Dissecting Dyslexia: Linking Reading to Voice Recognition


Research shows dyslexia involves difficulty processing language sounds in dyslexic brains

New research: Dyslexic individuals have significant difficulty recognizing voices.
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When people recognize voices, part of what helps make voice recognition accurate is noticing how people pronounce words differently. But individuals with dyslexia don't experience this familiar language advantage, say researchers.

The likely reason: "phonological impairment."

Tyler Perrachione with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explains, "Even though all people who speak a language use the same words, they say those words just a little bit differently from one another--what is called 'phonetics' in linguistics."

Phonetics is concerned with the physical properties of speech. Listeners are sensitive to phonetic differences as part of what makes a person's voice unique. But individuals with dyslexia have trouble recognizing these phonetic differences, whether a person is speaking a familiar language or a foreign one, Perrachione says.

As a Ph.D. candidate in Neuroscience at MIT, Perrachione recently examined the impacts of phonological impairment through experiments funded by the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Education and Human Resources.

He and colleague Stephanie Del Tufo as well as Perrachione's MIT research advisor John Gabrieli hypothesized that if voice recognition by human listeners relies on phonological knowledge, then listeners with dyslexia would be impaired when identifying voices speaking their native language as compared to listeners without dyslexia.

They also theorized that listeners with dyslexia hearing a foreign language would be no more impaired in voice recognition than listeners without dyslexia, because both groups would lack specific familiarity with how the foreign language was supposed to sound.

The journal Science reports their findings online today in an article titled "Human voice recognition depends on language ability."

For their research study, the MIT scientists trained individuals with and without dyslexia to recognize the voices of people speaking either the listeners' native language of English or an unfamiliar foreign language, Mandarin Chinese. In each language, participants learned to associate five talkers' voices with unique cartoon avatars and were subsequently tested on their ability to correctly identify those voices.

The listeners were either typically-developing readers or individuals who experienced reading difficulties and dyslexia growing up.

The neuroscientists found individuals with dyslexia were significantly worse at being able to consistently recognize the voices of the English speakers. They were about the same as listeners without dyslexia at recognizing the Chinese voices; both groups were very poor at recognizing voices speaking an unfamiliar language.

"It is remarkable that individuals with dyslexia are no better able to identify voices speaking a familiar language than a foreign one," says Perrachione. "It is also very interesting that the reason for this is that they are less accurate at voice recognition than individuals who don't have dyslexia."

The result reaffirms the theory that the underlying deficit in dyslexia isn't about the act of reading per se, but instead involves difficulty with how sounds of spoken language are heard and processed in the dyslexic brain.

Contemporary theories of dyslexia often propose a "phonological deficit" as the reason some people struggle to translate written images into meaningful language. The idea is that individuals with dyslexia tend to do poorly on tests that ask them to decode words using conventional phonetic rules, thereby resulting in reading delays because of difficulties connecting language sounds to letters.

What theories of dyslexia have not been able to convincingly explain, say the researchers, is why there is no evident difficulty in the ability to perceive and produce speech among people with dyslexia. This is especially curious if the ability to recognize phonological sounds is impaired.

"Our results are the first to explicitly link impairment in reading ability to impairment in ecologically processing spoken language," says Perrachione. "The results suggest that the source of a phonological deficit might be in dyslexic individuals' difficulties learning the consistent properties of speech sounds as spoken by an individual talker."

Understanding these findings could help individuals with dyslexia in a variety of settings.

"Lots of research has shown that individuals with dyslexia have more trouble understanding speech when there is noise in the background," says Perrachione. "These results suggest that trouble following a specific voice might be part of the cause. Teachers and other educators can be sensitive to this during classroom instruction where noise from other classmates might make it disproportionately difficult for children with dyslexia to follow what is going on in a lesson."

Moreover, these findings suggest that individuals with dyslexia may find it difficult to notice consistent properties of speech sounds during learning. If further research verifies this trouble noticing consistency, it might suggest a specific direction for slowing or stopping early speech and language difficulties for young children at risk of dyslexia.
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Republican Governors Running on Education Records as Candidates for President


Three governors running for president in 2012 – (former governors) Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, and (perhaps a current governor) Rick Perry – come from states that outperform the U.S. average on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress tests. Romney takes top honors for overall student performance in Massachusetts, and Perry can hail the outstanding achievement of Texas Hispanic students.

In an analysis of the leading Republican contenders in the presidential race,The 2012 Republican Candidates (So Far): What they’ve said and done on education in the past, and what they might do about our public schools if elected, Allison Sherry writes, “In staking out platforms in the coming months for what will likely be a feisty GOP primary, Republicans face two quandaries regarding education policy.” They need to distinguish their positions from Obama’s “centrist education reforms” and “to win over a Republican base that resists a growing federal role in education.” Her article,

Sherry notes that as governor, “Romney proposed education reform measures that lifted the state cap on charter schools and gave principals more power to get rid of ineffective teachers.” Statewide graduation requirement tests were started during his first year as governor in 2003. In his third year as governor, 4th and 8th graders scored first in the country in math and English.

In his eight years as Minnesota’s governor, Tim Pawlenty’s “push against the teachers union grew stronger,” Sherry writes, and he called for tying teacher pay to performance, bringing up the state’s standards, and urging state lawmakers to authorize the use of a transparent growth model to see how well schools are really doing to improve student achievement. Sherry describes Pawlenty’s approach to unions: “I’ll try to work with you. That is until you don’t work with me.”

Assuming he runs, Texas Governor Rick Perry is “likely to use his own state’s successes to argue that the federal government should dramatically downsize in education,” Sherry says. He’ll likely call for the repeal of No Child Left Behind, and let states take charge of their education systems. Test scores among students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are higher in Texas than in Wisconsin, for example, which has fewer students qualifying for free- and reduced-price lunch.

Other leading Republican candidates profiled include Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich. Sherry notes, “Under a Bachmann presidency, expect the U.S. Department of Education to be all but shuttered” and a push for No Child Left Behind to be repealed. Newt Gingrich’s views have developed through the years, she observes, and include his call for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education in the 1990s and his push in the 2000s for improvements in math and science education.

Sherry concludes her analysis of the Republican candidates by saying, “What they all have in common is a belief that education needs deep reform that goes beyond anything Democrats have proposed.”
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Education -- a key determinant of population growth and human well-being


Projections of future population trends that do not explicitly include education in their analysis may be flawed

Future trends in global population growth could be significantly affected by improvements in both the quality and quantity of education, particularly female education. Projections of future population trends that do not explicitly include education in their analysis may be flawed, according to research published today in the journal Science (July 29 2011).

The study uses a novel "multi-state" population modeling approach to incorporate education attainment level, along with age and sex. The integration of education in the analyses adds a "human quality" dimension to projections of fertility, mortality and migration. As education also affects health, economic growth, and democracy, these projections provide a more comprehensive picture of where, how, and under what conditions human well-being is increasing.

The research reinforces earlier findings that the level of formal education achieved by women is, in most cases, the single most important determinant of population growth. More educated women generally have fewer children, better general health, and higher infant survival rates. Education also appears to be a more important determinant of child survival than household income and wealth. The study also found that if concerted efforts were made to fast track education, the global population could remain below 9 billion by 2050. Thus the global population outlook depends greatly on further progress in education.

Researchers Wolfgang Lutz and Samir K.C. from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) and the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), evaluated the effect of education on population growth to 2050 using four alternative education scenarios*. The scenarios are based on identical sets of education-specific fertility, mortality, and migration rates. They differ only in terms of their assumptions about future school enrolment rates.

"The most ambitious, or 'fast track' (FT) scenario we apply assumes all countries expand their school system at the fastest possible rate—this is comparable with past, best performing countries, Singapore and South Korea, says co-author Samir K.C.."The most pessimistic scenario of 'constant enrollment numbers' (CEN), assumes no new schools are built and the number of people attending schools remains constant, which, under conditions of population growth, means declining enrolment rates."

"Under these two extreme scenarios, population size in 2050 could vary by as much as 1 billion–with 8.8 billion people expected under the fast track scenario and as many as 9.9 billion under the constant enrolment numbers scenario, as can be seen in figure 1. The effect is greatest in countries with current high fertility rates and high education differentials," he stated.

Kenya's population, as an example, would increase from 31 million in 2000, to 85 million in 2050, under the optimistic FT scenario. Under the pessimistic CEN scenario with no new schools, Kenya's population could increase to 114 million. The difference of 30 million between these extremes is equivalent to the size of Kenya's population in 2000. As the scenarios only consider the individual-level effects, not the broader community-level impacts that education can have such as better availability of reproductive health services, the results are likely to be an underestimate of potential population change.

