WWC Releases Reports on Adolescent Literacy and Early Childhood Education


The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has released three new reports this week that review the research on education programs, curricula, and strategies.

Adolescent Literacy

Fast ForWord®
is a computer-based reading program intended to help students develop and strengthen phonemic and phonological awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and memory skills for successful reading and learning. The WWC reviewed 305 studies on Fast ForWord® for adolescent learners and found two that meet WWC evidence standards and six that meet evidence standards with reservations. The eight studies included about 2,000 students who attended schools in the United States and Australia. Based on these eight studies, the WWC found Fast ForWord® to have no discernible effects on alphabetics and general literacy achievement. However, the WWC found Fast ForWord® to have potentially positive effects on reading fluency and comprehension for adolescent learners.

Read the full WWC report.

Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition® is a reading and writing program for students in grades 2 through 6 that includes story-related activities, direct instruction in reading comprehension, and integrated language arts/writing. The WWC reviewed 52 studies of Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition® for adolescent learners and two studies meet WWC evidence standards with reservations. The two studies included approximately 1,460 students in grades 2 through 6 who attended nine schools located in two school districts in the United States. Based on these two studies, the WWC found the program to have potentially positive effects on comprehension and general literacy achievement for adolescent learners.

Read the full WWC report.

Early Childhood Education

Ladders to Literacy is a supplemental early literacy curriculum composed of more than 70 activities designed to develop children’s print/book awareness, meta-linguistic awareness (the ability to reflect on the use of language), and oral language skills. The WWC reviewed eight studies on Ladders to Literacy for preschool children. One study meets WWC evidence standards and one study meets standards with reservations. The two studies included 139 preschool children from 26 preschool classrooms in southern New Hampshire. Based on these two studies, the WWC found Ladders to Literacy to have potentially negative effects on oral language and no discernible effects on print knowledge, phonological processing, and math for preschool children.

Read the full WWC report.

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School Related Bullying


Bullying appears to be frequent among U.S. students and has been associated with several short- and long-term negative consequences such as depression and poor health. But research suggests that many bullying incidents are not reported to school officials, which hampers educators’ ability to define the scope and frequency of bullying behavior in their schools and is often the first step in addressing the problem.

REL Northeast’s study, What Characteristics of Bullying, Bullying Victims, and Schools are Associated with Increased Reporting of Bullying to School Officials? tested 51 characteristics of bullying victimization, bullying victims, and bullying victims’ schools to determine which were associated with either increased or decreased reporting to school officials. It found that 10 characteristics were associated with increased reporting, and 1 characteristic was associated with decreased reporting.


• Students who were bullied were more likely to indicate that their victimization was reported to a school official if the bullying involved injury, physical threats, destruction of property, actual physical contact (pushing, shoving, and the like), greater frequency, multiple types, more than one location, and at least one occurrence on a school bus.

• Two types of bullying victims were more likely to indicate that their victimization was reported to school officials—those involved in a fight during the school year and those who reported being afraid of attack and avoiding certain school areas or activities.

• Higher grade levels are associated with less reporting: reporting ranged from 53 percent in grade 6 to 27 percent in grade 12.

• No characteristic of bullying victims’ schools—including general characteristics, school culture, and school security and safety—was associated with either increased or decreased reporting.
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Student Distribution By Language Proficiency in Arizona


Research suggests certain schools face greater challenges in effectively teaching its English language learner (ELL) students and in closing the achievement gap between these students and those who are native English speakers.

Those schools are ones with high concentrations of English language learner students, high populations of students living in poverty, and those located in rural and urban areas. Research also suggests that an open-enrollment program in a district may increase the concentrations of both English language learner and socioeconomically disadvantaged students in some schools. Students generally moved to schools outside their neighborhood that had equal or greater concentrations of students like themselves, such as by race or socioeconomic status.

This technical brief, Where Do English Language Learner Students Go to School? Student Distribution By Language Proficiency in Arizona analyzes Arizona’s 2007/08 student-level data to determine how concentrations of English language learner students vary across its schools and by the school characteristics listed above.

Key findings include:

• Schools with smaller concentrations (19 or fewer) of English language learner students were not required to submit disaggregated adequate yearly progress reports that group of students or to implement the state’s new four-hour a day English Language Development pullout program for English language learner students. These schools represented 41 percent of Arizona’s schools.

• Schools with larger concentrations (40 or more) of English language learner students were required to both disaggregate adequate yearly progress data and implement the new English Language Development pullout program. These schools represented 45 percent of Arizona’s schools.

• Schools with 20–39 English language learner students were required to implement the new English Language Development pullout program but not to disaggregate adequate yearly progress data. These schools represented 14 percent of Arizona’s schools.

• Schools with a majority of English language learner students were more prevalent among primary schools than among middle and high schools, among traditional public schools than among alternative and charter schools, and in schools where more than 75 percent of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.

• Schools with no English language learner students were more prevalent in high schools, charter schools, and schools where no students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.

This REL report was released by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in the Institute of Education Sciences.
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Are Texas' English Language Arts and Reading Standards College Ready?


College readiness has recently emerged as a national issue, driven in part by repeated findings that many first-year college students are required to take remedial courses. In response, several sets of national college readiness standards (content statements defining what students should know in specific areas) have been developed. Discussions of comparisons between state and national standards continue to evolve.

This study compares how closely two national standards sets—the ACT and the American Diploma Project (ADP) English language arts and reading college readiness standards — align with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills English language arts and reading (TEKS ELAR) standards for grades 9–12. It finds that:

• A majority of the content in the ACT and ADP college readiness standards sets is addressed to some extent by the TEKS ELAR standards. Specifically, 14 percent of ACT statements and 48 percent of ADP statements fully align with TEKS ELAR statements and 75 percent of ACT statements and 45 percent of ADP statements partially align.

• The TEKS ELAR standards demand higher levels of reasoning (on a four-level cognitive complexity scale) than the ACT or ADP standards. For example, higher levels of reasoning are required to make complex inferences (level 3) than to retrieve facts (level 1).

This study will inform Texas policymakers, state and district educators, English language arts and reading curriculum directors, higher education professionals, and other stakeholders as they examine the alignment and strive to ensure that all Texas students are prepared for college.

This REL report was released by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in the Institute of Education Sciences.
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Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers


Student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, according to a new Economic Policy Institute report, Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers. The paper was co-authored by a group of distinguished education scholars and policy makers, including four former presidents of the American Educational Research Association, a former assistant U.S. Secretary of Education, EPI Research Associate Richard Rothstein, and others. The authors find that the accuracy of these analyses of student test scores is highly problematic. They argue that the practice of holding teachers accountable for their student’s test score results should be reconsidered.

“If new laws or policies specifically require that teachers be fired if their students’ test scores do not rise by a certain amount, then more teachers might well be terminated than is now the case,” the authors state. “But there is not strong evidence to indicate either that the departing teachers would actually be the weakest teachers, or that the departing teachers would be replaced by more effective ones.”

The EPI paper finds that student test scores, even with value-added modeling, cannot fully account for a wide range of factors such as students’ background and the “learning loss” that often occurs over the summer. In fact, while students overall lose an average of about one month in reading achievement over the summer, lower-income students lose significantly more. The value-added modeling also cannot take into account the influence of student’s other teachers, including previous teachers and teachers of other subjects, as well as tutors.

The authors also stress that an excessive focus on the basic math and reading skills that are the focus of standardized tests can lead to a narrowing of school curriculums, at the expense of subjects such as science, history, the arts, civics, foreign languages, writing, and research.

And, they dispel the notion that private-sector employees have long been subject to a similar sort of quantitative performance review.

“Rather, private-sector managers almost always evaluate their professional and lower-management employees based on qualitative reviews by supervisors; quantitative indicators are used sparingly and in tandem with other evidence,” they state. “Management experts warn against significant use of quantitative measures for making salary or bonus decisions.”
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Study Examines Heat Related Illness in High School Athletes


High school athletes are sidelined more than 9,000 days a year because of heat-related illnesses, according to a new CDC analysis.

The analysis, published in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at 2005-2009 data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study. The data covered nine sports and estimated national numbers based on a sample of 100 high schools.

Football was the sport associated with the most heat related illnesses and August was the most common month for them to occur, according to CDC's analysis. The report also found illnesses were most likely to occur during practice, not game time, and more likely to occur among overweight athletes.

The study looked at the incidence of "time-loss heat illness," defined as illness where a player needed at least one day to recover and missed time on the game field.

