Want to double fruit sales in schools?


A new Cornell University study shows it is as easy as putting the fruit in a colorful bowl. According to research presented this week at the American Dietetic Association Conference in San Diego, CA by Brian Wansink, Professor at Cornell University, "Moving the fruit increased sales by 104%." This is only one of the changes proposed through the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN).

BEN has garnered the White House's support to help fight childhood obesity. Sam Kass, the White House chef, and Let's Move, Michelle Obama's initiative to solve the childhood obesity epidemic, have recently teamed up with BEN to progress toward this goal through the Chef's Move to Schools program.

David Just and Brian Wansink, co-directors of BEN, met with White House and USDA staff as well as several food and foodservice industry leaders to discuss the facets of the collaboration. The Chef's Move to Schools program will mend the disconnect by making traditional lunchtime innovative and healthy. This partnership will provide wider access to BEN center research, allowing more schools to use simple, cheap, and effective tools to lead children to choose healthier food. "This is a great opportunity to improve kids' school meal choices. Everyone involved is enthusiastic and eager to help make school lunch exciting as well as nutritious. The Chef's Move to Schools program is a great way for chefs to capture kids' imaginations with a healthy and wholesome message—and make a lasting difference," says David Just, also a Professor at Cornell University.

The BEN center has analyzed multiple school lunchroom layouts and designs that hindered student's selection of nutritious foods. The lunchrooms were revamped with easy, low-cost/no-cost environmental changes that resulted in an increase in healthy food choices. On a broader level, the BEN center works with researchers and policy makers to make important high-level decisions that impact healthy food environments nationwide.

More information on building a foundation for a healthy lunchroom environment and nutritious food choices for kids can be found at http://ben.dyson.cornell.edu/and at http://www.smarterlunchrooms.org
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Closed-Loop Instructional System Is Key to Maximizing Technology’s Impact on Student Achievement, New Report Finds


As policymakers and education practitioners across the U.S. seek innovative approaches to boost student achievement, particularly in K–12 education, a new report released today by The Boston Consulting Group reveals that a closed-loop instructional system is the most effective way to maximize technology’s potential to improve learning and overall student outcomes.

The report, titled Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education, examines the role of technology in the post–No Child Left Behind era, identifying lessons learned in both K–12 and higher education.

“Throughout the U.S. and around the world, educators are focused on boosting student outcomes as never before, with technology and innovation serving as key drivers in education improvement efforts,” said Allison Bailey, a partner in the firm’s Boston office and lead author of the report. “If we are serious about igniting a true learning revolution, we must incorporate technology in a holistic, proven effective way.”

Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education
emphasizes the value of a closed-loop instructional system—a deeply aligned set of educational objectives, standards, curricula, assessments, interventions, and professional development. The BCG model calls for a closed-loop instructional system that uses technology at every level to enable continuous improvement in both instruction and student outcomes.

“The education sector continues to devote a far lower proportion of its spending on technology than do other sectors. It should be no surprise, then, that the investment in technology has yielded little overall impact on student achievement,” said J. Puckett, a senior partner in BCG’s Dallas office and global leader of the firm’s Education practice. “It is no longer an issue of whether or not to use technology. Today, we must carefully examine the research on how best to adapt and use technology in the teaching and learning process.”

Examining best practices in the field, BCG describes how technology can revolutionize educational objectives, curriculum offerings, delivery of instruction, frequent assessments, appropriate interventions, and tracking of outcomes through data management systems enabled by information and communications technology (ICT).

As part of its analysis, BCG spotlights the specific work of a range of technology-focused education-improvement efforts, including BetterLesson, Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative, Curriki, Florida Virtual School, Megastudy, and the University of Phoenix.

Built on the best practices in the field, Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education offers specific recommendations for policymakers and education leaders:

Embrace a holistic closed-loop strategy to meet clear educational goals.

Enable teachers to use and leverage technology in the classroom.

Create an engaging student experience.

Promote the development of high-quality digital assessments that enable continuous feedback.

Develop a critical mass of research that confirms—or refutes—technology’s benefits.

Enact policies that encourage and facilitate the proliferation of digital learning.

Build an ICT infrastructure that enables the closed loop.

“In the coming years, the technology revolution in education has the potential to gather strength and momentum as visionary leaders take up a technology-enabled closed-loop approach to instruction. But whether and how quickly this happens within systems (and even nations) will depend in large part on the policy environment—and the extent to which it encourages and enables the use of technology. Another critical variable will be how quickly individual institutions move to adopt and implement effective technology. To date, there has not been a strong policy push to adopt educational technologies at the primary and secondary levels, despite the groundswell of activity in postsecondary education,” the report concludes.
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Education, Demand, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America


Education, Demand, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America

An analysis of the gap between the supply and demand for educated workers, and its relation ship to unemployment, particularly for the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, finds that:

- The years of education demanded by the average U.S. job grew slowly but steadily from 2005 to 2009 and slightly outpaced growth in educated labor supply during the reces sion. At the height of the recession in 2009, the average U.S. job required 13.54 years of education, up from 13.37 in 2005. The increase reflected layoffs in less-education intensive industries such as construction and manufacturing, amid job gains in industries like health care, education, and professional services that demand more education.

- Metro areas with larger “education gaps”—shortages of educated workers relative to employer demand—had consistently higher unemployment rates than other metro areas from 2005 to 2011. Metro areas with larger education gaps experienced unemployment rates an average of 1.4 percentage points above metro areas with smaller such gaps. The difference widened to 1.7 percentage points by May of 2011, suggesting that better educated metro areas had a slightly larger advantage in the wake of the recession than they did before.

- The types of industries in which a metro area specialized also influenced its unemployment trajectory from 2007 to 2009. Unemployment rates in metro areas with more jobs in industries resilient to the recession increased an average of 1.4 percentage points less than rates in metro areas with more jobs in economically vulnerable industries.

- Both industry composition and the education gap help explain the differences in unemployment rate increases across metropolitan areas. In metro areas with both resilient industries and low education gaps like Washington, D.C., unemployment rates rose by roughly 2 percentage points less than in metro areas with vulnerable industries and high education gaps, like Riverside, CA.

- Metro areas with larger education gaps exhibit greater differences in unemployment rates between highly educated and less educated workers. In large metropolitan areas, the differ ence in unemployment rates between workers with bachelor’s degrees and those without high school diplomas ranged from 2.8 percentage points in Poughkeepsie, NY to 14.7 percentage points in Detroit.
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Brookings report stresses need for better training of early childhood educators, proposes creating charter colleges


Millions of American children attend pre-K education programs, but too often, their teachers do not have the necessary training and skills to do their jobs. A new paper from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program analyzes this challenge and calls for creation of charter colleges to train early-education teachers.

The paper, Beyond Bachelor’s: A Case for Charter Colleges of Early Childhood Education, notes the proven value of early-education programs but finds that lack of skills among pre-K teachers undercuts that value. Traditional university bachelor’s programs in education are not geared to meet the need for better training, so the authors recommend states create charter colleges for training pre-K teachers. These colleges would increase the supply of high-quality early educators and help those teachers secure better-paying jobs. This also would create a new educational model that could work in other fields.

“The more than 1.3 million Americans—nearly all of them women—who make their livings caring for other people’s children are doing critically important work,” said Sara Mead, Associate Partner with Bellwether Education Partners and co-author of the report. “Yet far too many of these workers are under-educated and underpaid. As a nation, we have decided to entrust our young children to other people, but we are not giving those people the training they need or the compensation they deserve.”
“Our nation cannot make a dent in the broader college completion challenge by focusing on white middle-class 18 year-olds—most of them already earn degrees,” added Kevin Carey, Policy Director at Education Sector and co-author of the report. “Ironically, this is a much more effective strategy for producing additional college degrees than requiring all early childhood teachers to earn bachelor’s degrees. It sends the people who are actually educating young children to colleges designed to serve them.”

Mead and Carey’s paper proposes states to build charter college systems that would directly address the training needs of early educators and increase opportunities for long-term professional development. Their recommendations include:

• Define expectations and credentials that are linked to skills and workforce needs. States should streamline “core competencies” of early educators and link them to training programs and certification credentials in order to directly maximize learning potential in the classroom.

• Identify metrics of teacher knowledge and skills. Charter colleges of early childhood education would bestow credentials when its students demonstrate effective tactics that improve a child’s learning process. This will require valid and reasonable observation measures, some of which are already in place in systems like Texas School Ready and CLASS.

