Children of Deployed Military at Greater Risk of Engaging in Violent Behavior


Adolescent boys with at least one parent in the military are at elevated risk of engaging in school-based physical fighting, carrying a weapon and joining a gang, according to research presented today at the American Public Health Association’s 139th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The study by researchers at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health looked at the strain of military deployment on U.S. families, particularly its toll on adolescent boys and girls whose parents are on active duty. The research is based on data from the 2008 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey of more than 10,000 adolescents in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades of public schools.

The study finds that military deployment is associated with a 1.77 higher odds of physical fighting and 2.14 higher odds of gang membership among adolescent boys in 8th grade. Girls in 8th grade with at least one parent in the military were at twice the risk of carrying a weapon.

According to the findings, older youth have a higher likelihood of engaging in risky behavior. In 10th and 12th grade, girls with a deployed parent had higher odds of reporting school-based weapon carrying (2.2) and physical fighting (2.6), and being a member of a gang (2.84). Boys with a deployed parent were at increased risk of school-based weapon carrying (2.87) and physical fighting (2.48), and gang membership (2.08). The connection between the negative behavior was constant after controlling for grade, race/ethnicity and maternal education.

Researchers say some youth miss out on the opportunity to learn positive health behaviors while a parent is serving. They cite deployment cycle stress including predeployment, deployment and reintegration; long and multiple deployments; differences in components (e.g., active duty vs. National Guard); challenges in accessing support services; and emotional distress of the non-deployed parent/caregiver as possible pathways to missed opportunities.

“This study raises serious concerns about an under recognized consequence of war. How children cope with their parent’s deployment is a real issue that countless families are confronted with every day,” said Sarah Reed, MPH, MSW, LICSW, lead researcher of the study. “There is a unique opportunity here to intervene and offer these children – who are acutely vulnerable to negative influences – the support they need so they don’t turn to violence as a way to help cope.”

Researchers emphasize the urgent need for greater support of innovative school- and community-based initiatives that improve the health and safety of youth in military families. In 2010, 1.98 million United States children had at least one parent serving in the military. This is a follow-up study that Reed and her team conducted earlier this year that analyzed mental health problems of children with military parents.
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Student Test Scores Suffer from Even Subtle Background Noise


Teachers do all they can to provide a productive learning experience for their students, but some factors are beyond their control and may actually be dragging down standardized test scores. According to research on third- and fifth-grade classrooms presented at the 162nd meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), fifth-grade students were found to have lower reading test scores in classrooms with higher background noise. A similar negative trend was observed between the fifth-grade language achievement test scores and background noise levels.

The noise the researchers measured and compared to test scores was not the expected cacophony of nearby traffic or occasional outbursts from unruly students. Instead the noise came from the steady droning and humming of the air conditioning and heating systems.

“Our research shows that many students are forced to learn and teachers are required to work in conditions that simply do not aid in the learning experience,” said Lauren M. Ronsse, now with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Ill. She and her doctoral advisor Lily M. Wang of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln measured the background noise in 67 unoccupied third- and fifth-grade classrooms in a Nebraska public school district. The researchers were primarily interested in the noise produced by the ever-present heating and cooling systems in the schools. These systems produce a constant source of background noise that they believe could mask sounds, muddle oral communications, and interfere with comprehension during instructions. The sound measurements were specifically conducted in empty classrooms since design guidelines often specify desired unoccupied acoustic conditions. Higher levels of noise in unoccupied conditions are linked to higher noise levels when those rooms are occupied by students, since students have to express themselves more loudly to be easily heard.

In this study, the researchers placed a sound level meter at the center of each classroom. With the support of teachers and school administrators, they took a number of baseline readings to gauge the intrinsic noise of the air systems. The research went on for 5 months, from January through May 2010. It was typically conducted after the end of the school day, from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

After the measurements were completed, the researchers compared the background noise levels of the classrooms to the standardized student achievement scores. They observed statistically significant correlations among the fifth-grade students, though the negative effect was not observed among the third-grade students.

A previous study by the researchers suggested that the maximum allowable classroom background noise levels to reach Iowa state targets for student reading comprehension scores should be approximately 41 decibels, which is the noise level found in an average office setting. To reach the optimal Nebraska state targets for student reading scores, however, their new research indicates that the background noise in a classroom should be as low as 28 decibels, which is actually just above a whisper and quieter than the humming of a refrigerator.

“The results from these studies indicate that elementary schools should be built with building mechanical systems that are certainly quieter than 40 decibels in the classrooms to optimize student learning in the reading comprehension and language subject areas,” said Ronsse.
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Technical Aptitude: Do Women Score Lower Because They Just Aren’t Interested?


