Review: Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning

The study “Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mappingexamined whether using the retrieval practice studying technique improved student learning of a science passage more than study-once, repeated-study or concept mapping. The study compared outcomes for 80 undergraduates at Purdue University asked to read a 276-word passage and then randomly assigned to use one of the four studying techniques.

Study-once group: Students did nothing beyond the initial five-minute reading period.

Repeated-study group: Students read the same text during three additional five-minute sessions, with one-minute breaks between sessions.

Concept-mapping group: Students were instructed to spend 25 minutes after the initial reading period mapping out the text’s main concepts on a sheet of paper.

Retrieval-practice group: Students were instructed to spend 10 minutes after the initial reading period listing any information they remembered from the text in a response box on a computer screen. The students then reread the text for another five minutes and were again asked to list the information they remembered.

The study found that students using the retrieval practice technique scored significantly higher than students using the study-once, repeated-study, or concept mapping technique. The average percent of correct test questions for each group was 67% for retrieval practice, 27% for study once, 49% for repeated study, and 45% for concept mapping.

A What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) quick review of this research
on retrieval practice studying techniques concluded that:

The research described in this report meets WWC evidence standards

Strengths: The study was a well-implemented randomized controlled trial.

Cautions: Students in the retrieval-practice and concept-mapping groups received equal amounts of study time, but both groups had more time to learn the text than students in the study-once and repeated-study groups. This unequal amount of study time, rather than the study approach, could have caused the differences in outcomes.
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New longitudinal study of ninth-graders


Half of America’s ninth-graders took Algebra 1 (51 percent) and 22 percent took geometry. This First Look report presents initial findings from the base year of a new longitudinal study of a nationally representative cohort of ninth-graders in the fall of 2009 and will follow the students through postsecondary education and the world of work. The base year data focused on students’ transitions into high school, especially their decisions about courses and plans for postsecondary education and careers. Other findings include:

• About 86 percent of ninth-graders were proficient in understanding algebraic expressions, 18 percent were proficient at understanding systems of equations, and 9 percent were proficient at understanding linear functions, both of which are more advanced topics within algebra.

• Of students whose parents hold a master’s degree or higher, 44 percent were in the top quintile of math performance and 5 percent in the bottom quintile. Of students whose parents have earned a high school diploma or equivalent, 15 percent were in the top quintile and 24 percent were in the bottom quintile of performance on the assessment.

• At this age, about 22% of students did not report any educational expectations, while 39% report expecting to earn a graduate or professional degree. More female ninth-graders than male ninth-graders expect to obtain a graduate or professional degree (44% versus 35%). More socioeconomically advantaged ninth-graders expect to earn a graduate or professional degree than their peers in the lowest socioeconomic stratum (56% versus 27%). Over half – 53% of Asian students and 52% of Black students – report that they definitely can complete college, compared to 40% of Hispanic students and 49% of white students who report the same confidence.
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Reducing Access to Sugar-sweetened Beverages


Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the diet of U.S. youth.1 Consuming these beverages increases the intake of calories—a factor potentially contributing to obesity among youth nationwide.2

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. Among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, obesity increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.3,4 In recent decades, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among children and adolescents has been increasing.5,6 Boys aged 12–19 years consume an average of 22.0 ounces of full-calorie soda drink per day—more than twice their daily intake of fluid milk (9.8 ounces); girls consume an average of 14.3 ounces of full-calorie soda and 6.3 ounces of fluid milk per day.7

Results from the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (NYPANS)—a school-based survey that collected information on physical activity and dietary behaviors among a nationally representative sample of high school students—underscore the need to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Survey findings, published in a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled "Beverage Consumption Among High School Students—United States, 2010," show that although water, milk, and 100% fruit juice were the beverages most commonly consumed during the 7 days before the survey, daily consumption of regular soda or pop, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages also is prevalent in this population, especially among male and black students. In addition, among high school students, nearly two thirds consumed any combination of these beverages on a daily basis, and almost one third of students consumed any combination of these beverages two or more times per day.

Youth should

* Reduce their consumption of regular soda or pop, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
* Increase their consumption of water and low-fat or fat-free milk.
* Drink limited amounts of 100% fruit juices.

To support youth in making healthy beverage choices, families, schools, and other youth-serving institutions should

* Reduce youths' access to sugar-sweetened beverages to decrease consumption.
* Encourage adolescents to drink water and low-fat or fat-free milk, or limited amounts of 100% fruit juices, as an option.

Moreover, because youth spend a significant portion of each weekday in school, making sure that healthy beverage choices are available—and that less nutritious ones are not—is critical. Implementing school policies restricting access to sugar-sweetened beverages is an especially important public health strategy for addressing childhood obesity and improving students' nutritional health.

Action items to improve the overall school nutrition environment (beverages and foods) include

* Supporting strong state and district school nutrition standards for foods and beverages offered or sold outside of school meals, such as those recommended by the Institute of MedicineExternal Web Site Icon.
* Photo: Students eating lunch.Reviewing district-level school wellness policies to ensure they include nutrition guidelines so that only healthy foods and beverages are available during each school day.
* Examining the actual foods and beverages that are available to students—including competitive foods and beverages sold in cafeterias, snack bars, school stores, and vending machines—and determining if they meet strong nutrition standards.
* Educating students about nutrition and offering only healthy food and beverage choices to ensure a consistent message on healthy eating.

More Information


1. Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2010;110(10):1477–1484.
2. Berkey CS, Rockett HRH, Field AE, Gillman MW, Colditz GA. Sugar-added beverages and adolescent weight change. Obesity Research 2004;12:778–788.
3. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, Lamb MM, Flegal KM. Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007–2008. Journal of the American Medical Association 2010;303(3):242–249.
4. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2004 with Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans
5. Wang YC, Bleich SN, Gormaker SL. Increasing caloric contribution from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices among US children and adolescents, 1988–2004. Pediatrics 2008;121:e1604–e1614.
6. Sebastian RS, Cleveland LE, Goldman JD, Moshfegh AJ. Trends in the food intakes of children, 1977–2002. Consumer Interests Annual 2006;52:433-434.
7. Forshee RA, Anderson PA, Storey ML. Changes in calcium intake and association with beverage consumption and demographics: comparing data from CSFII 1994–1996, 1998 and NHANES 1999–2002. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2006;25:108–116.
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Eliminating the Achievement Gap: How Charter Schools Can Help District Leaders


A staggering achievement gap exists between minority and white students in America. The gap is unjust, and it is constraining our country economically, socially, and politically. Intense political pressures, labor contracts, and other forces prevent urban superintendents from closing those gaps. However, partnerships with high-performing charter schools and charter networks can help superintendents overcome those dynamics.

Increasingly, superintendents are acting as portfolio managers, partnering with charter schools whose only mission is to serve high-needs students, overseeing those partners’ progress, closing down schools that do not work, and creating more that do work. Instead of seeing charter schools as competitors, district leaders who act as portfolio managers can leverage high-performing charter schools and networks to transform struggling district schools and close the achievement gap. Superintendents who are successful in creating the political will for this more radical transformation will create lasting, positive change in their districts.

Why is it hard for existing districts to close the achievement gap? What are district leaders finding when they look outside the traditional system for gap-closing solutions? And how are new schools able to do what traditional schools have not? This paper, Eliminating the Achievement Gap: A White Paper on How Charter Schools Can Help District Leaders, examines these questions by drawing from the experiences of high-performing charter school networks that are reaching the type of scale to support district transformation efforts, such as Aspire Public Schools, Yes Prep, and Mastery Charter Schools, or that are designed to operate in multiple regions, such as Rocketship Education, Uncommon Schools, and KIPP.

Authors Lake and Hernandez discuss how these successful charters focus on school culture and parent involvement, use an extended school day, employ ongoing diagnostics and interventions, and provide intensive professional development. They outline ten steps a district needs to take in order to initiate a portfolio management strategy. And they conclude that school leaders who are serious about addressing performance problems can't afford to pass by proven solutions for students simply because they are called charter schools.
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MA's voluntary, choice-driven, school desegregation program works


Pioneer Institute, in collaboration with the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice (CHHIRJ) at Harvard Law School, two research institutes that are often on opposite sides of public policy issues, have published a review of the nation’s second longest running, voluntary, choice-driven, school desegregation program, the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity. METCO sends Boston and Springfield to public schools in the surrounding suburbs.