• Create and empower authorizers to grant charter colleges credentials and access to public funds. These authorizing entities, whether state advisory councils, existing authorizers of public charter schools, or new entities created for this sole purpose, would be responsible for holding charter colleges accountable to maintaining an effective standard of early education.

• Enforce systems of accountability and evaluation of a charter college’s efficacy.

These evaluation systems need to have valid and reasonable standards, be independent of the charter college itself, and be organized and funded by states and authorizers.
States will have the primary responsibility of developing charter colleges of early education, with cooperation from non-profit organizations, philanthropic foundations, and existing academic institutions. Federal, state, and local policymakers can further support this new model of education by enhancing the research and dissemination of best practices in early education training, effectively utilizing early childhood resources and local workforce development funds, and encouraging interstate collaboration to provide portability of ideas and systems in different labor markets.

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Developed countries far outperform our most affluent suburbs


When the Best is Mediocre

American education has problems, almost everyone is willing to concede, but many think those problems are mostly concentrated in our large urban school districts. In the elite suburbs, where wealthy and politically influential people tend to live, the schools are assumed to be world-class.

Unfortunately, what everyone knows is wrong. Even the most elite suburban school districts often produce results that are mediocre when compared with those of our international peers. Our best school districts may look excellent alongside large urban districts, the comparison state accountability systems encourage, but that measure provides false comfort. America’s elite suburban students are increasingly competing with students outside the United States for economic opportunities, and a meaningful assessment of student achievement requires a global, not a local, comparison.
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Dropout Prevention Services and Programs


A new report from NCES found that during the 2010-11 school year, 76 percent of public school districts reported using academic failure to a large extent to identify students at risk of dropping out of school. Dropout Prevention Services and Programs in Public School Districts: 2010–11, a First Look report from the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) provides national data about how public school districts identify students at risk of dropping out, programs used specifically to address the needs of students at risk of dropping out of school, the use of mentors for at-risk students, and efforts to encourage dropouts to return to school.

Key findings include:

• Eighty-eight percent of districts with high school grades reported offering to students at risk of dropping credit recovery courses or programs, 72 percent reported offering smaller class size, 63percent early graduation options, and 55 percent self-paced courses for purposes other than credit recovery.

• Eighty-four percent of districts reported regularly providing information to the receiving schools about the unique needs of individual at-risk students when students transition to a school at a higher instructional level (e.g., from middle school to high school).

• Districts reported working with various entities to address the needs of students at risk of dropping out. Among those were child protective services (85 percent), community mental health agencies (73 percent), state or local government agencies that provide financial assistance to needy families (68 percent), churches or community organizations (54 percent), and health clinics or hospitals (50 percent).
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Time is the enemy of college completion


This historic report from Complete College America allows us to see what’s really happening on campuses in 33 states.

Consider these findings:

• There is a new American majority on campus. Seventy-five percent of today’s students are juggling some combination of families, jobs, and school while commuting to class; according to the U.S. Department of Education, only a quarter go full-time, attend residential colleges, and have most of their bills paid by their parents.

• Part-time students rarely graduate. Even when given twice as long to complete certificates and degrees, no more than a quarter ever make it to graduation day.

• Poor students and students of color struggle the most to graduate. Even though more of these students than ever before are enrolling in college, too few end up with certificates or degrees. Given changing demographics, the success of these students is critical, or our country will simply not be economically competitive.

• Students are taking too many credits and too much time to complete. Excessive course-taking is slowing down progress to certificates and degrees. And students are spending too much time in school.

• Remediation is broken, producing few students who ultimately graduate. Sadly, efforts intended to catch students up are most often leaving them behind.

These historic data have revealed a common thread - the longer it takes, the more life gets in the way of success.

More students are working, and they are working more hours than ever before. Many can afford to attend only part-time, extending the years until they graduate. More come to our campuses underprepared for college — and then get trapped in broken remedial approaches that don’t help, as time keeps slipping away. More are overwhelmed by too many choices and too little structure, causing aimless wandering and wasted semesters and years. All of this adds up to more and more time. As the clock runs and the calendar turns, we all know what happens: Students’ lives fill up with jobs, relationships, marriages, children, and mortgages; the list goes on and on. Not surprisingly, college often gets left behind: a few years of courses, no degree, and a lot of debt.
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National Survey Findings on How to Inspire the Next Generation of Doctors, Scientists, Software Developers and Engineers


New survey among college students and parents of K–12 students provides implications for nurturing interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Microsoft Corp. has announced the findings of two national surveys, conducted online by Harris Interactive, of college students currently pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees and of parents of K–12 students. The goal of the surveys was to gain insight about what can better prepare and inspire students to pursue post-secondary education in STEM subjects.

The state of STEM education has been a leading topic of conversation and concern among education leaders, teachers and faculty members, policymakers, business leaders, parents, and even students in recent years. The U.S. will have more than 1.2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and, unfortunately, there will be a significant shortage of qualified college graduates to fill them.

Microsoft STEM Survey Key Findings

Parent Perceptions

Parents were asked about their perceptions of STEM education in K–12, and the survey found broad agreement that there is room for improvement.

• Although most parents of K–12 students (93 percent) believe that STEM education should be a priority in the U.S., only half (49 percent) agreed that it actually is a top priority for this country.
• Parents who feel STEM should be a priority said they feel this way because they want to ensure the U.S. remains competitive in the global marketplace (53 percent) and to produce the next generation of innovators (51 percent); fewer said it’s to enable students to have well-paying (36 percent) or fulfilling careers (30 percent).
• Even though many parents (50 percent) would like to see their children pursue a STEM career, only 24 percent are extremely willing to spend extra money helping their children be successful in their math and science classes.
Student Perceptions

College students pursuing a STEM degree were asked to rate how well their K–12 education prepared them for their college courses in STEM, and why they chose to pursue a STEM academic path.

Importance of K–12 education:

For many, the decision to study STEM starts before college.

• Nearly four in five STEM college students said they decided to study STEM in high school or earlier (78 percent). One in five (21 percent) decided in middle school or earlier.
• More than half (57 percent) of STEM college students said that before going to college, a teacher or class got them interested in STEM (20 percent).
• This is especially true of female students (68 percent versus 51 percent of males) who chose “a teacher or class” as the top factor that sparked their interest.


• Only one in five STEM college students felt that their K–12 education prepared them extremely well for their college courses in STEM.
• Students who felt less prepared for STEM college courses said that offering more STEM courses and having better or more challenging courses would have helped to better prepare them — and for students who felt extremely or very well-prepared, it was the challenging, college prep courses that helped to prepare them.
• Females in STEM were more likely than males to say they were extremely/very or well-prepared (64 percent versus 49 percent) by their K–12 education, and females were slightly more likely than their male counterparts to say that preparing students for STEM should be a top priority in K–12 schools (92 percent vs. 84 percent).

Based on the college student survey findings, the motivation to pursue STEM studies did not originate from their parents telling them to select that subject area or even because they know the U.S. is in need of STEM graduates.

• Rather, students who select a STEM path indicated they do so to secure their own futures.
• 68 percent said they want a good salary.
• 66 percent said it’s the job potential.
• 68 percent said they find their degree program subjects intellectually stimulating and challenging.

Gender differences:

The inspiration for choosing STEM varied quite a bit between males and females.

• Male students were more likely to pursue STEM because they have always enjoyed playing with games and toys, reading books, and participating in clubs focused on their chosen subject areas (51 percent versus 35 percent of females).
• Female students were more likely to say they chose STEM to make a difference (49 percent versus 34 percent of males).

The surveys were conducted online within the United States in May 2011 by Harris Interactive on behalf of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and Microsoft among 1,074 parents of children ages 17 years or younger, 854 of whom are parents of K–12 students, and 500 U.S. undergraduate college students, ages 18–24, who are currently pursuing a STEM degree. Data were weighted to be representative of the populations of interest. These online surveys are not based on a probability sample, and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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New Assessments for Improved Accountability


Over the past decade, educational reforms have increased efforts to hold teachers and schools accountable for student test scores. Schools without significant progress on test scores have been subject to reductions in funding and even replacement of school leadership. The purpose of these actions is to increase student achievement by raising teacher effectiveness and bringing up the performance of low-performing schools. Yet critics of these accountability systems have argued that they will not lead to meaningful increases in student learning because of incentives to “teach to the test” at the expense of more valuable classroom activities, leading students to have deficits in critical thinking skills.