Boys do better on tests of technical aptitude (for example, mechanical aptitude tests) than girls. The same is true for adults. A new study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, describes a theory explaining how the difference comes about: the root cause is that boys are just more interested in technical things, like taking apart a bike, than girls are.

Aptitude tests are used to predict how well people will do in school and on jobs. These tests focus on particular skills or kinds of specific aptitude, like verbal or technical aptitude.

But the last few decades of research have found that what really matters is general intelligence, not specific aptitudes, says Frank Schmidt of the University of Iowa, author of the new paper. “The factors that are measured by the specific aptitude tests independent of the general intelligence component in these tests don’t make any contribution to job performance.” Smart people, researchers have found, are able to learn the requirements of any job if they are motivated to. And research shows that men and women do not differ, on average, in general intelligence.

Technical aptitude measures are often used as a component of general intelligence measures, so Schmidt wanted to know why women and men score differently on technical aptitude in particular. He analyzed data from the 10 subtest Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, to look at how men and women differed on the tests, including those on technical aptitude. He found that at all intelligence levels women score lower on technical aptitude than men at that intelligence level. Also, at all levels of technical aptitude women had higher levels of general intelligence. So if technical aptitude tests are used as part of a measure of general intelligence, women could receive intelligence scores that are too low. That is, technical aptitude tests may be biased indicators of general intelligence for girls and women.

Schmidt presented a theory that posits that this difference stems from sex differences in interest in technical pursuits, which leads people to acquire technical experience, which in turn increases technical aptitude scores. He presented evidence that among men technical experience does lead to better scores on technical aptitude tests. To find out for sure, someone would have to do a long-term study looking at whether early interests develop into later aptitudes, as opposed to the opposite theory that aptitudes cause interests. If his theory is right, it might be possible to narrow the gap in technical aptitude by getting girls more interested in technical areas. Interest should lead to aptitude. But that may not work, Schmidt says. “The research shows it’s very hard to change people’s interests,” he says. “They’re pretty stable and they form pretty early in life.”

It’s more important, he says, to make sure that the tests used to measure general intelligence aren’t using biased indicators. “That is quite possible today. You can either not use technical aptitude tests or you can use them and counterbalance them,” he says, with tests that women tend to do better on, like perceptual speed or some verbal tests.
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Curiosity Is Critical to Academic Performance


Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it's good for the student. That's the conclusion of a new study published in Perspectives in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The authors show that curiosity is a big part of academic performance. In fact, personality traits like curiosity seem to be as important as intelligence in determining how well students do in school.

Intelligence is important to academic performance, but it's not the whole story. Everyone knows a brilliant kid who failed school, or someone with mediocre smarts who made up for it with hard work. So psychological scientists have started looking at factors other than intelligence that make some students do better than others.

One of those is conscientiousness -- basically, the inclination to go to class and do your homework. People who score high on this personality trait tend to do well in school. "It's not a huge surprise if you think of it, that hard work would be a predictor of academic performance," says Sophie von Stumm of the University of Edinburgh in the UK. She co-wrote the new paper with Benedikt Hell of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic of Goldsmiths University of London.

von Stumm and her coauthors wondered if curiosity might be another important factor. "Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration," von Stumm says. "If you're intellectually curious, you'll go home, you'll read the books. If you're perceptually curious, you might go traveling to foreign countries and try different foods." Both of these, she thought, could help you do better in school.

The researchers performed a meta-analysis, gathering the data from about 200 studies with a total of about 50,000 students. They found that curiosity did, indeed, influence academic performance. In fact, it had quite a large effect, about the same as conscientiousness. When put together, conscientiousness and curiosity had as big an effect on performance as intelligence.

von Stumm wasn't surprised that curiosity was so important. "I'm a strong believer in the importance of a hungry mind for achievement, so I was just glad to finally have a good piece of evidence," she says. "Teachers have a great opportunity to inspire curiosity in their students, to make them engaged and independent learners. That is very important."

Employers may also want to take note: a curious person who likes to read books, travel the world, and go to museums may also enjoy and engage in learning new tasks on the job. "It's easy to hire someone who has the done the job before and hence, knows how to work the role," von Stumm says. "But it's far more interesting to identify those people who have the greatest potential for development, i.e. the curious ones."
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The Changing Role of States in Education


The Move from Compliance to Performance Management

Full report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education

State education agencies are being pushed to move from their historically passive role of monitoring compliance to a more active role in managing school performance. Events have coalesced to push for this transformation, including the 2001 NCLB Act, which requires SEAs to oversee performance at the school and district level. But in a politically charged environment with few additional resources, SEAs face considerable challenges in taking on this new role. A recent Center on Reinventing Public Education report points to federal restrictions on resource allocations as one of several obstacles standing in the way of SEAs assuming their new, active role.

