A majority of states continue to be viwed as a barrier to charter school success

Even with federal incentives and tremendous media attention over the past year, weak laws in a majority of states continue to be the greatest barrier to charter school success, according to an analysis of the country's 41 charter school laws by The Center for Education Reform (CER). CER's 2011 ranking and scorecard – their 12th annual overview – gives 29 states a grade of C or lower for their law, showcasing a real need for substantive changes to their laws if they are to permit the creation of innovative and successful charter schools.

Forty states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that allow for charter schools, resulting in more than 5,400 operating this school year, according to CER. But the laws vary considerably in composition, as is clearly evidenced in this report. Only three – Washington, DC, Minnesota and California – have laws that provide optimal conditions for the establishment, growth and success of charters. Only nine other states have strong laws on the books and have seen demonstrated student achievement gains.
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Narcissistic students don't mind cheating their way to the top


College students who exhibit narcissistic tendencies are more likely than fellow students to cheat on exams and assignments, a new study shows.

The results suggested that narcissists were motivated to cheat because their academic performance functions as an opportunity to show off to others, and they didn't feel particularly guilty about their actions.

"Narcissists really want to be admired by others, and you look good in college if you're getting good grades," said Amy Brunell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Newark.

"They also tend to feel less guilt, so they don't mind cheating their way to the top."

Narcissism is a trait in which people are self-centered, exaggerate their talents and abilities and lack empathy for others, Brunell said.

"Narcissists feel the need to maintain a positive self-image and they will sometimes set aside ethical concerns to get what they want."

The study appears online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences and will be published in an upcoming print edition.

The study involved 199 college students. They completed a scale that measured narcissism by choosing statements that best described them. For example, they could choose between "I am not better or no worse than most people" or "I think I am a special person."

The researchers also measured the participants' levels of self-esteem.

Students then completed a measure that examined how much guilt they would feel if they cheated under certain circumstances, or how much guilt they felt a typical student would feel under those same conditions.

Finally, the students indicated how often they had cheated on exams and assignments during the past year, and reported their grade point averages, gender and age.

While it was not surprising that narcissism was linked to cheating, Brunell said it was interesting what dimension of narcissism seemed to have the greatest impact.

"We found that one of the more harmless parts of narcissism -- exhibitionism -- is most associated with academic cheating, which is somewhat surprising," she said.

Exhibitionism is the desire to show off, to make yourself the center of attention.

The two other dimensions of narcissism -- the desire for power and the belief you are a special person -- were not as strongly linked to academic dishonesty.

"You would think that the belief that you are a special person and that you can do what you want would be associated with cheating," Brunell said. "But instead, we're finding that it is the desire to show off that really seems to drive cheating."

Results showed that students who scored higher on exhibitionism also showed lower levels of guilt, which could explain why they were more willing to cheat.

Importantly, those who scored high on exhibitionism didn't think other typical students felt a lack of guilt about cheating.

"That suggests narcissists don't have a lack of moral standards for everyone -- they just don't feel bad about their own immoral behavior," she said.

Moreover, narcissists were not more likely than others to believe that other students were cheating.

"One argument might be that narcissists are admitting to cheating, but saying that everyone else does it, too. But that's not what we found. Narcissists actually report more cheating for themselves than they do for others," Brunell explained.

While narcissism was linked to cheating in the study, self-esteem was not.

Results showed that students with higher levels of self-esteem also tended to have higher GPAs, and were less likely than others to perceive their classmates as cheating.

"People with higher levels of self-esteem are probably more confident in their abilities and don't feel any peer pressure to cheat," she said.

The only major gender difference found in the study was that men were less likely than women to feel guilty about cheating. Older students were less likely to report cheating, and more likely to anticipate feeling guilty about cheating.

These results correspond well with studies that have looked at narcissism in the workplace, Brunell said.

"It seems likely that the same people causing problems in the workplace and engaging in white collar crime are the ones who were cheating in the classroom," she said.
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'Gender Gap' in Physics Exams Reduced by Simple Writing Exercise,


Women are underrepresented and on average perform more poorly than men in introductory physics. But a recent study finds that this gap arises predominantly from differential preparation prior to college and psychological factors, rather than differences in ability.

And the effects of these psychological factors can be largely overcome with a brief writing exercise focusing on important values, such as friends and family, learning or even music. This simple "values affirmation" writing exercise generally raised women's course grades from the "C" to "B" range, a study led by University of Colorado at Boulder researchers has found.

These self-affirming essays, the researchers suggest, assuaged women's stress about being seen in light of negative stereotypes about women in science. Besides getting better grades, the women also showed greater mastery over the conceptual material, the team found.

Further, the positive effects of values affirmation are most pronounced among women who tended to believe in the stereotype that men are better than women at physics.

Those are key findings of a study published in the Nov. 26 edition of Science. Five of the study's authors are at CU-Boulder and one is a former CU professor now at Stanford University.

"I just wasn't expecting this kind of finding," said Akira Miyake, a CU-Boulder professor of psychology and neuroscience and lead author on the Science paper. As Miyake noted, the students in the study were all majors in so-called STEM disciplines -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

"They're already interested in these things and are highly motivated to do well in that course," he said. "It still amazes me that this writing exercise has such positive influences."

Miyake led the team of researchers -- three from psychology and three from physics -- who applied recent psychological research on "identity threat" to women in a challenging physics course.

Tiffany Ito, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and co-author of the study, notes that the common expectation that men do better in physics than do women is an "identity threat" that can undermine women's ability to reach their full potential.

Women are aware of the stereotype and might worry that their performance in a physics class will confirm the stereotype.

"That creates some fear, stress and anxiety," Miyake said. "It's especially bad during exams" when the stakes are high and they know they are being evaluated. The anxiety might distract women from the course material, he said.

Women, who constitute a minority of physics students, also are affected by external cues, Ito added. "Those women are sitting in a class consisting of predominantly men, and they might wonder if the men buy into the stereotype and think they're better at physics."

