Wikipedia improves students' work


Students become much more concerned with accuracy when their research is posted online

A student writing an essay for their teacher may be tempted to plagiarize or leave facts unchecked. A new study shows that if you ask that same student to write something that will be posted on Wikipedia, he or she suddenly becomes determined to make the work as accurate as possible, and may actually do better research.

Brenna Gray, an instructor at Douglas College in New Westminster, B.C., was presenting the results of the study at the 2011 Congress of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

She became interested in why students seem to adopt some technological innovations (Wikipedia, for example) and reject things their schools would like them to use, such as the student-teacher interface Blackboard. Gray says it's easy to criticize Wikipedia because of the unstructured way it is set up.

She says despite its faults, it does promote solid values for its writers, including precise citations, accurate research, editing and revision.

"Those ideals are the ones we espouse as English instructors," she said.

She decided to get first-year students in an English class to write short biographies of Canadian writers that would then be posted on Wikipedia.

What she found was that the moment the students realized their work was going public in a forum over which they had no control, they took the work a lot more seriously. They became concerned, for example, with the accuracy of facts.

Gray says it's not only the fact that their work was going public that stimulated the students, it was the realization that in producing the Wikipedia entries they were acquiring skills that were transferable to other parts of their lives.

Gray says students, like most of the rest of us, are more time-crunched than ever. They have to prioritize, and are therefore reluctant to spend time learning skills that aren't useful outside school. That includes online tools like Blackboard, which they perceive as having no relevance to other parts of their life.

Because the Wikipedia skills are perceived as transferable, students became interested in acquiring them. And they were willing to work to Wikipedia's standards.

Gray says teachers need to talk about Wikipedia and how it can be used.

"The purpose of my paper is to start a discussion about it," she said.
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All-boy classrooms might actually benefit girls


In recent years, the apparent decline in boys' academic success rates has troubled politicians, researchers, and educators. It has been described as an educational crisis and a failure of the traditional school setting. The decline has spurred scores of potential solutions to the problem, including the adoption of same-sex classrooms as a way to better address boys' educational needs.

New research indicates that the picture might not be so simple.

Christopher Greig, an assistant professor of education at the University of Windsor, believes that current analyses of same-sex classrooms are hopelessly ahistorical—that is, they don't look at what happened in the past when such arrangements were tried.

Greig's research looks at a Windsor elementary school that adopted segregated classrooms for grades one through three from 1966-1972. As part of his research, Greig interviewed 10 administrators and teachers who took part in the pilot project.

Shaped by a variety of complex historical factors and fueled by a desire for educational innovation, "All of them were very enthusiastic about doing it," he says. "They thought this would be a way to address boys' underachievement."

While boys did "okay" under the new structure, the real winners were girls, who "took off" academically in same-sex classrooms, says Greig. However, the negatives outweighed the positives. Not only were some of the segregated boys expressing misogynistic attitudes and prone to violence, but the educational gap between boys and girls actually increased over the course of the project, he says.

Greig's research is both a refutation of the idea that boys' academic disadvantages can be solved just by removing girls from the equation and a criticism of the present level of discourse.

"The current discussions around boy-only classrooms typically—and I think problematically—try to address boys' underachievement in simplistic and outdated ways," Greig says.
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Kids who bully, have aggressive behaviors are twice as likely to have sleep problems


Children who are bullies or have conduct problems at school are more likely to be sleepy during the day according to University of Michigan Medical School researchers.

Researchers looked at elementary school students in the Ypsilanti, Michigan public schools who had exhibited conduct problems like bullying or discipline referrals and found that there was a two-fold higher risk for symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, particularly daytime sleepiness among these students. The study was published last week in the journal Sleep Medicine.

“What this study does is raise the possibility that poor sleep, from whatever cause, can indeed play into bullying or other aggressive behaviors – a major problem that many schools are trying to address,” says Louise O’Brien, Ph.D., assistant professor in U-M’s Sleep Disorders Center and the departments of Neurology and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

“Our schools do push the importance of healthy eating and exercise, but this study highlights that good sleep is just as essential to a healthy lifestyle.”

O’Brien said the study showed that sleepiness seemed to be the biggest driver of the behavior problems, not the snoring, which is often a more obvious symptom associated with sleep-disordered breathing.

Sleep-disordered breathing is an umbrella term for a spectrum of breathing problems during sleep, which range from habitual snoring to obstructive sleep apnea, where the airway collapses at night.

The sleepiness experienced by the children in the study could be caused by sleep-disordered breathing, but also by many other factors like chaotic home environments, fragmented sleep or not enough sleep because of too much electronic stimulus from televisions, cell phones or computers in the bedroom, says O’Brien, who is on the faculty of U-M’s Sleep Disorders Center.

O’Brien says that a longitudinal study is needed. Although there are other reasons for these behaviors, if sleepiness does contribute to aggressive behavior as this study suggests, a significant proportion of bullying in children might be eliminated by efforts to reduce children's daytime sleepiness.

“We know that the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain is sensitive to sleep deprivation, and this area is also related to emotional control, decision making and social behavior,” says O’Brien.

“So impairment in the prefrontal cortex may lead to aggression or disruptive behavior, delinquency or even substance abuse. But the good news is that some of these behaviors can be improved. Sleep-disordered breathing can be treated, and schools or parents can encourage kids to get more sleep.”

O’Brien recommends parents remove electronic devices from bedrooms, make getting enough sleep a priority and encourage children to sleep for the recommended amount of time without interruption. It is recommended that children in pre-school sleep between 11-13 hours a night, and school-aged children between 10-11 hours of sleep a night.

“Given the high prevalence of aggressive, bullying and disruptive behaviors in schools and the long-lasting consequences for both perpetrators and victims, more study on this issue is needed,” she says.

Additional authors: From the University of Michigan: Neali H. Lucas, Ph.D., Barbara T. Felt, M.D., Timothy F. Hoban, M.D., Deborah I. Ruzicka, R.N., Ph.D., Kenneth Guire, M.S., Ronald D. Chervin, M.D., M.S.. From the Ypsilanti Public Schools: Ruth Jordan.

Journal reference: Sleep Med (2011), doi:10,1016/j.sleep.2010.11.012
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More than one-third of California teens do not participate in school physical education


Despite a state requirement that public middle and high school students get 400 minutes of physical education every 10 days, approximately 1.3 million — more than a third (38 percent) of all adolescents enrolled in California public schools — do not participate in any school-based physical education classes, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, "Adolescent Physical Education and Physical Activity in California."

Research has shown that a lack of physical activity is associated with obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions, while regular physical activity is associated with increased mental alertness and higher academic achievement.

Cuts to physical education (PE) programs, as well as exemptions that allow high school students to skip up to two years of PE, have contributed to declining participation in these school-based programs, the brief's authors noted. The study found, for example, that the proportion of teens participating in PE drops precipitously with age, from 95 percent at age 12 to just 23 percent at age 17.

Using data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the authors found that only 42 percent of California teens report participating in PE on a daily basis. And more than 80 percent of all teens fail to meet the current federal recommendations for physical activity.

"California teens don't get enough exercise," said Dr. Allison Diamant, a faculty associate with the center and a UCLA associate adjunct professor of general internal medicine and health services, who co-authored the policy brief, "Adolescent Physical Education and Physical Activity in California."

"Physical activity doesn't just keep the body healthy and prevent diabetes and obesity," Diamant said, "it also feeds the mind. Exercise is an education tool."

Diamant noted that PE classes are especially important to urban teens who may lack access to parks or other safe recreational spaces.

"Kids need to move more, and PE class is often one of the few safe places to do so," she said.

Among the study's findings:

Boys exercise more than girls

Participation in PE is higher among boys than girls (66 percent vs. 59 percent). Yet just 25 percent of boys and 13 percent of girls meet the current federal recommendations for physical activity.

School PE linked to higher rates of physical activity

For California adolescents, participating in PE is associated with an additional 18 minutes of physical activity each week, the authors found.

PE participation varies by county

The average number of days that adolescents participate in PE each week varies considerably from county to county, ranging from 1.8 days in Santa Cruz County to 3.8 days in Madera County. The average number of days that teens engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per week ranges from 3.1 days in San Mateo County to 4.7 days in Lake County.