This essay outlines the known factors constraining efforts to transform SEAs into performance managers (limited resources, short timeline, and rapidly changing parameters). The authors also ponder the unknown challenges, identifying gaps in the knowledge on how SEAs operate (resources, structures, and authority). To successfully take on the role of performance mangers, states will need to identify critical points of leverage, repurpose limited resources, and secure the authority needed to drive change down to the school level. As the authors point out, it’s not clear what the successful SEA of the future will look like, but it is likely that the unsuccessful ones will be very similar to the SEAs of today.
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The Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement

A Meta-Analysis of the Literature

Charter schools are largely viewed as a major innovation in the public school landscape, as they receive more independence from state laws and regulations than do traditional public schools, and are therefore more able to experiment with alternative curricula, pedagogical methods, and different ways of hiring and training teachers. Unlike traditional public schools, charters may be shut down by their authorizers for poor performance. But how is charter school performance measured? What are the effects of charter schools on student achievement?

Assessing literature that uses either experimental (lottery) or student-level growth- based methods, this analysis infers the causal impact of attending a charter school on student performance. Focusing on math and reading scores, the authors find compelling evidence that charters under-perform traditional public schools in some locations, grades and subjects, and out-perform traditional public schools in other locations, grades and subjects. However, important exceptions include elementary school reading and middle school math and reading, where evidence suggests no negative effects of charter schools and, in some cases, evidence of positive effects. Meta-analytic methods are used to obtain overall estimates on the effect of charter schools on reading and math achievement.

The authors find an overall effect size for elementary school reading and math of 0.02 and 0.05, respectively, and for middle school math of 0.055. Effects are not statistically meaningful for middle school reading and for high school math and reading. Studies that focus on urban areas tend to find larger effects than do studies that examine wider areas. Studies of KIPP charter middle schools suggest positive effects of 0.096 and 0.223 for reading and math respectively. New York City and Boston charter schools also appeared to deliver achievement gains larger than charter schools in most other locations. A lack of rigorous studies in many parts of the nation limits the ability to extrapolate.
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Trends and Early Lessons on Teacher Evaluation and Effectiveness Policies


The move to rethink how to evaluate teachers and explicitly tie assessments of teacher performance to student achievement marks an important shift in thinking about teacher quality. The change is significant because policymaking around improving teacher quality to date has focused almost exclusively on teachers’ qualifications rather than on their effectiveness in the classroom and the results they get with students.

The landscape is changing. There are a host of policy recommendations focused on increasing the effectiveness of the teacher workforce that turn on the critical need to be able to evaluate and differentiate teacher performance reliably and consistently with clear criteria that include measures of how well teachers move students forward academically.

In addition to providing a 50-state overview of teacher effectiveness policies, this paper, from the National Council on Teacher Quality looks more in-depth at the characteristics of the 17 states and the District of Columbia Public Schools1 that are giving student achievement a significant, objective, meaningful and measurable role in how teacher performance is assessed: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and

Today 23 states require that teacher evaluations include not just some attention to student learning, but objective evidence of student learning in the form of student growth and/or value-added data. n Seventeen states and the DCPS have adopted legislation or regulations that specifically require that student achievement and/or student growth will “significantly” inform or be the preponderant criterion in teacher evaluations.

In 18 states and DCPS, teachers are eligible for dismissal based on teacher evaluation results, although it is in only 13 of those states that teacher evaluations are explicitly tied to student performance. Though the states we analyzed stand out for their specific focus on student achievement, it is still early to truly assess the state of the states on teacher evaluation. A few places, such as Delaware and D.C. Public Schools, are already implementing teacher evaluation systems. Others, such as Idaho and Minnesota, have just passed new requirements, and there has been no time for them to translate new policies into practice.

Still other states, such as Colorado and New York, are deeply engaged in the process of developing evaluation instruments, negotiating specific system operating rules and in some cases, fighting hard battles to maintain commitment to a system where student learning is central to defining teacher performance.