However, "The research shows that if we affirm people's self integrity, you buffer them from other threats," Ito said.

Geoffrey Cohen, a co-author of the study and a former CU psychologist, has studied this effect among ethnic minorities in middle schools. Cohen, now a professor in Stanford University's School of Education and the department of psychology as well as a courtesy professor at the Graduate School of Business, said the affirmation exercises can be powerful.

As Cohen explains, a values-affirmation exercise might prompt thoughts such as these: "'In spite of all the adversity in my environment, here is what I care about. Here's what gives me my internal compass. Here is what I stand for.' And that can be alleviating in a stressful situation." What is not known, the psychologists emphasize, is exactly how values-affirmation exercises work or whether they will work in other physics or STEM courses.

The physicists also note that this research narrowed but did not eliminate the gender gap. Women generally enter college less prepared for college physics courses than men.

Lauren Kost-Smith, a co-author and a physics graduate student who has won the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in STEM Education, has done several studies of the gender gap in physics. She noted that for six or seven semesters, CU women completing conceptual-mastery tests in physics did consistently worse than did men, but factors such as prior course work and demonstrated aptitude did not fully account for the difference.

In CU's randomized double-blind experiment, 399 students, including 283 men and 116 women, were randomly assigned writing assignments that either affirmed their values or did not. Students completed the writing exercises twice, in the first week of the semester and during the week preceding the first mid-term exam.

Students in the "affirmation group" were given a list of 12 values, such as "relationships with friends and family" or "learning or gaining knowledge," and were asked to write about the values most important to them.

The remaining students in the "control" group were asked to pick values on the list that were least important to them and to write about why those values might be important to other people.

"Thus, both groups wrote about values and their importance, but the exercise was self-relevant only for the affirmation group," the authors write.

Additionally, the team measured how much each student embraced the gender stereotype. As part of an online survey given early in the semester, students were asked to rank their agreement (from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree") with this statement: "According to my own personal beliefs, I expect men to generally do better in physics than women."

Among the women who more strongly endorsed the stereotype, women in the affirmation group obtained higher course grades and showed better conceptual mastery of physics than women in the control group who also agreed with the statement.

Men's grades and conceptual mastery were not significantly affected by the values-affirmation exercise.

Steven Pollock, professor of physics and a CU President's Teaching Scholar, noted that the study funded by the National Science Foundation is a "small piece" of a large puzzle, and he and his colleagues stressed that the results are no silver bullet in STEM education.

While concurring, Noah Finkelstein, a co-author and associate professor in physics, added, "This is a really exciting finding. It bears further exploration. These results hold significant promise for addressing differential performance and the significant disparity of recruitment and retention of women in STEM disciplines."
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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010


A joint effort by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics, this annual report examines crime occurring in school as well as on the way to and from school. It provides the most current detailed statistical information to inform the Nation on the nature of crime in schools. This report presents data on crime at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, principals, and the general population from an array of sources--the National Crime Victimization Survey, the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the School Survey on Crime and Safety and the School and Staffing Survey. Data on crime away from school are also presented to place school crime in the context of crime in the larger society.
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Children Find Their Own Way to Solve Arithmetic Problems


Children with learning difficulties can benefit from being encouraged to find their own way to solve arithmetic problems, according to new research from Strathclyde.

A study by Dr Lio Moscardini, in Strathclyde's Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, found that children deal better with arithmetical problems if they can use their own intuitive strategies such as using number blocks, drawings or breaking an equation up into smaller, simpler parts- rather than being instructed in arithmetical facts and procedures.

All the teachers taking part in the study underwent professional development in children's mathematical thinking before introducing these ideas into their classrooms. Nearly all felt that their pupils had benefited from learning in this way- and several said they had previously underestimated the children's ability and potential.

Dr Moscardini, a specialist in additional support needs, said: "We found that pupils with learning difficulties were able to develop an understanding of arithmetic through engaging in these activities, without explicit prior instruction.

"When teachers have an insight into children's mathematical thinking they can use this knowledge to inform their teaching. The study also supported the view that maths learning isn't just about acquiring a series of skills but is about making sense of problems and building understanding."

The children's solutions, which they had not been taught in advance, included:

* Answering a question about how many children are on a bus after a group gets on by representing two sets of children with cubes, drawings or fingers and joining the sets together
* Splitting up the sum 48 + 25 by adding 40 to 20, then adding eight and five separately for the total of 73
* Using context and language and modifying the way a problem is phrased. In one question, a boy having 14 stickers and giving six away was changed to him giving away "six of his stickers," allowing a pupil to follow the language of the problem to make sense of it

Some children were able to help out their fellow pupils and became increasingly able to recognise similarities between certain types of problem, enabling them to apply the same solutions.

The children were found to follow the same path in understanding adding, subtraction, multiplication and division as those who did not have the same difficulties.
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Language Intervention for Pre-School Children


A preschool language intervention program can significantly improve the educational lives of children with poorly developed speech and language skills, according to new research by psychologists at the University of York.

In the Language 4 Reading project, a team from the University's Department of Psychology at the University of York have evaluated the benefits of a preschool language intervention program for children who enter school with poorly developed speech and language skills.

The project, which involved 15 schools and feeder-nurseries across Yorkshire, was a randomized controlled trial funded by the Nuffield Foundation. A member of staff from each of the Early Years settings was trained to deliver a language intervention program.

The program targeted three key areas: vocabulary knowledge, narrative and listening skills, with phonics work included in the later stages. Children took part in three group sessions each week, supplemented by individual work once they entered school.

After 30 weeks, the children who had received the intervention showed wide-ranging improvements in expressive language skills, including the use of vocabulary and grammar, while gains in letter-sound knowledge and spelling indicate that the foundations of phonics are in place.