METCO Merits More: The History and Status of METCO,
co-authored by Susan Eaton, research director at CHHIRJ, and Gina Chirichigno, a post-doctoral researcher at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, is the first comprehensive review of the program in nearly a decade. It includes data on student enrollment, performance, demographics, graduation and college attainment rates, waiting list, and funding.

The program serves over 3,300 students. Most live in Boston, though a much smaller program serves Springfield students. More than three-quarters are African American or Latino. Half of METCO’s students come from low-income families and one in four has special needs.

State funding for METCO has declined from $20.2 million in FY 2008 to $16.5 million in FY 2011, despite growing waitlists that result in students waiting an average of five years to enter the program. MCAS data indicate that METCO students have outperformed their African-American and Latino peers in the school districts they come from, and enjoy graduation rates that exceed the state averages.

The authors account for factors such as “self-selection” bias to avoid conclusively crediting METCO for increases in student achievement. Nonetheless, they find that between 2006 and 2010, METCO students out-performed their African-American and Latino counterparts on MCAS, and performed competitively in college preparatory settings.

METCO students had a 93 percent graduation rate in 2009, compared with 81.5 percent for students statewide and about 61 percent in both Boston and Springfield.

The 2009 dropout rate for METCO students was only 2.8 percent, compared to 9.3 percent statewide. The students thrive despite facing the logistical and cultural challenges such as early risings and late arrivals home.

According to internal surveys reported by METCO Inc., 90 percent of METCO graduates enroll in postsecondary education.
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Building a better math teacher


For years, it has been assumed that teachers—specifically math teachers—need to master the content they intend to teach. And the best way to do this is to take courses beyond that content.

Yet in a paper published today in the Education Forum of the journal Science, Dr. Brent Davis of the University of Calgary says research does not support this common belief. There is little evidence that advanced courses in mathematics contribute to more effective teaching.

"You know that feeling, when you try to explain to a child how to add multi-digit numbers, and you realize that it has become so obvious and sensible that you wondered why it ever seemed difficult?" asks Davis, a professor and Chair of Mathematics Education in the Faculty of Education.

"That's what you want to be an expert, and that's what you want to guard against to be an effective teacher. WIth years of practice and experience, it's easy to forget the difficulty involved for novices in coming to an understanding."

In his paper, "Mathematics Teachers' Subtle, Complex Disciplinary Knowledge," Davis argues that while recent studies stress the importance of teachers' explicit knowledge of mathematics course content, it is equally valuable for math teachers to be comfortable with the less clear, or tacit, knowledge inherent in mathematics as well. The challenge, says Davis, is to find a way to identify that knowledge.

Davis uses the example of multiplication to illustrate how teachers can apply implicit knowledge by using different approaches to explain the subtleties of mathematics to their students. When introduced to multiplication, the straightforward concept of repeated addition becomes more confounding with the incorporation more complex applications, such as multiplying by fractions or multiplying by negative numbers.

Davis believes if teachers are able to develop a deeper understanding of mathematics with their students, however, it may prevent student frustration in later coursework and prepare them to contribute within a knowledge-based economy.

"We can build a better math teache,r" says Davis. "But it's more about engaging with one another to deconstruct concepts than about learning more advanced math or engaging in problem solving."
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Students with Disabilities at Postsecondary Institutions


During the 12-month 2008–09 academic year, 88 percent of 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting postsecondary institutions reported enrolling students with disabilities. Students with Disabilities at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions, a First Look from the Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS) provides national data about students with disabilities, the services and accommodations provided to these students, how institutions identify students with disabilities and track their enrollment, institutional policies regarding disabled students, and various aspects of institutional accessibility. Key findings include:

• Institutions reported enrolling approximately 707,000 students with disabilities in the 12-month 2008–09 academic year.

• Among institutions that enrolled students with disabilities during the 2008–09 academic year, 93 percent provided additional exam time as an accommodation to students with disabilities and 71 percent provided alternative exam formats.

• Large percentages of institutions also provided classroom notetakers (77 percent), faculty-provided written course notes or assignments (72 percent), help with learning strategies or study skills (72 percent), and adaptive equipment and technology (70 percent) during the 2008–09 academic year.
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Successful K-12 STEM Education Proposals


From the Committee on Highly Successful Schools or Programs in K-12 STEM Education; National Research Council, recommending new standards for science and testing equal to that of math and reading.

Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

State, national, and local policymakers should elevate science education in grades K-12 to the same level of importance as reading and mathematics, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report recommends ways that leaders at all levels can improve K-12 education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The report responds to a request from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) for the National Science Foundation -- which sponsored the Research Council report -- to identify highly successful K-12 schools and programs in STEM fields.

"A growing number of jobs -- not just those in professional science -- require knowledge of STEM fields," said Adam Gamoran, chair of the committee that wrote the report and professor of sociology and educational policy studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "The goal isn't only to have a capable and competitive work force. We need to help all students become scientifically literate because citizens are increasingly facing decisions related to science and technology -- whether it's understanding a medical diagnosis or weighing competing claims about the environment."

The report identifies key elements of high-quality STEM education to which policymakers could target improvements:

• A coherent set of standards and curriculum. States and districts should have rigorous K-12 STEM standards and curricula that are focused on the most important topics in each discipline and presented as a sequence of content and practices that build knowledge over time.
• Teachers with high capacity to teach in their discipline. Good teachers need to know both STEM content and how to teach it; many teachers are currently underprepared to teach STEM-related courses.
• A supportive system of assessment and accountability. Current assessments limit educators' ability to teach in ways that promote learning the content and understanding the practices of science and mathematics.
• Adequate instructional time. The average amount of time spent on science instruction in elementary classrooms has decreased in recent years even as the time on mathematics instruction has increased. This is likely due to the focus on math and English language arts in the No Child Left Behind Act.
• Equal access to high-quality STEM learning opportunities. States and districts should strive to eliminate the disparities in access to high-quality STEM education between advantaged students and minority and low-income students, which contribute to the existing achievement gaps.
• School conditions and cultures that support learning. Although teacher qualifications certainly matter, so do school conditions and culture -- such as school and district leadership and parent and community involvement.

The report suggests that one way to elevate science to the same level of importance as mathematics and reading is to assess science subjects as frequently as is done for reading and math, using an assessment system that supports learning and understanding. However, such a system is not yet available for science subjects, the report notes. States and national organizations need to develop assessments that are aligned with the next generation of science standards -- which will be based on a framework to be released soon by the Research Council -- and that emphasize science practices rather than mere factual recall.

National and state policymakers also should invest in helping educators in STEM fields teach more effectively, said the committee. For example, teachers should be able to pursue professional development through peer collaboration and professional learning communities, among other approaches. Schools and school districts should devote adequate instructional time and resources to science in grades K-5 to lay a foundation for further study, the report notes, as research suggests that interest in science careers may develop in the elementary school years.

In addition to strengthening STEM education in traditional schools, districts seeking to improve student outcomes in STEM fields could also consider three types of specialty schools targeted to that goal: selective STEM schools, which are organized around these fields and have selective admissions criteria; inclusive STEM schools, which have the same focus but without selective admissions; and STEM-focused career and technical education programs, which allow students to explore practical applications of science and related career options. Although there is no solid evidence about which approach works best for different student populations, or whether these three types are superior to enhanced STEM education in traditional schools, there are promising findings that the three types can be models for further development of effective STEM instruction and learning.

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Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education


In recent years there have been increasing efforts to use accountability systems based on large-scale tests of students as a mechanism for improving student achievement. The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is a prominent example of such an effort, but it is only the continuation of a steady trend toward greater test-based accountability in education that has been going on for decades. Over time, such accountability systems included ever-stronger incentives to motivate school administrators, teachers, and students to perform better.

Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education from the National Research Council reviews and synthesizes relevant research from economics, psychology, education, and related fields about how incentives work in educational accountability systems. The book helps identify circumstances in which test-based incentives may have a positive or a negative impact on student learning and offers recommendations for how to improve current test-based accountability policies. The most important directions for further research are also highlighted.

For the first time, research and theory on incentives from the fields of economics, psychology, and educational measurement have all been pulled together and synthesized. Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education will inform people about the motivation of educators and students and inform policy discussions about NCLB and state accountability systems. Education researchers, K-12 school administrators and teachers, as well as graduate students studying education policy and educational measurement will use this book to learn more about the motivation of educators and students. Education policy makers at all levels of government will rely on this book to inform policy discussions about NCLB and state accountability systems.
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Achievement Gaps: Hispanic and White Students


Achievement Gaps: How Hispanic and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress” examines the achievement gaps between Hispanic and White public school students and change in gaps over time, using NAEP mathematics and reading assessment results from 2009 and trend results since 1990.