While most policies are still very new, with many of the details to be determined, the changing landscape of teacher evaluation policy provides an opportunity to reflect on some of the early lessons:
- Teacher effectiveness measures don’t have to be perfect to be useful. Are emerging teacher effectiveness measures perfect? No. But they are a marked improvement on evaluation systems that find 99 percent of teachers effective with little attention to a teacher’s impact on students and offer little meaningful information on teachers’ strengths, weaknesses and professional development needs.
- Insistence on comparability of measures for all teachers could cripple evaluation efforts. The drive to identify or develop comparable measures for teachers regardless of grade or subject taught is understandable, but the more important emphasis ought to be on fair and valid measures.
- - Designing measures of student growth for non-tested grades and subjects is an important challenge facing states. Thinking about the full complement of teachers – including K-2, social studies, special education, and non-core subject area teachers – states are approaching the challenge of how to develop fair and rigorous measures of student growth and achievement for all teachers in a variety of ways.
- - States shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of classroom observations. While there is a great deal of attention focused on linking value-added and student growth results to teacher evaluation, it is equally important to gather evidence observing behavior – what teachers do and what students are learning in the classroom – during classroom observation.
- - In addition to providing actionable feedback to all teachers, perhaps the most useful initial capacity of new evaluations will be to discern the most and least effective teachers. The precision of growth and value-added data may not be at a very high level of sophistication but that doesn’t mean they should be discounted.
- - Stakeholder input is important – but bold leadership is even more important. - Nothing about building a truly effective teaching force is going to come easy and the reality is that teacher reform is being met with unparalleled, vocal opposition. While it is critically important to have stakeholder voices represented, it must be balanced with real leadership and technical expertise where necessary.
- State review and approval of district evaluations may not be an adequate approach to ensuring quality and rigor.
- State approval sounds like a good idea in states that leave it to districts to design a performance-based teacher evaluation system. But it may not be realistic given state capacity. These states may do better to provide specific tools, models and detailed frameworks for conducting and scoring teacher evaluations. States that have left districts to their own devices without any oversight are even more worrisome. There is a good reason to be skeptical that all districts in such states will have the capacity and will to implement strong evaluation systems on their own.
- States should start with annual evaluations for all teachers and modify for highly effective teachers once the system is fully operational.
- Modifying an evaluation system to allow for less than full fledged annual evaluation may be sensible in some states, given issues of capacity, but states shouldn’t start out that way.
- States and districts should use third party evaluators when possible.A third party evaluator can provide important feedback on the evaluation process and important checks for principals and other administrators.
- A scarlet letter isn’t appropriate teacher effectiveness policy.
Some think parental notification for students whose teachers received ineffective ratings is good
accountability policy. But this humiliation tactic does a tremendous disservice to the teaching profession. Teachers with unacceptable levels of performance should be dismissed.
- Teacher evaluation policy should reflect the purpose of helping all teachers improve, not just low-performers.
Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad. Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers. States should anticipate and address the anxieties a new evaluation system creates for teachers.

Teachers, not unlike most of us, are afraid of the unknown. States can do more to anticipate fears and diminish tensions over performance-based evaluations. Escape clauses need to be shorn up and loopholes closed that may undermine new teacher evaluation systems.

Whether intentional or accidental, loopholes are already visible in some states’ evaluation policies that can undermine their intended rigor. Without quick action to shore up these identified weaknesses, states may find themselves disappointed with the results they achieve and/or fighting unnecessary battles. States need to get on top of policy plans for equitable distribution of effective teachers now.

Without some proactive planning, the exact opposite of more equitable distribution could occur when evaluation results are out and highly-effective teachers are identified. States need to attend to potential bias with systematic checks of their evaluation system; states also need to maintain flexibility to make adjustments to the system as needed.

We are at the beginning of a new policy era about which there is still much to learn. In light of that, states should implement checks to ensure their evaluation systems are fair and reliable. Evaluation systems need to be flexible enough to take advantage of what we learn and be able to adjust.

What this policy review and early lessons suggest is that performance-based teacher evaluation must be approached in a measured, realistic and transparent way. Performance measures are not perfect and good teachers are not the product of formulas. Conducting teacher performance evaluations that focus on the results and the behaviors that matter most will move us toward a system that recognizes and encourages effective instruction and prepares and values highly-effective teachers.

The policy implications of an evaluation system that truly measures teacher effectiveness are profound. If done well, and if policymakers act on the results, the consequences could change much of what is now standard practice in the teaching profession by setting the foundation for better targeted policies for struggling teachers, higher standards for teacher preparation programs and fair but rigorous policies for replacing persistently ineffective teachers. Compensating teachers based on effectiveness could help attract and retain the best teachers in the profession. A system that cultivates effectiveness will also be crucial to other reform efforts, from implementing new Common Core State Standards and promoting educational equity, to turning around low-performing schools.
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Study Examined Teacher Recruitment, Staffing, Compensation, Tenure and Evaluation Policies

A report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality on teacher policies in the Springfield MA Public Schools found that key teacher policies must be reformed in order for the district to be able to attract and retain highly effective teachers and drive an effective educational system where Springfield students can learn and thrive.

