose minds are stimulated in several early childhood settings—home, preschool, and school—have higher achievement in elementary school. What matters is not whether children's learning is supported at home, or stimulated in preschool or in elementary school, but that all three of these occur.

That's the conclusion of a new study published in the May/June 2010 issue of Child Development.

"The study has implications for policy as Congress reauthorizes the No Child Left Behind Act," notes Robert Crosnoe, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, the study's lead author. "Our findings point to the importance of improving coordination among parents, preschool classrooms, and elementary schools to boost children's achievement."

The research is based on a longitudinal analysis of more than 1,300 children living in 10 locations in the United States who were followed from birth in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. It was carried out under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, Tufts University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of California, Irvine, the University of Virginia, and the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network.

The researchers evaluated children's homes and child care/preschool settings when the children were 4-1/2 years old, studied their first grade classrooms, and evaluated reading and math test scores through fifth grade. In doing so, they gauged whether the links between various combinations of cognitive stimulation and children's achievement were simply due to the socioeconomic circumstances of the children's families, or whether children from different socioeconomic backgrounds got more or less, academically, from each combination.

"The ultimate payoff of attempts to improve one context of early childhood depends in part on whether related contexts are improved, too," according to Crosnoe.

Moreover, even though children from advantaged families are more likely to experience this convergence of support for learning across the contexts of their lives, the study found that low-income children may benefit more from it.

"Helping children, especially those from poor families, get off to a good start in elementary school has become a major focus of education policy," Crosnoe adds. "These policy interventions typically target one setting—the home, preschool, or elementary school—but rarely the intersection of all three."

This study suggests that increasing coordination among the three main contexts involved in the transition to formal school is critical. "To do so, policymakers must put renewed focus on the home-preschool partnerships often advocated by early intervention programs and the family-school partnerships advocated by No Child Left Behind, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act," according to Crosnoe.
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Parent involvement continues to be important in elementary years

Promoting parent involvement has been a big part of efforts to improve school performance. A new study has found that children whose parents were more involved across elementary school had fewer problem behaviors and better social skills, but that children's academics weren't affected.

The study, in the May/June 2010 issue of the journal Child Development, is based on information about more than 1,300 children from 10 U.S. cities who were followed from birth to fifth grade. They are part of the Study of Early Childcare and Youth Development, a longitudinal study carried out under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Extending past research that's focused on parent involvement among preschoolers, the researchers, from the University of Pittsburgh, sought to learn how parent involvement affects children's academic, social, and emotional well-being in elementary school. The children studied were mostly White and about evenly divided by gender.

According to the findings, when parents boosted their involvement in elementary school (by increasing visits to the school and encouraging educational progress at home), children's problem behaviors (including both aggressive and disruptive behaviors as well as anxiety and depression) decreased. At the same time, their so-called pro-social skills (such as cooperation and self-control) improved.

However, the parents' involvement didn't affect children's achievement. One explanation for the absence of such associations may be that the study's measure of parents' involvement didn't focus on involvement that was specific to academic performance.

"The study shows that parents continue to wield considerable influence on children's development through elementary school," according to the researchers. "Therefore, the study has implications for policies to encourage involvement."
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Links between child care and academic achievement, behavior persist into adolescence

Teens who were in high-quality child care settings as young children scored slightly higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement and were slightly less likely to report acting-out behaviors than peers who were in lower-quality child care arrangements during their early years, according to the latest analysis of a long-running study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

And teens who had spent the most hours in child care in their first 4½ years reported a slightly greater tendency toward impulsiveness and risk-taking at 15 than did peers who spent less time in child care.

Although the study followed children's experience in child care, it was not designed to determine cause and effect, and so could not prove whether a given aspect of the child care experience had a particular effect. It is possible that other factors, not measured in the study, were involved.

The study authors noted that the differences in these measures among the youth in the study were small, but the magnitude of both patterns was consistent from early childhood to adolescence. Previous studies have noted similar trends, but the study is the first to track children for a full decade after they left child care.

"Previous findings from the study indicate that parents appear to have far more influence on their child's growth and development than the type of child care they receive," said James A. Griffin, Ph.D., deputy chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch, at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH institute that funded the study, "The current findings reveal that the modest association between early child care and subsequent academic achievement and behavior seen in earlier study findings persists through childhood and into the teen years."