The authors recommend maintenance of existing PE classes and increased funding to ensure that all schools meet statewide PE standards. And although they commend recently implemented legislation that requires students to pass five of the six standards of the California Physical Fitness Test before receiving an exemption from PE, they note that it is important for students to maintain physical activity, even if they do meet these standards.

"Physical fitness is an intrinsic part of the educational process, not something to be sidelined or avoided," said Dr. Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and CEO of the California Endowment, which funded the study. "Our educators need to understand that physical education is just as essential to a student's academic success as reading, writing and arithmetic."
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Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has just released the First Look report, "Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2009–10." This publication includes findings from the 2009–10 SSOCS, including:

• During the 2009–10 school year, the rate of violent incidents per 1,000 students was higher in middle schools (40 incidents) than in primary schools or high schools (21 incidents each).

• Some 10 percent of city schools reported at least one gang-related crime, a higher percentage than that reported by suburban (5 percent), town (4 percent), or rural schools (2 percent).

• A higher percentage of middle schools reported that student bullying occurred at school daily or at least once a week (39 percent) than did high schools or primary schools (20 percent each).

• A higher percentage of schools with 1,000 or more students involved students in resolving student conduct problems as a component of violence prevention programs (60 percent) than did schools with lower enrollments (39 to 49 percent).
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A visit to a zoo boosts science and environment knowledge


Research from the University of Warwick shows a trip to the zoo can boost your child’s science and conservation education more than books or classroom teaching alone.

In research conducted at ZSL London Zoo, more than 3,000 school children aged between seven and 14 were asked about their knowledge of animals, habitat and conservation and then tested again after their trip.

The results show that 53% had a positive change in educational or conservation-related knowledge areas, personal concern for endangered species or new empowerment to participate in conservation efforts. The study proves that their trip around the zoo provided a statistically significant increase in scientific learning about animals and habitats. When zoo visits were supplemented by an educational presentation by zoo staff this increase in learning almost doubled against self-guided visits.

Eric Jensen, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, who produced the report said: “Globally, more than a tenth of the world’s population passes through zoos annually so the potential is there to reach a huge audience.

“In recent years zoos have come under criticism for failing to demonstrate educational impact with certain lobbying groups arguing that it’s cruel to keep animals captive. But zoos have been changing for years now to offer more educational and conservation information; ‘behind the scenes’ access for visitors; learning about habitat conservation work – all of which culminate in a better engagement experience for the visitor.”

Children came away with a greater understanding of ideas such as conservation, habitat and extinction. Amongst those who had not previously registered a concern about species extinction, 39% switched to registering such a concern directly after a zoo trip.

The children were asked to draw their favourite animals and habitats before and after their trip to the zoo. The drawings were analysed and showed some remarkable improvements. Some 51% of ten-year-olds showed a real change in the drawings and the use of correct scientific terms such as ‘canopy’ and ‘rainforest’ and had a higher amount of animals placed in the correct habitat, e.g. a meerkat drawn in the desert.
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NCEE calls for new U.S. education reform agenda


National Center on Education and the Economy calls for new U.S. education reform agenda based on strategies of the top-performing nations

As the performance of students in one nation after another surpasses that of American students, and the states, in response, institute one reform after another, student performance remains stagnant. A new paper, released today by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform explains why.

It turns out that the countries that are outperforming the United States have been pursuing strategies that the U.S. has not been pursuing, while the U.S. has embraced strategies that none of the best-performing countries have embraced. Reduced class size and more money for schools have long been advocated by American educators as solutions to poor student performance, but neither is correlated with high student performance in the best-performing countries.

But it is also true that some of the reforms dearest to the critics of the educators—school charters, support of entrepreneurs pursuing disruptive innovations, and firing teaches whose students perform poorly on standardized tests—are nowhere to be found in the arsenal of strategies used by the top-performing nations.

Among the strategies now on the front burner in the United States, only the effort to develop internationally benchmarked student achievement standards and high quality examinations appears to have a parallel in the program of the nations with the best student performance.

Among its key recommendations of the paper to American states are:

Build their strategies for improving student performance on the continuing study of the strategies employed by the top-performing countries. This is what most of the top performers have been doing for years. It keeps them at the top of their game.

Expand the work begun on the Common Core State Standards by expanding it to the rest of the core curriculum, and creating curriculum frameworks that specify what topics are to be taught in the core subjects, grade by grade. Don’t use the new tests being built by the state consortia for grade-by-grade accountability testing—not one top-performing country does that. Instead, pick one or two grade levels for accountability testing (often, in the top-performing countries, the end of middle school and/or the end of the sophomore year of high school) and make them “gateway tests,” with standards that have to be met before moving on to the next stage of one’s education or training for work.

Develop a world-class teaching force by greatly raising standards for entry to teacher education programs, moving teacher training from low-status higher education institutions to research universities. This means insisting that all teachers—including elementary teachers—have in-depth knowledge of the subjects they will teach, apprenticing new teachers to master teachers, raising teacher pay so it is comparable to that of the leading professions, and giving teachers substantial research skills so they can take the lead in improving teaching practice.

Move away from local control of school finance and toward state adoption of responsibility for financing schools. The top-performing nations have moved steadily toward systems of school finance that provide more resources to students who are harder to educate than to other students, an essential step in making sure that all students are able to reach internationally competitive standards.

Abandon the old industrial model of school and district management and move toward modern methods of managing professionals. The countries that have succeeded in attracting their best young people to teaching trust their teachers, listen to them when making policy, and put them in charge of improving practice. They are not locked in conflict with their unions. Some of the nations with the strongest student performance also have some of the strongest unions in the world. But the experience of those nations shows that, when schools are run on a high performance, professional model, the unions need to change, too, along with the management model, moving toward a very different labor relations model.

Spend our education budgets differently. Other countries are getting much more for their money by spending less on fancy school buildings, glossy textbooks, intramural sports and district administration and more on their teachers and their most disadvantaged students.

Make sure all elements of the education system are coherent and aligned. The top-performing countries have systems that make it look as though the parts and pieces of their policy systems and practices were designed to work smoothly together. In the U.S., we tend to add program after program, initiative after initiative, law after law, and regulation after regulation, all piled on what went before. Nothing else we do will matter very much unless we build an education system that makes sense.

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Reforming Districts Through Choice, Autonomy, Equity, and Accountability


In February 2011, the Center on Reinventing Public Education(CRPE) convened a conference to help districts implementing school choice under the U.S. Department of Education’s Voluntary Public School Choice program. The conference, sponsored by the Department of Education, provided grantees access to the most current knowledge from district and charter leaders and school choice researchers on how to effectively implement public school choice.

The conference focused on the most pressing issues faced by localities committed to public school choice. Panelists addressed how choice districts can

* actively manage the supply of schools in the district,
* make careful decisions about the allocation of resources across these now independent schools,
* build fair and transparent enrollment systems,
* effectively communicate to all parents about their choices, and
* invoke creative solutions to ensure that students with special needs are well served in these diverse schools.

This paper summarizes the two-day conversation and lessons participants took away from the discussion. Essays by some of the panelists examine each of these five issue areas in greater detail.
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Common Core Standards: Is College and Career Readiness the Right Goal?


While the Common Core State Standards were developed to be internationally competitive, empirical data were not available to determine whether the goal of college and career readiness or the Common Core Standards would be internationally competitive—that is, whether they represent a level of performance that will prepare our students to compete with the highest-performing countries around the world.

ACT, Inc. examined the international competitiveness of college and career ready standards in the policy research report, Affirming the Goal: Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive Standard? In this study, ACT performed a linking analysis to identify the PISA scores in reading and mathematics that are equivalent to the college and career readiness benchmark scores on PLAN®, ACT's tenth-grade college and career readiness assessment. These benchmark scores represent being on target for readiness.

The linking analysis was based on 2,248 US tenth-grade students from 77 high schools across the US who tested under standardized conditions with both PLAN and a special administration of PISA. By linking the tenth-grade college and career readiness benchmarks to the PISA scale, ACT determined if the college and career readiness performance standards for US students in these two subjects was competitive with the performance of students in other countries.