The in-depth study, Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in Springfield, was sponsored by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) and Springfield Business Leaders for Education. Designed as a tool to highlight what is and is not working in our local schools, the report compares Springfield’s policies with both surrounding districts and similar districts around the nation. The report also identifies local and state legislative reforms that would facilitate district efforts to recruit and retain highly effective teachers.

This report follows other NCTQ district spotlights in Baltimore, Boston, Hartford, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Having an effective teacher in every classroom is critical for improving student learning. Research has shown that teacher quality is the single most important school-controlled variable that influences student achievement. A 2002 study found that having a highly effective teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background.

This examination of the state of teacher policies in the Springfield Public Schools explores the district’s contract with its teachers, as well as district practices and state laws that shape the work rules for teachers. Additionally, NCTQ analyzed Springfield human resource data;conducted a district-wide survey of over 600 teachers and principals; and held focus groups with teachers, principals and community members.

The analysis is framed around five standards for improving teacher quality — staffing, evaluations, tenure, compensation and work schedule— which are supported by research and best practices from the field.

Among the report’s findings:
 Principal’s authority to build their own team and decide who teaches in their school buildings is limited. The district “force places” teachers into vacancies, instead of assignment by “mutual consent” of the principal and teacher that the placement is a good fit.
 Springfield’s leave package, at effectively 19.5 days, exceeds what is offered in comparable districts. In the 2009-2010 school year teachers were absent an average of 15 days, approximately one day every 2-1/2 weeks. Teacher absenteeism has been linked to learning losses for children.
 Springfield is revising its evaluation policies, largely due to new state regulations. Recent data shows that all but 0.6 percent of teachers evaluated received satisfactory or better ratings. Most problematic is that evaluations failed to factor in the most important measure of teachers’ effectiveness: their impact on student learning.
 As in most districts, the decision to award tenure is largely automatic with principals basing their decisions on the results of the current, weak evaluation tool where all teachers virtually are labeled satisfactory or exemplary.
 Salaries and lifetime earnings are lower in Springfield than in surrounding districts, making it difficult to attract highly effective teachers.
 Studies show that asking teachers to earn advanced credits, such as a master’s degree, has no impact on teacher quality, yet the district currently spends over $7 million of its resources on awarding high salaries to teachers who have taken advanced coursework. However, in recent years the district has made a positive step away from compensating teachers for advanced course credit by eliminating some intermediate pay grades.
 The pool of teachers seeking work in the district is largest in April, yet the district does not typically extend any offers to new teachers well until August when the pool has dwindled and the most qualified have found other placements.
 Commendably, Springfield’s contract provides its teachers with time to plan and work collaboratively each week.

This analysis is meant to serve a practical purpose, offering clearly articulated steps to pursue, including steps that the district might take alone, jointly with the teachers union, or to urge changes in Massachusetts state law.

Primary Recommendations

Work for the district

 Require teachers who lose their assignment to interview and pursue a new assignment, eliminating the practice of “force placements” where the district forces principals to accept teachers that may not be a good fit.
 Improve the overall caliber of teacher prospects by addressing inefficiencies in the current timeline for assigning teachers to schools, screening applicants more rigorously and paying more attention to their academic strengths.
 Make student performance the preponderant criterion on which teachers are evaluated.
 Develop a team of independent evaluators who are sent into schools to conduct random observations on teachers, for the dual purpose of validating principals’ evaluations and providing teachers with important content-specific feedback.

Work for the district and union

 Give displaced teachers two hiring cycles to secure a new assignment, at which point the district should no longer be contractually obligated to find teachers a placement.
 Base tenure decisions primarily on performance, including student data, and reward teachers with the most significant pay increase of their teaching career when they achieve it.
 Offer significantly higher salaries, not bonuses, to the best teachers who consistently produce the greatest learning gains, the top 5 to 15 percent of performers depending on what the district can afford.
 As the profession now demands, require teachers to work an 8-hour day onsite.
 Finish eliminating any salary increases associated with earning course credits by eliminating raises for advanced degrees.
 Schedule professional development when school is not in session; distribute training days throughout the year.
 Trim the leave package to be more in line with districts nationally, providing one day of leave per month worked.