The study results appear in the May/June issue of the journal Child Development.

The 1,364 youth in the analysis had been evaluated periodically since they were 1 month of age, as part of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), the largest, longest running and most comprehensive study of child care in the United States.

Families were recruited through hospital visits to mothers shortly after the birth of a child in 1991, in 10 locations in the United States. Although the children studied were not a representative sample of children in the U.S. population, the families that participated in the study were from diverse geographic, demographic, economic and ethnic backgrounds.

From 1 month of age through sixth grade, children were evaluated at least annually on tests of cognitive and academic progress. In addition, researchers queried parents regularly and recorded the type, quantity and quality of child care during the children's first 4½ years. The researchers also observed child care interactions to evaluate the quality of care. Of the children studied, nearly 90 percent spent some time in the care of someone other than their mother by the time they reached 4½ years of age. High-quality care was characterized by the caregivers' warmth, support, and cognitive stimulation of the children under their care.

The researchers also requested that caregivers or teachers evaluate the behavior of children under their care at 4½ and every two years through elementary school. When the students were 15, the researchers tested the students' academic achievement and, using a questionnaire, had the students evaluate their own behaviors. These included measures of behavioral problems (acting out in class); impulsivity (acting without thinking through the consequences); and risk taking (engaging in behaviors that might harm themselves or others).

Rating child-care quality on a scale of 1 to 4, researchers found that more than 40 percent of the children experienced high-quality or moderately high-quality care. They noted a modest correlation between higher quality care and higher results on cognitive and academic assessments, including reading and math tests. This correlation was similar at age 4½ and age 15. A new finding that emerged at age 15 was that youth who had spent more time in quality child care as young children reported fewer acting-out behavior problems as teenagers.

"These results underscore the importance of interaction between children and their daytime caregivers," said first author Deborah Lowe Vandell, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Education at University of California, Irvine. "We're seeing enduring effects of the quality of staff-child interaction."

Similarly, the researchers noted a correlation between the average number of hours children spent in child care each week through age 4½ and the youths' own evaluations of impulsivity and risk-taking tendencies at 15. This correlation was independent of the quality of child care the children experienced.

Moreover, the correlation reflected earlier associations between hours in child care and caregivers' reports of problem behaviors that the researchers had originally detected when the children were 4½. Hours in child care were calculated as the average number of hours per week a child spent in child care in infancy, as a toddler, and as a preschooler.

The study's findings were consistent among boys as well as girls. In addition, previous studies had suggested that child care could have benefits for children from economically disadvantaged homes. So the researchers created a risk index with such factors as family income, the mother's level of education, and mothers' reports of depression symptoms, dividing their group into three based on risk. Both the achievement and behavior patterns they had found were consistent across all three groups.

"High quality child care appears to provide a small boost to academic performance, perhaps by fostering the early acquisition of school readiness skills," said James A. Griffin, Ph.D., deputy chief of the NICHD Child Development & Behavior Branch. "Likewise, more time spent in child care may provide a different socialization experience, resulting in slightly more impulsive and risk-taking behaviors in adolescence. These findings underscore the importance of studying the linkages between early care and later development."
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Behavior Game Played in Primary Grades Reduces Later Drug-Related Problems

Complete article

Awarding smiley-face stickers to teams of first-graders in Baltimore for the good behavior of the individual team members greatly increased the likelihood that the students would experience an adolescence free of substance abuse and dependence. Teachers gave out the stickers and other token rewards and penalties in the Good Behavior Game (GBG), a classroom activity designed to inculcate appropriate behavior during children's first 2 years in school.

"The GBG gives teachers an effective method of managing behavior in the classroom and of teaching children how to be students," says Dr. Sheppard Kellam of the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C.

AS THE TWIG IS BENT Young adults who had played the Good Behavior Game in first and second grade were less likely to smoke cigarettes or abuse drugs than those who hadn't played the game. Males whose first-grade teachers identified them as aggressive and disruptive benefited the most.

Dr. Kellam and colleagues began the longitudinal study of the GBG while at Johns Hopkins University in close partnership with the Baltimore City Public School System. Dr. Kellam suggests that the activity produces a broad spectrum of long-term benefits by steering 5- and 6-year-olds away from aggressive and disruptive behaviors, which have long been recognized as precursors of many negative adolescent and adult outcomes. The study found that the GBG was protective not only against substance abuse and dependence but also against teenage delinquency, antisocial personality disorder, and suicide attempts.
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Time spent in school as the critical factor driving that improvement


Disadvantaged students who attend Boston’s charter schools showed significant improvement compared to peers at more traditional schools and a new report released today by the Boston Foundation identifies time spent in school as the critical factor driving that improvement.