The linking analysis affirms that the performance standards of college and career readiness—and therefore the new Common Core State Standards—are competitive with the highest performing nations in the world. In fact, the average scores of only four countries were significantly higher than the benchmark scores in reading and in mathematics. Because the benchmark scores fell well within the average scores of the highest performing countries, college and career readiness is the right goal for US education.
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Research study links job stress in teachers to student achievement


"Middle school is probably the most difficult level to teach because student-teacher interactions are more difficult during this time, and this kind of difficulty in teacher-student interactions is a major source of stress for teachers at this level"
(How true - I was a seventh and eighth grade math teacher! JDK)

After 17 years of researching traumatic stress with war-afflicted populations (veterans and civilians) and job stress in the medical profession, Teresa McIntyre, a research professor in the department of psychology and the Texas Institute for Evaluation, Measurement and Statistics (TIMES), at the University of Houston (UH), decided to study another high risk occupation, middle school teachers in seventh and eighth grade.

"Teaching is a highly stressful occupation," McIntyre said. "Teacher stress affects various aspects of teacher health and may influence how effective teachers are in the classroom, with potential consequences for their students' behavior and learning.

"I started to research the literature on stress and teachers in the U.S. and found very little information. There was no comprehensive study of teachers' stress or even an audit of the percentage of teachers who are stressed. I saw a void here and a need to study."

McIntyre serves as primary investigator for a $1.6 million grant funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), U.S. Department of Education, titled, "Using Longitudinal and Momentary Analysis to Study the Impact of Middle School Teachers' Stress on Teacher Effectiveness, Student Behavior and Achievement."

The research study starts at the beginning of this coming school year and follows 200 seventh-and eighth-grade social studies, science or math teachers in 20 middle schools in H.I.S.D. and thousands of students over a three-year period. The research team intends to identify predictors and outcomes of job stress in middle school teachers, linking teacher stress to student behavior and achievement via teacher effectiveness. The results of the data can be used to guide further development of interventions to mitigate teacher stress and, consequently, improve teacher effectiveness and student behavior and learning.

"Middle school is probably the most difficult level to teach because student-teacher interactions are more difficult during this time, and this kind of difficulty in teacher-student interactions is a major source of stress for teachers at this level," McIntyre said. "For students it's a time of adolescence and many changes developmentally, and that is going to affect the dynamics of learning, as well as the social relationships and climate in the classroom. It's going to affect the teachers as well. Our premise is that if the teacher is stressed, their behavior will be different with students, and they will perform differently with students."
McIntyre conducted a pilot study in the Greater Houston area in 2010 that indicated that at least one third of middle school teachers may be significantly stressed.

The UH research team will combine an innovative multi-method approach to assessing stress and teacher effectiveness, which involves ecological momentary assessment or real-time assessment, concurrent physiological measurements that will monitor blood pressure and heart rate, and in-classroom observational ratings. The researchers will use the most current technology to assess stress, which includes self-report on a Teacher Stress Diary using an iPod Touch platform, and teacher effectiveness ratings on an iPad. Data will be collected on students in the teachers' classroom using teacher stress diaries, archival school records and observational ratings. The innovative software programs are being developed by Sean Woodward at TIMES and the novel statistical methodologies required to analyze the intensive longitudinal data generated by real time assessment will be provided by TIMES and the UH department of psychology faculty Paras Mehta. The methodological and technical support provided by the UH's TIMES, directed by David Francis, as well as its expertise in education research, are key to the implementation of this type of study.

"With this study we will be able to get a more dynamic picture of how teachers respond to stress in real time," McIntyre said. "And that's what this ecological momentary assessment does – it assesses stress through the person's diary report of stress when things are happening, very close to the event. Teachers will be able to report their emotions – positive, negative; how their cognitive functions are affected by stress; and what's happening at the moment in terms of social interactions, social conflict, demands on the job, the time pressure and whether they feel they are in control of their situation. They also report on effectiveness in instruction and classroom management, an on their student's behavior in the classroom"

McIntyre notes the larger contribution of the study is to take the pulse of the educational system and see what's happening in challenging economic times and to evaluate what impact this has on teachers and students, "The study addresses a key issue in contemporary education: how to improve teacher quality in the face of increasing demands in the education system; it is all about supporting teachers, students and school administrators at a time of depleted resources."

The results of the study may be used to guide further development of interventions to mitigate teacher stress and, consequently, improve teacher effectiveness and student behavior and learning. The data collected will be useful for school administrators and principals to know, such as what factors are causing teachers to be more stressed and less effective, and what resources can be arranged to change that trajectory into a positive one.
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Students who struggle with math may have a neurocognitive disorder called dyscalculia

Disorder affects roughly as many people as dyslexia

What is dyscalculia?

Examples of common indicators of dyscalculia are (i) carrying out simple number comparison and addition tasks by counting, often using fingers, well beyond the age when it is normal, and (ii) finding approximate estimation tasks difficult. Individuals identified as dyscalculic behave differently from their mainstream peers, for example:

* To say which is the larger of two playing cards showing 5 and 8, they count all the symbols on each card.
* To place a playing card of 8 in sequence between a 3 and a 9 they count up spaces between the two to identify where the 8 should be placed.
* To count down from 10 they count up from 1 to 10, then 1 to 9, etc.
* To count up from 70 in tens, they say '70, 80, 90, 100, 200, 300…'
* They estimate the height of a normal room as '200 feet?'

Students who struggle to learn mathematics may have a neurocognitive disorder that inhibits the acquisition of basic numerical and arithmetic concepts, according to a new paper by University of Minnesota and British researchers. Called developmental dyscalculia, the disorder affects roughly the same number of people as dyslexia but has received much less attention (and research funding). The paper by University of Minnesota Educational Psychology assistant professor Sashank Varma and his British colleagues that shines a light on the causes of and interventions for dyscalculia will be published Thursday, May 27 in the journal Science.

The paper, "Dyscalculia, From Brain to Education," documents how scientists across the world have used magnetic resonance imaging to map the neural network that supports arithmetic. Through this process, they have discovered abnormalities in this network among learners with dyscalculia.

These findings have the potential to lead to evidence-based interventions for dyscalculia, Varma says. "Knowledge about what parts of the brain we use while learning mathematics is spurring the design of new computer learning environments that can strengthen simple number and arithmetic concepts," he explains. The paper envisions future research where neuroscientists, psychologists and educational researchers collaborate to offer a productive way forward on the important question of why some children struggle with learning mathematics.
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Current Test-Based Incentive Programs Have Not Consistently Raised Student Achievement


Despite being used for several decades, test-based incentives have not consistently generated positive effects on student achievement, says a new report from the National Research Council, Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education. The report examines evidence on incentive programs, which impose sanctions or offer rewards for students, teachers, or schools on the basis of students’ test performance. Federal and state governments have increasingly relied on incentives in recent decades as a way to raise accountability in public education and in the hope of driving improvements in achievement.

School-level incentives -- like those of No Child Left Behind -- produce some of the larger effects among the programs studied, but the gains are concentrated in elementary grade mathematics and are small in comparison with the improvements the nation hopes to achieve, the report says. Evidence also suggests that high school exit exam programs, as currently implemented in many states, decrease the rate of high school graduation without increasing student achievement.

Policymakers should support the development and evaluation of promising new models that use test-based incentives in more sophisticated ways as one aspect of a richer accountability and improvement process, said the committee that wrote the report.

Incentives’ Effects on Student Achievement

Attaching incentives to test scores can encourage teachers to focus narrowly on the material tested -- in other words, to “teach to the test” -- the report says. As a result, students’ knowledge of the part of the subject matter that appears on the test may increase while their understanding of the untested portion may stay the same or even decrease, and the test scores may give an inflated picture of what students actually know with respect to the full range of content standards.

To control for any score inflation caused by teaching to the test, it is important to evaluate the effects of incentive programs not by looking at changes in the test scores tied to the incentives, but by looking at students’ scores on “low stakes” tests -- such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- that are not linked to incentives and are therefore less likely to be inflated, the report says.

When evaluated using low-stakes tests, the overall effects on achievement tend to be small and are effectively zero for a number of incentives programs, the committee concluded. Even when evaluated using the tests attached to the incentives, a number of programs show only small effects.