Professor Margaret Snowling, who led the research team, said: "Language skills are the foundation for literacy development and are fundamental to educational success. Our findings show that language intervention can be delivered successfully in Early Years settings by appropriately trained and supported teaching assistants. It has the potential to improve the educational lives of many children.

"Feedback from children, parents and teaching assistants indicates that taking part in the project has been an enjoyable experience for all concerned. The commitment of the schools and the enthusiasm of the teaching assistants have contributed to the success of the project."
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High Hopes = Educational Attainment


It turns out that the high school guidance counselor was right. Students who have high aspirations and put thought into their futures during their high school years tend to reach higher levels of educational attainment, according to a recent study.

And what's a significant factor in those goals and expectations taking shape in the first place? It matters if teens are involved in extracurricular activities -- whether it's football, fine arts or French club.

The research, by Sarah Beal and Lisa Crockett of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, surveyed hundreds of high school students about their educational and career goals and expectations while also examining the types of activities they took part in during high school. Then researchers studied how each activity, from extracurricular clubs and teams to part-time jobs to volunteering, was related to students' thoughts about their futures.

They found that students' educational plans and their occupational goals and expectations were related to and predicted the level of education they ultimately attained. Also, extracurricular activities were related to students' educational goals and career expectations -- and vice-versa.

That unique relationship, the study says, played a role in predicting how far teens eventually went with their educations.

"Adolescents' expectations about their occupational and educational attainment as adults predict their eventual educational attainment, and these expectations seem to shape and be shaped by extracurricular activities -- which, in turn, contribute to young adult educational attainment," said Beal, a UNL graduate student in psychology and the study's lead author. "It may be the case that adolescents learn about their abilities and preferences through the extracurricular activities they engage in, resulting in changes to their expectations for the future."

The longitudinal study, which tracked students from adolescence into adulthood, appeared in a recent edition of the journal Developmental Psychology. It showed that what adolescents think about their futures is relevant for their development through adulthood, and suggests that they can use their projections about the future to adapt their behavior in ways that promote achievement later in life.

"There is a longstanding notion that what adolescents do sets the stage for their adult lives," said Crockett, a professor of psychology. "Our results support this idea and indicate that what they think matters as well."

What appears to happen, Crockett said, is that teenagers' plans influence their behaviors, especially extracurricular activities, which in turn influence their educational attainment.

"When you consider how important educational attainment is for adult life -- its relation to occupational attainment, financial security, health, and other aspects of well being -- it appears that the steps adolescents take have important implications for their future success," she said.

Also among the findings:

* While the analysis suggested that extracurricular activities contributed to the process of forming teens' career goals and aspirations, having a part-time job during high school did not. It may be the case that adolescents simply consider after-school jobs as a way to earn spending money -- but not paths to their eventual careers.
* Volunteering also was not a predictor of teens' goals and expectations, suggesting that volunteer experiences do not necessarily shape their career and educational goals.
* The study made a clear distinction between teens' career aspirations (what job they hope to do some day) and their career expectations (what job they expect to do some day). While nearly eight in 10 teens reported aspirations and expectations that required similar levels of skills and training, two in 10 reported expectations and aspirations that implied different skill categories.
* Unsurprisingly, destructive behaviors such as substance use and delinquency predicted lower educational attainment over time.

"It appears that ideas about one's future and behaviors influence each other over time," Crockett said. "Related questions are how ideas about one's future take shape initially and what things influence the kinds of long term plans and aspirations teenagers develop."

Other research indicates that factors such as gender, socioeconomic status and abilities are important, she said, "but we know very little about how children begin to formulate their ideas and how these ideas change over adolescence in response to their experiences and their increasing knowledge of their skills, interests and the opportunities available to them. This remains an important question for future research."
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Parents' Effort Key to Child's Educational Performance


A new study by researchers at the University of Leicester and University of Leeds has concluded that parents' efforts towards their child's educational achievement is crucial -- playing a more significant role than that of the school or child.

This research by Professor Gianni De Fraja and Tania Oliveira, both in the Economics Department at the University of Leicester and Luisa Zanchi, at the Leeds University Business School, has been published in the latest issue of the MIT based Review of Economics and Statistics.

The researchers found that parents' effort is more important for a child's educational attainment than the school's effort, which in turn is more important than the child's own effort.

The study found that the socio-economic background of a family not only affected the child's educational attainment -- it also affected the school's effort.

Researcher Professor De Fraja, who is Head of Economics at the University of Leicester, said: "The main channel through which parental socio-economic background affects achievement is via effort.

"Parents from a more advantaged environment exert more effort, and this influences positively the educational attainment of their children.

"By the same token, the parents' background also increases the school's effort, which increases the school achievement. Why schools work harder where parents are from a more privileged background we do not know. It might be because middle class parents are more vocal in demanding that the school works hard."

The findings suggest there is a relationship between children's performance and the effort put in by parents in supporting their education.

Professor De Fraja added: "We found that children work harder whose parents put more effort into their education.

"In general, the efforts exerted by the three groups of agents-parents, school and child -- affect one another. On the other hand, the propensity of children to exert effort is not influenced by their social background. Children from better off household do not necessarily try harder than those from less advantaged background.

"Interestingly, there is a trade-off between the number of children and their parents' effort: the number of siblings influences the effort exerted by that child's parents towards that child's education. If a child grows up in a more numerous family, he/she receives less effort from parents."

Professor De Fraja said the results suggest that parents are very important for educational achievement: "In general, what we are saying is that a child whose parents put more effort into his or her education does better at school. Therefore policies that aim at improving parental effort might be effective in strengthening educational attainment. Influencing parental effort is certainly something that is much easier than modifying their social background."

The research is published in the latest issue of Review of Economics and Statistics.


The study is based on the very simple observation that the educational achievement of a student is affected by the effort put in by those participating in the education process: the schools attended by the student, the student's parents, and of course the students themselves. The researchers analysed the effort of these three groups as jointly determined: students respond to the effort exerted by their parents and their schools, and correspondingly schools also respond to the effort exerted by their students and their parents and parents to the effort exerted by their children and their children's schools.