The authors emphasize that the effect of better education on population growth may not be obvious for some time. This is because the effect on fertility of girls entering school now may not be evident for about 15 years, when they enter their prime child bearing years.

The study supports earlier findings by IIASA and the VID regarding the level of educational attainment needed to bring about changes in fertility, with secondary education bringing greater reductions in fertility than primary education alone.

The research highlights the strong link between economic growth and 'human capital' – the combination of health status and the education levels achieved by adults. Better education affects many aspects of human development, including health, economic growth, and democracy.
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Inside IMPACT: D.C.'s Model Teacher Evaluation System


School districts across the country are struggling with whether—and how—to incorporate multiple measures into teacher evaluation systems. In the District of Columbia, however, the decision has already been made. The D.C. IMPACT system, originally developed under former Chancellor Michelle Rhee, is a rigid, numerically based teacher evaluation system that rates teachers on the basis of classroom observations and student performance data.

IMPACT replaces a previous teacher evaluation system that rated 95 percent of D.C. teachers "satisfactory" or above. Yet NAEP scores for District of Columbia students were among the lowest in the nation.

"In the two years since this high-stakes report card was launched, it has led to the firing of scores of educators, put hundreds more on notice, and left the rest either encouraged and re-energized, or frustrated and scared," says author Susan Headden in Inside IMPACT.

In this report, Headden takes readers inside the D.C. teacher evaluation process. She spent months talking with teachers. She sat in on classroom observations—and the subsequent conferences—by D.C. "master educators." She spoke with the District of Columbia administrators responsible for developing and implementing the program. She offers both an inside view of the process and some suggestions for how to make it stronger.

As school districts around the country work to devise their own evaluation systems that include student test scores (so-called value-added measures) and classroom observations, they are closely watching how this high-profile prototype is playing out in the nation's capital. But as Inside IMPACT makes clear, multiple-measures teacher evaluation is the future of K–12 education. And in Washington, D.C., the future is happening now.
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Can Schools, Districts, and Central Offices Find Their Way to Autonomy?


Education Sector's new report takes a closer look at the theory behind the autonomy movement, with a particular focus on D.C. Public Schools.

When policymakers begin to think of ways to help schools improve, they often settle on the idea of giving individual schools greater independence. This led to the "site-based management" movement of the 1990s. Today, granting schools autonomy from some or all rules remains a popular strategy for reform and has helped fuel the growth in charter schools and district-operated schools that are granted more freedom and flexibility.

With expanded autonomy, districts let the schools themselves—the principals and the teachers—make big decisions like how to spend the budget, what curriculum to use, and how to hire and train teachers. Those who know students best, the theory goes, are best able to direct the resources and take the actions that most benefit them.

Experience with charter schooling and other autonomous school reforms has shown that granting schools more flexibility can yield more innovation in school management, staffing, and instruction, bringing examples of success to neighborhoods where high-performing schools are rare. But experience has also shown that not all schools have the capacity to fill the space created by autonomy with actions that actually improve student learning.

In The Road to Autonomy, Education Sector's new report, author Erin Dillon takes a closer look at the theory behind the autonomy movement. She also looks at how the District of Columbia and other school districts are translating this theory into practice.

One important issue, Dillon notes, is a school’s capacity to govern itself. "Decades of research on school autonomy show that to really improve student performance, schools need not just freedom from central regulation, but the tools with which to exercise it." Dillon also looks at "portfolio management," now being implemented in Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, and others.

The key question for districts considering autonomy, the report concludes, is not just how much freedom to give schools, but what balance to strike; it’s determining which operations are best left to individual schools and which are best controlled by the central office. Finding this balance is especially important for districts in which students move often and which have common ways of measuring achievement, says Justin Cohen, president of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight and former director of the DCPS Office of Portfolio Management. "You can't give absolute autonomy to every school," he says. "The question is autonomy over what? If you're going to expect that students are going to move and switch schools, you have to have some consistency across schools."
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Home Environment Significantly Impacts Pre-K Learning


In this study, Trajectories of the Home Learning Environment Across the First 5 Years: Associations With Children’s Vocabulary and Literacy Skills at Prekindergarten, children's home learning environments were examined in a low-income sample of 1,852 children and families when children were 15, 25, 37, and 63 months. During home visits, children's participation in literacy activities, the quality of mothers' engagements with their children, and the availability of learning materials were assessed, yielding a total learning environment score at each age. At 63 months, children's vocabulary and literacy skills were assessed. Six learning environment trajectories were identified, including environments that were consistently low, environments that were consistently high, and environments characterized by varying patterns of change. The skills of children at the extremes of learning environment trajectories differed by more than 1 SD and the timing of learning experiences related to specific emerging skills.
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New York City School-Based Financial Incentives Program Did Not Improve Student Achievement or Affect Reported Teaching Practices


A New York City program designed to improve student performance through school-based financial incentives for teachers did not improve student achievement, most likely because it did not change teacher behavior and the conditions needed to motivate staff were not achieved, according to a RAND Corporation study.

From 2007 to 2010, nearly 200 high-needs New York City public schools participated in the Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program. The study, commissioned by the New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers and funded by the New York City Fund for Public Schools and National Center on Performance Initiatives, is the most comprehensive study on the city's performance pay program.

Implemented for the first time in the 2007–2008 school year, this three-year program provided financial rewards based on school-level performance to educators in high-needs elementary, middle, and high schools. Schools enrolled in the program could choose to opt out.

Using independent analysis of test scores, interviews with school administrators, teachers, and other personnel, and teacher and school staff surveys, researchers say the study provides critical insight into the program's design and its implementation.

"Bonuses alone have not proven to be the answer to bettering student achievement," said Julie Marsh, the study's lead author. "Educators said bonuses are desirable, but they also said they did not change how they perform their job because of bonuses. Some didn't understand how the program worked, while others did not perceive the bonus as having tremendous value. Still others felt the bonus criteria relied too heavily on test scores. We believe these factors may have actually weakened the motivational effects of the bonus program."

The New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, jointly implemented the Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program for the first time during the 2007-2008 school year. Using a random sample of the city's high-needs public schools, the program lasted for three academic years, with the goal of improving student performance through school-based financial incentives paid to teachers.

Researchers from RAND Education and the National Center on Performance Initiatives at Vanderbilt University examined student test scores and administrative data; conducted teacher, school staff, and administrator surveys; and interviewed school administrators, staff members, program sponsors, and union and district officials.

The researchers found that the program did not improve student achievement or affect teachers' reported behaviors or attitudes, perhaps in part because conditions needed to motivate staff were not achieved and because of the high level of accountability already present for participating and non-participating schools.

Among the key findings:

* Overall, the program had no positive effects on student achievement at any grade level. Researcher analysis of student achievement on the state's accountability tests found no positive effects overall for students attending elementary, middle or K-8 schools in years one through three, and for high school students during the first two years of the program.
* The program did not lead to improvements on elementary, middle and high school progress report scores. The study found no statistically significant differences between scores of Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program treatment and control schools and between schools that participated in Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program each year (regardless of random assignment) and other eligible schools.
* Researchers found no differences between the reported teaching practices, effort and attitudes of teachers in treatment schools and those of the control group.
* Several key conditions that theory suggests are necessary for performance-based incentive programs to change behaviors (e.g., understanding, buy-in for the bonus criteria, perceived value of bonus, perceived fairness) did not take root in all schools.
* Other accountability incentives—such as receiving a high progress report grade or achieving adequate yearly progress targets—and intrinsic motivation were deemed by many teachers as more salient than financial rewards.

Researchers also found that a majority of the schools disseminated the bonuses equally among staff, despite program guidelines granting school committees the flexibility to distribute the bonus shares as they deemed fit.

"Other research and theory suggests that for bonus programs to be effective in improving student performance, there must be a high level of understanding of the program and bonus criteria, educators must have 'buy-in,' and they need to view bonuses as large enough to motivate extra effort, " said Marsh, adjunct researcher at RAND and visiting associate professor at the University of Southern California. "These characteristics were lacking in many schools participating in the New York City program, and were a key reason why some educators said the program did not influence them to change their behavior."

The research was conducted by RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation, and National Center on Performance Initiatives partners at Vanderbilt University. Funding to carry out the work was provided by the New York City Fund for Public Schools and National Center on Performance Initiatives.
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The State of Proficiency: How student proficiency rates vary across states, subjects, and grades between 2002 and 2010


In 2007, NWEA and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute collaborated on The Proficiency Illusion, a study that illustrated the issues created by having each state set its own standards for what constitutes student proficiency for reading and mathematics tests, while holding all states to the same accountability standards. By comparing the cut scores that determine proficiency for each state, the researchers found that there was significant variation in the difficulty of proficiency levels among states. In some states, it is considerably easier for a student to pass their state test than it is for students in other states.