Results are available for grades 4 and 8 nationwide and for states for which data are available, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools. To view the results, visit

Major findings from the Hispanic-White Achievement Gaps report include:

• There was no significant change at either grade 4 or 8 in the Hispanic-White achievement gap in either mathematics or reading between 2007 and 2009. Scores during that time period improved for both Hispanic and White students at grade 8 in both mathematics and reading.

• In 2009, both grades 4 and 8 saw a narrowing of the Hispanic-White achievement gaps in reading for low income students since 2003. Additionally, between 2003 and 2009, the Hispanic-White achievement gap in mathematics narrowed for low income students at grade 8.

• In 2009 mathematics and reading, in both grades 4 and 8, the gap between White and non-ELL Hispanic was smaller than non-ELL and ELL Hispanic students.

• At grade 4 in mathematics, eleven states and jurisdictions observed smaller Hispanic-White gaps than the nation in 2009. In reading, thirteen states had smaller gaps than the nation.

• At grade 8 in mathematics, fifteen states recorded narrower Hispanic-White gaps than the nation in 2009; in reading, seven states had Hispanic-White gaps that were narrower than the national gap.

• Between 2007 and 2009, the Hispanic-White gaps in mathematics widened at grade 4 in two states. In reading, one state narrowed the achievement gap between 2007 and 2009.

• Between 2007 and 2009, achievement gaps did not widen at grade 8 in any state in mathematics or reading. Three states narrowed the Hispanic-White gap in reading, and two states narrowed the gap in mathematics.
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Connecticut manufacturers say many workers lacking basic skills

Results of the 2011 CBIA Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Survey

Connecticut’s manufacturers are concerned about finding and attracting skilled labor. They are also worried about the lack of basic math, writing, and employability skills of entry-level employees and soft leadership skills of mid-level managers.

The vast majority of manufacturers hire from within Connecticut. More than half (51 percent) hired graduates from Connecticut technical high schools, and 44 percent from traditional high schools. Over 30 percent also reported hiring from community colleges—both certificate-program graduates (33 percent) and associate-degree graduates (32 percent). Thirty-one percent report hiring graduates from the state university system.

These employers are considerably more satisfied with graduates of technical high schools (61 percent) versus graduates of traditional high schools (28 percent).

Eighty percent of manufacturers are most satisfied with graduates of four-year private colleges and universities, followed by graduates of the state university system (78 percent), private occupational schools (77 percent), community colleges (associate degree—76 percent), and major universities (74 percent).

More than a third (39 percent) of respondents said entry-level employees lack employability skills such as punctuality and work ethic, while another 34 percent cited a lack of basic skills, including math and reading. Manufacturers have a slightly more positive view of their mid-level employees but cite advanced problem-solving, scientific, and computer skills (23 percent) and leadership skills (22 percent) as most lacking.
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Expenditures per pupil: $10,591


Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2008–09 (Fiscal Year 2009)

Current expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary education were $10,591 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. This First Look presents state-level data on revenues by source and expenditures by function for public elementary and secondary education for school year 2008-09. Part of the Common Core of Data, this report presents data submitted annually to NCES by state education agencies in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Other findings include:

• Adjusting for inflation, per pupil state and local revenues slightly decreased by 1 percent or more in 16 states and increased in 25 states. During the same time frame per pupil current expenditures decreased by 1 percent or more in 8 states and increased by 1 percent or more in 36 states.

• The 50 states and the District and Columbia reported $593.1 billion in revenues collected for public elementary and secondary education in FY 09.

• The greatest percentage of revenues came from state and local governments, which together provided $536.3 billion or 90 percent of all revenues; the federal government’s contribution was $56.7 billion or 10 percent of all revenues.

• Total revenues were unchanged for FY 09 compared to FY 08 adjusted for inflation.

• Local revenues increased by 1 percent; federal revenues increased by 17 percent; and state revenues decreased by 3 percent.
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How Charter Schools Handle Teacher Pensions


In this new "Ed Short" from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Amanda Olberg and Michael Podgursky examine how public charter schools handle pensions for their teachers. Some states give these schools the freedom to opt out of the traditional teacher-pension system; when given that option, how many charter schools take it?

Olberg and Podgursky examine data from six charter-heavy states and find that charter participation rates in traditional pension systems vary greatly—from over 90 percent in California to less than one out of every four charters in Florida. As for what happens when schools choose not to participate in state pension plans, the authors find that they most often provide their teachers with defined-contribution plans (401(k) or 403(b)) with employer matches similar to those for private-sector professionals. But some opt-out charters offer no alternative retirement plans for their teachers (18 percent in Florida, 24 percent in Arizona).
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National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study

The 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (NYPANS) was a school-based study conducted by CDC that included a survey on physical activity, dietary behaviors, and height and weight measurements among a nationally representative sample of students in grades 9–12. Findings from this study, published in separate articles in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, underscore the need for youth to increase levels of physical activity and reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages—two major strategies that can help reduce childhood obesity in the United States.

Physical Activity Levels of High School Students—United States, 2010

Analysis of the NYPANS results on physical activity levels shows that students in grades 9–12 nationwide are not getting enough daily physical activity. According to federal guidelines for physical activity, U.S. youth aged 6 to 17 years need 1 hour of physical activity each day and muscle strengthening activity (e.g., sit ups, push ups, and resistance exercises) at least 3 days a week. To meet the Healthy People 2020 national health objectives (see
Healthy People 2020; Objective 3.1–3.3
), collaborative efforts among CDC, state and local public health agencies, schools, and other public health partners that promote physical activity are needed.

Key Findings

Among U.S. high school students in 2010—

  • Approximately 1 in 10 (12.2%) met the Healthy People 2020 objective for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities.

  • Only 15.3% met the objective for daily aerobic activity.

  • 51.0% met the objective for muscle strengthening activity.

  • Fewer female students (5.8%) than male students (18.5%) met the objective for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities.

  • Fewer 12th–grade (10.3%) students than 11th–grade (10.7%), 10th–grade (12.3%), and 9th–grade (15.0%) students met the objective for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities.

  • Fewer obese (7.3%) students than overweight (13.6%) and under/normal weight (13.3%) students met the objective for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities.

Beverage Consumption Among High School Students—United States, 2010

Analysis of the NYPANS results shows that although water, milk, and 100% fruit juice were the beverages most commonly consumed by high school students during the 7 days before the survey, daily consumption of regular soda or pop, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages also is prevalent in this population—especially among male students and black students.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the diets of U.S. youth.1 Consuming these beverages increases calorie intake—a factor potentially contributing to obesity among youth nationwide.2
Decreasing the number of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed
by high school students can improve their diet and help
reduce their risk of obesity. Healthy options, such as
water, low-fat or fat-free milk, or limited amounts of 100%
fruit juices, should be available at home, school, and other youth-serving institutions.

Key Findings

Among U.S. high school students in 2010, during the 7 days before the survey—

  • Nearly one fourth (24.3%) drank a can, bottle, or glass of regular soda or pop

  • 16.1% drank a can, bottle, or glass of a sports drink

  • 16.9% drank a can, bottle, or glass of another sugar-sweetened beverage
    daily (e.g., lemonade, sweetened tea or coffee drinks, flavored milk, Snapple, or Sunny Delight, but not including soda or pop, sports drinks, energy drinks, or 100% fruit juice).

In addition—

  • Nearly two thirds (62.8%) drank any combination of regular soda or pop, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages one or more times per day.

  • Almost one third (32.9%) drank any combination of these beverages two or more times per day.

  • Male students were more likely than female students and black students were more likely than both white and Hispanic students to drink regular soda or pop, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages daily.


  1. Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States.
    Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2010;110(10):1477–1484.

  2. Berkey CS, Rockett HRH, Field AE, Gillman MW, Colditz GA. Sugar-added beverages and adolescent weight change.
    Obesity Research 2004;12:778–788.

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Informal daycare may harm kids' cognitive development


Formal daycare is better for a child's cognitive development than informal care by a grandparent, sibling, or family friend, according to a study of single mothers and their childcare choices published in the July issue of the Journal of Labor Economics.

According to the study, children who go to a formal preschool program or a licensed daycare center have essentially the same standardized test scores as those who stay home with mom. Conversely, each year of informal care reduces a child's test scores by 2.6 percent versus staying with mom.