Heat-related illnesses included heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke – a medical emergency that in the absence of prompt intervention can lead to loss of consciousness, or more permanent serious medical conditions such as neurologic, cardiac, renal, gastrointestinal, hematologic, or muscle dysfunction and subsequently death.

Since 1995, 31 high school football players have died from heat stroke, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

Student athletes, parents, coaches and trainers should be educated about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and about the importance of proper hydration before, during, and after strenuous activity.

Coaches can help by making sure student athletes have time to get used to hot weather, increasing practice duration and intensity gradually over a 14-day period.

Athletes should drink plenty of water and sports beverages to replace water and salt, and take breaks when needed.

For more information: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/ExtremeHeat/
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College and Career Readiness Growing Among ACT-Tested U.S. High School Graduates


ACT-tested U.S. high school graduates appear to be making slow but steady progress at becoming ready for college and career, according to ACT’s annual Condition of College and Career Readiness report for 2010.

The 2010 ACT® test results show a growing percentage of students meeting all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, an increase of 1 percentage point over last year and 3 percentage points over five years ago. This has occurred as the population of ACT-tested graduates has grown to new levels—up by 30 percent since 2006—and become more diverse.

Twenty-four percent of ACT-tested 2010 high school graduates met or surpassed all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, up from 21 percent in 2006 and from 23 percent last year. The percent of graduates ready to succeed in college coursework remains highest in English (66 percent), followed by reading (52 percent), mathematics (43 percent) and science (29 percent).

Much Improvement Still Needed

The ACT report also indicates there is substantial room for improvement in college and career readiness. Among 2010 ACT-tested graduates, a combined total of 43 percent met either none (28 percent) or only one (15 percent) of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. Those students are likely lacking many of the skills needed to be ready to succeed in credit-bearing first-year college courses and in workforce training programs this fall.

ACT Benchmarks Link Scores to Readiness

The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, which are based on the actual grades earned by students in college, give ACT the unique ability to define college and career readiness and report student performance results relative to that goal. The benchmarks specify the minimum scores needed on each ACT subject-area test to indicate that a student has a 50 percent chance of earning a grade of B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in that subject area (English composition, college algebra, introductory social science and biology).

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test that measures the skills and knowledge taught in high school that are deemed essential for college and career readiness.

Impact of Common Core Standards

The ACT results come at a time when much national focus is being placed on adopting and implementing new college and career readiness standards in high school. Many states have already adopted or are in the process of adopting the Common Core State Standards. ACT has been a partner in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, sharing its decades of research and experience to help inform the development of the standards.

This fall, ACT will be issuing a report that examines the current status of college and career readiness in the U.S. based on the Common Core State Standards. The report will be the first of its kind to link actual student achievement to the Common Core State Standards. The report is made possible due to the strong alignment between ACT’s College Readiness Standards and the Common Core State Standards and the fact that several states administer the ACT to all students as part of their statewide assessment programs. The analysis in this report will provide the nation’s first insight into the state of students’ college and career readiness as defined by the Common Core State Standards.

Greatly Expanding Pool of ACT-Tested Students

The gradual growth in overall college readiness has occurred as the number of ACT-tested graduates has grown steadily and substantially. Nearly 1.6 million students—almost half (47 percent) of all 2010 U.S. high school graduates—took the ACT, up from 1.2 million (40 percent of all graduates) in 2006. The 2010 total is up 6 percent from last year.

Coupled with the growth in the number of test-takers has been increasing diversity in the demographic makeup of the testing pool. Ethnic/racial minority students this year made up 29 percent of all ACT-tested graduates, up from 23 percent in 2006. The most remarkable growth was in the number of Hispanic graduates tested, which has nearly doubled (up by 84 percent) since 2006, from fewer than 86,000 to nearly 158,000 students.

In addition, numerous states, recognizing that a comparable level of skills are needed for readiness in college and in workforce training programs, are now using the ACT to assess learning for all students. In the past five years, participation in the ACT in Michigan, Kentucky, Wyoming and Tennessee has risen to include virtually all graduates, rather than only college-bound students. These states joined Colorado and Illinois in offering the ACT to all public school 11th graders as part of statewide assessment programs. North Dakota began the same practice this past spring, and three other states—Arkansas, Texas and Utah—have been or will soon begin offering the ACT to all school districts at state expense.

High School Course Selection Vital

The ACT score results once again show a strong relationship between high school course taking and college and career readiness. Students who took the recommended minimum core curriculum in high school—four years of English and three years each of mathematics, science and social studies—were much more likely than those who took less than the core requirements to meet or surpass the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in each subject area. Students who took additional courses beyond the core curriculum were even more likely to achieve the benchmark scores.

The largest curriculum-based difference in college and career readiness was in the area of mathematics. More than half (55 percent) of the students who took more than three years of math in high school met or surpassed the College Readiness Benchmark score in math, compared to 13 percent of those who took just three years of math and only 7 percent who took fewer than three years.

Average ACT Composite Score

While there have been more students meeting all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks over the past five years, the average ACT composite score has remained essentially unchanged. The national average composite score this year was 21.0, down slightly from 21.1 in three of the past five years. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score.

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Hispanic Students Show Increase in College Readiness


High School Core Course Selection Key to Success

Growing numbers of Hispanic U.S. high school graduates have taken the ACT college admission and placement exam, and they are making progress in becoming college and career ready, according to the ACT College and Career Readiness report. At the same time, the findings point to considerable room for improvement in college and career readiness among Hispanic students.

Eleven percent of ACT-tested 2010 Hispanic high school graduates met all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, which are linked to success in specific first-year college courses. That figure is up from nine percent in 2006, even as the number of Hispanic students who took the exam nearly doubled since that time, increasing by almost 84 percent. Close to 158,000 Hispanic 2010 graduates took the ACT among the nearly 1.6 million high school graduates tested across the nation, compared to fewer than 86,000 Hispanic test-takers five years ago.

Greatly Expanding Pool of ACT-Tested Hispanic Students

Ethnic/racial minority students this year made up 29 percent of all ACT-tested graduates, up from 23 percent in 2006. Hispanic test-takers represented the largest increase among all high school graduates who have taken the college admission and placement test since 2006, a sign that plans to attend college are a growing trend among Hispanic students.

Hispanic college and career readiness rates still lag

While slightly higher this year, the percentage of Hispanic students who met all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks still lags behind when compared with the entire pool of test-takers. Twenty-four percent of all ACT-tested 2010 high school graduates met or surpassed all four of ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks, including 39 percent of Asian American graduates, 30 percent of White students, 12 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native graduates and 4 percent of African American students.

The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, based on actual grades earned by students in college, give ACT the unique ability to define college and career readiness and report student performance results relative to that goal. The benchmarks specify the minimum score needed on each ACT subject-area test to indicate that a student has a 50 percent chance of earning a grade of B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher in a typical first-year, credit-bearing college course in that subject area (English composition, college algebra, introductory social science, and biology).

The percent of Hispanic graduates who meet or surpass the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks is the highest in English (46 percent), followed by reading (34 percent), mathematics (27 percent) and science (14 percent). About half of Hispanic high school graduates did not met any of the four ACT benchmark scores.

This year’s average ACT composite score among Hispanic graduates was 18.6, down one-tenth of a point from the past three years but unchanged from 2006.

High School Course Selection Vital

The level of academic preparation is a key element for high school graduates becoming ready for college and career. Sixty-eight percent of Hispanic ACT-tested graduates took at least the recommended minimum core curriculum in high school—four years of English and three years each of mathematics, science, and social studies. Those students were approximately twice as likely as those who took less than the core curriculum to meet or surpass the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in each subject area.
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America’s Public Schools Fail Over Half the Nation’s Black Male Students


The Overwhelming Majority of U.S. School Districts and States Are Failing to Provide the Resources Black Males Need to Close the National Racial Graduation Gap

Report Also Highlights Measures Needed to Address This National Crisis

"Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education” reveals that the overall 2007/8 graduation rate for Black males in the U.S. was only 47 percent. Half of the states have graduation rates for Black male students below the national average. The report highlights concerns that New York's graduation rate for its Regents diploma is only 25 percent for Black male students. New York City, the district with the nation's highest enrollment of Black students, only graduates 28 percent of its Black male students with Regents diplomas on time. Overall, each year over 100,000 Black male students in New York City alone do not graduate from high school with their entering cohort. These statistics—and the other alarming data—point to a national education and economic crisis.