Work for the state

 Allow performance to be a factor in determining which teachers will be laid off.
 To increase the reliability of the data that needs to be considered in tenure decisions, extend teachers’ probationary period to four years from three. Alternatively give principals the right to delay tenure a year.
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Lining up: The Relationship Between the Common Core State Standards and Five Sets of Comparison Standards


The Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC), designed and conducted this study to determine the extent of correspondence (alignment) between the exit level Common Core standards and each of five sets of existing standards. The sets of standards were selected because they were either identified as exemplary state standards, were explicitly written at the college readiness level, or represented a rigorous instructional program focused on college readiness. The purpose was to see if the Common Core standards cover similar content, how broadly they cover the comparison standards, and how the cognitive challenge level of aligned content matches up.

The comparison standards selected for the study come from two states that have been regarded as having high quality educational standards: California and Massachusetts. The Texas College and Career Readiness Standards are included because they represent one of the only sets of competencies and skill statements developed by a postsecondary education agency in collaboration with K-12 educators The other set of college readiness standards, the Knowledge and Skills for University Success (KSUS), were developed by university faculty in the early 2000s and represent the first set of such standards. Finally, to capture a more international perspective, the standards from the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme are also examined. The IB Diploma Programme is offered in 141 countries and is becoming increasingly popular in the US.

The specific comparison standards are as follows:
. California: The Content Standards for California Public Schools, for the 11th–12th grade band in English language arts and for 8th–12th grade band in mathematics (released in 1997)
. Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, for the 11th–12th grade band in English language arts (released in 2001) and mathematics (released in 2000)
. Texas: The Texas College and Career Readiness Standards in English/language arts, mathematics, and cross-disciplinary standards (released in 2008)
. KSUS: The Knowledge and Skills for University Success (KSUS) standards in English and mathematics,2 developed as college-preparatory standards by Standards for Success (released in 2003)
. IB: The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme English language arts and mathematics standards, developed by EPIC, for IB’s Programs of Study for 10th–12th grades3 (released in 2009)

The overall results of the study suggest substantial concurrence between the Common Core standards and the comparison standards, with somewhat greater alignment in mathematics than in ELA and literacy. For ELA and literacy, 36 of 40 analyses at the strand level meet the Categorical Concurrence criterion. For mathematics, all 25 analyses at the conceptual category level meet the Categorical Concurrence criterion.

The findings suggest general consistency between the cognitive challenge level of the Common Core standards and the five comparison standard sets. Mathematics shows somewhat more consistency of cognitive challenge than do the ELA and literacy standards. In ELA and literacy, 17 of 36 strand-level analyses indicate that the comparison standard sets are at or above the level of the Common Core standards. For mathematics, 19 of 25 conceptual category-level analyses indicate that the comparison standard sets are at or above the level of the Common Core standards.

Overall, the standards from the comparison sets tend to cover the breadth of topics contained in the Common Core standards. For ELA and literacy, 37 of 40 strand analyses show strong coverage. For mathematics, findings suggest that comparison sets show strong coverage of all 25 conceptual category analyses. While every standard in the Common Core standards may not have a match with each and every set of comparison standards, the topics around which the Common Core standards are organized are reflected in the comparison standards with a high degree of frequency.
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Good relationship with teacher can protect first graders from aggression


Children who have a good relationship with their teacher may be protected from expressing aggression and being the target of aggression at school. That's the key finding in a new study of Canadian first graders that appears in the journal Child Development.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Quebec at Montreal, Laval University, the University of Alabama, the University of Montreal, and University College Dublin.

"Aggressive behavior in middle childhood is at least partly explained by genetic factors, but genetic influences on behavior usually don't operate independently of environmental influences," notes Mara Brendgen, professor of psychology at the University of Quebec at Montreal, who led the study.

Researchers studied 217 Canadian identical and fraternal twin pairs at age 7 to delve into the interplay between nature and nurture involving the source of aggression in the children. Twin pairs weren't in the same classrooms, but had different teachers and different classmates. Classmates rated the twins' level of aggressive behavior and the extent to which they were victimized by peers. The twins' teachers rated the quality of their relationship with each twin. Genetic effects on aggression were estimated by comparing the similarity in behaviors of identical and fraternal twin pairs.

The study found that children who were genetically vulnerable to being aggressive were more likely to be victimized by their classmates than others. However, these children were protected from acting aggressively and being the target of other children's aggression if they had a very good relationship with their teacher—a relationship that was warm and affectionate and involved open communication.