Some incentives hold teachers or students accountable, while others affect whole schools. School-level incentives like those used in No Child Left Behind produce some of the larger achievement gains, the report says, but even these have an effect size of only around .08 standard deviations – the equivalent of moving a student currently performing at the 50th percentile to the 53rd percentile. For comparison, raising student performance in the U.S. to the level of the highest-performing nations would require a gain equivalent to a student climbing from the 50th to the 84th percentile. The committee noted, however, that although a .08 effect size is small, few other education interventions have shown greater gains.

Effects of High School Exit Exams

The study also examined evidence on the effects of high school exit exams, which are currently used by 25 states and typically involve tests in multiple subjects, all of which students must pass in order to graduate. This research suggests that such exams decrease the rate of high school graduation without improvements in student achievement as measured by low-stakes tests.

Broader Measures of Performance Needed

It is unreasonable to implement incentives tied to tests on a narrow range of content and then criticize teachers for narrowing their instruction to match the tests, said the committee. When incentives are used, the performance measures need to be broad enough to align with desired student outcomes. This means not only expanding the range of content covered by tests but also considering other student outcomes beyond a single test.

Policymakers and researchers should design and evaluate alternate approaches using test-based incentives, the committee said. Among the approaches proposed during current policy debates are those that would deny tenure to teachers whose students fail to meet a minimal level of test performance. Another proposal is to use the narrow information from tests to trigger a more intensive school evaluation that would consider a broader range of information and then provide support to help schools improve. The modest and variable benefits shown by incentive programs so far, however, means that all use of incentives should be rigorously evaluated to determine what works and what does not, said the committee.

In addition, it is important that research on and development of new incentive-based approaches does not displace investment in the development of other aspects of the education system – such as improvements in curricula and instructional methods -- that are important complements to the incentives themselves, the report cautions.

The study was sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit
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Public School Systems Spent $10,499 Per Pupil in 2009


Public school systems spent an average of $10,499 per pupil in fiscal year 2009, a 2.3 percent increase over 2008, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Public schools in New York spent more than any other state or state equivalent, with $18,126 per pupil in 2009. The District of Columbia ($16,408), New Jersey ($16,271), Alaska ($15,552) and Vermont ($15,175) had the next-highest spending. (See table 11 [PDF].)

These data come from Public Education Finances: 2009, which provides tables on revenues, expenditures, debt and assets (cash and security holdings) of elementary and secondary public school systems with data for the nation, states and school districts. The tables also include more detailed data on spending, such as instruction, transportation and salaries, among others.

“Most children in the United States rely on public schools for their education, so it's important for people to understand how available resources are being spent within the public education system,” said Lisa Blumerman, chief of the Census Bureau's Governments Division. “These data provide a detailed look at how taxpayer money is being spent on education.”

States or state equivalents that saw the largest percent increases in per pupil spending from 2008 to 2009 were the District of Columbia (12.4 percent), Utah (10.3 percent), Minnesota (9.4 percent), North Carolina (7.4 percent) and Maine (6.3 percent).

Public school systems received $590.9 billion in funding in 2009, up 1.5 percent from the prior year. Of that amount, state governments contributed $276.2 billion (46.7 percent), followed by revenue raised from local sources, which contributed $258.9 billion (43.8 percent), and federal sources, which provided the remaining $55.9 billion (9.5 percent).

Total spending by public school systems was $604.9 billion in 2009, a 2.0 percent increase from the prior year. Total current spending was $517.7 billion (85.6 percent), of which $311.9 billion went to instruction.

Total school district debt increased by 5.8 percent to $399.1 billion in 2009.

Other highlights:

* States and state equivalents that spent the least per pupil were Utah ($6,356), Idaho ($7,092), Arizona ($7,813), Oklahoma ($7,885) and Tennessee ($7,897).
* Instructional salaries accounted for the largest spending category for public elementary and secondary education, totaling $209.0 billion in 2009. (See table 6 [PDF].)
* Property taxes accounted for 65.2 percent of revenue for public school systems from local sources.
* The $258.9 billion in funding schools received from local sources included $227.7 billion (87.9 percent) from taxes and local government appropriations.
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The Condition of Education 2011


Today, Thursday, May 26th, Commissioner Jack Buckley, National Center for Education Statistics, released The Condition of Education 2011 along with The Condition in Brief. The 50 indicators presented in The Condition of Education 2011 provide a progress report on education in America and include findings on the demographics of American schools, U.S. resources for schooling, and outcomes associated with education.

Report findings include:

• In 2007-08, about three-quarters of the 2003-04 freshman class graduated with a regular diploma from public high schools.

• From 2000 to 2009, undergraduate enrollment in postsecondary institutions increased from 13 million students to 18 million. During this period, undergraduate enrollment in private for-profit institutions quadrupled – from 0.4 million students in 2000 to 1.6 million in 2009.

• Between 1975 and 2010, the percentages of White, Black and Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds who had a bachelor’s degree increased. Yet, during this period, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment between Blacks and Whites increased from 13 to 19 percentage points, and the gap between Whites and Hispanics increased from 15 to 25 percentage po
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New research on Christian school graduates


In the first study of its kind on K-12 Christian education in North America, University of Notre Dame sociologist David Sikkink, in partnership with Cardus – a public policy think tank – found that while Protestant Christian school graduates show uncommon commitment to their families and churches, donate more money than graduates of other schools, and divorce less, they also have lower incomes, less education, and are less engaged in politics than their Catholic and non-religious private school peers.

The two-year study surveyed a representative sample of religious school graduates in the U.S. (ages 24 to 39) to determine the impact of Christian schools on adults in today's society as well as understand how Christian schools are attempting to define themselves in today's socio-cultural and economic landscape. The research team also sampled more than 150 Catholic and Protestant school administrators in Canada and the U.S. to assess the aspirations of Christian schools.

Also among the findings:

* In addition to divorcing less, Protestant Christian school graduates are having more children than their Catholic and non-religious private school peers;
* Protestant Christian school graduates participate in more relief and development service trips than their Catholic and non-religious private school peers;
* Protestant Christian school graduates were more thankful for what they have in life;
* Protestant Christian school graduates attend less competitive colleges than Catholic and non-religious private school peers;
* Protestant Christian school graduates are not engaging in higher education any more than their public school peers;
* Protestant Christian school graduates talk less about politics, participate less in political campaigns and donate less to political causes than their Catholic and non-religious private school peers;
* Graduates of Catholic and non-religious private schools have a significant advantage in the number of years of education;
* More Catholic school administrators ranked university as the top priority, while more Protestant school administrators ranked family as the top emphasis of the school.
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What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors



On average, bachelor's degrees pay off. But a new study confirms that some undergraduate majors pay off a lot more than others. In fact, the difference in earnings potential between one major and another can be more than 300 percent.

Using United States Census data available for the first time, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is helping Americans connect the dots between college majors and career earnings. In the new report, What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors, this first-time research demonstrates just how critical the choice of major is to a student's median earnings.

While there is a lot of variation in earnings over a lifetime, the authors find that all undergraduate majors are "worth it," even taking into account the cost of college and lost earnings. However, the lifetime advantage ranges from $1,090,000 for Engineering majors to $241,000 for Education majors.

“The bottom line is that getting a degree matters, but what you take matters more,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, the Center's director. The new report analyzes 171 majors in 15 categories. It tracks earnings by majors and provides key break outs on questions of race/ethnicity and the gender differences in earnings.

The report finds that majors are highly segregated by race/ethnicity and gender, with few exceptions. White men are concentrated in the highest-earning majors, while women tend to be concentrated in the lowest-earning majors.

Some of the findings include:

-The top 10 majors with the highest median earnings are: Petroleum Engineer ($120,000); Pharmacy/pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration ($105,000); Mathematics and Computer Sciences ($98,000); Aerospace Engineering ($87,000); Chemical Engineering ($86,000); Electrical Engineering ($85,000); Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering ($82,000); Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering and Mining and Mineral Engineering (each with median earnings of $80,000).

-The 10 majors with the lowest median earnings are: Counseling/Psychology ($29,000); Early Childhood Education ($36,000); Theology and Religious Vocations ($38,000); Human Services and Community Organizations ($38,000); Social Work ($39,000); Drama and Theater Arts, Studio Arts, Communication Disorders Sciences and Services, Visual and Performing Arts, and Health and Medical Preparatory Programs (each at $40,000).