"Extensive research has shown that a child's early achievement is a strong predictor of outcomes later in life," said Raquel Bernal of the Universidad de los Andes in Columbia, who performed the research with Michael Keane of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. "This research suggests that separation from the mother has a negative effect on a child's cognitive ability, but this can be offset by the appropriate choice of daycare."

The study took advantage of changes made in the 1990s to U.S. welfare laws that encouraged single mothers to enter the workforce. Before the changes, about 59 percent of single mothers worked outside the home. By 2001, that number increased to 72 percent. The researchers compared test scores for children born shortly before and after the law change to find out if increased employment had an effect on children's test scores, after controlling for outside factors such as socioeconomic status. The scores came from standardized tests the children took between the ages of 3 and 6.

The study found overall that use of childcare reduces a child's test scores significantly. But when the researchers divided the children in the sample into those who received formal and informal care, they found that the reduction in tests scores was driven solely by children in informal care. In other words, formal care was found to have no adverse effect on test scores.

"The policy implication is that it would be desirable to provide financial support that would enable single mothers to spend more time with their children, or support to place children in formal care at early ages," Bernal said.
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Home learning experiences boost low-income kids' school readiness


Home learning experiences that are consistently supportive in the early years may boost low-income children's readiness for school. That's the finding of a new longitudinal study that appears in the journal Child Development.

The study was done by researchers at New York University based on research conducted as part of the national Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project, which is funded by the Administration for Children and Families. The study was also supported by the National Science Foundation.

Previous research has found that on average, children living in poverty are less well prepared to start school than children from middle-income homes. For example, they're less likely than more well-off youngsters to be able to recognize letters of the alphabet, count to 20, write their names, or pretend to read a storybook. Despite their lower performance, there is substantial variation in the skills of children living in poverty, which may be explained by their early experiences in the home.

This study looked at more than 1,850 children and their mothers from predominantly low-income households, that is, households at or below the federal poverty line. During home visits when the children were approximately 1, 2, 3, and 5 years old, the researchers gathered information on how often children took part in literacy activities (such as shared book reading), the quality of mothers' engagements with their children (such as children's exposure to frequent and varied adult speech), and the availability of learning materials (such as children's books). From this information, the researchers calculated a total learning environment score at each age for each of the children. They also measured the number of words the children understood and their knowledge of letters and words at age 5.

"The quality of children's environments over time varied greatly," according to Eileen T. Rodriguez, survey researcher at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., who led the study when she was at New York University. "Some children experienced environments that were uniformly low or high in language and literacy supports at all ages examined, while others experienced environments that changed as they developed."

The researchers found that differences in the children's learning environments over time predicted their readiness skills. As one example, children whose learning environments were consistently low in quality across the four ages studied were much more likely to have delays in language and literacy skills at pre-kindergarten than children whose environments were uniformly high at all the ages.

"Our findings indicate that enriched learning experiences as early as the first year of life are important to children's vocabulary growth, which in turn provides a foundation for children's later school success," notes Rodriguez.

Experiences that occur as children are poised to enter kindergarten also matter, particularly in contributing to children's early reading skills. "Home learning experiences that are consistently supportive in the early years may close the school readiness gap of children from low-income backgrounds," notes Rodriguez. The researchers also found that characteristics of children and families, including children's cognitive ability as infants, mothers' race and ethnicity, education and employment, and family's household income predicted the course of children's early learning environments.

Rodriguez says practitioners should offer both direct and indirect support to help families provide better learning experiences for their children at home. Direct support would involve efforts to promote literacy behaviors, while indirect support would involve targeting areas that might be associated with their ability to provide such support, such as mothers' education.

In addition, efforts should be carried out as early as the first year of life. "Interventions early on may set families on an altered trajectory of support if families are supported in their efforts to engage children in routine literacy activities, interact with children in supportive ways, and provide children opportunities to learn about their worlds through educational materials," according to Rodriguez.
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Poor intuition in gauging numerical quantities = math learning disability


Math learning disabilities are caused by multiple factors

A new study published today in the journal Child Development (e-publication ahead of print) finds that having a poor "gut sense" of numbers can lead to a mathematical learning disability and difficulty in achieving basic math proficiency. This inaccurate number sense is just one cause of math learning disabilities, according to the research led by Dr. Michele Mazzocco of the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Approximately 6 to 14 percent of school-age children have persistent difficulty with mathematics, despite adequate learning opportunities and age-appropriate achievement in other school subjects. These learning difficulties can have lifelong consequences when it comes to job success and financial decision-making. Heightened interest in the nature and origins of these learning difficulties has led to studies to define mathematical learning disability (MLD), identify its underlying core deficits, and differentiate children with MLD from their mathematically successful counterparts.

The new Kennedy Krieger study showed that children with a confirmed math learning disability have a markedly inaccurate number sense compared to their peers. But Dr. Mazzocco said students without a MLD who were below average in achievement performed on the number sense tasks as well as those considered average. For them, number sense doesn't seem to be the trouble.

"Some children have a remarkably imprecise intuitive sense of numbers, and we believe these children have math learning disability, at least in part, due to deficits in this intuitive type of number sense," said Dr. Mazzocco, Director of the Math Skills Development Project at Kennedy Krieger. "But other students who underperform in math do so despite having an intact number sense. This demonstrates the complexity of determining precisely what influences or interferes with a child's mathematical learning. Difficulty learning math may result from a weak number sense but it may also result from a wide range of other factors such as spatial reasoning or working memory. While we should not assume that all children who struggle with mathematics have a poor number sense, we should consider the possibility."

To gauge their sense of numbers, Dr. Mazzocco and colleagues tested 71 children who were previously enrolled in a 10-year longitudinal study of math achievement. The students, all in the ninth grade, completed two basic number sense tasks. In the number naming task, they were shown arrays of dots and asked to judge how many dots were present, without allowing enough time to actually count them. In the number discrimination task, the children were shown arrays of blue dots and yellow dots and asked to determine whether the blue or yellow array had more dots, again, without time to count them.

The researchers then compared the performance of four groups of students, who over the 10-year study, consistently showed having either a MLD, below average, average or above average math achievement.

Students with MLD performed significantly worse than their peers on both of the number tasks. The study findings suggest that an innate ability to approximate numbers, an intact ability present in human infants and many other species, contributes to more sophisticated math abilities later in life, while a less accurate ability underlies MLD. Additionally, the findings reveal that a poor number sense is not the only potential source of math difficulties, reinforcing that a 'one size fits all' educational approach may not be the best for helping children who struggle with math.

"A key message for parents and teachers is that children vary in the precision of their intuitive sense of numbers. We might take for granted that every child perceives numbers with roughly comparable precision, but this assumption would be false. Some students may need more practice, or different kinds of practice, to develop this number sense," Dr. Mazzocco said. "At the same time, if a child is struggling with mathematics at school, we should not assume that the child's difficulty is tied to a poor number sense; this is just one possibility."
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The Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in LAUSD


Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in LAUSD
is an in-depth study conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Designed as a tool to highlight what is and is not working in LA schools, the report compares LAUSD’s policies with both surrounding districts and similar districts around the nation. The report also identifies local and state legislative reforms that would facilitate district efforts to attract and retain highly effective teachers. This report follows other NCTQ district spotlights:

  • Kansas City, Missouri School District (January 2011)

  • Baltimore City Public Schools, MD (June 2010)

  • Boston Public Schools, MA (February 2010)

  • Seattle Public Schools, WA (October 2009)

  • Hartford Public Schools, CT (May 2009)

  • With just over half of the 680,000 students graduating on time in LAUSD, the country’s second biggest school district, systemic change is required in order to make way for effective teachers and overall student achievement.

    What the NCTQ report found is that key policies must be reformed, changes that our teachers and principals have stressed they want and need, in order to drive an effective educational system where our students can learn and thrive.

    Los Angeles Unified School District has seen modest gains in educational achievement over the past ten years, but further reform is needed:

    • Only 52 percent of students graduate high-school on time; In contrast, 70 percent of students statewide graduate
    • The needs of minority students are lagging even further behind. While Latinos make up 73 percent of LAUSD’s students, their graduation rate is only 40 percent
    • Only 11 percent of LAUSD’s 9th grade students are proficient in Algebra 1, one of the key indicators of high school success

    This data-driven look at the state of teacher policies in the Los Angeles Unified School District explores LAUSD’s contract with its teachers, as well as District practices and state laws that shape the work rules for teachers. Additionally, NCTQ analyzed LAUSD human resource data; conducted a district-wide survey of over 1,500 teachers and principals; and held focus groups with teachers, principals and parents. The analysis is framed around five standards for improving teacher quality. The five standards— staffing, evaluations, tenure, compensation and work schedule—are supported by research and best practices from the field.