Based on work he has done for The Hamilton Project, Derek Neal of the University of Chicago outlines a plan to create better assessments and accountability systems to avoid these perverse incentives. The new assessment system would use two different styles of examinations: one traditional test to evaluate student achievement, and a new examination to evaluate teacher performance. Neal provides guidelines for the development of this innovative approach to assessment and details how teacher performance can be measured using a relative scale. An ideal accountability system would combine these new assessments with non-test metrics such as classroom observations, school inspections, and parental input in order to also capture students’ social and emotional development.
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More than Half of States Fail at Teaching the Civil Rights Movement


Though the civil rights movement is one of the defining events of U.S. history, most states fail when it comes to teaching the movement to students, a first-of-its-kind study released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center has found.

The study – Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education 2011 – examined state standards and curriculum requirements related to the study of the modern civil rights movement for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It was conducted by the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program and includes a forward by noted civil rights activist and historian Julian Bond.

The study compared the requirements in state standards to a body of knowledge that reflects what civil rights historians and educators consider core information about the civil rights movement. It found that:

A shocking number of states – 35 – received grades of “F.”
- Sixteen states, where local officials set specific policies and requirements for their school districts, have no requirements at all for teaching about the movement.
- Only three states received a grade of “A” – Alabama, New York and Florida – and even these states have considerable room for improvement.
- Generally speaking, the farther from the South – and the smaller the African-American population – the less attention paid to the movement.

“For too many students, their civil rights education boils down to two people and four words: Rosa Parks, Dr. King and ‘I have a dream,’” said Maureen Costello, SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance director. “When 43 states adopted Common Core Standards in English and math, they affirmed that rigorous standards were necessary for achievement. By having weak or non-existent standards for history, particularly for the civil rights movement, they are saying loud and clear that it isn’t something students need to learn.”

The SPLC issued the report to encourage a national conversation about the importance of teaching the civil rights movement. The report calls for states to include civil rights education in K-12 history and social studies curricula. It urges colleges and other organizations that train teachers to ensure that they are well prepared to teach it.

Most of the states that earned grades of “C” or better are in the South – suggesting that most states view the civil rights movement as something of regional significance or of interest only to black students rather than a matter of national significance.

The study also found that when states teach the civil rights movement, they tend to perform well on teaching leaders and events. They are considerably less likely to include the obstacles that civil rights activists faced, like racism and white resistance, or to mention more than civil rights related-holidays to students before they reach high school.

“An educated populace must be taught basics about American history,” said Julian Bond in his preface to the report. ”One of these basics is the civil rights movement, a nonviolent revolution as important as the first American Revolution. It is a history that continues to shape the America we all live in today.”

Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. It produces and distributes tools at no cost to teachers, including Teaching Tolerance magazine, online curricula and professional development resources, and multimedia teaching kits that introduce students to various civil rights issues.
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Measuring NAEP Inclusion Rates of Students With Disabilities


The report Measuring Status and Change In NAEP Inclusion Rates of Students With Disabilities, Results 2007-09 has been released. This report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) contains the findings of a study on the status of inclusion and changes in inclusion rates for the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 4th- and 8th-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and mathematics assessments.

The decision about whether a student with disabilities is included in NAEP is made by the school personnel most knowledgeable about the student. The percentage of students with disabilities who are not English Language Learners and who are assessed in NAEP varies across years within a grade and varies between grades.

To compare the inclusion rates, regression analyses were used to estimate the relationship between characteristics of a student with disabilities (SD) and the probability that the student is included in the NAEP assessments. Using these probabilities, states’ inclusion rates of SDs in 2005, 2007, and 2009 NAEP assessments were compared. In addition, the states’ expected inclusion rates for each year, predicted by the regression model, were compared to the actual inclusion rates to provide the status of inclusion rates as starting points or context for interpreting the changes.

Findings include:

• Most states showed no change in inclusiveness between 2007 and 2009 at either grade or in either subject.
• In mathematics, there was no change in inclusiveness for 40 jurisdictions at grade 4 and 34 jurisdictions at grade 8.
• In reading, there was no change in inclusiveness for 36 jurisdictions at grade 4 and 35 jurisdictions at grade 8.
• Among the states that did show change in inclusiveness between 2007 and 2009, the majority increased inclusiveness:
• In mathematics, 10 out of 11 jurisdictions at grade 4 increased inclusiveness, and 16 out of 17 jurisdictions increased inclusiveness at grade 8.
• In reading, 13 out of 15 jurisdictions increased inclusiveness at grade 4, and 16 out of 16 jurisdictions increased inclusiveness at grade 8.
• No state showed a decrease in inclusiveness for both grades and both subjects in all the comparison years.

Additional resources for understanding the inclusion of students with disabilities in NAEP assessments, including frequently asked questions, details about the methodology used in this study, and copies of past reports, are available at

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Why adolescents respond differently to peer influence about school


The company an adolescent keeps affects his or her behavior—particularly when these friends engage in illicit activities and are indifferent to education—right?

Well, that all depends, according to a new Northwestern University study, "Being in 'Bad' Company: Power Dependence and Status in Adolescent Susceptibility to Peer Influence," which appears in the September issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

The research, conducted in a primarily Hispanic, low-income neighborhood, looked at academically diverse groups of friends that included both high- and low-achieving young adults.

According to the study, some adolescents in the mixed groups were insulated from the influence of their more self destructive peers. "Opposite to what a lot of researchers think would happen, some kids in the groups, for example, neglected or didn't even care about school, while others were dedicated students," said Robert Vargas, a doctoral student in sociology at Northwestern and author of the study.

Interestingly, Vargas found that adolescents could also be insulated from the positive influence of their peers.

Adolescents in his study were insulated if they had characteristics that their friends respected (e.g., close friendships with members of the opposite sex) or had something that their friends needed (e.g., a car).

Among those adolescents who were negatively influenced by peers, neighborhood violence and territorial boundaries were likely to be part of the dynamics contributing to their bad behavior, Vargas said.

"It wasn't that these kids thought the bad behavior was 'cool,' but rather neighborhood violence constrained their friendship choices," he said.

In the neighborhood where Vargas conducted his research, the territorial border of the major gangs in the neighborhood made it difficult for kids to walk to a friend's house who lived on "the other side" of the neighborhood.

"The young gang members in the neighborhood were very territorial and would attack young people perceived to be in the rival gang when they crossed the border," he said. "Those fearful of being caught in the crossfire tended to avoid crossing the gang boundary, greatly restricting access to certain, possibly more positive, friends."

Young adults from such neighborhoods often don't have the power to find other friends or leave their friendship groups to avoid negative peer pressure. "The effects of neighborhood violence and fears of crossing gang boundaries influences these young people to hang out with people they otherwise would avoid," Vargas said.

In terms of policy implications, Vargas said, "The study demonstrates the need for policymakers and educators to move beyond public campaigns that convey to adolescents that undesirable acts are 'not cool,' and consider factors that make adolescents dependent on friends or adults. As adolescents were influenced by individuals they depended on most, policymakers and educators should consider trying to make young people more dependent on positive role models by, for example, requiring community service hours."
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Dyslexia Isn’t A Matter of IQ


About 5 to 10 percent of American children are diagnosed as dyslexic. Historically, the label has been assigned to kids who are bright, even verbally articulate, but who struggle with reading—in short, whose high IQs mismatch their low reading scores. When children are not as bright, however, their reading troubles have been chalked up to their general intellectual limitations.

Now a new brain-imaging study challenges this understanding of dyslexia. “We found that children who are poor readers have the same brain difficulty in processing the sounds of language whether they have a high or low IQ,” says Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist John D. E. Gabrieli. “Reading difficulty is independent of other cognitive abilities.”

The findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, could change the ways educators help all poor readers.

The study involved 131 children, about 7 to 17 years old. According to a simple reading test and an IQ measure, each child was assigned to one of three groups—typical readers with typical IQs; poor readers with typical IQs; and poor readers with low IQs. All were shown word pairs and asked whether they rhymed. Spellings didn’t indicate sound similarities. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, the researchers observed the activity in six brain regions important in connecting print and sound.

The results: Poor readers in both IQ groups showed significantly less brain activity in the observed areas than typical readers. But there was no difference in the brains of the poor readers, regardless of their IQs. “These findings suggest the specific reading problem is the same whether or not you have strong cognitive abilities across the board,” says Gabrieli.