The researchers estimated their model using the National Child Development Study, which follows the individuals born in a given week in 1958 throughout their lives. Effort is measured using indicators of a student's attitude, for example the answers given by 16-year-olds to questions such as whether they think that school is a ''waste of time'', and the teacher's views about students' laziness. Other questions regard the parents' interest in their children's education, measured, for example, by whether they read to their children or attend meetings with teachers, and the teacher's perception of this interest. For schools there are variables such as the extent of parental involvement initiated by the school, whether 16-year old students are offered career guidance, and the type of disciplinary methods used.

The authors used statistical techniques to separate the role of effort from individual, family, or school characteristics, such as the student's ability, the parents' social background, income and education, the type of school, whether state or private, the role of peer pressure, and so on.
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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.

For more information about the project, please see the inTASC website: www.bc.edu/research/intasc.
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Success in Teaching Youth With Autism


As the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders continues to increase, the one thing that won't change is the need for those children to develop social skills. Statistics show that if these students are able to communicate effectively, they can achieve success in the classroom, and later, in the workplace. In addition to the challenges facing each individual student, educators find themselves facing dwindling resources.

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are developing an effective social competence curriculum, with a virtual classroom component, that could help educators meet the demand of this growing population.

Janine Stichter, a professor of special education at the MU College of Education, and her team have developed a curriculum that has shown success in an after-school format and is now being tested during daily school activities, with help from two three-year grants from the Institute of Educational Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education. The key factors in Stichter's curriculum focus on specific needs and behavioral traits within the autism spectrum. By doing this, the instructor is able to deliver a more individualized instruction within a small group format and optimize the response to intervention.

"Children with autism have three core deficit areas: difficulty with communication, issues with repetitive behaviors, and social competence," Stichter said. "Social competency has a big impact on communication and is essential for post-school outcomes. While there are several social curricula available, they haven't adequately discriminated between and targeted certain parts of the population. At MU, we've worked to develop intervention to meet specific needs, similar to a medical model for treating cancer: doctors don't use one treatment model for all forms of cancer, for example."

High-functioning children on the autism spectrum usually have trouble with determining and managing goals, understanding others' feelings, and regulating emotions. Stichter's curriculum focuses the student on recognizing facial expressions, sharing ideas, taking turns, exploring feelings and emotions, and problem-solving.

"For parents, this means a reduction in the need to be shopping constantly for a program that fits their child. There's a tendency for programs to promote social skill development, but parents have a hard time determining if it fits their children; this program is structured so that parents know they have a good fit," Stichter said. "Also, this creates a model for schools so these lessons can be added to the student's overall educational experience, rather than an add-on to the student's schedule. To date, the special education teachers involved have been very pleased to have a comprehensive curriculum and with the outcomes for their students. Even general education teachers are saying 'show us more -- we can use this with all of our kids.'"

The ultimate goal is to tailor the learning process for any student who has social competency issues. Part of that goal includes the continuing development of an internet-based, virtual learning environment that any school in the country could use. Stichter is currently collaborating on this project with James Laffey, professor in the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, also in the College of Education
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Online Students Learn Well Without Strong Class Bond, Study Finds


College students participating in a new study on online courses said they felt less connected and had a smaller sense of classroom community than those who took the same classes in person -- but that didnt keep online students from performing just as well as their in-person counterparts.

The study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln gauged students' perception and performance in three undergraduate science courses that had both online and face-to-face class versions. It found that online students did not feel a sense of cohesion, community spirit, trust or interaction, elements that have been shown to foster effective classroom learning.

At the same time, in the portion of the survey about students' perception of their own learning, online students reported levels equal to those reported by face-to-face students and at the end of the day, their grades were equivalent to their in-person peers.

"Previous research has shown that students who feel like they are connected to their classmates tend to enjoy their classes more and ultimately get better grades," said Robert Vavala, a UNL agronomy graduate student who authored the study. "We wanted to determine if online students felt the same way about their classes that face-to-face students did and if so, whether or not that affected their grades."

Researchers assembled the data from a survey of more than 250 students enrolled in three different entry-level science courses at a large Midwestern public university. The same instructors taught both versions of each of the courses.

Though the results may suggest that face-to-face courses are no more effective for student learning than online courses, Vavala said they also show that online courses could be even more effective if they could foster a culture of class cohesion, spirit, trust and interaction among students.

How does an instructor do that? Perhaps more one-on-one contact and timely feedback between the instructor and online students, according to the study. All three instructors involved in the study said they felt creating a sense of community in their classes was very important, and worked to simulate that experience for online students.

"Because online classes lack actual face-to-face contact, instructors face many challenges in creating classroom community. One of those challenges is that community might not be as important to the online student as it is to their in-person peers," Vavala said.

The study, which was authored by UNL's Vavala, Deana Namuth-Covert, Courtney Haines, Donald Lee, James King and Carol Speth, appeared in a recent edition of The Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education.
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NCES releases new indicator report on school crime


The total at-school crime and theft victimization rates of students ages 12 to 18 declined between 2007 and 2008, according to Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2010, a new report jointly released by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The report examines crime occurring in school as well as on the way to and from school and presents data on crime and safety at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals, drawing from an array of sources.

The Indicators of School Crime and Safety provides the most current detailed statistical information on the nature of crime in schools and school environments and responses to violence and crime at school. It also presents data on crime away from school to place school crime in the context of crime in the larger society. The report covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, and student perceptions of personal safety at school.

Key findings from this year’s report include:

• The total crime victimization rate of students ages 12 to 18 at school declined from 57 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2007 to 47 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2008.