-Unfortunately, race and gender earnings gaps still exist in almost all fields. For example, even in their highest paid major, electrical engineering, African-Americans still earn $22,000 less than Whites and $12,000 less than Asians with the same major. Women tend to hold the majority of degrees in many of the lower-paying fields such as education, but even women with degrees in the higher-paying field of chemical engineering earn, on average, $20,000 less than equally educated male counterparts.

Liberal Arts and Humanities majors end up in the middle of the pack in terms of earnings and employment. They are the third most popular major group, and earn median incomes of $47,000. Moreover, about 40 percent of people with these majors obtain a graduate degree, reaping a return of almost 50 percent. Liberal Arts and Humanities majors generally fare well in the workforce, ending up in professional, white-collar, and education occupations.

As to the question of graduate degrees, the report reveals that obtaining a graduate-level degree does lead to higher earnings, but how much in additional earnings is also driven by what you study. The highest earnings bump in graduate degrees can be found in the areas related to healthcare and biology: Health and Medical Preparatory Programs (190 percent); Miscellaneous Social Sciences (134 percent); and Zoology (123 percent). Meanwhile, the majors in which students have shown the lowest earnings boost from advanced degrees are: Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology (1 percent); Studio Arts (3 percent); and Petroleum Engineering (7 percent).

In today's challenging jobs economy, there are some fields with virtually no unemployment: Geological and Geophysical Engineering; Military Technologies; Pharmacology, and School Student Counseling. While majors with the highest unemployment rates are in the fields of: Social Psychology (16 percent); Nuclear Engineering (11 percent); and Educational Administration and Supervision (11 percent).

The analyses contained in this report are based on newly released data from the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS). For the first time in this survey the Census Bureau asked individuals who indicated that their degree was a bachelor_s degree or higher, to supply their undergraduate major. Their responses were then coded and collapsed by the Census Bureau into 171 different degree majors. Unlike other data sources focused on recent degree recipients, the Census data enables analysis across an individual_s full life cycle.
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Intensive Mathematics Professional Development for Teachers in Middle Schools


This study examines the impact of intensive mathematics professional development (PD) on teachers’ knowledge and teaching skills for 7th grade mathematics in rational number topics such as fractions, decimals, percent, ratio, and proportion. The intensive PD studied includes over 100 hours of support in the form of summer institutes, seminars, and in-school coaching.

Schools in 12 districts participating in the study were randomly assigned to receive the intensive PD activities or only the PD activities normally provided by the district. All 7th grade teachers teaching at least one regular seventh-grade mathematics class within the treatment schools were offered the intensive PD during the first year of implementation. In 6 of the districts, the intensive PD was provided to eligible 7th grade teachers in the study schools for a second year.

Findings after two years of implementation include:

• The intensive PD was implemented as intended, but teacher turnover limited the average dosage received. On average, the treatment teachers in the second-year impact sample received 68 percent of the full intended dosage. Because some teachers left the study schools and others entered as the study progressed, not all teachers had the opportunity to experience the full dose of PD.

• There was no evidence that the intensive PD resulted in improved teacher knowledge. There were no significant impacts on teachers’ scores on a specially constructed teacher knowledge test or on either of the subscores. On average, about 75 percent of teachers in both the treatment and the control groups correctly answered test items that were of average difficulty for the test instrument.

• There was no evidence that the intensive PD had led to improvements in student achievement in rational numbers knowledge. Students taught by teachers in the intensive PD group and students taught by teachers in the control group performed similarly on a rational numbers test.
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Shifting Trends in Special Education


In this new Fordham Institute paper, analysts examine public data and find that the national proportion of students with disabilities peaked in 2004-05 and has been declining since. This overall trend masks interesting variations; for example, proportions of students with specific learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional disturbances have declined, while the proportions of students with autism, developmental delays, and other health impairments have increased notably.

Meanwhile, at the state level, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts have the highest rates of disability identification, while Texas, Idaho, and Colorado have the lowest. The ratio of special-education teachers and paraprofessionals to special-education students also varies widely from state to state—so much so that our analysts question the accuracy of the data reported by states to the federal government
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Affirmative Action & Legacy Preferences in College Admissions

Affirmative Action & Legacy Preferences in College Admissions: Dan Golden from Century Foundation on Vimeo.

Affirmative Action & Legacy Preferences in College Admissions: Richard Kahlenberg from Century Foundation on Vimeo.

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Poorer Reading Skills Following Changed Computer Habits


Sweden and the US are two countries in which increased leisure use of computers by children leads to poorer reading ability. This is the conclusion from research carried out at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Professor Monica Rosén of the Department of Education and Special Education has analysed differences between different countries over time in order to explain change in reading achievement among 9-10-year olds. Within the framework of the research project she and her colleagues have studied how pupils' reading skills have changed since 1970. Hungary, Italy, the US and Sweden have been included in all of the international comparisons. Reading ability has improved steadily in Italy and Hungary, while it has fallen rapidly since 1991 in both the US and Sweden.

During this period, many factors within the school system have changed, as have also society in general and the after-school activities of children in particular. The Swedish and American pupils described a large increase in the use of computers in their free time during this period, while a similar increase was not reported in Hungary or Italy.

Reading underdeveloped

"Our study shows that the entry of computers into the home has contributed to changing children's habits in such a manner that their reading does not develop to the same extent as previously. By comparing countries over time we can see a negative correlation between change in reading achievement and change in spare time computer habits which indicates that reading ability falls as leisure use of computers increases," says Monica Rosén.

The investigation shows that the frequency of leisure reading and the number of leisure books borrowed from the library have both fallen as computer use in the home has increased.

Thus, it is not the computers in themselves or the activities they are used for that impair reading skills, but rather the way in which the computers have stolen time from leisure reading.

The new computer habits do not promote the development of reading ability in the same way as leisure reading of books does. Reading of printed media has fallen also among adults. In many homes it is becoming evermore unusual that somebody actually sits down and reads something.

Fewer high-performing children

"We have shown that the poorer results are principally caused by a fall in the skills of those from the centre of the ability range and upwards. It is not that case that there are more less-gifted readers or that the skills of these readers have become poorer. What has happened is that there are fewer high-performing children," says Monica Rosén. She points out that it is very difficult to measure and compare reading skills over time.

"It is important that we do not jump to the conclusion that the complete explanation for poorer reading is deficiencies in education. On the contrary, the way in which computers undermine reading shows very clearly that leisure time is at least as important when it comes to developing high-quality reading skills," says Monica Rosén.
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Violence Prevention Program for Middle Schools


This report presents findings from an IES-sponsored study of a violence prevention strategy designed to improve school safety in middle schools. The strategy combines a classroom curriculum-based approach (Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways, RiPP) and a whole-school approach (BEST Behavior). The curriculum-based approach aims to improve students’ social and problem solving skills for dealing with conflict and managing aggression. The whole-school approach seeks to influence the school environment through strategies such as increasing supervision of the school grounds, clarifying rules and consequences for student behavior, establishing reward systems to encourage positive behaviors, and training staff in classroom management.

The study uses a randomized controlled trial and includes 36 schools in 11 districts across 6 states that remained in the study for the full 3 years. Findings from the 3-year study include:

* There were no statistically significant differences between intervention and control schools on self-reported student violence or victimization measures. On average, 8th-graders in the intervention and control schools reported engaging in 2.8 and 2.7 violent acts at school in the past 30 days, respectively; and, on average, 8th-graders in both the intervention and control schools reported being victimized 4 times in the past 30 days.
* There were no statistically significant impacts on violence or victimization for students who were at risk for engaging in violence but who either had or had not previously engaged in violence. For example, 8th-graders in both the intervention and control schools who were categorized as being at a high risk for violence but who had not self-reported any of eight serious acts of violence ever at baseline (nonperpetrators) reported that, on average, they had engaged in just over 3 violent acts at school in the past 30 days. For the victimization measure, high-risk, nonperpetrator 8th-graders in the intervention and control schools reported being victimized an average of 4 times at school in the past 30 days.
* In a majority of intervention schools, students were exposed to the full set of 16 RiPP lessons in each of the 3 years of implementation although the curriculum was not fully delivered with fidelity. Between 61 percent and 72 percent of schools delivered all 16 lessons to all classrooms in each year of program implementation. However, 88 percent of teachers interviewed in year three mentioned difficulties with implementing at least one of five RiPP techniques or approaches.
* By the end of the third year, 83 percent of intervention schools instituted behavioral rules and 78 percent instituted a reward system. In addition, 87 percent of teachers agreed that the rules were well defined and 64 percent agreed that the consequences of breaking school rules were clear.
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Preschool Saves Illinois More Than Half A Billion Dollars Annually


Illinois saves up to $530 million each year from its investments in preschool programs for children ages three to five, according to a new study.