The fourth biennial report released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education provides state-by-state data that illustrate which U.S. school districts and states are failing to provide the resources Black male students, and all students, need for the opportunity to learn. Without targeted investments to provide the core, research-proven resources to help Black male students succeed in public education, the report concludes, they are being set up to fail.

The report highlights the success of New Jersey’s Abbott plan, which demonstrates that when equitable resources are available to all students, systemic change at the state level can yield significant results. New Jersey is now the only state with a significant Black population with a greater than 65 percent high school graduation rate for Black male students.

“Taken together, the numbers in the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s report form a nightmarish picture?one that is all the more frightening for being both true and long-standing,” said Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, who provided the foreword in the report. “These boys are failing, but I believe that it is the responsibility of the adults around them to turn these trajectories around. All of us must ensure that we level the playing field for the hundreds of thousands of children who are at risk of continuing the cycle of generational poverty. The key to success is EDUCATION.”

“It is not enough to focus on saving the few. We must focus on systemic change to provide all our children the opportunity to learn,” said Dr. John H. Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

Highlights of the report’s findings include:

The five worst performing districts with large Black male student enrollment (exceeding 40,000) are New York City, N.Y. (28%); Philadelphia, Pa. (28%); Detroit, Mich. (27%); Broward County, Fla. (39%); Dade County, Fla. (27%).
The states with Black male student enrollment exceeding 100,000 that have the highest graduation rates for Black male students are New Jersey (69%), Maryland (55%), California (54%) and Pennsylvania (53%).
Some states with small populations, such as Maine, North Dakota, New Hampshire and Vermont have graduation rates for Black males higher than the national average for White males.
The districts with Black male student enrollment exceeding 10,000 that have highest graduation rates for Black male students are Newark, N.J. (76%); Fort Bend, Texas (68%); Baltimore County, Md. (67%) and Montgomery County, Md. (65%).
The districts with the lowest graduation rates for Black male students are Pinellas County, Fla. (21%); Palm Beach County, Fla. (22%); Duval County, Fla. (23%); Charleston County, S.C. (24%) and Buffalo, N.Y. (25%).
Dade County, Fla.; Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Mich. also have notably low graduation rates for Black male students - each at 27 percent.
The report outlines solutions - listing the “Conditions for Success” that are critical for providing a fair and substantive opportunity to learn and the “Conditions for Failure.” “Yes We Can” calls on the federal government and states to ensure that all students have a right to an opportunity to learn, not as a matter of competition or location, but as a civil and human right.

This report is being released in a context of significant critiques of the failed policies that led to this national crisis.

The report concludes: The American educational system is systemically failing Black males.

"By providing these data, we hope to provide educational advocates and policymakers the platform needed to make policy decisions that are educationally sound, not politically feasible. America and its states and communities will not thrive in the 21st century without providing all students—including Black males—a fair and substantive opportunity to learn," said Jackson.

For the full report, “Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education,” including national summary and detailed state data, go to www.blackboysreport.org.
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Poll Underscores Need for Better Professional Development


PDK/Gallup poll ranks teacher quality as nation's top education issue; cites professional development as key tool

Improving the quality of our nation's teachers is the nation's top education priority, and providing quality professional development is viewed as critical to achieving this goal, the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll has found.

The annual poll, administered for the Phi Delta Kappa professional association by the Gallup organization, indicates that parents view teacher learning as a critical factor in improving outcomes for students.

"The findings of the PDK/Gallup poll demonstrate that the public recognizes professional development is key to offering quality teaching and improving student performance," said Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director of the National Staff Development Council.

"Education stakeholders from classroom teachers to superintendents and elected officials can use these findings as incentives to shift professional development from an occasional event to a cycle of continuous improvement that is grounded in research, addresses student performance data and is incorporated seamlessly into every school day," Hirsh added.

Nearly half of the respondents – 44 percent – ranked "having teachers spend more time learning new ways to teach" as the tactic that would have the greatest impact on improving student learning. Respondents also routinely selected "improving teacher quality" as the single most important need for our nation's schools.

The National Staff Development Council is working to advance legislation pending in Congress – HR 5218, the Great Teachers for Great Schools Act – that would enhance the national definition of professional development to help expand access to high-quality, continuous, and data-driven teacher support in schools throughout the nation.

"The respondents of the poll understand what educators and parents have been saying for years: when teachers learn, students learn," said Ingrid Carney, NSDC president and former deputy superintendent of schools in Boston. "High-quality professional learning on the job offers our best chance for improving the knowledge and skills of our current educator workforce."
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USDA-backed study finds federal school lunches linked to childhood obesity


Possible factors: Tight budgets, lack of compliance, a la carte items

With children going back to school, parents are concerned that their youngsters are staying fit and eating right, especially those who dine in a school cafeteria.

New research funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that children who eat school lunches that are part of the federal government's National School Lunch Program are more likely to become overweight.

The same research study found, however, that children who eat both the breakfast and lunch sponsored by the federal government are less heavy than children who don't participate in either, and than children who eat only the lunch, says economist Daniel L. Millimet at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Millimet authored the study with economists Rusty Tchernis, Georgia State University, and Muna S. Hussain, Kuwait University. For a link to the journal article and to more information see http://tinyurl.com/2874wqn.

"The fact that federally funded school lunches contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic is disconcerting, although not altogether surprising," said Millimet, whose research expertise is the economics of children, specifically topics related to schooling and health.

The new study was published in the Summer issue of The Journal of Human Resources. It is titled "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the federal lunch and breakfast programs. Through USDA the federal government reimburses schools for a portion of school lunch costs and also donates surplus agricultural food items. While USDA does require that the meals meet certain nutritional standards, schools choose the specific foods.

A la carte items outside the guidelines Schools also can serve individual food items a la carte, which fall outside the scope of the federal guidelines and allow students to choose additional foods.

For their study, the researchers analyzed data on more than 13,500 elementary school students. Students were interviewed in kindergarten, first and third grades, and then again in later grades. "First, it is very difficult to plan healthy but inviting school lunches at a low price," Millimet said. "Second, given the tight budgets faced by many school districts, funding from the sales of a la carte lunch items receives high priority. That said, it's comforting to know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal school nutrition programs, takes the issue very seriously. The USDA sponsors not only my research, but that of others as well, to investigate the issues and possible solutions."

The USDA is partnering with First Lady Michelle Obama to fight what experts say is a childhood obesity epidemic among America's school children. The First Lady on May 18 released the results and recommendations of The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report, which said that more than 30 percent of American children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese. The report recommends serving healthier foods in schools.

Lunches may not be in compliance

Judging from the results of the study, Millimet said, the food being served in school lunches may not maintain a healthy weight in children. The food in school breakfasts appears to be healthier, however.

"Technically what is going on is that the federal government establishes nutrition guidelines for lunches and breakfasts if schools wish to receive federal funding," Millimet said. "But there's evidence that school lunches are less in compliance with these guidelines than breakfasts. The other possible issue is that these days schools try to make money from a la carte items at lunch. And it's possible that even if the school lunch is healthy, kids buying lunch are more likely to tack on extra items that are not healthy."

Nutritionists strongly advocate eating breakfast for a healthy lifestyle, Millimet said, noting that — up to a point — any breakfast is better than no breakfast.

The National Student Lunch Program supplies meals to about 30 million children in 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools, according to the USDA.

The School Breakfast Program gives cash assistance to more than 80,000 schools for about 10 million children.

Obesity among students takes jump

The study cites data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey taken between 1971 and 1974 and again from 2003 to 2004 that found the prevalence of overweight preschool children ages 2-5 jumped from 5 percent to 13.9 percent. Among school-aged children, it jumped from 4 percent to 18.8 percent for children 6-11; and 6.1 percent to 17.4 percent for those 12-19.
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New Fordham report highlights best and worst cities for school reform


New Orleans, Washington, and NYC top list; San Diego, Philadelphia, Gary, and Detroit bring up rear.

America’s Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform: Attracting Entrepreneurs and Change Agents

Which American cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish and which have not? In an exploratory study of 30 major cities, nine reform‐friendly locales surged to the front: New Orleans, Washington D.C., New York City, Denver, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth. Six cities
trailed far behind: San Jose, San Diego, Albany, Philadelphia, Gary, and Detroit. Letter grades range from B to F.