This report updates the original study.

In the four years since the study was published, the educational landscape has changed in many ways. For instance, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation required states to achieve 100% proficiency for students by the year 2014. As the deadline draws closer, most states fall far short of reaching that goal, creating an incentive for states to lower their standards1.

Another major change since the publication of The Proficiency Illusion is the increasingly widespread advocacy by educators and policymakers for shared content standards among states. The National Governors’ Association, in collaboration with the Chief Council of State School Officers, created a set of common core curriculum standards for use throughout the country, and several states have already adopted these standards. Concurrently, it is recognized that new assessments will be needed to measure student learning in relation to these standards. As states affiliate themselves with one of the two newly formed assessment consortia that will be developing new systems to measure student proficiency and progress, discussions are happening across the country about how to maintain local control over education while still ensuring rigorous national expectations.

Yet another major change underway across the country is the pressure by educational officials and policymakers to measure the effectiveness of teachers using student assessment data. Federal grant programs such as Race to the Top have required using student data in teacher evaluations, and many states have worked with teacher unions to implement systems to use student data to measure teacher effectiveness. As schools and states begin to design and implement their evaluation programs, important decisions about performance pay, promotion, tenure, and dismissal are being made based on underlying data that was never intended for such uses. The application of such data based on inconsistent state-defined proficiency levels means that these evaluation programs may not be producing the desired effect.

This report updates the original study so that it might inform the next generation of policies governing our nation’s schools. In the last decade, the term "proficiency rate" has entered the mainstream lexicon as a measure of school quality, with most people having at least an intuitive understanding that proficiency rates are defined as the number of students who pass the state test, divided by the number of students taking the test. What may be less understood by the general public, however, is that "proficiency" has no objective meaning; it is largely determined by the choices a state makes in creating its assessment standards, and is not connected to any external criteria (such as college readiness) that are independent of the test. The purpose of this study is to shine some light on the limitations of using proficiency rates based on inconsistent and arbitrary "passing scores" to make judgments about educational effectiveness.

The researchers have also created an online, interactive data gallery where users can explore different states, subjects, and grades to see how proficiency rates change under different circumstances.
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Teacher influence persists in early grades


Having consistently good teachers in elementary school appears to be as important for student achievement as small class sizes, according to new research by a Michigan State University education scholar.

The study by Spyros Konstantopoulos found that, starting in kindergarten, teachers can significantly affect students’ reading and math scores in later grades. The study, which appears in the research journal Teachers College Record, is one of the first scientific experiments to find that teachers can affect student achievement over time in the crucial early grades.

“The findings suggest teacher effects do not fade, but remain strong predictors of student achievement,” said Konstantopoulos, associate professor of education.

The study highlights the importance of identifying and hiring effective teachers in the early grades and implementing interventions such as professional development to improve teacher effectiveness, Konstantopoulos said.

“Of course we should have the best teachers we can in all grades,” he said. “But if you have to prioritize resources, perhaps the earlier school years make the most sense because this is where students receive most of the basic skills for reading and math.”

Konstantopoulos analyzed reading and math scores on standardized tests for several thousand students in kindergarten through third grade involved in the landmark Student Teacher Achievement Ratio study (known as Project STAR), in Tennessee. He found that teachers in all four grades can have a significant effect on student achievement, independent of the other teachers.

That means, for example, that a kindergarten teacher can have significant, measurable effect on a third-grader’s math and reading scores. Previously it wasn’t clear what effect teachers in previous grades might have on that third-grader’s achievement, Konstantopoulos said.

Project STAR was the first major study of the effects of class size on student learning. In his study, Konstantopoulos said he was surprised to discover that teacher effects over time appear to be as important for student achievement as the cumulative effects of small class sizes.

The teacher effects were more pronounced in reading than in math. This makes sense, Konstantopoulos said, because “teachers in kindergarten and even first grade typically see their role as that of a reading teacher, not necessarily a mathematics teacher.”
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School Vouchers Have Little Effect on Student Achievement

According to Review of 10 Years of Voucher Research and Action

A new report by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) that reviews a decade of voucher research finds no clear positive impact on student academic achievement and mixed outcomes overall for students who attend private schools using vouchers.

CEP, one of the nation’s leading sources of education research, also found that much of the recent voucher research has been carried out or sponsored by pro-voucher organizations and urges greater scrutiny to ensure future studies are not biased. CEP’s report comes amid a spike in interest in school vouchers – and disagreement about their merit – that has been fueled in part by Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives and a majority of statehouses.

Keeping Informed about School Vouchers: A Review of Major Developments and Research
reviews and synthesizes major voucher studies of the past decade. It also summarizes current publicly funded voucher programs and reflects on voucher policies since 2000, when CEP last looked at voucher research. Over the past 10 years there have been significant court rulings, the defeat of voucher referenda in some states, and the creation of new voucher programs. Evidence has also accumulated about the effects of older voucher programs.

Overall, several of the most prominent voucher studies released since 2000 conclude that achievement gains for students receiving publicly funded vouchers are similar to those for comparable public school students. These studies include findings from voucher programs in Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C.

Studies of Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee included in CEP’s review also found higher high school graduation rates among voucher students. Some of this advantage becomes less significant when family characteristics are taken into consideration, such as income and education, and these studies could not determine whether higher graduation rates are a direct result of practices in voucher schools. Parents of voucher students are also generally more satisfied with their children’s education after using vouchers, multiple studies have found.

“We have a great body of research about the effects of vouchers that policymakers should draw on to inform current debates,” said Alexandra Usher, co-author of the CEP study. “Before state legislators and Congress move quickly to enact new voucher programs, they should consider the evidence from programs already in place for several years to ensure they understand the impacts their policies would have.”

Noting that many voucher studies of the past decade have been sponsored or conducted by organizations with clear positions or mission statements in favor of vouchers, the report also recommends steps to ensure that voucher studies are designed, conducted and reported in an objective and rigorous way.

“We were surprised to find so many studies done by pro-voucher groups,” said Nancy Kober, co-author of the CEP study. “While this doesn’t mean researchers with definite positions on vouchers can’t be objective, it speaks to the need for outside scrutiny of study methods and guidance from objective expert panels.”

The report also points out that rhetoric used by voucher advocates to support voucher programs has shifted in recent years. In past years, proponents often argued that vouchers would give low-income students trapped in under-performing schools a chance to attend a better school and achieve at higher levels. As evidence has accumulated that vouchers have had little effect on achievement, some proponents have chosen to highlight research showing higher graduation rates among voucher students and greater satisfaction among parents and to emphasize the inherent value of parental choice. Voucher opponents, meanwhile, have emphasized that voucher students do not come out ahead academically and continue to maintain that vouchers drain public schools of much-needed resources while affecting only a small number of children.

The scope of voucher programs and proposals has also broadened over the past decade beyond serving just low-income students in low-performing urban schools, the report finds. Some of the newer voucher programs, such as those in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Douglas County, Colo., are open to middle-income or suburban families.

Studies of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Florida, and Ohio, including research by groups with a clear pro-voucher mission, have found some evidence of achievement gains among students in public schools most affected by vouchers, which the authors of these studies attribute to competition from vouchers.

Part I of the CEP report outlines CEP’s own reflections on the changing voucher landscape and synthesizes findings that cut across multiple studies of vouchers over the past decade. Part II briefly describes the current voucher programs, as well as significant court cases and statewide ballot initiatives over the past ten years. Part III summarizes the major findings and methods of 27 studies of publicly-funded voucher programs conducted since 2000.
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Improving Reading to Improve Math

Improving Reading to Improve Math
reports on experiments in which children in the
third and fourth grades read by simulating text content using the two-part, embodied
Moved by Reading intervention. While reading six initial texts, children literally manipulated pictures on a computer screen to simulate sentence content; next, for additional texts the children imagined the manipulation of the pictures. These additional texts were in the form of mathematical story problems.

Compared to a control condition, children using Moved by Reading solved more problems correctly, and this improvement is mainly attributed to a 35% reduction in the use of irrelevant numerical information in solution attempts. Thus, Moved by Reading teaches a fundamental strategy that encourages the sense-making that can aid mathematical story problem solution.