    Among the report’s findings:

    > Teacher assignment policies are flawed: Current contractual requirements force principals to hire teachers who may not be a good fit in their buildings, and lay off teachers based on seniority rather than the performance.

    > LAUSD teacher evaluation policies don't work: The evaluation instrument focuses too much on teacher behaviors and not on how those behaviors impact student learning. Teachers are observed by only their principal—and only once every other year, too infrequently to serve as a meaningful factor in shaping student performance.

    > Criteria for teacher tenure must be modified: Although LAUSD has made tenure a more meaningful designation in recent years by requiring principals to actively approve a teacher for tenure, California law impedes the district's ability to do more on this front.

    > Teacher compensation structure should be reviewed: LAUSD spends 25 percent of its teacher payroll ($519 million) to compensate teachers for completing additional coursework, even though such coursework has not been shown to improve student achievement.

    > Standard work schedule must be defined: The contract sets an expectation of an 8-hour work day, but teachers are not required to be on-site for this entire period, consequently teacher planning time and opportunities for collaboration with colleagues, are given short shrift.

    Recommendations provided in the NCTQ, Teacher Quality Roadmap include:

    *LAUSD needs to improve their recruiting, pre-screening and staffing practices to attract and keep the strongest teachers in the District
    o Improve applicant recruitment and screenings by HR to ensure candidates sent to schools are of high caliber
    o Eliminate the "priority placement" list (also called the "must place" list), which forces LAUSD to compromise on its commitment to mutual consent staffing
    o Give principals the right to refuse hiring a specific teacher, regardless of whether a teacher is transferring voluntarily or involuntarily
    o Determine who gets laid off by weighing by multiple factors, including teacher effectiveness

    *Teacher evaluations must be regular and include multiple measures, including student achievement
    o Make student performance the preponderant factor in teacher evaluations
    o Include multiple measures in teacher evaluations, such as value-added data on teacher performance, classroom observations by principals and content experts
    o Conduct evaluations on an annual basis

    *Tenure should be meaningful and offered after more than the current two years of teaching
    o Hold tenure reviews to determine whether teachers are awarded tenure
    ß California is one of only eight states that provide tenure after two years; the state legislature should extend the probationary period for teachers to earn tenure from two years to at least four years
    o Award teachers who earn tenure a significant salary increase

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    Give Students Who Want To Leave Failing Schools Better Options?


    Ten years ago, the No Child Left Behind Act passed the Congress with broad bipartisan support, but elements of NCLB are now broadly criticized by members of both major political parties. Among the most disappointing features is the poorly conceived and underutilized “transfer” provision, which enables students in “failing” Title I schools to choose to attend another school within their district. Less than 2 percent of students avail themselves of this right to transfer, which has led to suggestions that the provision be scrapped.

    In a newly released Century Foundation study, “Can NCLB Choice Work?” Meredith P. Richards, Kori J. Stroub, and Jennifer Jellison Holme of the University of Texas at Austin suggest that, rather than jettisoning the transfer provisions, students in schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress should be given the ability to transfer to higher-performing schools outside of their district. The report draws on sophisticated research models that show both the feasibility and benefit of instituting programs like this across the country.

    The report, which draws upon data from forty-five states, finds:

    • It is unsurprising that few families use the within-school-district transfer right given the paucity of good choices available. The report finds that, under current policies, students in 94.5 percent of failing schools have “no meaningful access to higher performing schools,” because there are few schools within districts that are higher performing, and those that are higher performing are often filled to capacity.

    • Contrary to the findings of previous research, the authors, using a newer, more sophisticated model, conclude that expanding public school choice across school district lines “has the potential to meaningfully expand access to higher-performing schools for students in over 80 percent of eligible sending schools.”

    • The offerings available to students in inter-district choice programs not only would be more plentiful, they also would be of higher average quality.

    • Inter-district transfer programs would disproportionately benefit low-income students and students of color.

    Unlike earlier research, which made arbitrary assumptions about how long students would be willing to travel and how much space is available in receiving schools, The Century Foundation study uses sophisticated techniques drawn from “gravity models” to assess how far students would be willing to go for superior educational alternatives. The study also employs actual student/teacher ratios in schools to assess space constraints.

    Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, called the study “groundbreaking.” He noted: “A broad body of research suggests that perhaps the single best thing we can do for a low-income child is to give her a chance to attend a socioeconomically integrated school, where she is surrounded by higher achieving peers, a group of parents who are able to be actively involved in school affairs, and high-quality teachers. This new study suggests NCLB transfers could significantly increase access to good economically integrated schools if choice can be made across school district lines.”
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    Screening helps African-American students


    Mental health screening has been demonstrated to successfully connect African-American middle school students from a predominantly low-income area with school-based mental health services, according to results of a new study led by the TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University. The study was published in a recent online early edition of the Community Mental Health Journal.

    Previous research has demonstrated substantial disparities in access to specialized mental health services between African-American and white youth; data has shown that African-Americans are consistently less likely than their white counterparts to receive inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment. In addition, other studies have shown that youth from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to the leading risk of untreated mental illness: suicide and suicide attempts.

    "These findings reinforce that screening helps identify adolescents from different regions and backgrounds from across the country who are at-risk for depression, anxiety or another mental illness, and connect them with appropriate mental health services," said Laurie Flynn, TeenScreen's executive director. "Seventy to 80 percent of teens with mental illness do not get identified or treated. TeenScreen is working to reverse this disturbing trend by making mental health screening a routine part of adolescent care for all of our nation's adolescents. Early identification and intervention can make a tremendous difference in the present and future life of an adolescent and his/her family."

    "The results of this study indicate that screening can help overcome barriers to mental health care among African-American youth" said Leslie McGuire, MSW, TeenScreen's deputy executive director. "This is critical not only for African American youth but for all youth in need of mental health care since we know that 50 percent of those who are referred to mental health care don't even make it to their first appointment. Our results show that more than 85 percent of youth referred as a result of screening accessed mental health services. The purpose of our work at TeenScreen is to get at-risk youth the help they need. These results validate the effectiveness of our efforts and the impact they can have on the lives of vulnerable adolescents."

    Students in the Study were Screened with an Evidence-Based Questionnaire Provided by TeenScreen

    The study was a retrospective record review of 796 African-American and white students from grades six through eight who were attending 13 public schools in two school districts in a small city in Louisiana.

    Students were screened using an evidence-based questionnaire provided by TeenScreen: the Columbia Health Screen (CHS), a 14-item self-report questionnaire, which assesses mental health problems across six domains: depression, anxiety, irritability, social withdrawal, substance use and suicidality. After the screening, students with a positive screen (meaning that their screening indicated signs of depression or anxiety, suicidal ideation and behavior, or substance abuse, etc.) were referred for a clinical interview by a trained master's level clinician at the school. If the clinician determined that further intervention was appropriate, they would refer the student to either school-based or community-based services.

    Study results showed that African-American middle school students were significantly more likely than white middle school students to consent to participate in voluntary mental health screening and to access school-based mental health services. Referrals were made to school-based services for 104 students (71.7 percent). African-American students accessed recommended school-based services at a significantly greater rate than white students (93.4 percent versus 76.2 percent).

    High School Offers an Important Window for Mental Health Intervention

    Adolescence is an important window for intervention because 50 percent of all lifetime mental health disorders start by age 14, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And evidence has demonstrated that symptoms of mental illness typically occur two to four years before the onset of a full-blown disorder, making adolescence an ideal period for early intervention to reduce the long-term severity of illness.

    Untreated depression or other mental health problems can lead to school failure, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, criminal involvement, and other issues that may delay the life/social experiences (e.g., school achievement, future/career-planning, dating, increased independence, etc.) that define adolescence. And most tragically, untreated mental illness can lead to suicide – the third leading cause of death among adolescents.

    Research has shown that most young people with mental illness can be effectively treated and lead productive lives.