The study could have an important impact on both the diagnosis and education of poor readers. The revised definition of dyslexia proposed for the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), psychiatry’s diagnostic bible, “currently lacks neurobiological evidence for the removal of ‘severe discrepancy’ [between IQ and reading ability],” says Stanford’s Fumiko Hoeft. “Our study will be the first to provide such evidence.”

Meanwhile, educators commonly offer reading- and language-focused interventions to bright dyslexics, to bring their reading up to the level of their expected achievement. But they may consider such specific remediation futile for less-“smart” children. If teachers understand that the same thing is going on in the brains of all poor readers, they may see that all those children could benefit from the same interventions. Since it’s hard to learn much if you can’t read, that’s good news for a lot of kids.
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Early-Career Teacher Effectiveness and Attrition


Research on teacher development reports significant early-career increases in teacher effectiveness, but the extent to which this is attributable to the development of teachers who persist or to the attrition of less effective teachers is unclear. In this study of novice teachers in North Carolina public schools, the authors investigated the development of teachers’ effectiveness during their first five years in the classroom and contrasted the effectiveness of teachers who stayed with that of those who left. Across grade levels, teachers’ effectiveness increased significantly in their second year of teaching but flattened after three years. The teachers who left the profession were less effective, on average, than those who stayed at least five years, but this finding is somewhat less consistent than the findings of an initial jump in effectiveness and diminishing returns to on-the-job development.
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Peer-to-Peer Violence and Bullying: Examining the Federal Response


This report examines the work of the United States Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) in enforcing prohibitions against discrimination and harassment as they relate to bullying and other peer-to-peer violence in public K-12 schools.

Chapter One is an Introduction

Chapter Two provides information on the incidence of peer-to-peer violence as well as the unique problems associated with peer-to-peer violence as it relates to various demographic groups. It also provides background information on relevant legal protections, highlighting statutes enforced by ED and DOJ.

Chapters Three and Four set forth the processes employed by ED and DOJ, respectively, in monitoring and enforcing prohibitions against peer-to-peer violence and provide data regarding ED and DOJ‘s enforcement activities.

Chapter Five is an overview of ED‘s October 2010 Dear Colleague Letter addressing the legal obligations of schools related to bullying and harassment.

Chapter Six discusses jurisdictional issues related to ED and DOJ‘s use of existing laws to combat peer-to-peer violence where the victims are in part targeted based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, or based on their religion.

Chapter Seven explores other concerns related to the current federal response to peer-to-peer violence, including critiques based on the enforcement standards used by ED, the appropriateness of a large-scale federal response versus the need for state and local control, and the First Amendment.

The most interesting part of the Report, and one that I highly recommend reading is the COMMISSIONER STATEMENTS AND REBUTTALS - lots of controversy and details there.
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Students Get Higher Grades If Classes Start Earlier


It's tempting for college students to avoid those early-morning classes by rationalizing that they'll get more sleep and therefore, better grades. A study by psychologists at St. Lawrence University shows that students starting later in the morning do, indeed, get more sleep, but they also tend to abuse alcohol more and wind up with lower grade-point averages than their early-bird classmates.
The study, by psychology professors Serge Onyper and Pamela Thacher, found that students who had later class times generally got more sleep, but also had more time to go out with friends. On the other hand, it appears that when students know they have an early class, they may tend to avoid nights out on the town.

Thacher says that later class start times might factor into the choices students make. "Those who choose later classes also tend to sleep longer and consume more alcohol and other substances," she says, "while those who elect earlier classes may be more motivated to find ways to offset the early start time by making healthier choices about their daily living."

She notes that while later class times predicted only slightly lower student grade-point averages, there is no question that later classes were associated with more drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption is the main negative influence on academic performance in college.

"The effects of later class-start times might include more sleep," Thacher says. "But this might be offset by lower quality sleep, which in turn might affect students' ability to engage, intellectually, with their coursework."

Onyper speculates that drinking more alcohol, known to disrupt sleep, may reduce the benefits of getting more sleep.

The psychology professors surveyed 253 college students who completed cognitive tasks and a one-week retrospective sleep diary, as well as questionnaires about sleep, class schedules, substance use and mood.

Thacher, author of a 2007 study showing that college students who pull "all-nighters" get lower grades, said that the study changed her mind about how to schedule classes. "Prior to this study, I advocated having classes start later in the morning, so that students could get more sleep," she said, noting that in that respect, the results are similar to those conducted on high school and junior high students. "But now, I would say that 8 or 8:30 a.m. classes are probably, for some students, going to be a much better choice.
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Lower Turnover Rates, Higher Pay for Teachers Who Share Race with Principal


Same-race teachers also report higher job satisfaction

With ever-declining budgets, education administrators across the nation have been struggling for years with an increasing teacher turnover rate. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that race may play a role in teacher turnover. Lael Keiser, an associate professor at the Truman School of Public Affairs and an associate professor in the department of political science in the College of Arts and Science, and Jason Grissom, who is now an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University, found that turnover rates are lower among teachers who are of the same race as their school principals.

Lael Keiser is as an associate professor at the Truman School of Public Affairs and an associate professor in the department of political science in the College of Arts and Science.

“Teachers are substantially more likely to stay in schools run by a principal of the same race,” Keiser said. “Teachers who share the same race as their principal also report higher job satisfaction, particularly in schools with African-American principals. This association may be driven by differences in how such schools are managed, given that teachers who share the same race as their principal report higher levels of administrative support and more recognition than other teachers report.”

For their study, Keiser and Grissom researched data from the Schools and Staffing Survey and the Teacher Follow-up Survey, both of which are administered by the National Center for Education Statistics. They also found that white teachers with white principals received more money in supplemental salaries, such as stipends for coaching or sponsoring clubs, than African-American teachers with white principals. In schools with African-American principals, the supplemental salary rates were roughly the same.

The study also showed that African-American teachers reported much higher rates of intangible benefits, such as administrative support and encouragement, classroom autonomy and recognition for good job performance, when they worked for an African-American principal. The rates were roughly the same for all teachers under white principals.

“The data show race plays a significant role in the principal-teacher relationship,” Keiser said. “It appears that African-American teachers generally have a more positive experience when the principal is of the same race.”

Keiser says that previous research has shown that minority teachers improve the educational experience of minority students. Because of this, Keiser believes that her study shows the importance for maintaining the diversity of principals within schools as well.

“Our results illustrate that an important factor in maintaining the racial diversity of teachers is the diversity of the principals that supervise these teachers. We hope these findings could provide justification for policymakers to undertake programs targeted at increasing the flow of minority teachers into the principal pipeline.”

Keiser and Grissom’s study was published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
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Early use of non-parental childcare is not harmful for most children


What type of childcare arrangements do parents choose before their children are 18 months old? Does the choice of childcare affect children's language skills and mental health at the age of five? These are some of the questions that are explored in a new report prepared by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health as part of a collaborative project with the Ministry of Education and Research. The report indicates that there is no evidence that early centre-based childcare is harmful for most children.
Most pre-school children in Norway attend different types of childcare arrangements on a daily or weekly basis, and by far the majority are in centre-based childcare (kindergarten). In contrast to most other countries, children with physical and/or mental disabilities are not separated from the other children, but attend regular groups or classes in public kindergartens and schools.

Childcare is an important arena for language development and learning and for preventing and coping with mental health issues, regardless of the child's functional level. Because most children in Norway participate in childcare we have opportunities to learn about what the best arrangements are for learning, as well as how best to cope with daily challenges for children with different levels of functioning. The significance of different types of childcare for children's development is frequently discussed in many research groups as well as in the preschool education sector.

The aim of this report “Barnepass fram til 18 måneder. Sammenhenger mellom barnepass fram til 18 måneder og språklige ferdigheter og psykisk fungering ved fem år” (English: Childcare up to 18 months. Relations between child care up to 18 months and language skills and mental function at five years) has been to provide more knowledge about the use of different childcare arrangements and how they affect children's functioning as well as the impact of starting in childcare at an early age.

The report provides an overview of the current status and is based on data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Part one of the report presents information about childcare arrangements based on questionnaire data from more than 60 000 children in MoBa aged 18 months, in the period between 2001 and the end of 2009. Then impact of childcare (up to 18 months of age) was studied in the context of language skills, language-related difficulties and psychological function in 13 000 children who had reached five years by the end of 2010.

What works for whom?