Earlier research in the same vein
showed direct improvement in reading comprehension skills of first and second graders.
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Spare the rod and develop the child


Study suggests non-corporal discipline aids children's executive-functioning ability

Children in a school that uses corporal punishment performed significantly worse in tasks involving "executive functioning" – psychological processes such as planning, abstract thinking, and delaying gratification – than those in a school relying on milder disciplinary measures such as time-outs, according to a new study involving two private schools in a West African country.

The findings, published by the journal Social Development, suggest that a harshly punitive environment may have long-term detrimental effects on children's verbal intelligence and their executive-functioning ability. As a result, children exposed to a harshly punitive environment may be at risk for behavioral problems related to deficits in executive-functioning, the study indicates.

The study – by Prof. Victoria Talwar of McGill University, Prof. Stephanie M. Carlson of the University of Minnesota, and Prof. Kang Lee of the University of Toronto, involved 63 children in kindergarten or first grade at two West African private schools. Their families lived in the same urban neighborhood. The parents were largely civil servants, professionals and merchants.

In one school, discipline in the form of beating with a stick, slapping of the head, and pinching was administered publicly and routinely for offenses ranging from forgetting a pencil to being disruptive in class. In the other school, children were disciplined for similar offenses with the use of time-outs and verbal reprimands.

While overall performance on the executive-functioning tasks was similar in the younger children from both schools, the Grade 1 children in the non-punitive school scored significantly higher than those in the punitive school. These results are consistent with research findings that punitive discipline may make children immediately compliant – but may reduce the likelihood that they will internalize rules and standards. That, in turn, may result in lower self-control as children get older.

"This study demonstrates that corporal punishment does not teach children how to behave or improve their learning," Prof. Talwar said. "In the short term, it may not have any negative effects; but if relied upon over time it does not support children's problem-solving skills, or their abilities to inhibit inappropriate behaviour or to learn."

Despite the age-old debate over the effects of corporal punishment, few studies have examined the effects on executive-functioning ability. This new study uses a quasi-experimental design to derive data from a naturally occurring situation in which children were exposed to two different disciplinary environments. The parents of children in both schools endorsed physical punishment equally, suggesting that the school environment can account for the differences found.

There are many further questions that remain unanswered. "We are now examining whether being in a punitive environment day in and day out will have other negative impacts on children such as lying or other covert antisocial behaviors. Also, we are pursuing the long term consequences of experiencing corporal punishment. For example, what would children's cognitive and social development be 5 or 10 years down the road?," said Prof. Kang Lee.

The findings are relevant to current controversy. "In the U.S., 19 states still allow corporal punishment in schools, although more of them are now asking for parent permission to use it. With this new evidence that the practice might actually undermine children's cognitive skills needed for self-control and learning, parents and policy makers can be better informed," said Prof. Stephanie M. Carlson.
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Transcendental Meditation improves brain functioning in ADHD students

A non-drug approach to enhance students' ability to learn

A random-assignment controlled study published today in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry (Vol 2, No 1) found improved brain functioning and decreased symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique. The paper, ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice, is the second published study demonstrating TM's ability to help students with attention-related difficulties.

The first exploratory study, published in Current Issues in Education, followed a group of middle school students diagnosed with ADHD who meditated twice a day in school. After 3 months, researchers found over 50% reductions in stress, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. During the study, a video was made of some students discussing what it felt like to have ADHD, and how those experiences changed after 3 months of regular TM practice.

In this second study, lead author, neuroscientist Fred Travis, PhD, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition, joined principal investigator Sarina J. Grosswald, EdD, a George Washington University-trained cognitive learning specialist, and co-researcher William Stixrud, PhD, a prominent Silver Spring, Maryland, clinical neuropsychologist, to investigate the effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on task performance and brain functioning in 18 ADHD students, ages 11-14 years.

The study was conducted over a period of 6 months in an independent school for children with language-based learning disabilities in Washington, DC. The study showed improved brain functioning, increased brain processing, and improved language-based skills among ADHD students practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique..

What was Measured

Students were pretested, randomly assigned to TM or delayed-start comparison groups, and post-tested at 3- and 6-months. Delayed-start students learned TM after the 3-month post-test.

EEG measurements of brain functioning were taken while students were performing a demanding computer-based visual-motor task. Successful performance on the task requires attention, focus, memory, and impulse control.

In addition, students were administered a verbal fluency test. This test measured higher-order executive functions, including initiation, simultaneous processing, and systematic retrieval of knowledge. Performance on this task depends on several fundamental cognitive components, including vocabulary knowledge, spelling, and attention.

Theta/Beta Power Ratios and ADHD

Using EEG measurements, the relationship of theta brain waves to beta brain waves can be diagnostic of ADHD. Dr. Joel Lubar of the University of Tennessee has demonstrated that the theta/beta ratio can very accurately identify students with ADHD from those without it.

While theta EEG around 4-5 Hz is commonly associated with daydreaming, drowsiness, and unfocused mental states, theta EEG around 6-8 Hz is seen when one focuses on inner mental tasks, such as memory processing, identifying, and associating.

"In normal individuals, theta activity in the brain during tasks suggests that the brain is blocking out irrelevant information so the person can focus on the task," said Dr. Travis. "But, in individuals with ADHD, the theta activity is even higher, suggesting that the brain is also blocking out relevant information."

And when beta activity, which is associated with focus, is lower than normal," Travis added, "it affects the ability to concentrate on task for extended periods of time.

"Prior research shows ADHD children have slower brain development and a reduced ability to cope with stress," said Dr. Stixrud. "Virtually everyone finds it difficult to pay attention, organize themselves and get things done when they're under stress," he explained. "Stress interferes with the ability to learn—it shuts down the brain. Functions such as attention, memory, organization, and integration are compromised."

Why the TM Technique

"We chose the TM technique for this study because studies show that it increases brain function. We wanted to know if it would have a similar effect in the case of ADHD, and if it did, would that also improve the symptoms of ADHD," said Dr. Grosswald.

Dr. Stixrud added, "Because stress significantly compromises attention and all of the key executive functions such as inhibition, working memory, organization, and mental flexibility, it made sense that a technique that can reduce a child's level of stress should also improve his or her cognitive functioning."

The Transcendental Meditation technique is an effortless, easy-to-learn practice, unique among categories of meditation. "TM does not require concentration, controlling the mind or disciplined focus—challenges for anyone with ADHD," Grosswald added.

There is substantial research showing the effectiveness of the TM technique for reducing stress and anxiety, and improving cognitive functioning among the general population. "What's significant about these new findings," Grosswald said, "is that among children who have difficulty with focus and attention, we see the same results. The fact that these children are able to do TM, and do it easily, shows us that this technique may be particularly well-suited for children with ADHD."

Transcendental Meditation produces an experience of restful alertness, which is associated with higher metabolic activity in the frontal and parietal parts of the brain, indicating alertness, along with decreased metabolic activity in the thalamus, which is involved in regulating arousal, and hyperactivity.

With regular practice, this restfully alert brain state, characteristic of the TM technique, becomes more present outside of meditation, allowing ADHD students to attend to tasks. "In a sense," Dr. Travis said, "the repeated experience of the Transcendental Meditation technique trains the brain to function in a style opposite to that of ADHD."

Improved Brain Functioning

During the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, coherence is found across different EEG frequencies. After meditation, the brain utilizes this increased functioning ability to support the performance of a task in an integrated manner.

Three months of TM practice resulted in significant decreases in theta/beta ratios and increased verbal fluency. This translates into improved executive function and more efficient cognitive processing.

During the first 3 months of the study, the theta/beta ratios of the control group (delayed start) actually increased. After learning, and practicing TM for 3 months, this group experienced dramatic decreases in theta/beta ratios and increased verbal fluency as well.

Student and Parent Surveys

Students reported that the TM technique was enjoyable and easy to do. They felt calmer, less stressed, and better able to concentrate on their schoolwork. They also said they were happier since they started TM. This correlated with reports from the parents.

At the end of the research, the parents completed a questionnaire to assess their perceptions of changes in five ADHD-related symptoms in their children from the beginning to the end of the study. There were positive and statistically significant improvements in the five areas measured: a) Ability to focus on schoolwork, b) Organizational abilities, c) Ability to work independently, d) Happiness, and e) Quality of sleep.

Promising Results

The combined results were significant. There was a 48% reduction in the theta/beta power ratios and a 30% increase in brain coherence after the 6-month period. Studies have shown that pharmaceuticals decrease theta/beta power ratios by 3%, and neurofeedback by 25%.

"These are very encouraging findings," said Dr. Stixrud. "Significant improvement in the theta/beta ratio without medication and without having to use any expensive equipment is a big deal, as is significant improvement in student happiness and student academic functioning reported by the parents."