The study examines six domains that are crucial to a reform‐friendly climate: 1) access to a steady flow of talented individuals; 2) a pipeline of readily accessible funding from public and private sources; 3) a thriving charter‐school market; 4) attention to quality‐control metrics that guide and regulate entrepreneurial ventures; 5) openness to nontraditional providers and reforms at the district level; and 6) similar openness at the municipal level.

Among the key findings:
• No cities earned an “A” grade. There were nine B's, 11 C's, and 5 D's. Detroit was the sole F. (Four cities did not receive grades, due to insufficient data.)

• Scores were generally highest on the funding and municipal environment fronts.
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Steps to Curb High School Drop-Out Rate


A Gonzaga University School of Education research team has submitted its final report commissioned by Priority Spokane. The research focused on the experience of middle school students, inside and outside the classroom. The report provides recommendations on school/community strategies that could improve graduation rates in Spokane high schools. The research was funded with a grant from the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Community Foundation (INWCF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Following are the report’s major recommendations.

The full report.

The team conducted the research in three phases: Phase I developed a list of evidence-based strategies and an analytical framework to evaluate the situation in Spokane. Phase II identified specific models and programs that have implemented the strategies, and developed cost estimates and a review of potential revenue sources to fund the strategies. In Phase III, the research team engaged in dialogue with local stakeholders in the schools and the local community who work with middle-school students to determine programs offered to middle-school students in Spokane Public Schools.

The initial phase of research generated three themes and strategies that had been shown to improve graduation rates: the Dropout Early Warning System (DEWS), High Academic Expectations and Achievement, and Social Support. Details on these strategies can be found throughout the online report. Using these themes and strategies as benchmarks, the team investigated specific model programs that used the strategies. The following recommendations emerged:

Dropout Early Warning System (DEWS)

The literature indicates broad support for development of a local data-based early warning system. The researchers proposed a longitudinal study of dropouts be conducted to build an accurate early warning system for SPS. The early warning system, once built, will help identify high-risk students, provide means to track students’ success, and serve as a source of rich data to help make decisions for community-based programs seeking to serve this population, the research team concluded.

High Academic Expectations/Achievement

The team found the notion of high academic expectations/achievement key to improving graduation rates. The report offers specific recommendations for the ongoing alignment with key reform templates, specifically the importance of teaming. Research on student achievement in math and English support another important recommendation regarding the value of providing enrichment and more time in these crucial content areas. The team also urges continuing development of Extended Learning Opportunities with an evaluation loop to determine the impact interventions (determined by a well-informed DEWS system) have as related to supporting on-track achievement.

Social Support

The researchers concluded that creating an environment in which all SPS students can access the support and resources they need to succeed will take an effective DEWS, well-coordinated and integrated student support services at schools, and strong and creative collaborations between the schools and community partners. Some promising models are already present in the Spokane community to translate this data into effective and comprehensive interventions that integrate the evidence-based strategies listed in this report, the researchers said. Those models include: mentoring and adult advocacy; family engagement; safe and supportive environment; middle-school to high-school transition; and collaboration between the school and the community. The researchers recommend these models be supported and expanded where possible.

The Spokane community has shown an acute awareness of its graduation rate. Many school, government, business and community-based agencies have shown the willingness and capacity to address this issue. This report provides support for many of the evidence-based practices that are being enacted and developed toward this end of improving graduation rates.
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Revenues and Expenditures by Public School Districts: School Year 2007-08


This brief publication contains data on revenues and expenditures per pupil made by school districts for school year 2007-08. Median per pupil revenue and expenditure data are reported by state, as well as values at the 5th and 95th percentiles. Data for charter schools are reported separately. There are also discussions on the different types of school districts, and other resources that may be helpful in analyzing school district level data. Revenues and expenditures for the 100 largest school districts are included, as well as federal revenues by program. For total revenues and expenditures for public education made by states and the nation, readers should refer to the state-level "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2007-08" (NCES 2010-326)

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Growing up without siblings doesn’t seem to be a disadvantage for teenagers when it comes to social skills, new research suggests.

A study of more than 13,000 middle and high school students across the country found that “only children” were selected as friends by their schoolmates just as often as were peers who grew up with brothers and sisters.

“I don’t think anyone has to be concerned that if you don’t have siblings, you won’t learn the social skills you need to get along with other students in high school,” said Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University’s Marion campus.

;Kids interact in school, they’re participating in extracurricular activities, and they’re socializing in and out of school,” she said. “Anyone who didn’t have that peer interaction at home with siblings gets a lot of opportunities to develop social skills as they go through school.”

Bobbitt-Zeher conducted the study with Douglas Downey, professor of sociology at Ohio State.  They presented their research Aug. 16 in Atlanta at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The concern that a lack of siblings might hurt children’s social skills has become more significant in recent years, Bobbitt-Zeher said.

“As family sizes get smaller in industrialized countries, there is concern about what it might mean for society as more children grow up without brothers and sisters,” she said.

“The fear is that they may be losing something by not learning social skills through interacting with siblings.”

In fact, a 2004 study by this study’s co-author, Douglas Downey, did find that children without siblings showed poorer social skills in kindergarten compared with those who had at least one sibling.

This new study was designed to see if that advantage to having siblings persists as children become adolescents.

Data from the study came from the National Study of Adolescent Health (ADD Health), which interviewed students in grades 7 through 12 at more than 100 schools nationwide during the 1994-95 academic year.

ADD Health used an innovative way to examine friendship among these students: each student was given a roster of all students at their school, and was asked to identify up to five male and five female friends.

“This allows us to consider how popular a student is by counting how many times peers identified him or her as a friend,” Bobbitt-Zeher said.

Overall, students in the study were nominated by an average of five other schoolmates as a friend.  There were no significant differences in that number between those who had siblings, and those who had none.

The researchers examined a wide variety of situations and still found no difference.  The number of siblings a teen had didn’t matter, and it didn’t matter if those siblings were brothers, sisters or some combination, or if they were stepsiblings, half-siblings or adopted siblings.

“In every combination we tested, siblings had no impact on how popular a student was among peers,” she said.

There is also a concern that parents who have large families are somehow different than other parents, and this may influence how popular their children are.  So the researchers took into account a wide variety of other factors, including socioeconomic status, parents’ age, race, and whether a teen lives with both biological parents or not.  None of these factors changed the relationship between number of siblings and social skills.

Why did this study find no effect of siblings on social skills, while Downey’s earlier study of kindergarteners did?

Bobbitt-Zeher noted that the two studies had different methods for estimating social skills, which may have played a role.  The earlier study of kindergarteners was based on teacher ratings of social skills, while the teen study used friendship nominations by peers.

But more importantly, Bobbitt-Zeher said she believes that children learn a lot about getting along with others between kindergarten and high school.

“Kids interact in school, they’re participating in extracurricular activities, and they’re socializing in and out of school,” she said.

“Anyone who didn’t have that peer interaction at home with siblings gets a lot of opportunities to develop social skills as they go through school.”

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Study suggests boys and girls not as different as previously thought


Although girls tend to hang out in smaller, more intimate groups than boys, this difference vanishes by the time children reach the eighth grade, according to a new study by a Michigan State University psychologist.

The findings, which appear in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, suggest “girls and boys aren’t as different as we think they are,” said Jennifer Watling Neal, assistant professor of psychology.

Neal’s study is one of the first to look at how girls’ and boys’ peer networks develop across grades. Because children’s peer-group structure can promote negative behaviors like bullying and positive behaviors like helping others, she said it’s important for researchers to have a clear picture of what these peer groups look like.

“Although we tend to think that girls’ and boys’ peer groups are structured differently, these differences disappear as children get older,” Neal said.

The reason may have to do with an increased interaction with the opposite sex.

“Younger boys and girls tend to play in same-sex peer groups,” Neal said. “But every parent can relate to that moment when their son or daughter suddenly takes an interest, whether social or romantic, in the opposite sex.”

The question of whether girls hang out in smaller groups than boys is controversial, with past research providing mixed results.

Neal examined peer relationships of third- through eighth-grade students at a Chicago school and found that girls in the younger grades did, indeed, tend to flock together in smaller, more intimate groups than boys.

But that difference disappeared by the eighth grade. While the size of boys’ peer groups remained relatively stable, girls’ peer groups became progressively larger in later grades.

Neal said further research is needed to confirm the results by examining a single group of children over time.
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Online Professional Development Aids Teachers and Students


English and math teachers who took professional development courses online improved their instructional practices and boosted their subject knowledge scores, producing modest performance gains for their students, report Boston College researchers in one of the first large-scale randomized experiments to study the impact of online professional development for educators.