On average, a student at a charter school in Boston will receive the equivalent of at least 62 full school days more school time over the course of a 180-day school year than his or her counterpart in traditional schools, the cumulative effect of two-plus hours more instruction time per day. And that is before adding extra days in the charter school year.

That is a key finding in the report, titled
Out of the Debate and Into the Schools: Comparing Practices and Strategies in Traditional, Pilot and Charter Schools in Boston

“This report affirms what many have experienced: Massachusetts has created a powerful national model for charter schools with lessons that can be extended to every school,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “Now we know how to close the achievement gap, and that is an accomplishment of historic significance. This is a game-changing report with a recipe for academic achievement.”

This new research follows a ground-breaking report published by the Boston Foundation in 2009, titled
the Debate: Comparing Boston’s Charter, Pilot and Traditional Schools
, which sparked national media attention when it was published. That research report was done by a team from Harvard, MIT and Duke that constructed a methodology to measure the impact of attending a charter school on students by identifying students similar in significant ways, one of whom was admitted by lottery to a charter school and one of whom was not. Subsequent performance by these paired students left no doubt of the dramatic impact of charter school experience—measures drawn from performance in standardized tests showed that a typical student in a Boston charter school closed in on performance levels shown by a student in the highly regarded suburban Brookline schools in the course of two years of middle school.

The research that informed that report was subsequently duplicated in New York City, which obtained the same significant record of improvement in performance for the charter school students.

That original Boston Foundation report raised an important question: what exactly elements in the charter schools drive this improvement? That is the question the new report was commissioned to answer.

Summary of findings

The most dramatic finding of the new report was in the area of time. A longer school day for students and teachers in a Boston charter school means that charter students receive on average 378 more hours—the equivalent of 62 more traditional school days—in the course of a 180-day school year. And charter schools typically have more than 180 days in their academic year, on average offering 192 days in their year. This stood in stark contrast to traditional Boston schools which were identified in a recent report by the National Council on Teacher Quality as having one of the shortest work days in the country, compared to similar urban districts.

The additional time was seen as especially significant because the autonomy that distinguished individual charter schools enables each school to design a program—create a culture—that is focused on professional development by staff and faculty and on the practices of mentoring.

Charter schools also report that they require academic supports during the school day for some or all students. Far fewer principals in traditional schools offered this kind of support, 15 percent in traditional schools versus 50 percent in charters schools. Far fewer traditional schools also required before- or after-school remediation, school enrichment, weekend academic support and summer school for their students.

The researchers determined that the autonomy elements of extra time and control over scheduling allows principals in charter schools to make the strategic connections that result in mentoring, academic supports and out-of-school academics. That is, they can build in more professional time for teachers without taking that time from instruction time.

Principals at charter schools also reported the ability to hire the qualified staff they wanted in high rates. This was also seen at ‘high performance” traditional schools. Both sets of schools reported being able to hire staff and faculty who shared a common set of values and philosophies to their own, which promoted the development of a school-specific culture.

When asked about the positive impact of this freedom to hire faculty and staff, charter principals and head of high-achieving traditional schools, reported that staff members trust one another, share a focus on student learning and take ownership of the overall climate of the school and of student performance. They also reported in high-achieving schools across the different types—charters, pilots and traditional—that teachers use formal strategies, such as collaborative planning time focused on adapting to classroom and student needs and collective professional development. One result was the ability to fully integrate students’ prior knowledge and past experiences into the classroom, to continuously improve the curriculum and instruction methods.

Emphasis on the autonomies

The report underscores the key importance of autonomy as a defining structural element in successful schools. The specific autonomies deemed the most important included:

  • Staffing: Having the freedom to hire staff that fit the needs of the school and who share a common values and teaching philosophy, thus creating creative, trusting atmospheres.

  • Scheduling and time: Longer school day for teachers and students with a focus on core subject areas and increased time for mathematics, reading and writing.

  • Governance and leadership: Distributed leadership that builds on the strengths of the school staff and addresses the needs of students.