"While stimulant medication is very beneficial for some of my clients with ADHD," Stixrud added, "the number of children who receive great benefit from medicine with minimal side-effects is relatively small. The fact that TM appears to improve attention and executive functions, and significantly reduces stress with no negative side-effects, is clearly very promising." Stixrud said he hoped these findings would lead to more research on the use of TM with children and adolescents.

In conclusion, these findings warrant additional research to assess the impact of Transcendental Meditation practice as a non-drug treatment for ADHD, and to track meditating students' improved academic achievements.


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

• Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—characterized by inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity—is diagnosed in almost 10% of children ages 4-17 years, representing 5.4 million children.
• The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported among children with current ADHD, 66.3% were taking medication for the disorder. In total, 4.8% of all children ages 4-17 years (2.7 million) were taking medication for ADHD. The majority of them stay on it into adulthood.
• The rate of prescriptions for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the U.S. has increased by a factor of five since 1991—with production of ADHD medicines up 2,000 percent in 9 years.
• The commonly used drugs for ADHD are stimulants (amphetamines). These drugs can cause persistent and negative side-effects, including sleep disturbances, reduced appetite, weight loss, suppressed growth, and mood disorders. The side-effects are frequently treated with additional medications to manage insomnia or mood swings. Almost none of the medications prescribed for insomnia or mood disturbances are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use with children.
• The long-term health effects of ADHD medications are not fully known, but evidence suggests risks of cardiac disorders and sudden death, liver damage and psychiatric events. It has also been found that children on long-term medication have significantly higher rates of delinquency, substance use, and stunted physical growth.
• A new study, Study raises questions about long-term effects of ADHD medication, the first of its kind, released February 17, 2010 by the Government of Western Australia's Department of Health, found that "long-term use of drugs such as Ritalin and dexamphetamine may not improve a child's social and emotional well-being or academic performance." The chair of the Ministerial Implementation Committee for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Western Australia said in the Department's press release, "We found that stimulant medication did not significantly improve a child's level of depression, self perception or social functioning and they were more likely to be performing below their age level at school by a factor of 10.5 times."
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IDEA National Assessment Implementation Study


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), reauthorized in 2004, supports states in the provision of early intervention and special education and related services for 7 million children and youth with disabilities. In fiscal year 2010, federal funding for IDEA was $12.6 billion.

This congressionally mandated study
provides a national picture of state agency implementation of early intervention programs for infants and toddlers (IDEA Part C) and both state and school district implementation of special education programs for preschool- and school-age children (IDEA Part B). The study is based on surveys of state agency directors and a nationally representative sample of district special education directors conducted in 2009. The key findings include:

• State Part C agencies support the transition of toddlers with disabilities to Part B preschool-age special education programs, but Part C has not expanded to serve children until kindergarten. At age 3, toddlers receiving Part C services transition to Part B services (if eligible), typically involving a change in lead agency (in 46 states) and often a change in support staff, service settings, and services.

• Most school districts (85 percent) do not use IDEA Part B funds to provide Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS). IDEA 2004 permits, and in some cases requires, school districts to use some of their Part B funds to provide CEIS, services for students not yet identified as needing special education. These services are meant to address the overrepresentation of racial/ethnic minority students in special education.

• Most school districts implement Response to Intervention (RtI), use RtI data when determining specific learning disability (SLD) eligibility, and support RtI with district general funds. RtI, a range of practices for monitoring student academic and behavioral progress and providing targeted interventions, was added to IDEA in 2004 as a way to inform the determination of SLD and implement CEIS.
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Project Exploration studied


Project Exploration has served 1,000-plus students since 1999, when UChicago paleontologist Paul Sereno and alumna Gabrielle Lyon, AB’94, AM’94, founded the non-profit science education organization focusing on minority youth and girls. Judkins’ smoothly delivered, humor-laced comments provided vivid accompaniment to a 10-year retrospective study of its work that Project Exploration released at the May 12 gathering.

Project Exploration commissioned the study, Lyon says, because the organization wanted to move evaluations of its program from anecdotes to data. Further, “We wanted to understand what mattered to students because we wanted to shape our vision for the future.”

Under the Microscope

The study, funded by the Noyce Foundation and conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, focused on two goals: “First, to describe PE’s influence on its past participants or its alumni; and two, to explain the organizational practices and strategies that support science learning and traditionally under-represented youths in science,” says Juna Snow, a research and evaluation specialist at Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science.

The results validated Project Exploration’s personalized, out-of-school time approach to science education for urban teenagers. Among the findings, collected via an 88-question, web-based survey and follow-up telephone interviews with some of the respondents:
• 95 percent of Project Exploration alumni have graduated high school or are on track to graduate, which is nearly double the overall rate for students in Chicago Public Schools.
• 60 percent of the alumni are enrolled in a four-year college, pursuing degrees in fields related to science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).
• 60 percent of the alumni who graduated from college graduated with a STEM-related degree.

“Ninety-three percent of the respondents agreed that they received new perspectives about their options in education, for work, for their life, during their time in Project Exploration,” Snow says.
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1 in 4 gay/lesbian high school students are homeless


Among homeless teens, GLB teens are more likely to live away from their families

Roughly 1 in 4 lesbian or gay teens and 15 percent of bisexual teens are homeless, versus 3 percent of exclusively heterosexual teens, finds a Children's Hospital Boston study of more than 6,300 Massachusetts public high school students. Moreover, among teens who were homeless, those who were gay, lesbian or bisexual (GLB) were consistently more likely than heterosexuals to be on their own, unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.

The study,
published online July 21 by the American Journal of Public Health, is the first to quantify the risk of homelessness among teens of different sexual orientations with population-based data. "Prior studies in homeless street youth have found that sexual minorities occur in much higher numbers than we'd expect based on their numbers in the community in general," says Heather Corliss, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children's, the study's first author. "This study looked at the magnitude of the difference for the first time."

Corliss and colleagues analyzed data from the 2005 and 2007 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS). The YRBS, conducted every other year in most U.S. states, draws a representative sample of students in grades 9 through 12. In 2005, Massachusetts was the first state to add a multiple-choice question assessing homeless status, asking "What is your primary nighttime residence?" or "Where do you typically sleep at night?" Homelessness was defined as lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, as per the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act, the primary federal legislation dealing with the education of homeless children and youth in U.S. public schools.

The initial sample of 6,653 students was narrowed to 6,317 who gave full information on their sexual orientation and homelessness status. Less than 5 percent of students overall identified themselves as GLB, yet they accounted for 19 percent of those who identified themselves as homeless.

Rates of homelessness were 3.2 percent among exclusively heterosexual students, 12.5 percent among heterosexuals reporting same-sex partners, 15 percent among bisexuals, 25 percent among lesbian/gay students, and 20 percent among students who said they were unsure of their sexual orientation.

Among the youth who were homeless, those who were not exclusively heterosexual were more likely to be living away from their families. Among boys identifying as gay, 15 percent were homeless but unaccompanied by parents/guardians, and 8 percent were homeless but living with parents. Among lesbian girls, 22.5 percent were homeless and unaccompanied, while just 3.8 percent were homeless but with their parents. The same pattern held among bisexual students, among heterosexuals with same-sex partners, and among males unsure of their sexual orientation.

"Teens with a sexual minority orientation are more likely than heterosexual teens to be unaccompanied and homeless rather than part of a homeless family," says Corliss. "This suggests that they may be more likely to be mistreated or rejected by their families and more likely to leave home."

The researchers hope their findings will raise awareness of the vulnerability of GLB youth to homelessness, particularly among school administrators and other professionals working with adolescents. Homeless people are well documented as being at increased risk for victimization, physical and sexual abuse, mental health problems, substance use problems and sexual risk behaviors. These risks are even greater for teens who lack their families' supervision and support.

"The high risk of homelessness among sexual minority teens is a serious problem requiring immediate attention," says Corliss. "These teens face enormous risks and all types of obstacles to succeeding in school and are in need of a great deal of assistance."

The study has limitations in being done only in Massachusetts, where attitudes toward homosexuality tend to be more favorable, so it possibly underestimates the proportion of GLB youth that are homeless nationally. It also included only students who were at school on the day the survey was administered, so may have missed more homeless youths, who are more likely to be absent from school. Finally, because it was based on the YRBS, it wasn't able to assess family relationships or whether teens were "out" about their sexuality.
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Iowa Analyzes Its Fall From The Top

Full report

In the early 1990s, the Cold War ended, Back to the Future III was in theaters, and Iowa led the nation in reading and mathematics. Times have changed. A decade into the 21st century, Iowa has conceded its place at the top. During the past 20 years, achievement trends illustrate Iowa’s slide from a national leader in PK-12 education to a national average-sometimes below average-performer as other states (and nations) have accelerated past the state.