Overall, the report shows that neither the language skills nor the psychological function of most children varies with the type of childcare, their age when starting in childcare outside the home, whether they used a combination of childcare arrangements or just one type, or how many hours per week they were in childcare.

“For most children there is no evidence from our findings to suggest that it is harmful to begin in centre-based childcare at 12 months,” said Synnve Schjølberg, researcher and specialist in clinical psychology. “The small effect sizes of the findings indicate that the differences between children attending childcare at an early age and those starting later have no clinical implications for most children” she explains.

“Neither do the findings suggest that most children who are cared for at home up to 18 months of age are better prepared than children cared for by others in the same period,” said Schjølberg.

“It is possible that the small differences found could be attributed to some children’s particular vulnerability. Low quality childcare could be hypothesised as another explanation,” said Schjølberg. “We will investigate these relationships further. The debate around centre-based childcare needs to be more nuanced and now rather focus on what works for whom” she added.

Main findings

The report is only available in Norwegian but here is a summary of the main findings:
1. The majority of children cared for outside the home before they are 18 months were in centre-based childcare. A larger proportion of children were in non-maternal care outside the home in 2009 relative to previous years. Although most children are cared for at home until they are 10-12 months old, with increasing age there is an increase in the number of children who are cared for outside of their home.

Across year of data collection, and thus coverage of child-care centres, we found that 40 per cent of 18 month old children attended centre based childcare, while one in four children (26 per cent) are with a nanny/family-based care. In 2008 and 2009 we found that 59 per cent of the children attended centre-based childcare at 18 months, while 15 per cent were with a nanny/family-based care.

2. The number of hours children are in child care outside the home at 18 months increases. In the interval between 2001 and 2009, most of the 18 month old children (63 per cent) were in childcare between 25 to 40 hours per week. The average number of hours children were cared for by others increased from 27 hours for children who were 18 months old between 2001 and 2003 to 31 hours for children who were 18 months old between 2007 and 2009.

3. Approximately half of five year olds attend public childcare centres. 98 per cent of the five year olds participating in MoBa attend centre-based childcare. Approximately half of the children (52 per cent) attend public childcare centres while a slightly smaller proportion (45 per cent) attends privately run childcare centres.

4. Choice of childcare is related to the length of mothers’ education. A smaller proportion of 18-month-old children were cared for at home in 2009 relative to 2003.

The most substantial change across time was found among mothers without any completed higher education. In 2003, 40 per cent of mothers with low levels of education utilised non-maternal care outside home, whereas this number had increased to 63 per cent in 2009.

Relative to mothers with higher education, a larger proportion of mothers with lower education levels care for their children at home until 18 months (50 per cent vs. 14 per cent). Child-minder / family-based childcare were found to be more often used by mothers who did not have higher education.

5. Children of parents with a non-Norwegian mother tongue begin care outside the home later than children of two Norwegian speaking parents. At 18 months of age, 74 per cent of the children with two Norwegian speaking parents were cared for outside the home whereas 65 per cent of children from families where neither parent has Norwegian as their mother tongue were cared for outside the home.

6. Girls who attend child care outside the home from 12 months are not negatively affected in language development or language related problems. The same holds true for girls being cared for in different types of child care. There are no advantages in the girls’ language development to being cared for at home in the first 18 months compared to being in childcare at an earlier age.

7. Boys who attend child care outside the home are rated as having slightly higher score on language related difficulties at five years relative to those who were cared for at home until 18 months. The effect size is small. Being cared for in childcare before 18 months only explains about one per mille (‰) of the variation in language-related difficulties at five years. Thus, the difference between the two groups is not of clinical significance for most of the boys.

8. Boys who began in childcare outside the home before 18 months are rated with slightly higher scores on behavioural symptoms at five years relative to those who were cared for at home until 18 months. The effect sizes are small. Childcare experience only explains about one per mille (‰) of the variation in behavioural symptoms and is thus not likely to be of clinical significance.

9. Children who are cared for more than 40 hours a week outside the home are rated with slightly more behavioural symptoms at five years of age. Both girls and boys who were cared for outside the home for 40 hours or more per week at 18 months were found to have slightly more behavioural problems at five years of age relative to children who were cared for less than 40 hours per week outside the home at 18 months. The effect sizes are small. The difference in childcare experience only explains about 1.2 per mille (‰) of the variation in behavioural symptoms and thus for most of the children is not of clinical significance.

10. There is no association between childcare history and emotional problems at five years. Independent of the age when children start with care outside the home, neither girls nor boys who were cared for by others were found to be more anxious or sad than those who are cared for at home.

11. Many children have documented developmental difficulties or increased risk for developing such difficulties already during the first year of life. When the children reached five years of age, it is reported that five per cent had birth defects, syndromes or have had serious medical problems. It is also reported about seven per cent were at risk of developmental difficulties due to birth related factors(1). In addition, the parents of a third of all five year olds reported either having been concerned about the child’s development at some point or that the child had been diagnosed with a developmental disability by a healthcare professional.

It is important to stress that all significant differences that were identified were very small. This implies that the reported effects of childcare history are not likely to be of any clinical importance. The small differences between the groups could potentially be due to a small number of children being particularly sensitive to the time at which they start care outside the home or for the amount of time they spend away from home. Qualitative differences across the types of childcare institutions may also potentially influence these outcomes. However, these mechanisms will be explored further in future publications.

(1) Low birth weight, low gestational age, low Apgar score 5 minutes after birth.
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Insufficient sleep among high school students associated with a variety of health-risk behaviors

Almost 70 percent of high school students are not getting the recommended hours of sleep on school nights, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published online by Preventive Medicine. Insufficient sleep is associated with a variety of health-risk behaviors, including physical inactivity, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, fighting, and being sexually active.

High school students participating in the 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey were asked, “On an average school night, how many hours of sleep do you get?” Responses were categorized into insufficient sleep (less than 8 hours), and sufficient sleep (8 or more hours of sleep) as the recommended number of hours of sleep suggested for this age group by the National Sleep Foundation Researchers found that 68.9 percent of adolescent responders reported insufficient sleep on an average school night. Students who reported insufficient sleep were more likely to engage in the health-risk behavior than students who reported sufficient sleep. There was no association found between insufficient sleep and watching 3 or more hours of television per day.

Insufficient sleep was associated with the 10 health-risk behaviors examined below:

* Drank soda or pop 1 or more times per day (not including diet soda or diet pop)
* Did not participate in 60 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more of the past 7 days
* Used computers 3 or more hours each day
* In a physical fight 1 or more times
* Current cigarette use
* Current alcohol use
* Current marijuana use
* Currently sexually active
* Felt sad or hopeless
* Seriously considered attempting suicide

“Many adolescents are not getting the recommended hours of sleep they need on school nights. Insufficient sleep is associated with participation in a number of health–risk behaviors including substance use, physical fighting, and serious consideration of suicide attempt,” said Lela McKnight–Eily, PhD, Division of Adult and Community Health. “Public health intervention is greatly needed, and the consideration of delayed school start times may hold promise as one effective step in a comprehensive approach to address this problem.”
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Pathway to a Pre-K-12 Future


Transforming Public Education: Pathway to a Pre-K-12 Future

This report challenges our nation’s policy makers to transform public education by moving from a K-12 to a Pre-K-12 system. This vision is grounded in rigorous research and informed by interviews with education experts, as well as lessons from Pew’s decade-long initiative to advance high-quality pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds.

The report also reflects work by leading scholars and institutions to identify the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in school and the teaching practices that most effectively develop them. Together, these analyses and perspectives form a compelling case for why America’s education system must start earlier, with pre-k, to deliver the results that children, parents and taxpayers deserve.

State investment in pre-k programs has more than doubled in the past decade, but states have yet to maximize the impact of high-quality pre-k on children’s academic performances. Bridging early education and school reform will strengthen the return on investment from the billions of public and private dollars that are being spent each year on increasing academic achievement.
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Participation levels and trends in a targeted voluntary prekindergarten program


Research shows that high-quality prekindergarten (PreK) programs prepare children for later success in school. Tennessee adopted a voluntary PreK program in 2005/06 that is targeted at four-year-olds who are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch. To help meet coverage goals, collaborating partners were allowed to offer seats through the PreK program. Such partners, including Head Start and other early education and early care providers, receive some state PreK funding when they collaborate with their local education agency to provide an approved PreK program at a location other than a public school.