As teacher performance comes under increased scrutiny, the findings point to online professional development as a powerful option to improve teacher quality, according to the report from the Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative, a unit of BC’s Lynch School of Education and its Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Policy (CSTEEP).

“A series of online professional development courses that focus on specific content and target student learning needs can have positive effects on teacher knowledge and instructional practices,” said Boston College Associate Professor of Education Laura O’Dwyer. “The studies also show that teacher participation in online professional development can translate into improvements in targeted student outcomes.”

The four studies were conducted in waves over a period of three years and involved approximately 330 teachers and 7,000 students across 13 states. During the course of three school semesters, teachers randomly assigned to the treatment group completed three online courses – each led by a trainer specifically prepared to teach each unit – and put in an average of 100 hours of training focused on three areas: content knowledge, incorporating that knowledge into instruction, and classroom skills. Teachers who received the training and their students were compared to teachers who were randomly assigned to the control group and their students.

“As states are discussing the implications of common education standards proposed by the U.S. Department of Education, the findings from these four randomized trials suggest that online professional development may be a viable and cost effective means of improving teacher knowledge and ultimately student outcomes” said O’Dwyer.

The researchers found improvement in instructional practices and content knowledge across all groups of teachers in the subjects of fourth and seventh grade English and fifth and eighth grade mathematics, according to the team, which included O’Dwyer, Lynch School Associate Professor Michael Russell, and research associates Jessica Masters, Sheralyn Dash, Raquel Magidin De Kramer, and Andrea Humez.

However, gains for students were not quite so uniform. For instance, fourth grade English teachers showed improvement in teaching practices in the sub areas of writing, vocabulary and reading comprehension. But while students of these teachers showed modest overall gains in their English subject knowledge, they did not make significant gains in the sub areas of reading comprehension and writing.

The reasons behind the spotty student results could be tied to the timing of the data collection and the degree to which teachers had time to implement the knowledge and classroom practices they acquired through the online professional development.

Russell, the study director, said the findings show e-learning for educators should be looked at as an option to assisting teachers in remote settings and to help schools build capacity in subjects plagued by a shortage of highly qualified teachers.

“This set of studies included educators working in a variety of settings and demonstrates that on-line professional development is an effective approach for improving teaching and learning in remote areas and high-need schools,” said Russell. “Given the positive effects found across these studies, it is reasonable to expect that on-line professional development is an effective strategy for supporting teaching in difficult-to-staff content areas, like mathematics and science.”

The studies are part of the e-Learning for Educators Project, a 10-state initiative designed to expand each state’s capacity to deliver high-quality online professional development that improves teacher quality and student achievement. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the Ready to Teach funding program.
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Nearly 1 million young. immature children potentially misdiagnosed with ADHD


Nearly 1 million children in the United States are potentially misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest – and most immature – in their kindergarten class, according to new research by a Michigan State University economist.

These children are significantly more likely than their older classmates to be prescribed behavior-modifying stimulants such as Ritalin, said Todd Elder, whose study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Health Economics.

Such inappropriate treatment is particularly worrisome because of the unknown impacts of long-term stimulant use on children’s health, Elder said. It also wastes an estimated $320 million-$500 million a year on unnecessary medication – some $80 million-$90 million of it paid by Medicaid, he said.

Elder said the “smoking gun” of the study is that ADHD diagnoses depend on a child’s age relative to classmates and the teacher’s perceptions of whether the child has symptoms.

“If a child is behaving poorly, if he’s inattentive, if he can’t sit still, it may simply be because he’s 5 and the other kids are 6,” said Elder, assistant professor of economics. “There’s a big difference between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD.”

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder for kids in the United States, with at least 4.5 million diagnoses among children under age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, there are no neurological markers for ADHD (such as a blood test), and experts disagree on its prevalence, fueling intense public debate about whether ADHD is under-diagnosed or over-diagnosed, Elder said.

Using a sample of nearly 12,000 children, Elder examined the difference in ADHD diagnosis and medication rates between the youngest and oldest children in a grade. The data is from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort, which is funded by the National Center for Education Statistics.

According to Elder’s study, the youngest kindergartners were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same grade. Similarly, when that group of classmates reached the fifth and eighth grades, the youngest were more than twice as likely to be prescribed stimulants.

Overall, the study found that about 20 percent – or 900,000 – of the 4.5 million children currently identified as having ADHD likely have been misdiagnosed.

Elder used the students’ birth dates and the states’ kindergarten eligibility cutoff dates to determine the youngest and oldest students in a grade. The most popular cutoff date in the nation is Sept. 1, with 15 states mandating that children must turn 5 on or before that date to attend kindergarten.

The results – both from individual states and when compared across states – were definitive. For instance, in Michigan – where the kindergarten cutoff date is Dec. 1 – students born Dec. 1 had much higher rates of ADHD than children born Dec. 2. (The students born Dec. 1 were the youngest in their grade; the students born Dec. 2 enrolled a year later and were the oldest in their grade.)

Thus, even though the students were a single day apart in age, they were assessed differently simply because they were compared against classmates of a different age set, Elder said.

In another example, August-born kindergartners in Illinois were much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than Michigan kindergartners born in August of the same year as their Illinois counterparts. That’s because Illinois’ kindergarten cutoff date is Sept. 1, meaning those August-born children were the youngest in their grade, whereas the Michigan students were not.

According to the study, a diagnosis of ADHD requires evidence of multiple symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity, with these symptoms persisting for six or more months – and in at least two settings – before the age of seven. The settings include home and school.

Although teachers cannot diagnose ADHD, their opinions are instrumental in decisions to send a child to be evaluated by a mental health professional, Elder said.

“Many ADHD diagnoses may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of poor behavior among the youngest children in a kindergarten classroom,” he said. “But these ‘symptoms’ may merely reflect emotional or intellectual immaturity among the youngest students.”

The paper will be published in the Journal of Health Economics in conjunction with a related paper by researchers at North Carolina State University, Notre Dame and the University of Minnesota that arrives at similar conclusions as the result of a separate study.
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Preschoolers Use Statistics to Understand Others


Children are natural psychologists. By the time they’re in preschool, they understand that other people have desires, preferences, beliefs, and emotions. But how they learn this isn’t clear. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that children figure out another person’s preferences by using a topic you’d think they don’t encounter until college: statistics.

In one experiment, children aged 3 and 4 saw a puppet named “Squirrel” remove five toys of the same type from a container full of toys and happily play with them. Across children, the toys that Squirrel removed were the same (for example, all five were blue flowers). What varied, however, were the contents of the container. For one-third of the children, 100 percent of the toys were the same type (so, in this example, all were blue flowers). For another third of the children, only 50 percent were that type (that is, half were blue flowers and half were red circles). Finally, for the last third of the children only 18 percent were of that type (that is, 82 percent were red circles). Later on, children were asked to give Squirrel a toy that he likes. The children were more likely to give Squirrel the blue flowers if he had selected them out of the container that had other toys in it.

More amazingly, the proportion of other toys mattered as well; they gave Squirrel the blue flowers more when the container included only 18 percent blue flowers, and slightly less often when the container had 50 percent blue flowers. When the container had 100 percent blue flowers, they gave him toys at random. That means the child inferred that the puppet liked blue flowers best if the sample of five toys didn’t match the proportion of toys in the population (the container). This is a statistical phenomenon known as non-random sampling.

In another experiment, 18- to 24-month-olds also learned about the preferences of an adult experimenter from non-random sampling. They watched the adult choose five toys that were either 18 percent or 82 percent of the toys in a box. The adult played happily with the toy either way, but the toddler only concluded that the adult had a preference if they’d picked the toys from a box in which that toy was scarce.

Of course, statistical information isn’t the only way children learn about the preferences of other people. Emotion and verbalization are also important—but this is a new cue that no one had identified before, says Tamar Kushnir of Cornell University. She carried out the study with Fei Xu of the University of California, Berkeley and Henry M. Wellman of the University of Michigan.

“Babies are amazing,” says Kushnir. “Babies and children are like little scientists. Mostly they learn by observing and experiencing the world. Just let them do it. Later on, there will be time for formal instruction, but when they’re really young, this sort of informal learning is critical.”
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Homework wars: How can parents improve the odds of winning?


Children are more likely to do their homework if they see it as an investment, not a chore, according to new research at the University of Michigan.