Iowa students’ futures are at risk. Collectively, Iowa students are not hitting the mark in mathematics and reading competency. Sure, Iowa has its share of super-achievers. But the mass of Iowa students—not just underprivileged or minority students, but many of the majority white, relatively affluent students as well—are falling short of what is needed to attain quality jobs, growing incomes, and secure livelihoods in today’s globally competitive world.

To regain its position as a top education system in the nation, Iowa must support the challenges of the future. The path forward must include:

1. Clear standards with high expectations and accountability for results;

2. A fair and aligned assessment system which supports feedback at all levels;

3. Highly effective educators; and

4. Innovative learning environments enriched by technology.

Iowa’s schools have achieved great things throughout past decades and have a proud and strong foundation. Certainly, tearing the system apart and starting anew is not the answer. Rather, the state needs to build from its position of strength and move decisively toward new goals with new methods, resources, and standards. This report highlights Iowa’s past accomplishments, reviews longitudinal trend data, pinpoints the impact of past and current performance, and outlines opportunities for improvement in the future.
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Student Teaching Leaves Much To Be Desired

Student teaching serves as a capstone experience for nearly 200,000 teacher candidates each year. In an effort to understand how to get student teaching "right," The National Council on Teacher Quality embarked on an ambitious effort to measure student teaching programs nationwide, assessing the degree to which they have the right pieces in place necessary for delivering a high quality program.

The result, Student Teaching in the United States, examines policies and practices at 134 universities and colleges to answer questions like... "Who is mentoring our future teachers?" "Do student teachers receive the feedback they need to improve?" "Does the experience sufficiently replicate the experience of being a teacher?"

In addition to providing a national snapshot of student teaching today and overall ratings of each of the 134 institutions, the report includes specific examples of exemplary student teaching practices and recommendations on how all programs can improve. A supplement to the study, "Key Ingredients for Strong Student Teaching" compiles documents that, together, form a model for a successful student teaching program.

Arranging student teaching placements is no easy task and that school districts hold a lot of the cards in negotiations. As one dean put it, "we're all having a dog of a time finding placement sites." Still, it's shocking that only 10 of the 134 programs the authors evaluated (7 percent) take the two most important steps to establish the foundation for a strong student teaching placement: ensuring that the cooperating teachers in whose classrooms student teachers are placed are fully qualified (experienced, effective instructors who are capable of mentoring an adult) by explicitly advertising those qualifications, and by actively participating in the selection process.

It's safe to presume that many teacher candidates are not placed with the exceptional classroom teacher who can help them become effective novice teachers. This bottom line from the review's detailed examination of thousands of documents from institutions and hundreds of principal interviews was borne out by recent surveys of Los Angeles and Miami teachers on their student teaching experiences.

Teacher preparation programs feel powerless to improve the cooperating teacher screening process because they are always scrambling to find a sufficient number of placements. However, each year the US produces more than twice as many elementary teachers as get hired fresh out of preparation. As this report describes in detail, if we focused on producing a smaller cohort of more qualified teacher candidates, we could kill quite a few birds with one stone — not the least of which would be having a lot less trouble placing them with the best cooperating teachers.
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Basic Skills Instruction in Community Colleges: the Dominance of Remedial Pedagogy


Basic Skills Instruction in Community Colleges: the Dominance of Remedial Pedagogy

In the second of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

A previous working paper argued, that, to understand basic skills education, it is necessary to observe classrooms to see what the “instructional triangle” involving the instructor, students, and content is like. This working paper presents the results of observing classes in 13 community colleges. It starts with a conceptualization of instruction, distinguishing behaviorist teaching, constructivist teaching, and hybrid teaching that combines the two (as well as several other dimensions of quality), and provides various reasons why hybrid or constructivist teaching is likely to be more effective than behaviorist teaching.

One notable feature of remedial classrooms is the consistent encouragement and support of students. Sometimes this takes the form of support classes or Student Success courses, but often it is simply part of common instructional practice.

However, the majority of basic skills classes follow what we call remedial pedagogy — drill and practice on sub-skills, usually devoid of any references to how these skills are used in subsequent courses or in adult roles. Remedial pedagogy takes different forms in math, reading, writing, and ESL (where it is least common). Unfortunately, remedial pedagogy violates many of the precepts of effective instruction presented in the first section of this paper, so there are reasons to think that this approach is partly responsible for the lack of success in developmental education.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to remedial pedagogy, some of which are outlined in this paper and many of which are further developed in Working Paper 3.
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The “Crisis” in Basic Skills in Community Colleges

Understanding the “Crisis” in Basic Skills: Framing the Issues in Community Colleges

In the first of eleven Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, frame the issues surrounding basic skills instruction in California Community Colleges.

While increases in remedial education (or basic skills instruction or developmental education) have taken place at several levels of the education and training system, there are reasons for thinking that the issue is particularly acute in community colleges. This introductory working paper divides the problem into two. The first is the high proportion — perhaps 60 percent for the country, and 80 percent in California — of students entering colleges who assess into developmental courses. This can be explained by the pattern of dynamic inequality in American education, where inequalities among students increase as they move through the system.

The second problem arises from the evidence that students entering a remedial trajectory are unlikely to move into college-level work, so remediation has become a serious barrier to success for many students. Unfortunately, like other second-chance efforts, basic skills instructions often works under difficult conditions, and there are many hypotheses about why success rates in basic skill are not higher — most of which will be examined in this series of papers.

Since developmental education is first and foremost an instructional issue, this series of papers rests on a conceptual foundation focusing on the triangle of instruction, considering the instructor, students, and content within a set of institutional influences. The underlying research for these papers involves classroom observation, and interviews with instructors and administrators, to understand both classroom settings and the institutional setting. This framing paper then introduces the subjects for remaining papers in the series.
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Teacher Stability and Turnover


In a new PACE Working Paper, Teacher Stability and Turnover in Los Angeles: The Influence of Teacher and School Characteristics, Xiaoxia A. Newton, Rosario Rivero, Bruce Fuller, and Luke Dauter, University of California, Berkeley, investigate the effects of teacher characteristics and school context on the timing of teachers’ decisions to exit schools where they teach. The two-level discrete-time survival analysis framework allows for simultaneous examinations of who exits, when, and under what conditions. Their results for a large sample of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, observed from 2002-03 to 2008-09, affirm the importance of school context, such as type of school (e.g., charter) and school organizational characteristics (e.g., teacher-students racial match) above and beyond individual teacher characteristics and qualifications. In addition, differences in the relationship between some factors and teacher turnover are observed between elementary and secondary teachers.

Reviewing the study posted immediately before this on, as well as this one the LA Times concluded:

Many charter middle and high schools in Los Angeles have high teacher turnover, with nearly 50% of educators leaving each year, a University of California, Berkeley study shows. The rate -- nearly three times that in other L.A. public schools -- is in contrast to that of students, who are more likely to remain at the charters than at traditional schools, the study shows.
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How Diverse Schools Affect Student Mobility:


“How Diverse Schools Affect Student Mobility: Charter, Magnet, and Newly Built Campuses in Los Angeles.”

Achievement often suffers when families or students change schools. Yet pupil mobility is now encouraged in urban districts like Los Angeles, as mixed-markets of charter, magnet, and pilot schools sprout. Over 60 new facilities were opened as well during the 2002-2008 period, thanks to $27 billion in school construction mounted by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This paper reports on the likelihood that students exit their school mid-stream, before completing a grade cycle or graduating. The authors find that African American and White students were more likely to exit their school, compared with Latino, non-English speaking, and foreign-born students, yet students attending overcrowded schools – often situated in low-income Latino neighborhoods – exited at higher rates. Charter and magnet school students left their schools at much lower rates, compared with peers in regular schools, after taking into account family background. As LAUSD opened new high schools, pupil mobility slowed markedly. The authors also found that Latino students were more likely than Black or White peers to move to a newly built school, rather than entering a charter or magnet school, likely due to the district’s commitment to relieve overcrowding in L.A.’s most densely populated communities.
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Report calls for shift in the way science is taught in US


Offers new framework to guide K-12 science education

A report released today by the National Research Council presents a new framework for K-12 science education that identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school. The framework will serve as the foundation for new K-12 science education standards, to replace those issued more than a decade ago. The National Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering; all three are independent, nongovernmental organizations.

The committee that wrote the report, A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, sees the need for significant improvements in how science is taught in the U.S. The new framework is designed to help students gradually deepen their knowledge of core ideas in four disciplinary areas over multiple years of school, rather than acquire shallow knowledge of many topics. And it strongly emphasizes the practices of science – helping students learn to plan and carry out investigations, for example, and to engage in argumentation from evidence.