This study reviews participation levels and trends during the first four years of the program, including those for collaborative partner classrooms and for student and district subgroups. It also discusses the geographic distribution of program sites.

Findings of the report include:

• From 2005/06 to 2008/09, the number of PreK program participants increased from 6,943 to 18,746, the percentage of eligible children participating increased from 18 percent to 42 percent, and the percentage of local education agencies participating increased from 83 percent to nearly 99 percent.
• The number of participants at collaborative partner classrooms increased from 1,428 in 2005/06 to 3,621 in 2008/09, accounting for 21 percent of participants in 2005/06 and 19 percent in 2008/09. Collaborative partner classrooms consistently accounted for approximately 21 percent of total PreK program classrooms.
• PreK program participation levels and rates increased for all subgroups examined but exhibited varying growth rates across student and district subgroups.
• The majority of public PreK program sites were located in the four major urban areas of Tennessee. Collaborative partner sites were more evenly distributed across rural and nonrural areas.
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Older Fathers No Detriment to Their Children's Grades


Children of older fathers do not perform any worse in school than those with fathers in their 30s, as researchers had once feared, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet published in the online science journal PLoS ONE.

The average age of a man at the birth of his first child has risen sharply over the past few decades, a trend that is particularly pronounced in the Stockholm region. Several earlier studies have revealed a correlation between the father's age and the risk of his child developing uncommon neuropsychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia and bipolarism. Recent studies have also suggested that high paternal age can have a negative impact on his child s cognition.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have therefore conducted a study to see if there is a similar correlation between high paternal age and the child's final year-nine grades. This present study is based on data from over 135,000 children in Stockholm, who left compulsory school between 2000 and 2007, and tested the hypothesis that any negative consequences of the father's age on the child's IQ would be offset by the social advantages that being raised by older parents brings.

"To the delight of fathers choosing to wait before having children, our results suggest that children of older fathers perform no worse in school," says Anna Svensson, study leader at the Department of Public Health Sciences. "When we studied children's final year-nine grades we could see no difference between children of fathers in their 50s and children of fathers in their 30s."

Children of even younger fathers performed slightly worse in school, although these difference could largely be attributed to differences in the parents' own educational background.
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Allowing Native Language in School Benefits Mexican-American Students


A new University of Missouri study shows that Mexican-American students who identify and practice speaking their native language have higher grades than those who are put in English-only environments in their schools.

David Aguayo, a doctoral student in the College of Education, found that Mexican-American students who spoke in their native languages had higher grade point averages.

“A real educational disparity exists because Mexican-Americans, along with other Latinos, are now the largest minority; yet, they still have the lowest high school and college graduation rates,” said David Aguayo, a doctoral student in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology in the College of Education. “I understand the reasons behind English-only efforts, but the research shows that if we don’t accept the cultural identity of these students in our schools, such as tolerating their native language, Mexican-Americans may not succeed.”

Aguayo compared survey results of 408 Mexican-American students. He examined whether the students were born in the U.S. or Mexico; the students’ grade point averages; and the students’ abilities to perform college-related tasks. Aguayo found that students who embraced their cultural heritage and spoke in their native languages had higher grade point averages than those that only spoke English while in school and at home.

“It’s a simple correlation, but living and learning within your cultural heritage is a benefit,” Aguayo said. “It could be speaking the language in school, eating certain foods, or interacting with other people who share your heritage. The stress level of being in a new culture will decrease if these students have a support system in school, while they are adjusting to other cultures.”

In the future, Aguayo will study the motivations of Mexican-American students who move to the U.S. Statistics show these students have more success in school than Mexican-American students who have lived in the U.S. their entire lives.

“Educators need to be aware of students’ home lives,” Aguayo said. “Immigrant parents, in particular, tend to put more trust in educators, rather than being involved in the child’s education like we normally see in the U.S. If educators can take the time to learn about the parents’ culture, the educators can have a positive impact on the students’ future.”

The study “Culture Predicts Mexican-Americans’ College Self-Efficacy and College Performance, was published in the journal Culture and College Outcomes.
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Little concrete evidence that single-sex schools are a better learning environment


But there is strong evidence for negative consequences of segregating by sex -- the collateral damage of segregating by sex.

Students who attend sex-segregated schools are not necessarily better educated than students who attend coeducational schools, but they are more likely to accept gender stereotypes, according to a team of psychologists.

"This country starts from the premise that educational experiences should be open to all and not segregated in any way," said Lynn S. Liben, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Human Development and Family Studies, and Education, Penn State. "To justify some kind of segregation there must be scientific evidence that it produces better outcomes."

In the current issue of Science, Liben and her colleagues report that there is little concrete evidence to support claims that single-sex schools are a better learning environment.

"Our examination of the existing studies leads us to conclude that there is not scientific evidence for positive effects of single-sex schooling," said Liben. "That's not to say that academic outcomes are definitively worse, but neither are they definitively better. Advantages have not been demonstrated."

Some supporters of single-sex schools claim that brain differences between boys and girls require different teaching styles. But neuroscientists have found few differences between male and female brains, and none has been linked to different learning styles.

When students are segregated by sex, they are not given opportunities to work together to develop the skills needed to interact with each other. When sex segregation occurs in public schools, the students are left to infer reasons for the separation. Are girls not as good as boys in some subjects? Are boys unable to learn in cooperative settings?

In 2010, Liben and her graduate student studied preschool classes to look at effects of gender divisions among the students. She found that after two weeks of teachers using gendered language and divisions -- lining children up by gender and asking boys and girls to post work on separate bulletin boards -- the students showed an increase in gender-stereotyped attitudes toward each other and their choice of toys, and they played less with children of the other sex.

"The choice to fight sexism by changing coeducational practices or segregating by gender has parallels to the fight against racism," the researchers write in the paper. "The preponderance of social science data indicated that racially segregated schools promote racial prejudice and inequality."

Currently most sex-segregated schools are private schools, and are often cited as evidence of the advantages of single-sex schools. However, private schools require admissions testing before students enter. Entrance exams and private school status make using existing single-sex schools as examples problematic when comparing them to public schools.

In 1972 the enactment of Title IX outlawed educational discrimination on the basis of sex. Students were no longer allowed to be excluded from a class because they happened to be male or female -- home economics and wood shop classes were now open to everyone. But in 2006 the U.S. Department of Education reinterpreted Title IX -- public schools are now legally allowed to segregate classes or even entire schools on the basis of sex, but only if they show that the division is related to important governmental or educational objectives.

Today there is a significant advocacy effort from those who encourage single-sex schools, said Liben. But there is no comparable effort for coeducational schools -- probably because it was the status quo after Title IX.

Liben and her colleagues formed the non-profit organization, the American Council for CoEducational Schooling, in part to help disseminate scientific data relevant to single-sex and coeducational schooling.

"The bottom line is that there is not good scientific evidence for the academic advantages of single-sex schooling," said Liben. "But there is strong evidence for negative consequences of segregating by sex -- the collateral damage of segregating by sex."
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Rethinking gifted education policy


Most people can probably name some award-winning athletes, musicians, and actors. But, if you were asked to name the winners of last year's Nobel Prizes in Economics, Physics, or Literature, could you do it?

In this report, in the September issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, a team of distinguished psychological scientists argue for a new framework for identifying and supporting giftedness in all domains in the United States.

In this country, athletic and other artistic performance talents are treated very differently from talents in more traditional academic areas. Children's performance and athletic abilities are identified, cultivated, actively nurtured, and often refined through intensive coaching and training. But this intense support is not always provided to children who display academic talents. According to the authors, Rena Subotnik of the American Psychological Association, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius of Northwestern University and Frank Worrell at the University of California, Berkeley, the academic community needs to join their colleagues in the arts and athletics in applying the science of optimal performance to the academic disciplines. "For example, judgments made by music or athletic talent scouts are based on demonstrations of how well one does on tasks that closely mirror actual demands made in those fields. Academic areas however, rarely rely on demonstrated achievement, but rather on standardized tests because K-12 teachers' judgments tend not to be sufficiently trusted," assert the authors.

In reviewing the current scientific literature on giftedness, the authors conclude that:

Giftedness isn't just about talent

Children need opportunities that expose them to advanced knowledge, skills and values in their field of interest and also need to be motivated to take advantage of these opportunities.

Gifted students need psychological strength training
Academically talented young people need the same kind of mental skills training given to athletes and artistic performers to help talented students deal with the pressure that comes with both challenge and success.