Most children in the United States say they expect to go to college, but there is frequently a gap between students' goals and their current behavior, according to the study conducted by U-M graduate student Mesmin Destin and Daphna Oyserman, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), School of Social Work, and Department of Psychology. The gap can be especially wide among low-income and African American students, the study says.

The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

The researchers conducted two studies among middle-school children in the Detroit area. In the first study, they asked 266 students about the jobs they saw themselves having as adults. "Think about yourself as an adult, what job do you think you'll have? What will you be doing in 10 years?"

Nine out of 10 children expected to attend at least a two-year college, but only 46 percent saw themselves as having an education-dependent adult identity. Those who did invested more time in homework and got better grades over the course of the school year.

"Even among children with the same starting grades, expecting to be a teacher, an engineer, or a nurse when you grow up predicts that they'll invest more time in homework," said Oyserman. "And, not surprisingly, they will have better grades over time than children who expect to have a job in sports, entertainment, or other areas that don't depend on having an education."

In the second study, the researchers worked with a group of 295 students and their teachers in science classrooms. The researchers presented information to the students about either the education-dependent earnings of college degree recipients, or about the earnings of actors, musicians, and sports figures.

Then the students answered questions about how they planned to spend their time that evening, and students marked how much time they would spend on homework or studying among other activities such as sports, music, or online activities. After the researchers left the classroom, teachers assigned students an extra-credit assignment relevant to current class material.

Children who saw how adult earnings were related to education were eight times more likely to do the extra credit homework as those who saw the presentation showing adult earnings independent of amount of education.

Taken together, these studies show that a small but powerful intervention showing how much education matters is likely to have a major effect on the likelihood that children will spend time on schoolwork. They are more likely to be seen as an investment in their futures, not a chore that interferes with their lives.

"Our results also inform an ongoing debate about the academic value of athletic participation for low-income and minority youth. Despite apparent benefits for academic achievement and outcomes for more privileged youth, national survey data do not show that athletic participation has positive effects for urban and minority youth, or female and rural Latino youth. Our results agree with these data.

"We find that very subtle cues can influence academic performance. Failing to see connections between adult identities and current actions puts children at risk of low effort in school. And waiting until low-income and minority children are in high school to make these connections increases the chance they'll already be too far behind to make it to college."
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Victims of bullying suffer academically as well


Students who are bullied regularly do substantially worse in school, UCLA psychologists report in a special issue of the Journal of Early Adolescence devoted to academic performance and peer relationships.

The UCLA study was conducted with 2,300 students in 11 Los Angeles–area public middle schools and their teachers. Researchers asked the students to rate whether or not they get bullied on a four-point scale and to list which of their fellow students were bullied the most — physically, verbally and as the subject of nasty rumors.

A high level of bullying was consistently associated with lower grades across the three years of middle school. The students who were rated the most-bullied performed substantially worse academically than their peers. Projecting the findings on grade-point average across all three years of middle school, a one-point increase on the four-point bullying scale was associated with a 1.5-point decrease in GPA for one academic subject (e.g., math) — a very large drop.

Teachers provided ratings on how engaged the students were academically, including whether they were participating in class discussions, showing interest in class and completing their homework. The researchers collected data on the students twice a year throughout the three years of middle school and examined the students' grades.

The study is published Aug. 19 in the journal's online edition; the print edition will be published at a later date.

"We cannot address low achievement in school while ignoring bullying, because the two are frequently linked," said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study. "Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. Some students may get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied. Teachers can misinterpret their silence, thinking that these students are not motivated to learn.

"Students who get bullied run the risk of not coming to school, not liking school, perceiving school more negatively and now — based on this study — doing less well academically," said Juvonen, who is also a professor in UCLA's developmental psychology program. "But the link between bullying and achievement can work both ways. The students who are doing poorly are at higher risk for getting bullied, and any student who gets bullied may become a low achiever. Whether bullying happens on school grounds or after school hours on the Internet, it can paralyze students from concentrating on academics."

The research is part of a long-term UCLA bullying project led by UCLA education professor Sandra Graham (who is not a co-author on this study) and Juvonen, which is funded federally by the National Science Foundation and privately by the William T. Grant Foundation.

"Instruction cannot be effective unless the students are ready to learn, and that includes not being fearful of raising your hand in class and speaking up," said Juvonen, who has been studying bullying for more than a decade. "Once students get labeled as 'dumb,' they get picked on and perform even worse; there's a downward cycle that we need to stop.

"If the academically low-performing students are at higher risk for getting bullied, that suggests one way to reduce bullying is to help those students academically," she added. "Once they get into the cycle of being bullied because of their poor academic performance, their chances of doing better academically are worse."

Reducing bullying is a "collective challenge," she said, and not just a matter of dealing with a few aggressive students. The UCLA team's prior findings show that in middle school, bullies are considered "cool' by their classmates. The high social status of bullies promotes a "norm of meanness that needs to be addressed." Bullying affects millions of students, Juvonen said.

Of the students in the study, approximately 44 percent were Latino, 26 percent were African American, 10 percent were Asian American, 10 percent were white and 10 percent were multi-racial. Fifty-four percent were female and 46 percent were male.

Some anti-bullying programs are comprehensive and effective, while some schools rely on a number of "quick fixes" that do not work, according to Juvonen. Teachers need training in how to address bullying, she said.

Co-authors on the Journal of Early Adolescence study are UCLA psychology graduate students Yueyan Wang and Guadalupe Espinoza. The journal offers new perspectives on pivotal developmental issues among young teenagers.

In previous research, Juvonen and her colleagues found that nearly three in four teenagers were bullied online at least once during a recent 12-month period, and only one in 10 reported such cyber-bullying to parents or other adults. The probability of getting bullied online is substantially higher for those who have been the victims of school bullying. Victims of bullying do not want to attend school and often do not, Juvonen said.

In research from 2005 by Juvonen and Adrienne Nishina, an assistant professor of human development at UC Davis, nearly half the sixth graders at two Los Angeles–area public schools said they were bullied by classmates during a five-day period. In another 2005 study, Nishina and Juvonen reported that middle school students who are bullied in school are likely to feel depressed and lonely, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to further bullying.

Children who are embarrassed or humiliated about being bullied in school are unlikely to discuss it with their parents or teachers, Juvonen and Nishina found. Instead, they are more likely to suffer in silence and dislike school.

Juvonen advises parents to talk with their children about bullying before it ever happens, pay attention to changes in their children's behavior and take their concerns seriously.

Students who get bullied often have headaches, colds and other physical illnesses, as well as psychological problems.
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Four Lessons From New York's Test Results


by Gordon MacInnes, a fellow at The Century Foundation

New York State Chancellor Meryl Tisch and Commissioner of Education Joseph Steiner deserve the "Whistle Blower of the Year" award for laying bare the deception and softness of state standards and testing. In releasing the 2010 state test results on July 28, they expose the majority of states that have been lowering proficiency standards as a part of the No Child Left Behind game. Their effort to align New York's tests to what students need to be college-ready sets an example for every state and, one hopes, federal education officials.

One would be hard-pressed to argue with the assumptions behind New York's new policies. First, the goal of a public school education should be college readiness. With half of "high-need" students not finishing high school and one quarter of first-year college students requiring remedial course work, this goal is obviously not being met. Second, the state's curricular standards should be aligned with what high school graduates need to succeed in college. Third, assessments of those standards should provide a reliable indicator if a student is on the path to college readiness, i.e., if deemed proficient on 8th grade math that there is a strong chance that he or she - with continued effort - will pass the Regents examination and gain admission to college.

In raising the bar, New York ends the fantasy about swift and dramatic gains in student achievement. Not surprisingly, the consequences are most severe for low-income, black and Latino students:

- The percentage of economically disadvantaged students in grades 3-8 scoring "proficient" or advanced proficient declined from 66.9 percent in 2009 to 39.1 percent in 2010;

- The percentage of English Learners found below basic more than quadrupled from 9.2 percent in 2009 to 39.4 percent in 2010;

- The percentage of black students scoring proficient or better tumbled from 64.3 percent to 34.4 percent; and,

- The fall was deepest for students in charter schools, the percentage of whom scoring proficient or better fell from 76.1 to 43.0 percent.

The sensible honesty of the New York leadership deserves national attention, particularly from advocates of "transformational reform."

Lesson One: Claims of rapid, consistent, and sustainable gains for concentrations of students from poor families should be received with skepticism.