  • Curriculum and instruction: Shared and consistent instructional strategies among staff throughout the school, as well as adequate supports and instructional strategies for special student populations, including special education and LEP students.

  • Professional development: Focus on professional development that builds the collective skills of teams of teachers or the whole school.

  • Budget: Identification of creative ways to access resources that support students and staff.


The report concludes with recommendations for educational leaders and policymakers as they work to improve all schools for all students. These included:

  • Grant autonomies while creating provisions for support, monitoring outcomes and holding schools accountable for performance of students.

  • Increase school time.

  • Allow for flexible school staffing and structures with greater freedom granted to principals to build their staff to fit their philosophy.

  • Create school-level systems for routinely monitoring student needs.

  • Look for opportunities to engage teachers in decision-making.

  • Provide professional development to school leaders on effective distributed leadership models that capitalize on the strengths of the school staff.

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Most high schoolers cheat -- but don't always see it as cheating


Study examines prevalence, perceptions of cheating

Most high-school students participating in a new study on academic honesty say they have cheated on tests and homework – and, in some alarming cases, say they don't consider certain types of cheating out of line.

The study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln gauged both the prevalence and perceptions of cheating among high-school students. It found the practice is widespread and many students carry misperceptions about academic dishonesty, and also identified patterns among students that may help teachers stop it.

"Students generally understand what constitutes cheating, but they do it anyway," said Kenneth Kiewra, professor of educational psychology at UNL and one of the study's authors. "They cheat on tests, homework assignments and when writing reports. In some cases, though, students simply don't grasp that some dishonest acts are cheating."

Researchers assembled the data from an anonymous survey of 100 members of the junior class of a large midwestern high school. Students were asked to share their beliefs and experiences with cheating as it pertained to tests, homework and report writing.

The results suggested that in some ways, students had clear views of what constituted cheating – not that it stopped them from doing it. For example, 89 percent said glancing at someone else's answers during a test was cheating, but 87 percent said they'd done that at least once. Also, 94 percent said providing answers to someone during a test was cheating – but 74 percent admitted to doing it.

Other behaviors weren't as cut-and-dried in students' minds. Surprisingly, only 47 percent said that providing test questions to a fellow student who had yet to take a test was academically dishonest, and nearly seven out of 10 admitted to doing so.

"The results suggest that students' attitudes are tied to effort. Cheating that still required students to put forth some effort was viewed as less dishonest than cheating that required little effort," Kiewra said.

For example, divulging test answers was likely perceived more dishonestly (84 percent) than divulging test questions (47 percent) because receiving test questions still requires some effort to uncover the answer, he said.

In general, attitudes on what constitutes cheating when it comes to homework and reports were less pronounced than in the case of cheating on tests.

The study showed:

- Sixty-two percent said doing individual take-home tests with a partner was cheating (51 percent said they'd done so);

- Just 23 percent said doing individual homework with a partner was dishonest (91 percent had done so); and

- Only 39 percent said writing a report based on the movie instead of reading the book wasn't cheating (53 percent had done so).

The results suggest that out-of-class misdeeds are viewed less harshly than in-class cheating, Kiewra said – a dynamic that is likely caused by teacher monitoring in class, and, therefore, a greater risk of getting caught.

By understanding students' cheating beliefs and actions across different settings, educators might better learn about how students think about cheating, Kiewra said.

"Based on our findings, teachers should spell out for students what constitutes cheating. If a third of students are taking credit for ideas of others, then it's time to make cheating actions clear," Kiewra said.

"Teachers also need to be more vigilant about policing and sanctioning cheating because just knowing what cheating is, is not enough. Students will do it anyway, if they can get away with it."
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Study Identifies How Urban District Central Offices Transformed Their Work to Improve Teaching and Learning


Central offices of urban school districts have been able to shift their focus from administration and compliance to improvement of teaching and learning district-wide by making five key changes, according to a new report by University of Washington researchers.

The report fills an important gap in knowledge about strengthening teaching and learning throughout school systems. Decades of experience and research have shown that districts generally fail to realize district-wide improvement in teaching and learning without powerful leadership from the central office, but until now the field has had few positive examples of such leadership to draw on.

The study, Central Office Transformation for District-Wide Teaching and Learning Improvement, uncovers the daily practices of administrators in three districts with transformation efforts under way: Atlanta Public Schools; the Empowerment Schools Organization in New York City; and the Oakland (Calif.) Unified School District.