    The TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University is a non-profit public health initiative and national policy and resource center devoted to increasing youth access to regular mental health checkups. The TeenScreen National Center is affiliated with the Columbia University Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Launched nearly 10 years ago, today there are more than 2,000 TeenScreen sites in 46 states nationwide, through the TeenScreen Primary Care and TeenScreen Schools and Communities programs. As a pioneering force in the early identification of mental illness in teens, TeenScreen programs have been recognized as a national model and are listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices and the Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention. To learn more about TeenScreen's free resources and policy research, please visit

    The TeenScreen National Center recently began offering new training and development resources for its Schools and Communities Programs online for the first time. To learn more about the Schools and Communities program and download the new materials, please visit:
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    Preschool children grasp the true concept of counting


    Preschool children seem to grasp the true concept of counting only if they are taught to understand the number value of groups of objects greater than three, research at the University of Chicago shows.

    "We think that seeing that there are three objects doesn't have to involve counting. It's only when children go beyond three that counting is necessary to determine how many objects there are," said Elizabeth Gunderson, a UChicago graduate student in psychology.

    Gunderson and Susan Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology, Comparative Human Development and the Committee on Education at the University, study how children develop an understanding of the connection between number words and their actual numerical value. That connection is known as the cardinal principle, which states that the size of a set of objects is determined by the last number reached when counting the set.

    Learning to recite number words in order is not the same as understanding the cardinal principle, they point out. Research has shown that children who enter kindergarten with a good understanding of the cardinal principle do better in mathematics.

    Gunderson is lead author of a paper, "Some Types of Parent Number Talk Count More than Others: Relations between Parents' Input and Children's Cardinal-Number Knowledge," published in the current issue of the journal Developmental Science. Levine, a leading national expert on the early acquisition of mathematics, is co-author.

    Levine's work has shown that exposure to language related to numbers improves mathematics comprehension; the latest paper goes a step further. It shows that children who are exposed to number words from four through 10, in addition to the number words from one through three, acquire an understanding of the cardinal principle before children who have little exposure to these higher number words.

    To perform the study, team members made five home visits and videotaped interactions between 44 youngsters and their parents. The sessions lasted for 90 minutes and were made at four–month intervals, when the youngsters were between the ages of 14 to 30 months. They coded each instance in which parents talked about numbers with their children.

    When the children were nearly 4 years old, they were assessed on their understanding of the cardinal principle. The results were then compared to the records of their conversations about numbers with their parents.

    Children whose parents talked about sets of four to 10 objects that the child could see were more likely to understand the cardinal principle, the research showed. Using smaller numbers in conversations and referring to objects the children couldn't see (such as "I'll be there in two minutes.") was not predictive of children's understanding of the cardinal principle. "The results have important policy implications, showing that specific aspects of parents' engagement in numerically relevant behaviors in the home seem to have an impact on children's early mathematical development," the authors point out.

    Parents frequently do not realize the impact they can have on their children's understanding of mathematics and believe that a child's school is primarily responsible for the development of mathematical skills, research shows. Parents also frequently overestimate their children's understanding of mathematics.

    Further studies could lead to suggestions of how parents and early childhood educators can best boost early mathematics learning, the authors point out.
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    The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2010


    The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has just released The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2010. The report presents results for students from across the nation in grades 4, 8, and 12.

    Major findings from the 2010 report include:

    • The average score for fourth-graders was higher than in 1994 but not different than in 2006. The lowest performing students (10th, 25th, and 50th percentiles) made the greatest score gains in fourth grade since 1994.

    • The average score for eighth-graders has continued to rise, resulting in the highest score in 2010. Similar to fourth-graders, average scores for the lowest performing eighth-grade students (10th, 25th, and 50th percentiles) increased both from 1994 and 2006.

    • At grade 12, the average score in 2010 was not significantly different from the 2006 assessment, but higher than the average score in 1994.

    • Average scores for Black and Hispanic students in grade 8 were higher in 2010 than in 2006; average scores for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asia/Pacific Islander students at all three grade levels were higher than in 1994.

    • A higher percentage of fourth-graders and eighth-graders performed at or above Basic in 2010 than in 1994.

    • At both grades 4 and 8, students from low-income families (those who were eligible for free school lunch) recorded higher average U.S. history scores in 2010 than in both 2001 and 2006. Low-income students make up 40 percent of fourth-graders and 36 percent of eighth-graders nationally.

    Download the report for additional findings about twelfth-grade U.S. History coursetaking patterns, derived from the 2009 High School Transcript Study, including:

    • In 2009, access to AP U.S. history courses increased overall but lagged in low minority schools (schools with less than 10 percent Black or Hispanic students) and in schools in locations other than large cities.

    • The percentage of graduates taking AP U.S. history was higher in 2009 than in 1990 for all graduates and was higher than in 1990 for White, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates. In 2009, AP coursetaking in U.S. history was lower in low minority schools and schools not in large cities.

    The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2010
    is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education.
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    Welfare Programs Can Have Negative Effects on Children’s Cognitive Scores,


    The United States federal government supports many welfare and entitlement programs that attempt to eliminate poverty by providing financial assistance to families in need. Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has found that requirements for some of these welfare programs can create stress on families, which can have a negative effect on young children.

    Colleen Heflin found that requirements for some welfare programs can create stress on families, which can have a negative effect on young children.

    Colleen Heflin, an associate professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, studied the cognitive scores of young children whose families receive assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is the largest federal support program for families with children. Heflin found that the cognitive scores of three-year-old children whose families were on TANF were much lower than children who were not on the program.

    “Our findings suggest that the way these assistance programs are structured could have negative effects on child outcomes,” Heflin said. “While TANF traditionally has been the main social program to offer financial support to low-income households with children, current program requirements may create pressures that conflict with the objective of improving child outcomes.”

    For example, families receiving assistance from TANF must comply with requirements ranging from drug testing and attending job development classes to accepting minimum wage jobs that require single mothers to be away from their families during evenings and weekend. By examining results from a Princeton University and Columbia University “Fragile Families and Child Well-Being” study, Heflin found that the stress created within the family when parents are trying to meet these requirements ultimately results in the decreased cognitive scores of the young children. However, Heflin found that social programs based in the tax system, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, show no such negative effects on the children of the household.

    “The design of the program matters,” Heflin said. “An income-increasing program through the tax system doesn’t show these negative effects. However, programs like TANF seem to hurt kids, which is the opposite of what we want our social programs to be doing. We don’t create policies to hurt young children, we try to help them. TANF has created enough pressure on families trying to comply with its regulations that it has actually begun to exert a negative force on these families at the margins.”
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    Is Gifted Education a Bright Idea?


    Assessing the Impact of Gifted and Talented Programs on Achievement

    In this paper we determine how the receipt of gifted and talented (GT) services affects student outcomes. We identify the causal relationship by exploiting a discontinuity in eligibility requirements and find that for students on the margin there is no discernible impact on achievement even though peers improve substantially. We then use randomized lotteries to examine the impact of attending a GT magnet program relative to GT programs in other schools and find that, despite being exposed to higher quality teachers and peers that are one standard deviation higher achieving, only science achievement improves. We argue that these results are consistent with an invidious comparison model of peer effects offsetting other benefits. Evidence of large reductions in course grades and rank relative to peers in both regression discontinuity and lottery models are consistent with this explanation.
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    High-School Exit Examinations and the Schooling Decisions of Teenagers:


    National Bureau of Economic Research researchers ask whether failing one or more of the state-mandated high-school exit examinations affects whether students graduate from high school. Using a new multi-dimensional regression-discontinuity approach, they examine simultaneously scores on mathematics and English language arts tests. Barely passing both examinations, as opposed to failing them, increases the probability that students graduate by 7.6 percentage points. The effects are greater for students scoring near each cutoff than for students further away from them.
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    Study Finds Glaring Bloopers in Proposed Texas Science Curricula


    According to a study released today by the non-profit Discovery Institute, An Evaluation of Supplementary Biology and Evolution Curricular Materials Submitted for Adoption by the Texas State Board of Education, bogus embryo drawings, long-debunked claims about tonsils, and outdated information from a 1950s lab experiment highlight the glaring bloopers found in proposed science curricula currently being considered by the Texas State Board of Education.

    "Retro-science must be in, because the proposed curricula are filled with outdated scientific claims," said Casey Luskin, a policy and education analyst with Discovery Institute. "It's truly amazing how much discredited information keeps getting recycled year after year."

    In order to satisfy state educational standards set in 2009 (TEKS), the Board of Education asked publishers to submit supplementary curricula that would enable students to "analyze and evaluate" core aspects of evolutionary theory, and to "examin[e] all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking." But according to Discovery Institute's 70-page study, only one curriculum out of the 10 evaluated managed to comply with the TEKS as well as avoid glaring scientific errors.