Mayor Bloomberg's 2009 campaign trumpeted the sharp gains made by New York City students under mayoral control of the schools. In fact, New York City students have made modest - not dramatic - progress as measured by scale scores and by comparison with other big city districts in New York. However, most of the progress of NYC students is explained by the State's poorly designed tests that changed little year-to-year and by too-low proficiency standards. The 2010 results also call into question the credibility of a widely touted evaluation of NYC charter schools by Caroline Hoxby of Harvard that projected closure by high-need students with the achievement in high-performing suburban districts.

Lesson Two: state administration of standardized tests is not to be trusted when there are material consequences to low performance.

In the culture of public education, the Tisch-Steiner initiative represents a rare act of courage. As previously documented, most states have played games with the requirements for "adequate progress" under No Child Left Behind. New York's leaders pointed out the gap in the stagnant and modest level of achievement by New York students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) contrasted with the rapid, substantial improvements on New York's own tests. Most states ignore these gaps, happily pretending that their students are highly proficient and ready to meet the demands of a globalized economy. For example, states with the highest proportions of proficient students on state tests like TN, GA, and MS are found in the bottom quintile of performance on NAEP.

Lesson Three: because of Lesson Two, policymakers should avoid using the results on state-administered tests for judging schools, principals, teachers, or districts.

Using New York City as a case study, a large percentage of its schools avoided being tagged as "in need of improvement" under NCLB between 2006 and 2009 because the percentage of "proficient" students rose steadily. Those same schools are now jeopardized by the sharp reversal in the 2010 results. Commissioner Steiner pledges to seek a waiver from the US Department of Education so that schools will not be penalized. If rejected, there will be a wholesale surge in "failed" schools.

Given the great diversity among states in the quality of their academic standards and the reliability of their tests, it is not sensible that federal policy requires all states to use standardized test results in evaluating teachers and principals. Yet, the USDE mandated that each state certify that there is no statutory or regulatory bar to matching test results to individual teachers as one of only four absolute requirements to even apply for Race to the Top grants. Of course, test results can be in the mix of criteria for judging teacher performance, but they cannot dominate the evaluation. Secretary Arne Duncan, while recognizing on the one hand the weakness in the standards and assessments practices of so many states, pushes on the other hand for wedding test results to individual teachers for improved "accountability."

Lesson Four: the victims of game-playing on state assessments are students and their parents. The negative consequences are material and life-long.

Here is how Chancellor Tisch put the issue:

We are doing a great disservice when we say that a child is proficient when that child is not. Nowhere is this more true than among our students who are most in need. There, the failure to drill down and develop accurate assessments creates a burden that falls disproportionately on English Language Learners, students with disabilities, African-American and Hispanic young people and students in economically disadvantaged districts - who turn out to be much further behind than anyone recognized.

Judging poor performance "proficient" produces false hopes of college readiness. For example, SUNY and CUNY campuses use a score of 80 on the Regents math examination to qualify for admission and avoid remediation. Yet, 8th grade students deemed barely proficient on the 2009 state math test have less than a one in three chance of scoring 80 on the Regents test. Moreover, forty-four percent of those admitted to community colleges face remedial courses that take time, tuition, and defer graduation. Many of these students were declared proficient on New York tests.

There is another word for this official deception:

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Teacher Attrition and Mobility


Among teachers who left teaching in 2008-09, about 5.3 percent of public school teachers left because their contract was not renewed, compared to 13.0 percent of private school teachers whose contract was not renewed. NCES has released the Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2008–09 Teacher Follow-up Survey. This First Look presents findings about teacher mobility and attrition among elementary and secondary school teachers in grades K–12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Teacher Follow-up Survey examines the characteristics of those who stay in the teaching profession and those who leave, including retirees. The survey also allows comparisons of the characteristics and opinions of teachers who remain at the same school the following year with those of teachers who either move to a different school or leave the profession. Other findings include:

• Among public school teachers with 1 to 3 years of experience, 77.3 percent stayed in their base-year school, 13.7 percent moved to another school, and 9.1 percent left teaching in 2008–09.

• Among private school teachers with 1 to 3 years of experience, 72.2 percent stayed in their base-year school, 7.2 percent moved to another school, and 20.6 percent left teaching in 2008–09.

This report is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences.
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If You Build It, Will They Walk to School?


Complete study

Walking to school is as natural as gravity, right?

An individual’s decision to walk to school is actually quite complex. It is influenced—perhaps—by distance and an attractive walkable environment, but also by intertwined social, psychological and environmental perceptions that sometimes differ between parent and child.

Because walking has important health consequences, researchers at University of Utah set out to learn how the interplay of factors can help reclaim the walk to school and promote a healthy physical and environmental lifestyle.

“In the last 50 years, the prevalence of youth obesity nationwide has tripled,” says Melissa Napier, the study’s lead author. “Coincidentally, the number of kids walking to school declined 68 percent from 1969 to 2001. We wanted to explore the confluence of psychology and design that keeps kids from engaging in an easy, social and healthy form of physical activity.”

What they learned from the study, to be published this fall in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, is that walkable design results in a vastly higher number of walks by students living in a master-planned community in South Jordan, Utah that was designed to be walkable, than in a community with a peripherally-sited school, a street system of cul-de-sacs and larger lots.

In the planned community, 88 percent of students reported walking to school in a week, compared to 17 percent in a similar, less walkable neighborhood.

In addition, the study shows other factors also influence the decision to walk or ride, which led researchers to conclude that understanding perceptions can be as important as designing walkable communities.

Researchers found that parents living in the less walkable community agreed that more barriers to walking existed than their own children did. These barriers included perceptions of unsafe traffic, street crossing danger and crime.

“Parents’ perceptions are key because it is they who decide how to get their kids to school,” says Napier. “Changing their perceptions—by mapping out walking routes, adding crosswalks and walking school buses for example—can go a long way in creating a supportive walking environment in any community.”

“Further, get children actively involved in making changes to their satisfaction. Children who perceive fewer barriers to walking—regardless of what their parents think—were more likely to walk to school in my study. Both children and parents have to agree that the environment supports walking in order to maximize the number of children who will walk to school,” Napier continues. __Researchers polled 193 fifth-graders in two schools in South Jordan, Utah. The study was designed to compare Daybreak, a neighborhood designed along “new urbanist” principles, with a standard suburban school. Daybreak’s design places the school in the heart of the community with well-connected streets, walking paths, sidewalks on both sides, small lots and multiple front porches, all of which have shown to support greater pedestrian activity.

“This is an early indicator of success of the design goals at Daybreak,” says Stephen James, manager of planning and community design for Daybreak’s developer, Kennecott Land. “Daybreak villages are scaled to the human pace and provide a diverse set of every day destinations such as parks, schools, churches, shops, offices and community centers. The routes must be safe and direct, conveniently connecting everything via paths, trails and sidewalks that are buffered from traffic and shaded from the hot summer sun. At Daybreak the car is not central to experiencing life. It is just one of the many ways to get around,” James concludes.

The students in the study were divided into three groups. Students in the “walkable community” group lived within Daybreak and within a mile of school. The “mixed community” group attended the same school, but lived in an area with larger lots and cul-de-sacs. Three-quarters of the students still lived within a mile of school. The third, “less walkable community” group attended a different school in a nearby area. That school is on a busy street with a single sidewalk. The area, a more typical suburb, has houses on larger lots, many circuitous cul-de-sacs, and fewer walkable features. Over two-thirds of students lived farther than a mile from school.

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How kindergarten learning affects adult success


A good kindergarten learning experience can equate to about $1,000 more a year in adult earnings.

There isn't a lot of research that links early childhood test scores to earnings as an adult. But new research reveals a surprising finding: Students who learn more in kindergarten earn more as adults. They are also more successful overall.

Harvard University economist John Friedman says he and a group of colleagues found that students who progress during their kindergarten year from attaining an average score on the Stanford Achievement Test to attaining a score in the 60th percentile can expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than students whose scores remain average.

Taking into account all variation across kindergarten classes, including class size, individuals who learn more--as measured by an above-average score on the Stanford Achievement Test--and are in smaller classes earn about $2,000 more per year at age 27.

Moreover, students who learn more in kindergarten are more likely to go to college than students with similar backgrounds. Those who learn more in kindergarten are also less likely to become single parents, more likely to own a home by age 28 and more likely to save for retirement earlier in their work lives.