• Between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, there were 38 school-associated violent deaths (24 were homicides, and 14 were suicides) involving staff, students or other persons, such as parents. School-associated violent deaths occurred while the victim was on the way to or from regular sessions at school, or while attending or traveling to or from a school-sponsored event. During this time period, 15 of the homicides and 7 of the suicides were among school age youth at school.

• In 2009, 31 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported they had been in a physical fight at least one time during the previous 12 months anywhere, and 11 percent said they had been in a fight on school property during the previous 12 months. Generally, a higher percentage of 9th grade students reported having been in fights both anywhere and on school property, when compared to high school students in higher grades.

• In 2007–08, 34 percent of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that student misbehavior interfered with their teaching, and 32 percent reported that student tardiness and class cutting interfered with their teaching.

• In 2009, 21 percent of high school students (grades 9–12) reported using marijuana anywhere in the past 30 days, while 5 percent reported using marijuana on school property.

This report is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the Office of Justice Programs, part of the U.S. Department of Justice. The full text of Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2010 (in HTML format), along with related data tables and indicators from previous years, can be viewed here.
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Kindergarten literacy program shows increased vocabulary development


REL Southeast conducted a randomized control trial in the Mississippi Delta to test the impact of a kindergarten vocabulary instruction program on students’ expressive vocabulary -- the words students understand well enough to use in speaking.

The study, The Effectiveness of a Program to Accelerate Vocabulary Development in Kindergarten, found that the 24-week K-PAVE program had a significant positive impact on students’ vocabulary development and academic knowledge and on the vocabulary and comprehension support that teachers provided during book read-alouds and other instructional time.

K-PAVE is designed to build children’s vocabulary and comprehension skills, oral language skills, and enhance teacher-child relationships. K-PAVE is one of only a few kindergarten-age-appropriate vocabulary interventions and the only intervention with teacher training materials. An existing preschool version of K-PAVE had already demonstrated some evidence of positive effects from an impact study.

The K-PAVE intervention group included 64 schools, 128 kindergarten classrooms and teachers, and 1,296 kindergarten students (596 treatment and 700 control students).

Other findings include:

• Kindergarteners who received the K-PAVE intervention were one month further ahead in vocabulary development and academic knowledge at the end of kindergarten compared with their peers who did not receive the intervention. However, there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups on listening comprehension.

• The kindergarten teachers trained in the program were significantly more likely than their peers who did not receive K-PAVE training to provide vocabulary and comprehension support to students during book read alouds and other instructional times (e.g., providing background information; making connections to students’ experiences; asking students to analyze, explain, make inferences; introducing vocabulary words).

• The program did not produce a statistically significant impact on either instructional support or emotional support (promoted during the K-PAVE relationship-building conversations) in the classroom. Additionally, the program did not impact the amount of instructional time spent on literacy in areas other than vocabulary and comprehension.

To view this report, released by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
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The Nation’s Report Card: Grade 12 Reading and Mathematics 2009


The Nation's Report Card presents results of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and mathematics at grade 12 for students in the nation and, for the first time, in the 11 states that volunteered to participate in the 2009 state pilot program..

Highlights of the results include:

* The overall average reading score for 12th graders was 2 points higher than in 2005, but 4 points lower than in 1992.

* There were no significant changes from 1992 to 2009 in the reading score gaps between White and Black students or between White and Hispanic students.

* In mathematics, the overall average score was 3 points higher in 2009 than in 2005.

* There was no significant change from 2005 in the mathematics score gaps between White and Black students or between White and Hispanic students.

* The percentage of 12th graders who expect to graduate from college increased from 58 percent in 2005 to 60 percent in 2009.

* In the 11 participating states, average reading scores in seven states were higher than the score for the nation, and scores for three states were lower; in mathematics, the average scores for six states were higher than the nation, and scores for three states were lower.
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Webcam Research Helps Kids Improve Reading Fluency


An interest in technology and a desire to help elementary school students prompted a Kansas State University professor and two graduate students to turn to webcams to improve students' reading fluency.

Timothy Frey, assistant professor of special education, counseling and student affairs, wanted to help elementary-age students reduce the number of errors they make when reading out loud. He worked with two K-State master's graduates: Abby Houlton, now a special education teacher at Brookridge Elementary School in the Shawnee Mission school district, and Elizabeth Gruis, who teaches in the Manhattan-Ogden school district.

The project aimed to improve reading fluency, which involves processing words in a meaningful way. When fluency improves, usually comprehension also improves.
"With testing and assessments, we know that generally the earlier you can catch things and find potential problems, the better off a student will be," Frey said. "This really can help students pick up on error patterns and help prevent them from having further reading problems."

The researchers turned to webcams, instead of audio recorders, to help students improve reading fluency. With webcams the students could both see and hear themselves read, which the researchers called the "I can see me" procedure.

During a 16-week period the researchers worked with teachers at Brookridge Elementary School to observe 27 second-, third-, and fourth-graders who tested on-grade level. The research actively involved the students. During designated reading time in class, the students went to the computers and read a selected reading sample in front of the webcams. Afterward, they could watch the video and pick out any mistakes.

"The video really seemed to change how students were engaged," Frey said. "They didn’t just hear themselves read anymore, but they could see themselves reading, which they really liked."

All three student groups improved reading fluency in impressive ways. After only three to five weeks of using the webcams, the second-graders improved from averaging seven errors per minute to four errors per minute. Third-graders went from averaging six errors to four errors per minute. The group of fourth-graders improved from an average of four errors to two and a half errors per minute.

"We were really interested in interventions that students can do themselves or that build metacognitive skills," Frey said. "Having the students build skills and learn to detect their own errors rather than teachers trying to fix them over and over again is really important for students."

When one student excitedly said, "I can see me!" the researchers adopted the name for the principle of improvement using the webcams. Researchers said the students seemed to enjoy reading in front of cameras, and even students who disliked reading would read with the cameras.

"The students' ability to analyze their own reading through a guided discussion was truly what amazed me the most," Houlton said. "When I look at the big picture of what this project did, it was that it made the students more accurate readers because they were more aware of the mistakes they were making."