"All three districts were making significant investments in strengthening leadership throughout their central offices to support powerful teaching and learning not in some schools but in all schools," says Dr. Meredith Honig, Associate Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Washington College of Education and the lead author of the report. "The engagement of all central office administrators in focusing their work on those results represents nothing short of a transformation of longstanding ways of doing business in many school district central offices."

The report was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and published by the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy (CTP) at the University of Washington College of Education. The report was co-authored by Michael A. Copland and a team from the University of Washington.

Another University of Washington College of Education entity - The Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) - has already been implementing the findings in school districts around the country, and will be a collaborator on future on-the-ground work stemming from this research.

Rather than remain in the background focused on "buses, budgets and buildings," central offices must work closely with school principals and turn the attention of all staffers to teaching and learning improvement, the report finds.

The five changes key to this transformation are:

- Creating learning-focused partnerships between central office staff and school principals to help deepen principals' instructional leadership;

- Providing supports for the district-principal partnerships;

- Reorganizing and "reculturing" all central office departments so that they focus their work on strengthening teaching and learning improvement, i.e. by concentrating less on delivering services and more on solving problems that can help improve schools;

- Cultivating - or, providing "stewardship" - to the efforts, which begins with the development of a "theory of action" describing how to proceed and a well-thought-out rationale;

- Using evidence throughout the central office to continually improve practices and relationships with schools.

"We found that central office transformation is not a rehashing of old efforts at restructuring the district's organizational chart," said Dr. Copland, Chair and Associate Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Washington College of Education. "This kind of transformation goes right to the heart of practice, what people in the offices do day in and day out to help improve teaching and learning for students."

A striking feature of all three central office transformation efforts was the focus on building the capacity of school principals to lead instructional improvement within their schools. For example, each of these districts designated central office administrators whom the study authors call "instructional leadership directors" (ILDs) to be directly responsible for ongoing support of principals' instructional leadership.

The findings suggest that specific "high quality" ILD practices were likely to help principals improve by personalizing supports to principals around instructional leadership; modeling strategies and developing tools to improve instructional leadership; and helping to bring outside resources and ideas to principals.

From the examination of the three districts, the researchers developed four recommendations for central office leaders who want to engage in this type of transformation:

- Engage in central office transformation as a focal point of a district-wide reform effort and as a necessary complement to other improvement initiatives;

- Start the work by developing a "theory of action" for how local central office practice contributes to improving teaching and learning and plan to revise this theory over time;

- Invest substantially in people throughout the central office to lead the work, especially those who work most directly with schools; and

- Immediately engage key stakeholders, political supporters and potential funders in understanding that central office transformation is important and requires sustained commitment.

"Urban district administrators now have research-based ideas and strategies that they can use to transform their own central offices to support principals and improve learning," said Richard Laine, Director of Education at The Wallace Foundation. "Existing Wallace research has repeatedly confirmed that leadership is crucial to turning around high-need, urban schools like those profiled in the report. We now know they can't do it without help from their districts."

The report is the third in a series from CTP under the leadership of Michael Knapp, Professor of Educational Leadership and. Policy Studies, and commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, that investigates leadership in urban schools and districts. The other two are: Leadership for Learning Improvement in Urban Schools reports on how urban school leaders help improve student learning by setting high expectations for their schools, provide meaningful staff training, and organize teachers to share leadership for carrying out improvement agendas.

"How Leaders Invest Staffing Resources for Learning Improvement" identifies three strategies districts take to improve how they invest in staffing. They are: investing in instructional leadership within and across schools; investing in data-based practice; and increasing capacity, flexibility and support for school-level improvement.

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New survey finds parents need help encouraging their kids in science


A new survey announced today finds the vast majority (94%) of science teachers wish their students' parents had more opportunities to engage in science with their children. However, more than half (53%) of parents of school-aged children admit that they could use more help to support their child's interest in science. The survey was conducted by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., among a sample of 500 science teachers and 506 parents, including 406 parents of school-aged children.

While science teachers agree (98%) that parental involvement is important for children's interest in science, the survey shows it to be among the subjects parents are least comfortable discussing with their kids. In fact, barely half (51%) of parents say they are "very familiar" with what their children are learning in science and only 15% cited it as the subject they feel "most comfortable" discussing with them, compared to 33% for language arts and 28% for math. Approximately seven in 10 parents say they are "very familiar" with what their children are learning in language arts (71%) and math (69%).