    Top science bloopers in the proposed curricula include:

    - erroneous statements that the 1950s Miller-Urey origin of life experiment produced amino acids under conditions that accurately simulated the early earth;
    - long-discredited claims that the appendix, tonsils, and other organs are non-functional "vestigial" organs left over from a blind evolutionary process. In fact, these organs are now recognized by scientists to serve important biological functions;
    - fraudulent embryo drawings originating with nineteenth-century German racist Ernst Haeckel that are used to claim that vertebrate embryos are the same at the earliest stages of development (not true).

    "They're back!! Haeckel's bogus drawings were previously removed by the Texas State Board of Education during the 2003 biology textbook adoption process," said Dr. John West, a Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute. "But like creatures in a zombie film, they keep returning."

    "In addition to promoting outdated science, most of the proposed curricula completely fail to meet the TEKS critical thinking requirements," said Luskin. "The TEKS require curricula that will help students examine 'all sides of scientific evidence,' 'encourage critical thinking,' and 'analyze and evaluate' key claims of modern evolutionary theory. But out of the ten curricula we reviewed, only one made a serious effort to meet these requirements," said Luskin.
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    Large-scale early education linked to higher living standards and crime prevention 25 years later


    High-quality early education has a strong, positive impact well into adulthood, according to research led by Arthur Reynolds, co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative and professor of child development, and Judy Temple, a professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The study is the longest follow-up ever of an established large-scale early childhood program.

    In "School-based Early Childhood Education and Age 28 Well-Being: Effects by Timing, Dosage, and Subgroups," published today in the journal Science, Reynolds and Temple (with co-authors Suh-Ruu Ou, Irma Arteaga, and Barry White) report on more than 1,400 individuals whose well-being has been tracked for as much as 25 years. Those who had participated in an early childhood program beginning at age 3 showed higher levels of educational attainment, socioeconomic status, job skills, and health insurance coverage as well as lower rates of substance abuse, felony arrest, and incarceration than those who received the usual early childhood services.

    The research focused on participants in the Child-Parent Center Education Program (CPCEP), a publicly funded early childhood development program that begins in preschool and provides up to six years of service in the Chicago public schools. Through the Chicago Longitudinal Study (CLS), Reynolds and colleagues have studied the educational and social development of a same-age cohort of low-income, minority children (93 percent African American) who participated in this program. The CLS is one of the most extensive and comprehensive studies ever undertaken of young children's learning. Reynolds and colleagues have reported on the Chicago individuals starting in preschool, then annually through the school-age years, and periodically through early adulthood.

    The new paper reports on the sample participants at age 28, when they found the most positive outcomes among the 957 individuals who began services in preschool -- especially males and children of high school drop outs. Positive effects also were found for the duration of services, those participating for 4 to 6 years from preschool to third grade. The control group of 529 included individuals of the same age who participated in alternative early childhood programs in randomly selected schools and who matched the program group on socioeconomic status. Among the major findings (preschool group compared to the control group, adjusted for sample attrition):

    - 9 percent more completed high school; 19 percent more males
    - 20 percent more achieved moderate or higher level of socioeconomic status
    - 19 percent more carried some level of health insurance coverage
    - 28 percent fewer abused drugs and alcohol; 21 percent fewer males alone
    - 22 percent fewer had a felony arrest; the difference was 45 percent for children of high school dropouts
    - 28 percent fewer had experienced incarceration or jail

    Participants who participated in CPCEP for four to six years (preschool to third grade) compared to the control group receiving less than four years:

    - 18 percent more achieved moderate or higher level of socioeconomic status
    - 23 percent more had some level of private health insurance coverage
    - 55 percent more achieved on-time high school graduation
    - 36 percent fewer had been arrested for violence

    "When you follow people for more than two decades, an understanding of how early experiences shape later development can be achieved," Reynolds notes. "A chain of positive influences initiated by large advantages in school readiness and parent involvement leads to better school performance and enrollment in higher quality schools, and ultimately to higher educational attainment and socioeconomic status."

    Findings demonstrate that effects of sustained school-based early education can endure through the third decade of life. Previously, Reynolds and colleagues documented the cost benefits of early education, demonstrating an 18 percent annual return on investment for society. However, policy has yet to support the kind of early interventions needed to solve persistent societal issues.

    "Unfortunately, we still spend very little on prevention," says Reynolds. "Only 3 percent of the $14 billion dollars allocated to school districts to serve low-income children under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act [No Child Left Behind] goes to preschool. Yet preschool programs are one of the most cost-effective of all social programs."

    He explains that since about half of the achievement gap between children from higher and lower economic statuses at age 10 already exists at age 5, education interventions need to start even earlier. "State and federal policies don't reflect the knowledge of how much earlier these gaps appear, and therefore the need to start as early as possible," he says.

    Based on this and earlier studies, Reynolds and Temple say the key to CPC's success lies in both the quality of the program and its teachers, the opportunity for more than one year of participation, small classes, comprehensive family services, structured activity-based curricula focusing on language and literacy, and attention to continuity of learning from preschool to the early school grades.
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    Want better math teachers? Train them better


    It’s time for the United States to consider establishing higher standards for math teachers if the nation is going to break its “vicious cycle” of mediocrity, a Michigan State University education scholar argues in Science magazine.

    As American students continue to be outpaced in mathematics by pupils in countries such as Russia and Taiwan, William Schmidt recommends adopting more rigorous, demanding and internationally benchmarked teacher-preparation standards for math teachers.

    “Our research shows that current teacher-preparation programs for middle-school math instructors in the United States do not produce teachers with an internationally competitive level of mathematics knowledge,” said Schmidt, a University Distinguished Professor and co-director of MSU’s Education Policy Center.

    Schmidt makes his argument in an “education forum” paper in the June 10 edition of Science, one of the world’s preeminent science research journals. MSU researchers Richard Houang and Leland Cogan co-authored the paper.

    Current standards for math teachers are established on a state-by-state level. Schmidt suggests the states could come together to establish more rigorous and uniform standards, similar to the Common Core State Standards Initiative for K-12 students.

    That initiative, which establishes more rigorous math and English-Language Arts standards for students, is led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Thus far, 42 states have adopted the common standards.

    But even with higher pupil standards, U.S. students can’t get better at math if their instructors aren’t fully prepared to teach them, Schmidt noted.

    “Weak K-12 math curricula taught by teachers with an inadequate mathematics background produce high school graduates who are similarly weak,” Schmidt said. “A long-term and better solution is to break the vicious cycle of mediocrity in which we find ourselves.”

    Schmidt led the U.S. portion of the Teacher Education Study in Mathematics, or TEDS-M, by far the largest study of its kind, surveying more than 3,300 future teachers in the United States and 23,244 future teachers across 16 countries.
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    More Young Hispanic Adults Have High School Diplomas


    Proportionately more young Hispanic adults are completing high school and fewer are dropping out than were doing so a decade ago, according to an analysis of enrollment trends by the U.S. Census Bureau. Among Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds, 22 percent were not enrolled in high school and lacked a high school diploma or equivalent in 2008, compared with 34 percent in 1998.

    These statistics come from a new analysis, School Enrollment in the United States: 2008, which examines a number of trends among the U.S. population enrolled in school. The analysis focuses particularly on the issue of enrollment below modal grade, resulting from students being held back or made to repeat a grade.

    Among Hispanics who had been enrolled in high school in October 2007, 5 percent reported being out of school with no diploma or equivalent in October 2008, compared with 6 percent for blacks. The percentage for non-Hispanic whites was 2 percent, and for Asians it was 4 percent. The percentage of Asians who left school without a high school diploma is not statistically different from the percentage of non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Hispanics.

    Fourteen million Hispanics were enrolled in schools at all levels in 2008 out of a total enrollment of 76 million students across the United States. The Hispanic portion of all students (18 percent in 2008) increased by 5 percentage points from a decade earlier (13 percent in 1998).

    Nineteen percent of students ages 6 to 17 were enrolled at a grade level that is lower than the typical grade for their age in 2008, often referred to as "below modal grade." The below modal grade rate for Hispanic students was the same as for the white-alone, non-Hispanic population.