The researchers plan to use the webcams with other groups of students, such as students who are learning the English language, students with cognitive disabilities or students reading at a lower reading level. Houlton has also planned to use the webcams to help students prepare for oral presentations and understand geometry concepts, such as reflection.

"The students loved that I could make a DVD of their reading to show to their parents, or even e-mail the video to their parents," Houlton said. "We also saved videos throughout the year so they could see their improvement from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."
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Parents Should Talk About Math Early, Often with Their Children


Report finds important period for learning is before preschool

The amount of time parents spend talking about numbers has a much bigger impact on how young children learn mathematics than was previously known, researchers at the University of Chicago have found.

For example, children whose parents talked more about numbers were much more likely to understand the cardinal number principle — which states that the size of a set of objects is determined by the last number reached when counting the set.
“By the time children enter preschool, there are marked individual differences in their mathematical knowledge, as shown by their performance on standardized tests,” said University of Chicago psychologist Susan Levine, the leader of the study. Other studies have shown that the level of mathematics knowledge entering school predicts future success.

“These findings suggest that encouraging parents to talk about numbers with their children, and providing them with effective ways to do so, may positively impact children’s school achievement,” said Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology Professor in Psychology.

The results of the study were published in the article, “What Counts in the Development of Young Children’s Number Knowledge?” in the current issue of Developmental Psychology. Joining lead author Levine in the study were four other scholars.

Although other researchers have examined early mathematics learning, the University of Chicago team is the first to record parent-child interactions in the home and analyze the connections between parents’ number talk and subsequent performance.

Parents often point to objects and say there are three blocks on the floor, for instance. Children can repeat a string of numbers from an early age, but saying “one, two, three” is not the same as actually knowing that the words relate to set size, which is an abstraction.

Frequent use of number words is important, even if the child doesn’t seem to pick up on the meanings of the number words right away, Levine said. Children who hear more number words in everyday conversation have a clear advantage in understanding how the count words refer to set size. To perform the study, team members made five home visits and videotaped interactions between 44 youngsters and their parents. The taping sessions lasted for 90 minutes and were made at four-month intervals, when the youngsters were between the ages of 14 to 30 months.

The variation in number words was startling for researchers as they reviewed tapes of the 44 youngsters interacting with their parents in everyday activities. Some parents produced as few as four number words during the entire period they were studied, while others produced as many as 257.

“This amount of variation would amount to a range of approximately 28 to 1,799 number-related words in a week,” said Levine.

Those differences were shown to have a big impact at the end of the study, when the children were asked to connect the words for numbers with sets of squares presented on sheets of paper. For example, those children who heard a lot of number talk were more likely to respond correctly when shown a set of five squares and four squares and asked to “point to five.”
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Study answers how much last year’s teacher affects this year’s test scores


The impact a specific schoolteacher has on students’ math and reading scores – whether bad or good – fades quite fast, according to a new study by researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of Michigan.

A recent trend in public education is to measure teacher quality based on how the students fared on standardized tests compared to previous years. If most of Mr. Green’s current 5th grade students score at a higher percentile than they did as 4th graders, then Mr. Green gets what’s called a high “value-added” rating.

In August, The Los Angeles Times shined the spotlight on this approach by publishing rankings for 6,000 L.A. schoolteachers based on value-added analysis.

The new study instead measured whether teachers like Mr. Green put students on a higher trajectory in the years to come. The researchers report that most of the gains from a highly rated teacher vanish quickly. In reading, 87 percent of the benefit fades after one year. In math, 73 percent of the gains fade after one year.

“People are looking for a silver bullet to fix public education,” said BYU economics professor Lars Lefgren. “We’ve shown that the benefits are mostly transitory, so you don’t want to sacrifice everything else you might value in a teacher just for value added to test scores.”

Lefgren and fellow BYU economist David Sims co-authored the study with the University of Michigan’s Brian Jacob for The Journal of Human Resources. Their analysis included eight years of data from 1.3 million student test scores in North Carolina schools.

While the news may sound depressing, the report offers this silver lining: The effect of having a crummy teacher doesn’t last long either.

“You probably won’t be scarred from having an incompetent teacher like me,” Lefgren joked.
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Benefits of preschool vary by family income


State-funded preschool programs have historically enrolled low-income children, aiming to help them start school on a footing closer to nonpoor youngsters. Today, more and more states are expanding access to preschool programs, and some are making them universally available. How will this affect states' efforts to narrow achievement gaps? A new study concludes that while the benefits of preschool are greatest for children living in poverty, nonpoor children, particularly Black youngsters, also experience positive gains from preschool participation.

The study, conducted at the University of Virginia, appears in the November/December 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.

Between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state preschool programs grew from 14 to 25 percent. While most state programs have income-based eligibility guidelines, in the last 10 years, more states have begun offering universal access to preschool, and more states are currently considering doing so.

"Universally available preschool programs are likely to narrow achievement gaps between children who are poor and those who are not poor, and also between racial groups, only if some subgroups—such as low-income or minority populations—experience larger benefits from participation than others," according to Daphna Bassok, assistant professor of education policy at the University of Virginia, who conducted the study.

Bassok's research is based on information on about 7,400 children who were part of the birth cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative data set that tracks children from birth to kindergarten. She analyzed the link between participation in preschool—described as any classroom-based program targeted to 4-year-olds, including nursery schools, preschool centers, and prekindergarten programs—and how children did on an assessment of literacy when they were 4.

On average, all poor children, regardless of their race, seemed to benefit substantially from taking part in preschool the year before kindergarten. For White children, the benefits of preschool were inversely related to their socioeconomic status, with benefits largely limited to poor children. Among Black youngsters, however, both poor and nonpoor children showed considerable benefits.