"Science education has been identified as a national priority, but science teachers can't do the job on their own. They need the help and support from key stakeholders, especially parents," said Francis Eberle, NSTA executive director. "We know that family involvement is important, and parents need help getting involved with their kids in a subject they may not feel comfortable with themselves. We must continue to find ways to break down the walls of the classroom and encourage learning together among families."

The future of science education is a growing concern nationwide, with leaders making a concerted effort to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science achievement over the next decade. The gap is significant: Only 18% of American high school seniors perform at or above the proficient level in science, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress figures. International test scores show that US students lag significantly behind their peers in science.

When asked what they think prevents parents from encouraging their children's interest in science, 77% of teachers say parents don't feel comfortable talking about science with their children. Part of the problem may stem from lack of resources and community involvement. Half of science teachers say parents don't have access to materials (52%) or community resources that encourage their children's interest in science (49%). Parents agree, with nearly four out of five (78%) saying it would encourage their child's interest if they had a place in their community where they could take their children to explore science.

Video tutorials featuring several simple and fun experiments families can do together at home can be found at More tips for parents on how to get engaged in science with their children can be found at
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Zero tolerance ineffective in schools, MSU study finds


Zero tolerance in schools is failing to make students feel safe, two Michigan State researchers argue in a new study.

The policy, established in the mid-1990s to address gun violence in schools, has become plagued by inconsistent enforcement and inadequate security, according to the study, which appears in the May issue of the journal Urban Education.

As a result, the very students zero tolerance was designed to protect overwhelmingly say the policy is ineffective, said Laura McNeal, assistant professor of teacher education and lead researcher on the project.

“Zero tolerance policy represents what happens when there is a disconnect between law on the books and law in action,” said McNeal, who has a law degree. “We need to reform existing policies such as zero tolerance to ensure every child receives a high-quality education in a safe and supportive learning environment.”

McNeal and Christopher Dunbar Jr., associate professor of educational administration, interviewed and collected data from above-average students at 15 urban high schools in the Midwest. While much has been written about students punished under zero tolerance, this study is one of the first to bring in the voices of well-behaved students, the researchers said.

Zero tolerance is a result of a 1994 federal law that requires all states receiving federal money to require school districts to expel for at least one year any student found to have brought a weapon to school. School districts across the nation installed zero-tolerance policies that sometimes went further – expelling students for cursing, defiant behavior and bringing over-the-counter medications to school, for examples.

McNeal said zero tolerance has been starkly criticized by the media, educators and parents for failing to improve school safety.

The students surveyed in this study said zero tolerance is rife with problems, including too few security guards; security guards who are underpaid, lazy or corrupt; nonworking metal detectors; and administrators who show favoritism.

To address the problem, McNeal and Dunbar recommend:

Creating a non-bias approach to zero tolerance by establishing a universal handbook that clearly defines what constitutes a violation and the appropriate punishment.
Improving security. This includes hiring school security guards with professional training and paying them appropriately.
Dunbar said students in the study actually favor a zero tolerance policy – but only if it is fair and effective.

“How can children be expected to excel,” he said, “in an environment that promotes trepidation and high anxiety due to safety concerns?”
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Report Raises Questions about Standards of “Race to the Top” Winners

As President Barack Obama urges states to raise academic standards and not “lowball” student expectations, a report hows that standards in most states remain far below those of the proficiency standard set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Meanwhile, the findings conclude that the U.S. Department of Education rewarded two states that have historically implemented among the lowest standards in the country—Tennessee and Delaware—with highly competitive Race to the Top (RttT) funds.

By comparing the percentage proficient according to the 2009 NAEP with that reported by each state according to its own assessment, the researchers are able to ascertain empirically the rigor of each state’s standards in reading and math in 4th and 8th grades. Tennessee, with the lowest standards among all states, received a grade of ‘F’, and Delaware came in 36th with a C-. Five states—Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington—received an ‘A’ An ‘F’ was given to Alabama and Nebraska as well as to Tennessee. The grade given each state is presented in the attached table.