"Children's relationships with teachers and with peers in school play a critical role in shaping their social-behavioral development," notes Brendgen. "Our study found that a good relationship with the teacher can protect genetically vulnerable children from being aggressive and, in consequence, from becoming the target of other children's aggressive behavior."

The findings can inform interventions aimed at addressing children's aggression, and can also be used in teacher-training efforts.
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Poverty-related stress affects readiness for school


Stress in the lives of poor children is one cause of the early achievement gap in which children from low-income homes start school behind their more advantaged classmates.

That's the finding from a new study by scientists at Pennsylvania State University, New York University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study appears in the journal Child Development.

A group of cognitive processes called executive functions are considered important for regulating behavior, managing new and potentially confusing information, adjusting to school, and making academic progress in the early elementary grades. We know that executive functions develop rapidly in early childhood, and that they're compromised by stress. Researchers in this study asked whether or not executive functions in early childhood are influenced by stress in children's lives.

Looking at almost 1,300 young children in mostly low-income homes, they examined aspects of children's early environment between 7 and 24 months, including demographic characteristics, the household environment (such as safety and noise levels), and the quality of parenting (for example, levels of mothers' sensitivity, detachment, and intrusiveness when interacting with their children). They also examined one indicator of stress—by measuring levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the children—and administered a battery of three tests related to executive functions when the children were 3.

The researchers found that children in lower-income homes received less positive parenting and had higher levels of cortisol in their first two years than children in slightly better-off homes. Cortisol was higher in African American children than in White children. Higher levels of cortisol were associated with lower levels of executive function abilities.

"In sum, early stresses in the lives of children living in poverty affect how these children develop executive functions that are important for school readiness," explains Clancy Blair, professor of applied psychology at New York University, who led the study.
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Does reading achievement spur independent reading, or vice versa?


Reading achievement at age 10 influences how much independent reading children do at age 11. However, independent reading doesn't directly improve children's achievement in reading, at least among children at the end of elementary school. In addition, individual differences in independent reading among 11-year-olds partly reflect genetic influences on reading achievement at age 10.

Those are the findings of a new longitudinal study that sought to answer the question: Does reading achievement lead to independent reading or does reading on your own boost reading achievement? Or are there relationships between the two that go in both directions?

The study appears in the journal Child Development. It was conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Educators have long emphasized the importance of independent reading for fun or leisure, assuming that getting kids to read more on their own will lead to improvements in their reading scores. However, although such independent reading is linked to reading achievement, it's been unclear whether reading for fun leads to increased reading achievement, or whether children who are better at reading simply read more.

To better understand what causes what and also to determine what role genetics play, researchers in this study looked at reading achievement and independent reading in 436 pairs of identical and same-sex nonidentical twins at age 10 and again a year later at 11.

Reading achievement was assessed using standard measures of word recognition (recognizing single words) and reading comprehension. Independent reading was assessed by asking each twin questions about his or her motivation to read. Parents estimated how often their children read for pleasure.

The study found that children's reading achievement at age 10 predicted their independent reading at 11, regardless of how much independent reading they were doing at 10, suggesting that reading achievement influenced later independent reading.

The reverse was not true. After accounting for reading achievement at age 10, independent reading at 10 didn't predict reading achievement at 11.

The study also found that that individual differences in reading achievement at both ages were partly due to genetic factors, and that genetic influences on reading achievement at age 10 partly contributed to individual differences in independent reading at age 11. This finding is consistent with the notion of genetic niche-picking: Children may actively select experiences based on their genetic predispositions or children's genetically influenced characteristics may evoke certain responses from others. For example, children with a high genetic proclivity for reading may seek out opportunities to read at home, and their parents may take them to the library on a more regular basis. Conversely, children at high genetic risk for reading difficulties may avoid reading and be less interested in visiting the library.

"Overall, our results indicate that children look for independent reading opportunities, in part, on the basis of genetic effects related to reading achievement, at least among children at the end of elementary school," notes Nicole Harlaar, senior research associate at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who led the study when she was with the Ohio State University.

"Our findings don't diminish the importance of encouraging independent reading among children," Harlaar adds. "Other aspects of independent reading that this study didn't look at may be very important for children's reading achievement, such as volume of reading or whether or not the books that children read are sufficiently challenging."
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Preschoolers' language skills improve more when they're placed with more-skilled peers


Preschool children with relatively poor language skills improve more if they are placed in classrooms with high-achieving students, a new study found.

Researchers found that children with relatively poor language skills either didn't improve over the course of one academic year, or actually lost ground in development of language skills, when they were placed with other low-achieving students.