The overarching goal of the framework, the committee said, is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science, the capacity to discuss and think critically about science-related issues, and the skills to pursue careers in science or engineering if they want to do so -- outcomes that existing educational approaches are ill-equipped to achieve.

"Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school, curricula too often emphasize breadth over depth, and students are rarely given the opportunity to experience how science is actually done," said Helen Quinn, committee chair and professor emerita of physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, Calif. "The new framework is designed to address and overcome these weaknesses. It builds on what is known to work best in science education, based on research and classroom experience both in the U.S. and around the world. It provides a blueprint that will guide improvements in science education over many years."

The framework was developed by an 18-member committee that included experts in education and scientists from many disciplines. The committee publicly released a draft in summer 2010 to obtain and incorporate feedback from the broader community of scientists, science educators, educational policymakers, and education researchers.

The framework is the first step in the development of new K-12 science education standards. The framework lays out the broad ideas and practices students should learn and will serve as the basis for specific standards, which will be developed in a process led by a group of states and coordinated by the nonprofit educational organization Achieve Inc. When the standards are finished, states may voluntarily adopt them to guide science education in their public schools.

In addition to serving as the foundation for the development of new standards, the framework can be used by others who work in K-12 science education, such as curriculum and assessment developers, those who train teachers and create professional development materials, and state and district science supervisors.

Science as Both Ideas and Practices

The framework specifies core ideas in four disciplinary areas -- life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and the applications of science -- that all students should understand by the time they finish high school. For example, among the core ideas in the physical sciences are "matter and its interactions" and "energy." Students' knowledge of these ideas should deepen over time, and the framework specifies aspects of each idea that students should know by the end of grades two, five, eight, and 12.

The framework also identifies seven crosscutting concepts that have explanatory value across much of science and engineering, such as "cause and effect" and "stability and change." These concepts should be taught in the context of core ideas from the disciplines of science, the report says, but teachers should use a common language for these concepts across disciplines, so that students understand the same concept is relevant in many fields. These concepts should become familiar touchstones as students progress from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Just as important are scientific and engineering practices, which have been given too little emphasis in K-12 education, the committee said. The framework specifies eight key practices that students should learn, such as asking questions and defining problems, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations and designing solutions. These practices should be integrated with study of the disciplinary core ideas and applied throughout students' K-12 education.

These three dimensions must be used together for students to understand how science works, the committee stressed. For example, students should use the practices -- such as conducting investigations and then analyzing and interpreting the data -- to deepen their knowledge of the core ideas.

Putting the Framework to Use

The report offers guidance to those who will use the framework to develop new science education standards. The standards should set rigorous learning goals that represent a common expectation for all students. They also should be limited in number to reflect the framework's focus on a small set of core ideas and practices, and should include guidance about what does and does not need to be taught.

Developing new standards is a key step in making K-12 science education more coherent and effective, but it is far from the only one, the committee said. Curricula will need to incorporate the framework's ideas and practices, and teacher preparation and professional development programs should provide ways for teachers to deepen their own conceptual understanding of the practices and ideas of science. Assessments will need to be linked to the shared goals outlined by the framework and related standards. And time, space, and resources for science learning need to be made available. "For all students to have the opportunity to learn the ideas and practices we've described, many other players and parts of the system will need to change, some in fundamental ways," said Quinn.
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How School Discipline Relates to Academic and Juvenile Justice Outcomes


In an unprecedented study of nearly 1 million Texas public secondary school students followed for more than six years, nearly 60 percent were suspended or expelled, according to a report released today by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University.

Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement
features these other key findings:

Of the nearly 1 million public secondary school students studied, about 15 percent were suspended or expelled 11 times or more; nearly half of these students with 11 or more disciplinary actions were involved in the juvenile justice system.

Only three percent of the disciplinary actions were for conduct in which state law mandated suspensions and expulsions; the rest were made at the discretion of school officials primarily in response to violations of local schools’ conduct codes.

African-American students and those with particular educational disabilities were disproportionately disciplined for discretionary actions.

Repeated suspensions and expulsions predicted poor academic outcomes. Only 40 percent of students disciplined 11 times or more graduated from high school during the study period, and 31 percent of students disciplined one or more times repeated their grade at least once.

Schools that had similar characteristics, including the racial composition and economic status of the student body, varied greatly in how frequently they suspended or expelled students.

“We hope these findings strengthen efforts underway in Texas to improve outcomes for students, and help other states’ policymakers in examining school discipline practices so they can enhance students’ academic performance and reduce juvenile justice system involvement,” said CSG Justice Center Director Michael Thompson. “This report reflects an impressive commitment among Texas leaders to developing state-of-the-art electronic record-keeping systems and then using the data to answer important questions. Such data-driven policymaking should be the goal of state officials everywhere.”

The analysis considered in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) placements, and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) placements. In-school suspensions ranged from a single class period to several consecutive days, and out-of-school suspensions averaged two days per incident. Students assigned to DAEP were there for 27 days on average; JJAEP students were off the school campus for an average of 73 days. Informal actions (e.g., detention, parent/teacher meetings) were not reported to the Texas Education Agency and were therefore excluded from study.

“One of the most important takeaways from the report is learning that the school a student attends largely influences how, when, or if a student is removed from the classroom for disciplinary reasons,” said Senator Florence Shapiro (R), chair of the Texas Senate Education Committee, and one of the lawmakers who supported the study. “The data suggests that individual school campuses often have a pronounced influence over how often students are suspended or expelled.”

This study, made possible in part through funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundations, relied on more than 6 million school and juvenile justice records (for every student who was in seventh grade in a Texas public school in academic years 2000, 2001 and 2002), even tracking those that moved from one school to another within the state.

“The report tells us that more than one in seven Texas middle and high school students have been involved with the juvenile justice system. We should ask whether teachers and principals, rather than police officers and judges, are best suited to discipline kids who commit minor infractions.” said Texas Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, who is convening a meeting today in Austin to discuss the study’s findings.

This study is unprecedented in that it tracked not just a sample of students, but all seventh graders in the state for six years. Using multivariate analyses to control for more than 83 variables, the study was able to isolate the relationships between such factors as race and school disciplinary actions, suspensions/expulsions and juvenile justice contact, and discretionary actions and academic success measured by being held back a grade or dropping out.

Senator John Whitmire (D), chair of the Texas Criminal Justice Committee, said, “We need to maintain realistic expectations of what educators alone can accomplish in today’s challenging classrooms. At the same time, this report demonstrates that if we want our kids to do better in school and reduce their involvement in the juvenile justice system, we in the legislature need to continue looking into how teachers can be better supported and how the school discipline system can be improved.”

The CSG Justice Center plans to convene a group of leading experts and opinion leaders to discuss recommendations for policymakers and practitioners. This follow-up effort is meant to reach consensus on approaches across various public systems to address the study findings and build on the strong foundation of work by academics and professionals in the field.
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Academic performance in Title I schools


Monitoring school effectiveness and efforts to improve academic performance is a key function of state education agencies. Many states are seeing a greater proportion of Title I schools (schools with a high proportion of low-income students) consistently failing to make adequate yearly progress than in earlier years.

This brief, Achievement Trends of Schools and Students in Arizona’s Title I School Improvement Program, describes the numbers and distribution of Arizona public schools and students across school levels (elementary, middle, high) from 2005/06–2008/09 for three school types: Title I schools in the school improvement program, Title I schools not in the program, and non–Title I schools. It reports how schools in the program are distributed across program statuses, compares trends in reading and math proficiency for students attending each school type, and examines patterns of movement in and out of school improvement among Title I schools.

Key findings include:

• The number and proportion of Arizona Schools in Improvement is growing.

• In 2008/09, more Arizona Title I middle schools (52 percent) than Title I elementary schools (18 percent) and Title I high schools (39 percent) were in improvement.

• Reading and math proficiency increased over the study period for students in all three school types, based on 2008/09 school type.

• Among the 978 schools receiving Title I funding throughout the study period, more schools, both by number and percentage, entered the school improvement program than left it.
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The Nation’s Report Card: Geography 2010


Proficiency Overall Remains Low: Lowest Performers Show Greatest Improvement;

Grade 8 Remains Flat; Grade 4 Increases, While Grade 12 Declines Since 1994

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has just released The Nation’s Report Card: Geography 2010. The report presents results of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Sample question:

Which of the following is an accurate statement
about the American Southwest?
a. Alternating areas of dense shrubbery and sand
dunes often make travel difficult.
b. Arid conditions make access to water an
important public issue.
c. Generally fair weather means that most people
rely on solar energy in their homes and
d. Easy access to Mexico has led to a strong
manufacturing sector.