Eminence should be the goal of gifted education

Society would benefit from increasing the number of individuals who make path breaking, field-altering discoveries and creative contributions by their products, innovations, and gifted education should be organized to provide the supports for optimal performance and productivity.

At the moment, some fields are much better at identifying which students will perform or produce optimally and provide them with a road-map for achieving eminence. The authors argue that the US needs an educational system that supports talented children much better and with greater attention paid to research. "Our schools have cabinets and hallways with athletic and cheer-leading trophies that elicit school-wide pride. Academic abilities, viewed by some, as resulting from natural abilities and no effort, are rarely acknowledged for fear of reinforcing the idea that the success of some students highlights the impossibility of success for other students," the authors say in conclusion.
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Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools


This new report provides research-based evidence of the decline in civic learning in American schools and presents six proven practices that should be at the heart of every school's approach to civic learning. It also provides recommendations for education policymakers to ensure every student acquires the civic skills and knowledge needed for an informed, engaged citizenry.
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State Capacity for School Improvement: A First Look at Agency Resources


The current emphasis on school performance and accountability is expected to continue. As a consequence, the number of low-performing schools will increase as academic achievement targets become more stringent. In response, the federal government has begun to look to state education agencies (SEAs) to play a more direct role in turning around schools in need of improvement. This increased emphasis, however, takes place at a time when public resources are becoming increasingly constrained.

The expectation that SEAs will play an expanded role in turning around low-performing schools raises a critical question: Will SEAs have the capacity to fulfill their new obligations? This study from the Center on Reinventing Public Education takes a first step toward answering that question, by examining how SEAs currently allocate their resources. Specifically, researchers asked:

- What functions do SEAs perform?
- How do SEAs distribute their resources across these functions?
- How does resource allocation compare across states relative to the scale of their responsibilities?
- What are the funding sources of SEA activities and do these sources vary across functions?

To answer these questions, researchers examined SEAs in eight states: California, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

Overall, researchers found the current investment in school improvement activities to be relatively modest, though the distribution varied across the states. This current assessment presents a relatively bleak picture in terms of SEAs’ capacity to play a greater role in school improvement. And this pessimistic impression is intensified by the fact that few additional resources are likely to be forthcoming, at least out of state general funds. In response to this fiscal reality, this report explores possible options for managing state agencies so that they are better positioned to play a central role in improving failing schools. The report concludes that greater flexibility in how SEAs allocate federally funded personnel would be a positive first step in an otherwise constrained environment.
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Recruitment, Retention and the Minority Teacher Shortage


This study examines and compares the recruitment and retention of minority and White elementary and secondary teachers and attempts to empirically ground the debate over minority teacher shortages. The data are from the National Center for Education Statistics’ nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey and its longitudinal supplement, the Teacher Follow-up Survey.

The data analyses show that a gap continues to persist between the percentage of minority students and the percentage of minority teachers in the U.S. school system. But this gap is not due to a failure to recruit new minority teachers. Over the past two decades, the number of minority teachers has almost doubled, outpacing growth in both the number of White teachers and the number of minority students. Minority teachers are also overwhelmingly employed in public schools serving high-poverty, high-minority and urban communities. Hence, the data suggest that widespread efforts over the past several decades to recruit more minority teachers and employ them in hard-to-staff and disadvantaged schools have been very successful.

This increase in the proportion of teachers who are minority is remarkable because the data also show that over the past two decades, turnover rates among minority teachers have been significantly higher than among White teachers. Moreover, though schools’ demographic characteristics appear to be highly important to minority teachers’ initial employment decisions, this does not appear to be the case for their later decisions to stay or depart. Neither a school’s poverty-level student enrollment, a school’s minority student enrollment, a school’s proportion of minority teachers, nor whether the school was in an urban or suburban community was consistently or significantly related to the likelihood that minority teachers would stay or depart, after controlling for other background factors.

In contrast, organizational conditions in schools were strongly related to minority teacher departures. Indeed, once organizational conditions are held constant, there was no significant difference in the rates of minority and White teacher turnover. The schools in which minority teachers have disproportionately been employed have had, on average, less positive organizational conditions than the schools where White teachers are more likely to work, resulting in disproportionate losses of minority teachers.

The organizational conditions most strongly related to minority teacher turnover were the level of collective faculty decision-making influence and the degree of individual classroom autonomy held by teachers; these factors were more significant than were salary, professional development or classroom resources. Schools allowing more autonomy for teachers in regard to classroom issues and schools with higher levels of faculty input into school-wide decisions had far lower levels of turnover.
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Projections of Education Statistics to 2020


This publication provides projections for key education statistics. It includes statistics on enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures in elementary and secondary schools, and enrollment and earned degrees conferred expenditures of degree-granting institutions. For the Nation, the tables, figures, and text contain data on enrollment, teachers, graduates, and expenditures for the past 14 years and projections to the year 2019. For the 50 States and the District of Columbia, the tables, figures, and text contain data on projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment and public high school graduates to the year 2019. In addition, the report includes a methodology section describing models and assumptions used to develop national and state-level projections.

Postsecondary enrollment rose by 43 percent between 1995 and 2009, and is projected to increase another 13 percent by 2020. The Projections of Education Statistics to 2020 provides national-level data on enrollment, teachers, high school graduates, and expenditures at the elementary and secondary school level and enrollment and earned degrees at the postsecondary level for the past 14 years and projections to the year 2020. This is the 39th edition of a publication first initiated in 1964.

Other findings include:
* Enrollment in elementary and secondary schools rose 10 percent between 1995 and 2008 and is projected to increase an additional 7 percent between 2008 and 2020.

* Reflecting actual and projected changes in the high school-age population, the number of high school graduates increased by 32 percent between 1995-96 and 2007-08, and a decrease of 3 percent is projected by 2020-21.

* After adjusting for inflation, current expenditure per pupil increased by 32 percent between 1995-96 and 2007-08, and a further increase of 14 percent is projected by 2020-21.

This compendium is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education.
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Both social media use and First Amendment appreciation are growing among high school students


While social media have been blamed for teen ills from narcissism to cyberbullying, a new study offers an inspiring perspective: as social media use has grown in the United States, so has students’ appreciation for the First Amendment. The national study was released to coincide with the celebration of Constitution Day.

The Future of the First Amendment study found:

Both social media use and First Amendment appreciation are growing among high school students. More than three-quarters of students use social media several times a week to get news and information. Meanwhile, the percentage of students who believe “the First Amendment goes too far” in protecting the rights of citizens has dropped to a quarter (24 percent) in 2011 from nearly half (45 percent) in 2006.

There is a clear, positive relationship between social media use and appreciation of the First Amendment. Fully 91 percent of students who use social networking daily to get news and information agree that “people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.” But only 77 percent of those who never use social networks to get news agree that unpopular opinions should be allowed.

Still, many teachers believe social media harms education. Most teachers also do not support free expression for students. Only 35 percent, for example, agree that “high school students should be allowed to report controversial issues in their student newspapers without the approval of school authorities.” In addition, teachers are more inclined to think that the emergence of the newest forms of digital media have harmed (49 percent) rather than helped (39 percent) student learning.

The study, conducted through interviews with 12,090 students and 900 teachers nationwide, was written by Dr. Kenneth Dautrich, a senior researcher at The Pert Group. It is the fourth Future of the First Amendment study done by Dr. Dautrich for Knight Foundation since 2004.

Credit: Column Five Media
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Average Performance of U.S. Students Relative to International Peers on the Most Recent International Assessments in Reading, Mathematics, and Science


See complete report

The most recent U.S. results on international assessments of reading, mathematics, and science literacy are those from the 2006 PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study), the 2007 TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), and the 2009 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment).

The following analysis used the International Data Explorer, a web-based data tool on the NCES website that allows users to produce their own statistical analyses online, to compare the average scores of U.S. students in each subject and at each grade level with their peers from around the world. The results below are based on comparisons of different countries' education systems' average scores with the international average on each assessment. For more information about the calculation of the international averages, see About This Analysis.


At grade 4, U.S. students performed above the international average in all three subjects and at grade 8, U.S. students performed above the international average in both mathematics and science (reading is not assessed internationally at grade 8). However, at age 15, U.S. students performed below the international average in mathematics literacy and not different from the international average in reading and science literacy.

Other systems with average scores above the international average in at least one subject at grade 4 but below the international average at age 15 included Austria, Bulgaria, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, Spain, and Sweden.