The school-readiness skills children develop in preschool, the study says, translate into quantifiable savings from reduced expenditures for special education, social services and criminal justice services, as well as increased state revenues produced by a skilled workforce more capable of contributing to the state's economy.

The study analyzed Illinois' preschool investments over the past 23 years. It was commissioned jointly by the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Voices for Illinois Children and Illinois Action for Children, and conducted by the Minnesota-based Wilder Research Group.

Among the report's most striking findings about the return on Illinois' preschool investments:

* Taxpayer benefits include $172 million to $259 million annually in reduced government spending and increased tax revenues resulting from:
* fewer juvenile arrests, adjudications and detentions
* fewer cases of child abuse and neglect
* reduced costs in adult criminal justice
* increased tax revenue from higher wages earned
* improved employment outcomes
* Illinoisans realize between $154 million and $231 million per year in savings from reduced social costs, such as:
* fewer tangible losses to victims of violent crimes and property offenses committed by juveniles and adults
* increased earnings of employed parents while their children are enrolled in preschool
* Illinois' K-12 schools save between $27 million and $40 million annually because of:
* reduced spending on special education related to disabilities that are prevented or mitigated through early identification and intervention
* fewer children repeating grades
* lower teacher turnover

"This study reinforces what economists have been saying for years—early childhood programs offer a proven, substantial return on investment," said Diana Rauner, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund. "By setting children up to succeed in school, early learning programs help Illinois develop the educated workforce it needs to be economically competitive."

"Children are the foundation of our future, and our future depends on meeting children's needs today. To ignore their needs is to eat our seed corn," said Kathy Ryg, president of Voices for Illinois Children. "But by investing wisely in their early years – through enriching early learning experiences, quality child care and physical and mental health supports – we ensure that children will find success in school, work and throughout life. This report further confirms what we know to be true: Supporting successful policies, and prioritizing research-proven options, benefits everyone by establishing a stable society and a better-educated workforce."

"Investment in quality, affordable early childhood education programs is an absolutely critical element of preparing children for later success in school and in life," said Maria Whelan, president of Illinois Action for Children. "This report clearly demonstrates that preschool's reach creates cost savings in education spending, taxpayer savings seen in reduced juvenile crime and parental unemployment, and reduced social costs to the public at large. These proven investments in early education must be maintained for the good of children and families and the well-being of Illinois."

In addition, the study estimates that failing to provide preschool for all eligible, disadvantaged children costs Illinois about $183 million a year.

Currently, the state funds "Preschool for All" programs through the Early Childhood Block Grant in the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). About 87,000 children attend those preschool programs this school year. That's about 8,000 fewer than two years ago because of a 10 percent funding cut in FY2010 and delayed state payments that continue forcing programs to shrink or close altogether.
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Time-efficient alternative to phys ed classes


Brief, intense workouts offer a time-efficient alternative to longer physical education classes according to a study just published in the American Journal of Human Biology, by Duncan Buchan, of the University of the West of Scotland. The study involved 57 school children assigned to either moderate-intensity or high intensity sessions, three times per week for seven weeks. The moderate-intensity group ran steadily for 20 minutes each session for a total of 420 minutes of exercise. The high-intensity group did a series of 20-meter wind sprints for just 3 minutes per session for a total of only 63 total minutes of exercise. Both groups showed significant improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness, insulin resistance, body composition and blood pressure. Blood pressure improvement was actually greater in the high-intensity group. For high-intensity group participants, all these benefits were achieved with only 15% of the exercise time and a 20.5% less calorie expenditure compared to the moderate-intensity group (4410 kcal vs. 907 kcal).

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Teacher Workforce Data


The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning
has posted new teacher workforce data from the 2009-10 school year. The content, platform and format for the site were designed especially for use by policymakers, academic researchers, philanthropic organizations, journalists and others interested in public education in California.

This important resource provides access to data that has been compiled and analyzed in unique ways for the Center by SRI International. These data sets, which are not found elsewhere, are available free of charge.

The new data allow users to examine the distribution of novice teachers by school characteristics such as the percentage of minority students and students in poverty in the school, as well as the percentage of students passing the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). All data are also available on a county-by-county basis.

Funding for the Center's Web-based data resource was provided by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. It can be accessed online at
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School bullying, violence against LGBT youth linked to risk of suicide, HIV infection


Critical new research has found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who experience high levels of school victimization in middle and high school report impaired health and mental health in young adulthood, including depression, suicide attempts that require medical care, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and risk for HIV. This is the first known study to examine the relationship between school victimization during adolescence – specifically related to sexual orientation and gender identity – with multiple dimensions of young adult health and adjustment. The study demonstrates the importance of addressing and preventing anti-LGBT victimization at the structural or school level to reduce health disparities among LGBT young people. The study is published in the Journal of School Health, the journal of the American School Health Association.

Analyzing data from the Family Acceptance Project's young adult survey, the authors examined experiences related to school victimization during adolescence based on known or perceived LGBT identity among 245 LGBT young adults, ages 21 to 25. They found that LGBT young adults who were victimized in school because of their LGBT identity reported much higher health and adjustment problems, while students with low levels of school victimization had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction as young adults.

"We now have evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of failing to make our schools safe for all students. Prior studies have shown that school victimization of LGBT adolescents affects their health and mental health. In our study we see the effects of school victimization up to a decade later or more. It is clear that there are public health costs to LGBT-based bullying over the long-term," said lead author, Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, University of Arizona.

Director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University and study co-author Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., pointed out, "The pervasiveness of bullying and lack of research on outcomes in adulthood have masked the serious long-term health costs for LGBT children and youth. These new findings will help providers and school advocacy groups understand the critical role families can play in preventing and managing victimization and the importance of our work in engaging and teaching parents and caregivers how to support and advocate for their LGBT children in families, schools and communities. The focus on serving LGBT youth primarily in peer-only spaces has prevented families and caregivers from learning the skills they need to advocate for their LGBT children."

Ann P. Haas, Ph.D., Director of Prevention Projects for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said, ""This new study provides compelling evidence that negative environments pose long-term health and mental health risks for LGBT youth. The Family Acceptance Project's growing body of research is building a solid foundation to develop preventive interventions to deal with the harmful effects of anti-LGBT environments on young people in their families, schools and communities ."

Commenting on the study's findings related to sexual health risks, Sean Cahill, Ph.D., Managing Director of Public Policy, Research and Community Health for Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) noted: "Once again, the Family Acceptance Project is helping us understand the social parameters of risk for LGBT youth by expanding on their work with families to show that school experiences also contribute to sexual health risk and risk for HIV among LGBT young adults. As the HIV epidemic continues to escalate among young gay and bisexual men and transgender women, and especially black gay youth, this study provides important evidence of the public health need for structural interventions and targeted anti-discrimination policies in our nation's schools to prevent HIV and other serious health problems."

Key Research Findings:

- LGBT young adults who reported high levels of LGBT school victimization during adolescence were 5.6 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt that required medical care, 2.6 times more likely to report clinical levels of depression, 2.5 times more likely to have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, and nearly 4 times more likely to report risk for HIV infection, compared with peers who reported low levels of school victimization.
- Gay and bisexual males and transgender young adults reported higher levels of LGBT school victimization than lesbian and bisexual young women.
- LGBT young adults who reported lower levels of school victimization reported higher levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction and social integration compared with peers with higher levels of school victimization during adolescence.
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Is College Worth It?


College Presidents, Public Assess Value, Quality and Mission of Higher Education

This report
is based on findings from a pair of Pew Research Center surveys conducted this spring. One is a telephone survey taken among a nationally representative sample of 2,142 adults ages 18 and older. The other is an online survey, done in association with the Chronicle of Higher Education, among the presidents of 1,055 two-year and four-year private, public and for-profit colleges and universities. (See the our survey methodology for more information.)