Fewer than one-third of the nation’s students achieve at or above the Proficient level in geography. Although fourth graders made gains in achievement since 2001, The Nation’s Report Card: Geography 2010 shows that performance by eighth graders remained flat, and achievement by twelfth graders declined from 1994.

In fact, on the seemingly easy question shown here, only 33 percent of all eighth-grade students who took the assessment correctly answered “b.” The geography report card, released on the heels of report cards in civics and U.S. history, adds to a picture of stagnating or declining overall achievement among U.S. students in the social sciences. “In particular, the pattern of disappointing results for our twelfth graders’ performance across all three social science subjects should be of great concern to everyone,” said David P. Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP.

Do you know eighth-grade geography?

Although there were few increases overall, improvements were made in the percentage of students in the lowest-performing group. Scores for students at the 10th percentile were higher than in 1994 for all grades. Among fourth graders, who posted the largest gains, the score at the 10th percentile increased by 23 points since 1994. In another positive trend, some gaps in achievement narrowed between racial/ethnic groups. “We are encouraged by the gains being made by our nation’s fourth graders and in the scores of the lowest performers, however, we are concerned that our students are not doing better in geography,” Driscoll said. “Geography is not just about maps. It is a rich and varied discipline that, now more than ever, is vital to understanding the connections between our global economy, environment, and diverse cultures.”

In one timely question, for instance, eighth-grade students were asked to look at a map of tectonic plates near Japan and explain the process that causes earthquakes there. Only 48 percent of students provided a complete and accurate response: earthquakes are caused by the collision of these plates. The responses of 33 percent of eighth graders indicated they had no understanding of the relationship between tectonic plates and earthquakes.

The geography framework includes both content and cognitive skills dimensions. The content dimension includes questions about space and place, which measure students’ knowledge of particular places on Earth, spatial patterns on the Earth’s surface and processes that shape spatial patterns; environment and society, which measure students’ knowledge of how people change and are changed by the natural environment; and spatial dynamics and connections, which measures students’ understanding

Major findings from the 2010 report include:

• In comparison to the last assessment in 2001, average scores in 2010 were higher at grade 4 and not significantly different at grades 8 and 12.

• Gains for Black students from 1994 to 2010 contributed to a narrowing of the White–Black score gaps at grades 4 and 8.

• Gains for Hispanic students from 1994 to 2010 contributed to a narrowing of the White–Hispanic score gap at grade 4.

• The percentage of students performing at or above the Proficient level in 2010 was 21 percent at grade 4, 27 percent at grade 8, and 20 percent at grade 12.

More information and sample questions.
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Principals Focus on Retaining Highly Effective Teachers


When current U.S. education secretary, Arne Duncan, headed the Chicago Public Schools in 2004-05, the city implemented a new collective bargaining agreement that covered teacher dismissal policy: principals were given more flexibility to dismiss non-tenured teachers. Now a new study by University of Michigan economist Brian Jacob finds that when given the authority, principals make dismissal decisions that put a premium on teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

Jacob found that principals are more likely to dismiss teachers who received poor evaluations in prior years; who are frequently absent; and at the elementary level, who had demonstrated less effectiveness in raising student achievement in prior years than their peers who were not dismissed.

Comparing the characteristics of dismissed versus non-dismissed untenured teachers within the same school and year, Jacob was able to determine how much weight principals place on a variety of teacher characteristics. Teachers who were given a rating of “satisfactory” in the prior academic year were 22.1 percentage points more likely to be dismissed than teachers in the same school who were given the highest rating, “superior.” Teachers rated “excellent” were 4.3 percentage points more likely to be dismissed than those rated “superior.”

Teachers who were absent 11 to 20 times between September and March of the current school year were 11.3 percentage points more likely to be dismissed than their colleagues who were never absent, and teachers absent 6 to 10 days were 3.5 percentage points more likely to be dismissed.

Among elementary school teachers for whom direct measures of effectiveness in raising student achievement were available, less effective teachers were also more likely to be dismissed. Specifically, teachers who were one standard deviation less effective (equivalent to the difference between a teacher at the 35th percentile and an average teacher) were associated with a 7.1 percentage point increase in the probability of dismissal.

Jacob examined dismissal among non-tenured teachers in the school years 2004-05, 2005-06, and 2006-07. His sample of schools consists of 16,246 elementary school teachers and 7,764 high school teachers working in 588 schools. He investigated the relationship between teacher value-added data and dismissal in a subsample of 803 elementary school teachers and 1,134 high school teachers for which value-added measures are available.

Comparing the year immediately prior to establishment of the new policy with the first two years of the policy’s implementation (2005 and 2006), Jacob finds that the total separation rate of non-tenured teachers increased by roughly 9 percentage points. Among other findings are that dismissed teachers who were subsequently rehired by a different school are more likely to be dismissed again than other non-tenured teachers in their new school. Jacob infers from these results that “many of the initial nonrenewal decisions were not idiosyncratic, stemming from a particularly bad match…but reflected a concern with the teacher’s general productivity.”
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Children who regularly participated in a Simon Says-type game designed to improve self-regulation – called the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task – may have better math and early literacy scores.

The study found that the higher academic outcomes associated with the game, which emphasizes careful listening and following instructions, does not just benefit students in the United States, but also benefits children tested in Taiwan, China and South Korea.

More than 800 preschool age children ages 3-6 years old in the four countries participated in the study, which was just published in the journal Psychological Assessment.

Megan McClelland, an associate professor of human development and family science at Oregon State University, is an expert on self-regulation in children and has published numerous studies showing the importance of self-regulation – or a child’s ability to listen, pay attention, follow through on a task and remember instructions – as a key predictor of academic achievement in later school years. McClelland also developed the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulder task as a measurement tool to assess how well a child is able to self-regulate.

In previous studies, McClelland has already shown that the task can help children with low self-regulation skills become better at self-regulation, effectively raising their academic achievement.

In this study, McClelland, lead author Shannon Wanless with the University of Pittsburgh, who did the research as part of her dissertation work at OSU, and their colleagues, wanted to find out if the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulder task would predict academic gains in countries already known to have stronger self-regulation than the U.S.

“Beyond demographic variables or teacher’s expectations, we found that the children in all the countries who performed well on the task did significantly better in math, vocabulary and early literacy,” McClelland said. “It shows that beyond cultural factors, self-regulation is important for early academic success.”

McClelland and Wanless’ study showed that preschool and kindergarten-age children who scored higher on the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulder task were more than three months ahead of their peers in early literacy. Likewise, their peers in Taiwan, China and South Korea showed similar results, with the most dramatic result showing Chinese youngsters who did well on the self-regulation task performing more than four months ahead of their classmates on math.

McClelland said this Asian study is not an anomaly – she and her colleagues have conducted studies in European countries, and have found similar results to this Asian study.

In addition, a new study that McClelland and OSU alumna Shauna Tominey conducted of 65 preschool-age children in Oregon, just published in the journal Early Education and Development, found that children who started the year with low levels of self-regulation saw significant gains in self-regulation as the year went on after doing a variety of “circle-time” games in the classroom. These games are physically-active games that, like the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulder task, ask children to obey rules, listen, and demonstrate self-control. Importantly, children participating in the games also made significant gains in early literacy over the school year.

This gave the researchers preliminary evidence that an intervention using these self-regulation games can work, especially with lower-income children who are at higher risk of starting school with poorer self-control. In the fall, McClelland and her research group move on to Salem, Ore. where they will administer the intervention to Head Start preschool classes in the Salem-Keizer school district.

“Educators are intensely interested in a measurement tool that assesses self-regulation, is easy to use, and requires little training or materials,” McClelland said.

She said since her work first became publicized, she has heard from teachers all over the country wanting to use the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulder task. Before that happens on a large scale however, McClelland said she needed to validate and adapt the task for teachers and other practitioners to use.

McClelland has received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to do a four-year study to measure, evaluate and refine the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulder task. If successful, the task could be implemented by educators and school districts across the country as a way to measure whether preschool-age children are ready to enter elementary school.

“Although many children enter kindergarten ready to learn, a large number of children start school already behind their peers,” McClelland said. “As early as kindergarten, they’ve become the problem child who can’t pay attention, can’t focus and doesn’t follow instructions. This can lead to becoming a problem in the classroom, which then leads to negative attention. And by the end of their kindergarten year, they are more likely to disengage and say they don’t like school.”
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