U.S. states Massachusetts and Minnesota (the only states that reported separately in the last round of international assessments) each had average scores above the international average in: mathematics and science at both grades 4 and 8.

Education systems that scored above the international average in all subjects and age or grade levels they assessed included Hong Kong-China and Singapore, which participated in the most recent assessments in each subject offered at all three age levels, as well as Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Shanghai-China, and Switzerland, which did not assess every age or grade level in all subjects offered.

Australia, Chinese Taipei, Germany, and Poland scored above the international average in all subjects and age levels they assessed, except one in which they were not measurably different.
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Military Service Members and Veterans in Undergraduate and Graduate Education


A new NCES report found that in 2007–08, about 4 percent of all undergraduates and about 4 percent of all graduate students were veterans or military service members. Military Service Members and Veterans: A Profile of Those Enrolled in Undergraduate and Graduate Education in 2007–08, a Statistics in Brief, presents these military students’ demographic and enrollment characteristics and compares them with their nonmilitary counterparts.

Results are based on nationally representative data collected through the 2007–08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:08) and the 2004/06 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/06).

Findings include:

• In 2007-08, just prior to the implementation to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, about 38 percent of military undergraduates and 20 percent of military graduate students used GI Bill education benefits.

• At both the undergraduate and graduate level, military students were more likely than their nonmilitary peers to be male, married, and enrolled in at least one distance education class.
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The Post-High School Outcomes of Young Adults With Disabilities


The Post-High School Outcomes of Young Adults With Disabilities up to 8 Years After High School: Key Findings From the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 is a report that uses data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 dataset to provide a national picture of post-high school outcomes for students with disabilities. The report describes the experiences and outcomes of young adults with disabilities in postsecondary education, employment, independence, and social domains during their first 8 years out of high school.

Selected findings include:

* Sixty percent of young adults with disabilities reported having continued on to postsecondary education within 8 years of leaving high school.
* Ninety-one percent of young adults with disabilities reported having been employed at some time since leaving high school, holding an average of four jobs.
* Ninety-four percent of young adults with disabilities reported having been engaged in employment, postsecondary education, and/or job training during this post-high school period.
* Fifty-nine percent of young adults with disabilities had lived independently (on their own or with a spouse, partner, or roommate), and 4 percent had lived semi-independently (primarily in a college dormitory or military housing).
* The participation rate of young adults with disabilities in any one of three types of social and community involvement activities—lessons or classes outside of school, volunteer or community service activities, and organized school or community groups—was 52 percent, ranging from 20 percent to 39 percent of young adults across the three types of activities.
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Performance Trends of Top Students


Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s latest study, "Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students," is the first to examine the performance of America’s highest-achieving children over time at the individual-student level. Produced in partnership with the Northwest Evaluation Association, it finds that many high-achieving students struggle to maintain their elite performance over the years and often fail to improve their reading ability at the same rate as their average and below-average classmates.

The study released today finds that 30 to 50 percent of America’s best students fail to maintain their elite performance over time. Analysts also find that high-achieving students fail to improve as quickly in reading as their low-achieving and average peers.

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) analysts Yun Xiang, Michael Dahlin, John Cronin, Robert Theaker, and Sarah Durant authored the study, Do High Flyers Maintain Their Performance: Performance Trends of Top Students. They examined more than 120,000 students in 1,500+ schools located in most states. By following individual pupil progress in math and reading from third to eighth grade in one cohort, and from sixth to tenth grade in another, they were able to gauge the academic growth of the country’s highest achievers. The study sought to determine whether these “high flyers”—originally scoring at or above the 90th percentile— “maintain their altitude” over time? The answer? While most did, almost half did not.

The study raises troubling questions: Is our obsession with closing achievement gaps and “leaving no child behind” coming at the expense of our “talented tenth”—and America’s future international competitiveness?

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Districts Taking Action to Implement Common Standards, Though Funding is a Concern


District Officials View Common State Standards as More Rigorous, Expect New Standards to Improve Learning



The common core state standards in math and English language arts are moving closer to implementation at the school district level in states that have adopted them, according to a new study by the Center on Education Policy (CEP). The results are based on a nationally representative survey of school districts conducted in the winter and spring of 2011.

Fifty-seven percent or more of the districts in states that have adopted the common core standards agree that the new standards in math and English language arts are more rigorous than the ones they are replacing, the study found. A similar proportion of districts expect the common core standards to improve students’ skills in these subjects.

Moreover, district officials see relatively little resistance to the standards from parents, community members, and local educators, according to the study. Only 10 percent of districts in the adopting states consider resistance from teachers and principals to be a major challenge in implementing the standards, and just 5 percent view resistance from parents and community members as a major challenge.

“Advocates have been concerned about the extent to which the common standards would be embraced locally, so it’s good news that most district officials have positive views about the standards’ rigor and learning potential and that they anticipate little community and educator resistance,” said Diane Stark Rentner, CEP’s director of national programs and a co-author of the study.

The report, Common Core Standards: Progress and Challenges in School Districts’ Implementation, details districts’ views about the impact of the common core standards and their progress and challenges in implementing the standards. Data were drawn from a survey administered to a nationally representative sample of school districts from February through April of 2011. All responses came from districts in the 44 states that had adopted the standards at the time of the analysis. To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the common core standards, which were released in June 2010 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Districts are also taking actions to implement the standards, the study found.

Sixty-six percent of the districts in the adopting states have begun to develop a comprehensive plan and timeline for implementing the standards or intend to do so this school year. Sixty-one percent are developing and/or purchasing curriculum materials aligned to the standards or plan to do so this school year. Forty-eight percent are providing or plan to provide standards-related professional development to math and English language arts teachers. Less than one-third of the districts are undertaking other activities related to implementing the common standards, such as aligning teacher evaluation or induction programs or assigning resource teachers to help teachers integrate the standards into their instruction.

District officials are concerned about the adequacy of funding to implement the common core standards and what they see as a lack of clarity in state guidance, the study noted. About three-quarters of districts saw adequate funding to implement all aspects of the standards as a major challenge, and another 21 percent viewed this as a minor challenge. About two-thirds of the districts cited inadequate or unclear state guidance on such issues as modifying teacher evaluation systems to conform to the standards and aligning local assessments with the standards as major challenges.
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Preschoolers' grasp of numbers predicts math performance in school years


Study reveals link between early number sense and elementary math scores

A new study published today in the journal PLoS ONE reports that the precision with which preschoolers estimate quantities, prior to any formal education in mathematics, predicts their mathematics ability in elementary school, according to research from the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Humans have an intuitive sense of number that allows them, for example, to readily identify which of two containers has more objects without counting. This ability is present at birth, and gradually improves throughout childhood. Although it's easier to compare quantities if the amounts differ greatly (such as 30 versus 15 objects), greater precision is needed when comparing items that are much closer in number. When this ability is measured during the school age years, it correlates with mathematics achievement. However, it has been unclear until now whether this intuitive ability actually serves as a foundation for school-age math abilities.

Results of the new study show that children's ability to make numerical estimates in preschool predicted their performance on mathematical tests taken in elementary school, more than two years later. The relationship appeared to be specific to math ability, because preschool number skills did not predict other abilities, such as expressive vocabulary or the ability to quickly name objects like letters or numbers.

"Children vary widely in both their numerical and non-numerical cognitive abilities at all ages," said Dr. Michele Mazzocco, Director of the Math Skills Development Project at Kennedy Krieger Institute and lead author of the study. "Based on earlier data showing a relationship between intuitive number skills and formal mathematics, we were interested to learn whether numerical skills measured prior to schooling predict the level of mathematics skills children demonstrate years later, in a formal educational setting."

Mazzocco, along with researchers Lisa Feigenson and Justin Halberda of Johns Hopkins University, examined the performance of 17 children (7 girls, 10 boys) who had taken part in an earlier study of numerical abilities as preschoolers. At ages three and four, the children had been asked to judge which of two sets of objects, such as blue or red crayons, had more items. In this new study, researchers measured the same children's math abilities more than two years later using a standardized mathematics assessment that involved a wide range of skills like counting, reading and writing numbers, and simple arithmetic.

"It was striking to find evidence that basic number abilities at such a young age may play a role in formal math achievement," said Mazzocco. "But additional studies are needed to determine whether these skills are malleable at an early age, how they contribute to math achievement and if they are related to other known influences on math performance."
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