Here is a summary of key findings from the full report:

Survey of the General Public

Cost and Value.

A majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. An even larger majority (75%) says college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. At the same time, however, an overwhelming majority of college graduates (86%) say that college has been a good investment for them personally.

Monetary Payoff.

Adults who graduated from a four-year college believe that, on average, they are earning $20,000 more a year as a result of having gotten that degree. Adults who did not attend college believe that, on average, they are earning $20,000 a year less as a result. These matched estimates by the public are very close to the median gap in annual earnings between a high school and college graduate as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010: $19,550. A more detailed Pew Research Center analysis (see Chapter 5, "The Monetary Value of a College Education," in the full report for more information) shows that this gap varies by type of degree and field of study.

Student Loans.

A record share of students are leaving college with a substantial debt burden, and among those who do, about half (48%) say that paying off that debt made it harder to pay other bills; a quarter say it has made it harder to buy a home (25%); and about a quarter say it has had an impact on their career choices (24%).

Why Not College?

Nearly every parent surveyed (94%) says they expect their child to attend college, but even as college enrollments have reached record levels, most young adults in this country still do not attend a four-year college. The main barrier is financial. Among adults ages 18 to 34 who are not in school and do not have a bachelor's degree, two-thirds say a major reason for not continuing their education is the need to support a family. Also, 57% say they would prefer to work and make money and 48% say they can't afford to go to college.

Split Views of College Mission.

Just under half of the public (47%) says the main purpose of a college education is to teach work-related skills and knowledge, while 39% say it is to help a student grow personally and intellectually; the remainder volunteer that both missions are equally important. College graduates place more emphasis on intellectual growth; those who are not college graduates place more emphasis on career preparation.

For Most College Graduates, Missions Accomplished.

Among survey respondents who graduated from a four-year college, 74% say their college education was very useful in helping them grow intellectually, 69% say it was very useful in helping them grow and mature as a person, and 55% say it was very useful in helping them prepare for a job or career.

Above All, Character.

While Americans value college, they value character even more. Asked what it takes for a young person to succeed in the world, 61% say a good work ethic is extremely important and 57% say the same about knowing how to get along with people. Just 42% say the same about a college education.

Survey of Presidents

Right or Wrong Direction?

Six-in-ten college presidents say the system of higher education in this country is headed in the right direction, but a substantial minority (38%) say it is headed in the wrong direction.

Declining Student Quality.

A majority of college presidents (58%) say public high school students arrive at college less well prepared than their counterparts of a decade ago; just 6% say they are better prepared. Also, 52% of presidents say college students today study less than their predecessors did a decade ago; just 7% say they study more.

We're Not Number One.

Only 19% of college presidents say the U.S. system of higher education is the best in the world now, and just 7% say they believe it will be the best in the world 10 years from now. Most presidents (51%) describe the U.S. system as one of the best in the world.

Doubts about Achieving Obama's Goal. Nearly two-thirds of college presidents (64%) say it is unlikely that, by 2020, the U.S. will achieve the goal set by President Obama to have the highest share of young adults with a college degree or certificate of any country in the world.

Who Should Pay?

Nearly two-thirds of college presidents (63%) say students and their families should pay the largest share of the cost of a college education. Just 48% of the public agrees. An equal share of the public would prefer that the bulk of the cost of a college education be borne by the federal government, state governments, private endowments or some combination.

Split Views of College Mission.

Presidents are evenly divided about the main role colleges play in students' lives: Half say it is to help them mature and grow intellectually, while 48% say it is to provide skills, knowledge and training to help them succeed in the working world. Most heads of four-year colleges and universities emphasize the former; most heads of two-year and for-profit schools emphasize the latter.

Measuring Grade Inflation.

Just over a quarter (27%) of college presidents say that the faculty at their own institution grades students too leniently. Only 1% says they grade students too stringently. The vast majority (73%) says students are graded about right.

Scant Enthusiasm for Faculty Tenure.

Only a quarter (24%) of presidents say that, if given a choice, they would prefer that most faculty at their institution be tenured. About seven-in-ten say they would prefer that faculty be employed on annual or long term contracts.
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School intervention may improve kids' heart health long term


Related study

Middle school students who were offered healthier cafeteria food, more physical education and lessons about health choices improved their cholesterol levels and resting heart rates, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2011 Scientific Sessions.

"This four-year school intervention in Ann Arbor, Mich., was designed to promote healthier lifestyle choices and it shows that programs like this could have long-term impact on obesity and other health risks," said Elizabeth A. Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., co-author of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. "Such changes may have sustained benefits in terms of reducing incidences of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as the students age."

The intervention was conducted through Project Healthy Schools, a coalition of the University of Michigan and local community and business organizations working to improve the health and behavior choices of middle school students. It was considered so successful that it's now being expanded to about 20 middle schools in Michigan, Jackson said.

Specifically, the program goals for the students included:

-Eating more fruits and vegetables;
-Eating less fatty foods;
-Making better beverage choices;
-Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week; and
-Spending less time in front of the TV and computer.

To help determine whether the initiative could decrease future cardiovascular disease and diabetes risks, Jackson and colleagues studied 593 students. They collected data for four consecutive years on body mass index, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, heart rate and student self-evaluations of diet, exercise and other behaviors.

"Results of the wellness survey indicate that, after four years, students continued to make health-conscious decisions," Jackson said.

The researchers report:

-Average cholesterol, which was 167.39 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) at the start of the study, was an average of 149.04 mg/dL at the end of four years.
-Low density lipoprotein (LDL) was an average 92.02 mg/dL at the study's start, versus 85.88 after four years.
-Resting heart rate (beats per minute) were an average 81.3 compared to 78.3 after four years.
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Education : past, present and future global challenges


Progress in educational development in the world since 1900 has been slow and uneven between countries. Providing basic education for all children in developing countries has been and remains an unmet challenge of governments and international organizations alike. This is in sharp contrast to recent findings in the economics literature on the catalytic role of human capital for economic growth and social development in general.

Using a newly constructed matched data set on education and national accounts in the 1950 to 2010 period, this paper estimates the loss of income and equity associated with not having a faster rate of human capital accumulation, using alternative methodologies and specific country examples. Such loss is projected backward (1900-1950) and forward (2010-2050) using plausible assumptions regarding what countries could have done in the past or may do in the future to accelerate human capital formation. The findings suggest that the welfare loss in terms of per capita income conservatively ranges from about 7 to 10 percent. Improved educational attainment is also shown to have an effect in reducing income inequality.
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Study highlights blended learning


A new 178-page study by Innosight Institute and the Charter School Growth Fund reveals a broader picture of the emerging blended-learning market. The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning: Profiles of Emerging Models highlights 40 influential blended-learning organizations across the country.

The report categorizes them by model and documents their effectiveness in reducing costs and improving academic performance. The report also discusses emerging technology trends, and concludes with advice for policymakers, school leaders, and entrepreneurs about how to shape the playing field to optimize results.

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Expanding measures of school performance


Expanding measures of school performance beyond mathematics and English language arts will give educators better information when evaluating the academic achievements of schools, according to a new RAND Corporation study,"Expanded Measures of School Performance."

The report also finds that many states already measure student achievement beyond what is required in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, popularly known as the "No Child Left Behind" Act, including test performance in additional subjects and growth in student performance over time.

Additionally, researchers find that an expanded set of measures allows for more accurate assessment of school outcomes that are widely valued, but often overlooked because of the current focus on math and language arts.

"Schools have a variety of performance measurement tools at their disposal, and they should use them," said Heather Schwartz, the report's lead author and an associate policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "A federal mandate for states to broaden their measures of schooling may give teachers and principals more information to better evaluate their own schools and their students' performance."

When it was reauthorized by Congress in 2001, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act established a system of school accountability based primarily on student performance on tests of math and language arts. The legislation has been criticized by educators because it prioritized these two subjects at the expense of other important goals.

Congress is expected to reauthorize the legislation in 2011.

In conducting the study, researchers with RAND Education convened a panel of experts on school accountability policies, reviewed published research, conducted interviews with educators and reviewed the measures employed in each state that publishes its own school ratings in addition to those required under "No Child Left Behind."