The findings suggest that while preschool participation may benefit low-income children across racial and ethnic groups, expanding toward universal access and enrolling children whose families are above poverty may still lead to a narrowing of racial achievement gaps.

The study was funded, in part, by the American Education Research Association through funds from the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education.
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Social costs of achievement vary by race/ethnicity, school features


Doing well in school and feeling accepted by your peers are both important challenges during adolescence. Sometimes these don't fit well together, as when teens are ostracized for being smart. A new study has found that such pressures differ for teens in different racial/ethnic groups, and that characteristics of the teens' schools also play a role.

The study, conducted by researchers at Cornell University, appears in the November/December 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.

"This is the first study to clearly show that for adolescents, there are measurable differences in the social costs of academic success across racial and ethnic groups," notes Thomas E. Fuller-Rowell, postdoctoral research fellow in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan; Fuller-Rowell led the study when he was at Cornell. "By doing so, it points to the significance of race and ethnicity in understanding the achievement gap, and can be helpful to those developing programs and policies to address this gap."

The researchers carried out their work using a nationally representative sample of almost 14,000 7th through 12th graders, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (also called Add Health). Add Health was designed and funded under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and 17 other federal agencies, and is the largest, most comprehensive survey of adolescents ever undertaken.

The students were interviewed once in their homes, then interviewed again a year later. In the interviews, students gave their grade point averages (GPAs) and reported on how much they felt socially accepted. Researchers learned about characteristics of each school from a related Add Health survey completed by almost all students in each school, and from information provided by school administrators.

The researchers found that for African American and Native American teenagers, the higher their GPAs at the start of the study, the more their feelings of social acceptance decreased over the one-year period. In contrast, for White teens and teens of other races and ethnicities, the higher their GPAs at the start of the research, the more their feelings of being socially accepted increased over the year. These differences across groups remained, even after the researchers took into consideration various background characteristics such as the level of education of the teens' parents, whether they lived in single-parent families, the size and type of the school they attended, and the affluence of the school.

The researchers also looked at how specific characteristics of the schools the teens attended affected the social costs of doing well. They found that for African American teens, the social costs of achieving were greatest in higher achieving competitive schools, but only when there weren't a substantial number of same-race peers at the schools. The same happened to students of Mexican descent. Gender was not a factor for high-achieving teens who didn't feel socially accepted.

"Previous research indicates that teachers and school administrators can work to create an environment of 'identity safety' in which students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds feel accepted and respected," according to Fuller-Rowell. "Such approaches are important to achievement. Our study suggests that these kinds of approaches, while valuable in all schools, may be especially important to the achievement of minority students when they are in small numbers within high achieving schools."
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Highlighting gender promotes stereotyped views in preschoolers


Preschool teachers can inadvertently pass on lessons in stereotypes to their students when they highlight gender differences, according to Penn State psychologists.

A study has found that when teachers call attention to gender, children are more likely to express stereotyped views of what activities are appropriate for boys and girls and which gender they prefer to play with, said Lynn Liben, Distinguished Professor of psychology, human development and family studies, and education, Penn State.

By highlighting the powerful effect of classroom environments on preschool children's gender-related beliefs and behaviors, the findings have implications for how teachers structure classrooms and interact with children, according to Liben, who worked with Lacey Hilliard, a Penn State graduate student, on the experiment.

"The biggest impact of the study and the findings seems to be that classroom structure really matters," said Liben. "It shows that if teachers emphasize gender--in any way-- it has amazingly profound effects on how children interact with each other."

The researchers, who published their results in the current issue of Child Development, evaluated 57, 3- to 5-year-olds at two preschools over a two-week period. The two schools were similar in class size, teacher-child ratio and populations served. In one set of classrooms, teachers were asked to avoid making divisions by sex, which was the policy of the preschool. In the other, teachers were asked to use gendered language and divisions, such as lining children up by gender and asking boys and girls to post their work on separate bulletin boards, but still avoid making statements comparing boys and girls or fostering competition between them. For example, they were asked to avoid saying, "Who can be quieter: boys or girls?"

At the end of two weeks, the researchers tested the degree to which the children endorsed cultural gender stereotypes, such as "only girls" should play with baby dolls, and asked them about their interest in playing with children of their own and the other sex. The researchers observed the children to see who they played with during play time.

Children in the classrooms in which teachers avoided characterizations by sex showed no change in responses or behaviors over the two weeks. However, children in the other classrooms showed increases in stereotyped attitudes and decreases in their interest in playing with children of the other sex. They also were observed to play less with children of the other sex.

The findings extend earlier research showing that classroom environments that make divisions by gender lead to increased stereotypes among elementary-school-aged children.
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Disadvantaged youth more likely to be high-school dropouts, young parents and poor adults


Concordia study finds poverty and behavioral history key to generational transfer

Disadvantaged kids are more likely to drop out of high school, become premature parents and raise their own children in poverty, according to an exhaustive new study from researchers at Concordia University and the University of Ottawa.

Published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development, the investigation was the first to follow boys and girls over three decades to examine whether childhood aggression, social withdrawal and low socio-economic status could impact adult wellbeing.

"Low socioeconomic status appears to have long-term detrimental effects – even when childhood behavior, education and other variables are factored in," says lead author Lisa A. Serbin, a psychology professor at Concordia University.

"Our study confirms that individual and environmental factors have a direct and enduring impact from childhood into parenthood. Addressing behavioral and academic problems in childhood might reduce, but would not eliminate the risk of economically disadvantaged children from parenting in poverty as adults," continues Dr. Serbin, who is also a scientist at the Centre for Research in Human Development.

This ongoing study was launched in 1976 and assessed participants at three-year intervals as part of the larger Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project. Subjects from low socio-economic urban backgrounds were recruited from Grade 1, Grade 4 and Grade 7 at French-speaking public schools in urban Quebec.