The report shows that only a very few states have changed their standards significantly since they first set them. Colorado raised its standards from a ‘D’ to a ‘B-’ between 2003 and 2009, while South Carolina let its standards fall from ‘A’ level to a ‘C-’, and Arizona standards fell from a ‘B-’ to a ‘D’. But changes in most states have been marginal. Tennessee has always received an ‘F’, while Delaware’s standards have fallen from a ‘C’ in 2003 to a ‘C-’ in 2005 and subsequently.

“Our findings raise questions about whether RttT places too much emphasis on promises and not enough on past performance,” Peterson said. “But, the proof will be in the pudding. If Tennessee and Delaware, now that they have been given RttT money, finally begin to raise their standards, they will win over those of us who are critical of the process.”

In more encouraging findings, the analysis reveals that despite widespread perceptions that state standards are falling nationwide, they are rising noticeably in reading. Math continues to suffer, however, with declining standards.

The report measures a state’s performance on the NAEP, specifically the percentage of students who are deemed proficient by these standards, and compares them with the percentage of students who are deemed proficient by each particular state’s adopted standards. States that have a similar percentage of students proficient on their own tests as on the NAEP test for their state were given an ‘A’, because they had set their standards close to the “world class” level set by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. States whose students’ scores showed them to be substantially less proficient on NAEP tests as compared to their own state tests were given lower grades, the exact grade depending on how much lower their standards were than the world-class NAEP standard.

Peterson and Lastra-Anadón’s analysis supports Obama’s criticism that standards are too low in most states. Twenty-seven states earned a ‘C’, eight were given a ‘D’, and three an ‘F’.

According to Lastra-Anadón, “setting high standards for proficiency is the first step in the journey toward improving the learning of a high percentage of students. NAEP says that less than one-third of students are proficient in reading and a similar proportion in math nationwide and concealing this fact by states setting standards too low does not help students or the nation.”
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Lessons from the principal's office


The majority of students (about 80%) are never sent out of class to the principal's office or it happens only once in a year and why children are referred changes as they age, according to an article in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions (published by SAGE). Elementary school-aged students primarily are disciplined for fighting with fellow classmates, middle school students for being defiant or disruptive with teachers and staff, and high school students for being late or skipping class.

Researchers from the University of Oregon (Scott Spaulding, Larry Irvin, Rob Horner, Seth May, Monica Emeldi and Tary Tobin) and the University of Connecticut (George Sugai) studied office referrals (being sent to the "principal's office") across more than 1,500 schools in the U.S. The researchers asked questions like, "What does it take for a student to be sent out of class to be disciplined? Does this change as students move through their school years? What can we learn from visits to the principal's office?"

"These data help describe patterns of office discipline referrals within schools, across students from various grade levels, and for different problem behaviors," said lead author Scott Spaulding. "The findings add to our understanding about school-wide practices for addressing problem behavior and should allow us to further examine the ways referral data are used."

The information from this study should prove useful to schools in their efforts to track their students and help improve the educational experience.
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Use of Social Media in the Classroom; Findings Indicate Tools Do Not Increase Connections or Social Capital Among Students ROCHESTER, N.Y., Ma

A recent study by the Lab for Social Computing at Rochester Institute of Technology indicates that the use of social media in classroom settings has little effect on building connections or social capital among students.

The research, conducted as part of a course on social media tools, examined the use of course management systems and discussion groups to enhance classroom instruction, improve communication and connections between students and translate the benefits of social media interaction to the classroom. The results indicate that the educational use of social media may not counteract poor social connections that are seen in face-to-face communication or elicit the same impacts seen in the use of social media sites such as MySpace and FaceBook.

"Many social media advocates have argued that the use of these tools in classroom settings could greatly enhance interaction and learning and assist shyer, more reserved students in becoming more involved, as has been seen in other online environments," says Susan Barnes, associate director of the Lab for Social Computing and the leader of the research team. "However, our findings show that the incorporation of social media had no measurable impact on social connections, to the point that students did not consider other members of the class to be part of their social network."

The team next plans on expanding the research to include multiple educational formats with different social media applications to measure how social connections differ from the classroom setting. The team ultimately hopes to provide data that will help educational planners create better social media formats that have a greater impact on student social connections.

"The issues surrounding poor social network construction within online educational environments points to greater opportunities to examine how technology and mediated software can be better designed to suit the types of communication and interactions desired by our students," says Christopher Egert, assistant professor of informatics, interactive games and media and member of the team.
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