"Kindergarten interventions matter a great deal for long-term outcomes," said Friedman. "For instance, being in a smaller class for two years increases the probability of attending college by 2 percent.

"We find that both smaller class sizes and teachers with more experience improve long-term outcomes," he said. "We believe that other teacher characteristics, as well as various characteristics of a student's peers, also have significant impacts on later life outcomes, but the data did not allow us to measure those effects well."

Friedman and colleagues from Harvard, Northwestern University and University of California, Berkeley, used a well-known education experiment conducted in Tennessee as a starting point to measure adult outcomes of early childhood learning. In the mid-1980s, the Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project placed students in classes of different size to determine how class size affects student learning. Results showed that students in small classes learn more and have greater academic success.

This new study, funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Social and Economic Sciences, examined adult outcomes of nearly 12,000 students who took part in the original study and who are now 30 years old. It allowed the research team to go beyond what children learned during their year in the STAR project to see how their kindergarten learning experiences affected their lives. Researchers recently presented results of the new study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, at an academic conference in Cambridge, Mass.

To learn more about what the researchers found, see John Friedman discuss the recent study in the accompanying video
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Walking to School Could Reduce Stress Reactivity in Kids

A simple morning walk to school could reduce stress reactivity in children during the school day, curbing increases in heart rate and blood pressure that can lead to cardiovascular disease later in life, according to a new University at Buffalo study.

UB researchers report in the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that children who took a simulated walk to school later experienced smaller elevations in systolic blood pressure, heart rate and perceived stress while taking a short exam than children who had gotten a simulated ride to school.

Cardiovascular reactivity -- including changes in heart rate and blood pressure due to stress -- is associated with the beginnings of cardiovascular disease in children, and atherosclerosis -- the dangerous build-up of cholesterol, calcium, fat and other substances in artery walls -- in adults.

"The cardiovascular disease process begins in childhood, so if we can find some way of stopping or slowing that process, that would provide an important health benefit," says James Roemmich, UB associate professor of pediatrics and exercise and nutrition science and senior investigator on the study, which he completed with graduate students Maya Lambiase and Heather Barry. "We know that physical activity has a protective effect on the development of cardiovascular disease, and one way it may be doing so is by reducing stress reactivity."

Roemmich says because it’s not known how long the protective effect of a bout of exercise lasts, parents and educators should promote active play time throughout the day.

"If it only lasts a couple of hours, then it would be most beneficial if a child walked or biked to school, then had recess during school, as well as a break at lunch, so they had opportunities for physical activity throughout the day,” Roemmich says. “This would put them in a constantly protective state against stressors that they're incurring during the school day, whether that be taking an exam, trying to fit in with peers or speaking in front of classmates."

Roemmich says his study is the first to show that moderate-intensity exercise can reduce children’s cardiovascular reactivity during later, stressful activities. The research builds on his earlier work, which demonstrated that higher-intensity interval exercise could afford similar protection in children.

In the more recent investigation, Roemmich and his team examined a group of 20 boys and 20 girls, all Caucasian and ages 10-14. All visited the Behavioral Medicine Research Laboratory in the morning. To simulate a ride to school, half sat in a comfortable chair and watched a 10-minute slide show of images of a suburban neighborhood, ending with an image of a suburban school. The other half performed a one-mile walk on a treadmill at a self-selected pace, wearing a book bag containing 10 percent of their body weight. As they walked, the images of the suburban neighborhood were projected onto a screen.

Following a 20-minute rest period after completing the passive and active commutes, all children took a Stroop test, which asks subjects to correctly identify the color of color names printed in the wrong color (the word “green” printed in blue ink, for instance). On average, during this activity, heart rate increased by about three beats per minute in children who walked, compared with about 11 beats per minute in children who “rode” to school. Similarly, the rise in systolic blood pressure was more than three times higher, and the change in perceived stress about twice as high, for the passive commuters.

"The perception of a stressor as a threat is the beginning of the stress reactivity process, so if you can dampen that initial perception, then you reduce the magnitude of the fight-or-flight response," Roemmich says. "This results in lower heart rate and blood pressure responses to the stressor. Exercise helped dampen even the initial response."
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Research: College undergrads study ineffectively on computers


Students transfer bad study habits from paper to screen

In the space of one generation, college students have gone from studying with highlighters and wire notebooks to laptops, netbooks and, now, iPads.

But despite the prevalence of technology on campuses, a new study indicates that computers alone can't keep students from falling into their same weak study habits from their ink-and-paper days.

"Our study showed that achievement really takes off when students are prompted to use more powerful strategies when studying computer materials," said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Ken Kiewra, an expert in study methods and one of the authors of the study.

The research, published this week in The Journal of Educational Psychology, found that students tend to study on computers as they would with traditional texts: They mindlessly over-copy long passages verbatim, take incomplete or linear notes, build lengthy outlines that make it difficult to connect related information, and rely on memory drills like re-reading text or recopying notes.

Meanwhile, undergraduates in the study scored 29 to 63 percentage points higher on tests when they used study techniques like recording complete notes, creating comparative charts, building associations, and crafting practice questions on their screens.

Kiewra, a professor of educational psychology, calls the method SOAR: Selecting key lesson ideas, organizing information with comparative charts and illustrations, associating ideas to create meaningful connections, and regulating learning through practice. It complements how the brain processes information, he said.

"Learning occurs best when important information is selected from less important ideas, when selected information is organized graphically, when associations are built among ideas and when understanding is regulated through self-testing," Kiewra said.

The study was built upon two experiments. In the first, undergraduates were questioned about how they study computer-based materials. In the second, they read an online text and then were asked to create on their computers some study materials that reflected their preferred (and likely weak) way to study. Or, they were prompted to use all or parts of SOAR study methods.

The latter group of studiers scored higher on tests measuring fact and relationship learning than the first group.

Kiewra authored the new study with former UNL graduate student Dharmananda Jairam, at Penn State University, and said the study shows that as undergraduates spend more and more study time on computers, it will be vital for them to learn better ways of processing and then making use of information.

Teachers and designers of instructional software may want to take note of the study's findings, as well.

"Teachers need to help students dispel crippling studying myths such as highlighting, outlining and rehearsal, and instead teach them strategies that help them succeed," Kiewra said.
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Students’ Understanding Of The Equal Sign Not Equal


Taken very literally, not all students are created equal—especially in their math learning skills, say Texas A&M University researchers who have found that not fully understanding the “equal sign” in a math problem could be a key to why U.S. students underperform their peers from other countries in math.

“About 70 percent of middle grades students in the United States exhibit misconceptions, but nearly none of the international students in Korea and China have a misunderstanding about the equal sign, and Turkish students exhibited far less incidence of the misconception than the U.S. students,” note Robert M. Capraro and Mary Capraro of the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at Texas A&M.

They have been trying to evaluate the success of math education through students’ interpretation of the equal sign. They have published several articles on this topic, with the most recent one published in the February 2010 issue of the journal Psychological Reports.

Students who exhibit the correct understanding of the equal sign show the greatest achievement in mathematics and persist in fields that require mathematics proficiency like engineering, according to their research.

“The equal sign is pervasive and fundamentally linked to mathematics from kindergarten through upper-level calculus,” Robert M. Capraro says. “The idea of symbols that convey relative meaning, such as the equal sign and “less than” and “greater than” signs, is complex and they serve as a precursor to ideas of variables, which also require the same level of abstract thinking.”

The problem is students memorize procedures without fully understanding the mathematics, he notes.

“Students who have learned to memorize symbols and who have a limited understanding of the equal sign will tend to solve problems such as 4+3+2=( )+2 by adding the numbers on the left, and placing it in the parentheses, then add those terms and create another equal sign with the new answer,” he explains. “So the work would look like 4+3+2=(9)+2=11.

“This response has been called a running equal sign—similar to how a calculator might work when the numbers and equal sign are entered as they appear in the sentence,” he explains. “However, this understanding is incorrect. The correct solution makes both sides equal. So the understanding should be 4+3+2=(7)+2. Now both sides of the equal sign equal 9.”

One cause of the problem might be the textbooks, the research shows.

The Texas A&M researchers examined textbooks in China and the United States and found “Chinese textbooks provided the best examples for students and that even the best U.S. textbooks, those sponsored by the National Science Foundation, were lacking relational examples about the equal sign.”

Parents and teachers can help the students. The two researchers suggest using mathematics manipulatives and encourage teachers “to read professional journals, become informed about the problem and modify their instruction.”
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