Researchers found 20 states that published ratings of schools in 2008-2009 or 2009-2010 based on an expanded set of measures rather than only those required for "No Child Left Behind." Researchers identified four measurement categories: student test performance in additional subjects (such as history or social studies), growth in student performance over time, indices that account for student achievement along the entire spectrum of high to low performance and college readiness (such as ACT scores or advanced placement grades and test scores).

The study also identified three other types of measures that are becoming more common: Indicators of a safe and supportive school environment, indicators of risk for students not graduating on time and results of interim academic assessments.

"Expanding the way educators measure a school's performance could have tremendous benefits," Schwarz said. "But there are trade-offs to consider. For example, the balance between the breadth — representing more of the outcomes that matter — and focus — highlighting a few key areas where educators should concentrate their efforts."

Educators also must consider balancing complexity, such as statistical measures widely known by teachers, but less so by the public, and the simpler measures that are easier to interpret, but less useful for decisionmaking.

Researchers make several recommendations, including:

-Congress should broaden the range of performance measures beyond those mandated under "No Child Left Behind."
-New federal legislation should encourage states to expand their measures and evaluate their success, but avoid requiring specific measures. As new measures are evaluated and determined to be successful, they can be incorporated into the system over time.
-Leverage existing federal grant programs to encourage the development and evaluation of additional school performance measures.
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Interactive teaching methods double learning

in undergraduate physics class: UBC research

Interactive teaching methods significantly improved attendance and doubled both engagement and learning in a large physics class, according to a University of British Columbia study published today in Science.

Led by Louis Deslauriers, a post-doctoral researcher at UBC's Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI), the study compared the amount of learning students experienced when taught – in three hours over one week – by traditional lecture and by using interactive activities based on research in cognitive psychology and physics education.

The research team found that students in the interactive class were nearly twice as engaged as their counterparts in the traditional class. Students from the experimental class uniformly scored nearly twice as well in a test designed to determine their grasp of complex physics concepts (average score 74 per cent vs. 41 per cent, with random guessing producing a score of 23 per cent). Attendance in the interactive class also increased by 20 per cent during the experiment.

"There is overwhelming evidence how much teaching pedagogy based on cognitive psychology and education research can improve science education," says co-author Carl Wieman. "This study further shows that we can achieve individual attention without individual interaction, and that even in a large class, the positive effects of a tutor or apprenticeship model can be achieved by using evidence-based teaching methods."

Wieman is Associate Director for Science of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He was involved with the study last year before going on leave from UBC and the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU).

"In addition to the objective measurements of engagement, attendance and test scores, we also surveyed students and found that these teaching methods generated a lot of excitement in class – which makes for a great learning environment," says Deslauriers, lead author of the study.

In the study, two classes of an undergraduate physics course with approximately 270 students each were taught by highly-rated, professors with decades of experience. In the second-to-last week of the second semester, the instructor of one of the classes was replaced by Deslauriers and Ellen Schelew, a master's student in the Department of Physics at UBC. Deslauriers and Schelew had been trained by Wieman and other CWSEI researchers in interactive, evidence-based teaching methods but otherwise had little teaching experience beyond serving as teaching assistants.

During the experimental week, Deslauriers and Schelew gave no formal lecturing but guided students through a series of activities that had previously been shown to enhance learning, such as paired and small-group discussions and active learning tasks, which included the use of remote-control "clickers" to provide feedback for in-class questions. Pre-class reading assignments and quizzes were also given to ensure students were prepared to discuss course material upon arrival in class.

"These activities require more work from the students, but the students report that they feel they are learning more and are more vested in their own learning," says co-author Schelew.

"This study is designed specifically to gauge the impact of interactive teaching methods in a large undergraduate physics class, and the results present a very 'clean' comparison to the traditional lecture method," says Wieman.
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Teens who feel responsible to their parents are more engaged in school


As children enter middle school, their engagement in school often declines and so does their achievement. A new longitudinal study looked at students in the United States and in China—two countries likely to have considerably different ideas about adolescence—to find that children who feel more responsible to their parents stay engaged in school and perform better.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Beijing Normal University. It appears in the journal Child Development.

Researchers asked questions of 825 youths in suburban Chicago and suburban Beijing. The students were part of the University of Illinois U.S.-China Adolescence Study. The children completed questionnaires four times over two years beginning when they started 7th grade. Grades were also charted.

In the United States, but not in China, the youths' sense of responsibility to their parents declined over the two years. But in both countries, youngsters who said they felt responsible to their parents were more invested and engaged in school, and often earned higher grades, independent of the quality of the parent-child relationship. Responsibility was defined as children's feelings of obligation to their parents and their motivation in school to please them, such as meeting parental expectations.

"The findings suggest that parents need to communicate to teenagers the importance of acting responsibily as they enter middle school," according to Eva M. Pomerantz, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who led the study.

"Explicitly talking with teens about acting responsibly is likely to be useful. Involvement in teens' lives is also very important. For example, when parents are involved in teens' learning, teens tend to develop a sense of responsibility to parents, which maintains their achievement over the middle school years."
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Academic performance does not correlate with instructional time


Hawaii - complete report

The amount of instructional time offered at elementary schools statewide varies widely —from 4 1⁄3 to six hours on average each day — but there appears to be no correlation between campuses with shorter school days and those meeting annual learning benchmarks, new state data show.

Twelve of the 37 schools that offer school days of at least five hours, five minutes on average, the minimum expected to go into effect next school year, did not meet adequate yearly math and reading proficiency goals in 2010 under the No Child Left Behind law, according to statistics compiled by the state Department of Education.

But dozens of schools that were below the minimums did meet the benchmarks, including Moanalua Elementary, which has the second-shortest day of Hawaii public elementary schools.

That campus gives students an average of four hours, 21 minutes of instruction per day.

DOE administrators say the statistics, released as parents and lawmakers are pushing to lengthen Hawaii's school day, illustrate that more instructional time doesn't necessarily translate into sizable learning gains — or mean students at schools with fewer instructional hours are falling behind. More important, they argue, is not the number of hours students get in classrooms, but whether they are getting high-quality instruction.
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Link found between spending on libraries and student learning


It is an article of faith among many critics of public schools that there is no correlation between spending and learning outcomes. But it's not so—at least where library spending is concerned.

When support for school libraries rises, reading scores go up and learning by other measures increases also. That's what researchers at Mansfield University in Mansfield, PA found when they examined and summarized the results of 23 studies done around the United States and Canada.

"Quality school library programs impact student achievement," says Debra E. Kachel, a professor in the School Library and Information Technologies Department at Mansfield University. "The research shows clearly that schools that support their library programs give their students a better chance to succeed."

Kachel and a class of graduate students examined school library impact studies, most done in the last decade, by 22 states and one Canadian province (Ontario). Most examined student standardized test scores. A few used qualitative approaches. All found positive links between library support and learning. The paper, "School Library Research Summarized" was done this spring for the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.

Among the findings: a California study in 2008 established a strong positive relationship between school library budgets and test scores in language arts and history. In Illinois in 2005 a study found that elementary schools which spend more on their libraries average almost 10 percent higher writing performance. For middle schoolers the average was 13 percent higher.

A Pennsylvania study in 2000 learned that schools that spent more money on their school library programs had higher student achievement on reading scores. And a 2004 Minnesota study discovered a statistically significant relationship at the elementary level between higher reading scores and larger school library budgets.

Although poverty remains a primary force in determining student academic success, the studies in state after state showed that socio-economic conditions could not explain away the impact of school library programs. A Wisconsin study in 2006, for example, found that the impact of a robust library media program in high school was almost seven percentage points greater than the impact of socio-economic variables.

"In fact, quality school library programs may play an even greater role for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds," says Kachel.

Adequate staffing also correlates with student achievement. In Ontario in 2006, the presence of a school librarian was the single strongest predictor of reading enjoyment for students in grades three and six. In 2010, a New York State research project found that elementary schools with certified school library media specialists were more likely to have higher English language arts achievement scores than those in schools without certified library staff.

The studies also showed that incremental increases in the following can result in incremental increases in student learning: increased library hours and group visits by classes to the library; larger collections with access as school and from home; up-to-date technology; more student use of school library services. "School leaders should to recognize this research and foster school library programs that can make a difference," says Kachel.
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