In the most recent phase of the study, participants were in their mid-30s. Of the 328 women and 222 men who had become parents:

22.6 percent of mothers and 22.5 percent of fathers had not completed their secondary education (Grade 11) by age 25.
40 percent of female participants – married, single, cohabiting – were poor.
28 percent of male participants – married, single, cohabiting – were poor.
On average, 35 percent of households were considered poor.
Affects of childhood aggression and withdrawal

The study found that childhood aggression and withdrawal resulted in lower school achievement. Girls who experienced academic difficulties were at increased risk to drop out of high school. Girls who failed to complete high school were at greater risk for entering motherhood at a young age and to parent in poverty.

"Not only were aggressive girls at greater risk for becoming mothers early, but having children at a young age increased the likelihood that children would be raised with at least one biological parent absent," says Professor Serbin. "The absence of a parent, in turn, increased the likelihood of living in poverty."

Boys who were aggressive and those who experienced academic difficulties were at increased risk to drop out of high school. Aggressive boys were found to be at increased risk to be young parents of children who would be raised in the absence of one biological parent. Early parenthood predicted future family poverty among men regardless of family structure.

For disadvantaged kids to rise above challenges, Professor Serbin stresses, social intervention strategies must specifically target school drop-out, early parenthood, parental absence and family poverty. "To do this effectively, problematic behavior and learning difficulties during childhood and adolescence need to be addressed for conditions of parenthood to be substantially improved for socially disadvantaged youth," she says.

Partners in research:

This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture.

About the study:

"Predicting family poverty and other disadvantaged conditions for child rearing from childhood aggression and social withdrawal: A 30-year longitudinal study," published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development, was authored by Lisa A. Serbin, Caroline E. Temcheff, Jessica M. Cooperman, Dale M. Stack and Alex E. Schwartzman of Concordia University and Jane Ledingham of the University of Ottawa.

On the Web:

Cited International Journal of Behavioral Development study: http://jbd.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/09/24/0165025410372008
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Program for young students increases interest in college attendance and medical careers


Two new studies have shown that a unique program in East Harlem that helps middle school students learn practical health skills and gain a better understanding of medical conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, resulted in increased interest in college attendance and medical careers among the students who attended the program. The results were presented at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting this month in Denver.

The MedStart Summer Enrichment Program was created in the summer of 2009 by Edward Chu and Melissa Schneiderman, two third-year medical students at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The free, one-week summer program is offered to East Harlem middle-school students who are interested in science and medicine, or who would benefit from a more interactive approach to learning. MedStart provides the participants with CPR and First Aid certification, and teaches them practical skills, such as how to take a pulse, and measure blood pressure. The program also provides transit passes, lunch, T-shirts, and trophies, at no cost to the students, for completing the program.

"East Harlem has one of the highest rates of asthma, diabetes, and obesity in all of New York City," said Chu. "We started the MedStart program because there was a significant unmet need for health care education among the youth of East Harlem about these diseases. A large number of medical students, residents, and faculty members were willing to dedicate time to help address this need, and MedStart was our solution."

The research team behind MedStart evaluated the impact of the program and presented the results at the APHA meeting. One study evaluated the impact of student attitudes toward science and medical careers before and after the program. Thirty-eight students completed the pre-program survey and 37 completed the post-survey. At the conclusion of the program, there was a 31 percent increase in students who were "very interested" in science, a 23 percent increase in students who were "very interested" in a career in the medical field, and a 13 percent increase in students who thought it was important to attend college.

A second study evaluated improvement in student knowledge of diseases prevalent in their community—asthma, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease—by surveying 39 students before and after the program. Comparing the students' pre-camp survey and post-camp survey performance, we found that their scores increased by an average of 26.5 percent. The majority of students previously were unaware of the high prevalence of these diseases in their community.

"These results demonstrate that the MedStart program improves middle school perceptions of health and science, encouraging them to someday consider careers in these fields," said Stephanie H. Factor, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine and faculty advisor for MedStart. "MedStart also educates these students at a critical time in their lives about prevalent diseases in the East Harlem community. The measurable impact of this program shows that it should be replicated in communities around the country."
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Achievement Effects of Four Early Elementary Math Curricula: Findings for First and Second Graders

According to a national evaluation of four math curricula, among first graders, the results favored Math Expressions over both Investigations and SFAW, but not over Saxon. Among second graders, the results favored Math Expressions and Saxon over SFAW, but not over Investigations.

The four curricula studied include: (1) Investigations in Number, Data, and Space, (2) Math Expressions, (3) Saxon Math, and (4) Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics (SFAW).

The evaluation compared the relative effects, including differences in teacher training, instructional strategies, content coverage, and materials, of these four curricula on the math achievement of first and second graders in 110 schools in 12 participating districts in 10 states. Schools were randomly assigned within each district to implement one of the four curricula in first and second grade. After one year, this study found significant impacts on student achievement of two curricula relative to the other two curricula in the study.

* The average math achievement of first graders in schools using Math Expressions was higher than in schools using Investigations and SFAW, but not in schools using Saxon. The difference is equivalent to moving a student from the 50th to the 54th percentile.
* The average math test score for second graders in schools using Math Expressions and in schools using Saxon was higher than that in schools using SFAW, but not in schools using Investigations. The differences are equivalent to moving a student from the 50th to the 55th and 57th percentile, respectively. Based on the curriculum requirements, Saxon teachers reported spending an average of one hour more on math instruction per week than teachers using other curricula, largely due to the extensive daily routines included in the Saxon curricula.
* Almost all teachers reported using their assigned curriculum and, based on classroom observations, the instructional approaches of teachers in the four curriculum groups differed as expected. Math Expressions blended student-centered and teacher-directed approaches to math instruction, while student-centered instruction and peer collaboration were highest in Investigations classrooms, and teacher-directed instruction was highest in Saxon classrooms.

The evaluation was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and released by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance within the Institute of Education Sciences.

For first report visit: http://ies.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=NCEE20094052.
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