    In 2008, 22 percent of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds were not enrolled in high school and lacked a high school diploma or equivalent. The corresponding percentages for non-Hispanic whites were 6 percent, blacks were 13 percent and Asians were 4 percent. The percentage of non-Hispanic white and Asian adults who were not enrolled and lacked a high school diploma or equivalent were not statistically different in 2008. The percentage of Asians who were not enrolled and lacked a high school diploma in 2008 is not statistically different from the percentage in 1998. The decrease from 1998 to 2008 in the percent who were not enrolled and lacked a high school diploma or equivalent was 12 percent for Hispanics, 3 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 4 percent for blacks and 1 percent for Asians (not statistically significant from zero). The only decrease that was significantly different from the other race groups was the Hispanic decrease.

    Statistics for this analysis were collected in the October 2008 Supplement to the Current Population Survey.
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    Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, Before Baccalaureate: Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree


    Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, Before Baccalaureate: Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree explores how understanding the link between learning and a career becomes more critical than ever for high school students preparing to graduate and enter the next phase of their lives. This year's Diplomas Count reconsiders the "college for all" movement and examines postsecondary options for students other than a bachelor's degree. Plus, this annual benchmarking research report provides nationwide data on graduation rates, which concludes that rates are finally moving up significantly.

    More information here.
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    State Policies and Procedures on Response to Intervention


    State Policies and Procedures on Response to Intervention in the Midwest Region
    , a study by REL Midwest, describes response to intervention in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The report examines states’ interest in and planning and policy development for response to intervention and the extent to which states are supporting such initiatives.
    Similarities across the six states on this issue include the following:

    • Response to intervention discussions were initially driven by the special education departments in each state but are now a collaborative effort between general and special education.

    • Response to intervention is viewed as a vehicle for improving education for all students and informing decisions about eligibility for special education.

    • Response to intervention efforts are connected to other state initiatives.

    • State policymakers recognize the importance of allowing districts the flexibility to tailor implementation to local needs.

    • States provide general guidance to districts and schools on what response to intervention typically entails. They also provide professional development, technical assistance, and funding to districts.

    • All states are collecting data on the extent to which response to intervention is being implemented.
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    Strategies Used by Charters to Grow Great Teachers and Leaders


    The Center for American Progress has released a new report that analyzes the strategies used by charter management organizations to address the inadequate pipeline of school leaders. "Preparing for Growth: Human Capital Innovations in Public Charter Schools" by Christi Chadwick and Julie Kowal of Public Impact adds to the discussion around this challenge and explores strategies for staffing success.

    The report profiles the leadership pipeline-building strategies of six charter management organizations, or CMOs, and found the following key strategies for success:

    Formalize processes and infrastructure—they look for specific leadership competencies in candidates and standardize recruitment and preparation processes.

    Make the most of the people they attract—they provide additional training and focus teacher and principal responsibilities in key areas.

    Import and train management talent—they work with teachers prepared through nontraditional routes, chose those with great potential, and then provide resources to help them be successful.

    The six CMOs that were the basis for the study are: Green Dot Public Schools (Los Angeles, California), High Tech High (San Diego and Chula Vista, California), IDEA Public Schools (Rio Grande Valley, Texas), KIPP (20 states plus D.C.), Rocketship Education (San Jose, California) and YES Prep Public Schools (Houston, Texas).

    “Strong leadership is a critical component of raising student achievement and improving all schools, whether they are charters or not,” said Cynthia G. Brown, Vice President for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. “The lessons and best practices from this paper are applicable for any school seeking to grow great leaders.”
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    Steering Capital: Optimizing Financial Support for Innovation in Public Education


    Public education has reached a moment of rare consensus: something must be done about the sorry state of our public schools, particularly in urban and low-income areas, and that the solution must deliver better results at scale – and without significant additional resources. Other fields like medicine and communications have embraced innovation – a new approach that achieves a better result – as the best means to this end. But education innovation has not yet lived up to its promise. In this paper, education entrepreneur Kim Smith and innovation writer Julie Petersen chart a path forward for how the public, private and nonprofit sectors can work together to advance education innovation by steering capital toward products, services and approaches that improve educators’ productivity and students’ learning outcomes.

    Today, the educational ecosystem is not set up to support meaningful and widespread innovation. The policy and investment context that defines the flow of capital in education can either encourage or inhibit this innovation, and today it does much more of the latter than the former. Public policies and regulations favor compliance over excellence, rarely allow state or district buyers to choose flexibly between a range of high-quality product or service options, inhibit the flow of information that would allow buyers to anticipate or measure performance improvements, and offering few meaningful incentives for these buyers to adopt better products and services. The philanthropic capital market similarly provides few mechanisms for rewarding dramatically improved outcomes (including little funding for the scale-up of successful organizations), instead favoring small doses of funding across many organizations. Private investors shy away from fueling education innovation, intimidated by policies that restrict the work of for-profit providers in education, frequent policy volatility at the local level, market domination by a few large publishers that feel little pressure from competition or from their customers to really innovate, and a slow, relationship-based sales cycle that rarely measures or rewards quality.

    However, there is inspiration to be drawn from the wider social change landscape. A growing number of social entrepreneurs have embraced the idea that they can make a difference by creating new organizations that bring visionary approaches to life. The philanthropic and investment landscape has grown and shifted in ways that make it possible to accomplish social and financial returns. And government agencies are experimenting with promising new approaches for steering the private market for public goods to meet key needs.

    In that context, this paper considers how to improve the provision of capital for innovation in public education. Capital is one of the most important levers in aligning in this innovation ecosystem, but it is a force that can both influence the way innovation takes hold – and can in turn be influenced by other forces in the wider ecosystem, including public policy.

    In order to enable effective capital market dynamics to support innovation, the paper asserts that public, private and philanthropic sectors must work together to make the education ecosystem more innovation-friendly, including:

    • Establishing clarity and agreement on the problems, goals and metrics for success;
    • Creating an effective research and development (R&D) system;
    • Developing a culture that is evidence-based, with incentives and infrastructure aligned for continuous improvement;
    • Capturing and sharing data that are transparent, available, comparable and useful;
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    Children of divorce fall behind peers in math


    Divorce is a drag on the academic and emotional development of young children, but only once the breakup is under way, according to a study of elementary school students and their families.

    "Children of divorce experience setbacks in math test scores and show problems with interpersonal skills and internalizing behavior during the divorce period," says Hyun Sik Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "They are more prone to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and sadness."

    Kim's work, published in the June issue of American Sociological Review, makes use of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study describing more than 3,500 U.S. elementary school students who entered kindergarten in 1998. The study, which also made subjects of parents while checking in periodically on the children, gave Kim the opportunity to track the families through divorce — as well as through periods before and after the divorce.

    While the children fell behind their peers in math and certain psychological measures during the period that included the divorce, Kim was surprised to see those students showing no issues in the time period preceding the divorce.

    "I expected that there would be conflict between the parents leading up to their divorce, and that that would be troublesome for their child," Kim says. "But I failed to find a significant effect in the pre-divorce period."

    The results add nuance to the long-held assumption that divorce is harmful to children all the way through the process.

    "There is also some thinking that children are resilient and that they would learn how to cope with the situation at some point," Kim says.

    To a certain extent, the detrimental effect of the divorce period fades, but not to the point that Kim would call it resiliency.

    "After the divorce, students return to the same growth rate as their counterparts," he says. "But they remain behind their peers from intact families."

    Why divorce would be an anchor on elementary school students is not hard to figure. Stressful new experiences associated with the divorce process include a confusingly adversarial relationship between mom and dad, shuttling between homes, the emotional effect the breakup has on parents and more.

    But why there wouldn't be a corresponding effect on children before parents decide to divorce is a trickier question.

    "The results here support the idea that not all divorces are plagued by harmful parental conflict in the pre-divorce period," Kim says.

    Once the effects of a divorce do begin to erode a child's progress, they do their work on more vulnerable developing skills. Mathematics, in which new concepts often build on recently learned material, is seen as more susceptible to external issues than reading — a subject in which children of divorce showed no detrimental effects.

    Similarly, children of divorce maintain their more robust positive externalizing behaviors — making friends, resolving conflict without fighting and resisting disruption of quiet times — while losing their grip on more fragile internal emotional aspects.

    The study may be useful to parents and educators, though Kim expected that differing school philosophies and variations from child to child may inform different interpretations.

    "If a teacher is aware of a student experiencing a divorce situation, it may be in the student's interest that the teachers intervene by adjusting as early as possible to prevent that student from falling behind," Kim says. "Because if that student falls behind, he or she is unlikely to recover even after the divorce."
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