The results have important implications because many preschool programs in the United States are targeted to children in poverty, who may exhibit lags in their development of language skills, said Laura Justice, lead author of the study and professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Ohio State University.

"The way preschool works in the United States, we tend to cluster kids who have relatively low language skills in the same classrooms, and that is not good for their language development," Justice said.

"We need to pay more attention to the composition of preschool classrooms."

Justice conducted the study with Yaacov Petscher and Christopher Schatschneider of Florida State University and Andrew Mashburn of the University of Virginia. Their findings appear in the new issue of the journal Child Development.

More than 80 percent of American children participate in preschool, Justice said. About half of these children attend preschool programs that are subsidized through state and/or federal dollars, the majority of which only enroll children in poverty.

Because children in poverty face increased risk for poor language skills, that means kids with low skills are often clustered together, she said.

The study involved 338 children enrolled in 49 preschool classrooms. The children completed a variety of standardized measures of their language skills in the fall of the academic year. The measures were repeated in the spring, giving the researchers a test of their improvement over the year.

These measures examined the children's grammar skills and vocabulary and ability to discuss what was happening in a wordless picture book.

The researchers also assessed the instructional quality of the children's classrooms to ensure that differences in children's reading skills weren't the result simply of the quality of teaching.

Results showed that children with low initial language skills who were placed in the lowest-ability classes tended to lose ground over the course of the academic year. However, low-skilled students in average-ability classes improved their language skills between fall and spring.

High-ability students don't suffer by being placed in classrooms with lower-ability students, Justice said. High-ability students improved their scores whether they were in low-ability or average-ability classrooms.

"Children with high language abilities don't seem to be effected by the other kids in their class," she said.

The researchers also found that the reference status of the students mattered – in other words, their standing relative to the other students in their classroom.

For example, the findings showed that the very lowest-ability students in the low-ability classrooms did improve their language skills over the course of the year – presumably because the other students in the class, while low ability, still had greater language skills than they did.

These results can't explain how peers affect the language skills of preschoolers, Justice said. It may be through direction interaction among the children, or it may involve how teacher expectations and efficacy differs depending on the composition of their classrooms.

But the results do suggest that "tracking" students into high and low achievement classrooms may be short-changing the students who most need help.

"If we really want to help lift kids out of poverty, and use preschool as a way to make that happen, we need to reconsider how we provide that education," Justice said.

"Classrooms that blend students from different backgrounds are the best way to provide the boost that poor students need."
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Cyber Schools: Questions About Quality and Accountability


Thirty Percent of U.S. High School Students Have Taken At Least One Course Online, NEPC Report Finds Serious Problems With Full-time Virtual Schools, More Oversight is Necessary

Virtual schooling is the fastest growing alternative to traditional K-12 education in the United States. Forty states operate or authorize online classes for K-12 students, say researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, with more than 30 percent of the nation’s 16 million high school students having been enrolled in at least one online class. Yet these schools are subject to only minimal government oversight. “Few rules, little supervision, many students and families who struggle, and an unacceptably large number of enrollees who won’t make it through to the end,” said report co-author Dr. Gene V Glass.

Cash-strapped states and school districts are using online education – including full-time virtual schools with no face-to-face contact between students and teachers – as a lower-cost alternative to traditional public schools. In states such as Florida, virtual schools are used as a loophole in laws that limit the size of classes. According to the report, full-time “cyber schools” including scores of virtual charter schools, are now operating in twenty-seven states. In at least one case in Arizona, a private firm outsourced essay grading to low-paid workers in India.

The report, Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S.: Uncertain Private Ventures in Need of Public Regulation, by University of Colorado education professors Gene V Glass and Kevin G. Welner, was released today through the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). In an accompanying report, Model Legislation Related to Online Learning Opportunities, University of Kentucky educator professor and attorney Justin Bathon offers statutory language to bring state policies in line with the research.

This expansion in virtual schools, especially full-time virtual schools, is taking place, Glass and Welner write, despite the absence of any data on the effectiveness of full-time cyber programs for K-12 students: “There’s zero high-quality research evidence that full-time virtual schooling at the K-12 level is an adequate replacement for traditional face-to-face teaching and learning,” said Prof. Welner. Nationwide, more than 200,000 students are enrolled in full-time virtual school programs.

“Private operators are gaining access to large streams of public revenue to run cyber schools,” said Prof. Glass. “But the public is not getting full information on the actual costs of these programs, so it’s not clear if taxpayer money is being used properly.”

Cyber schools frequently claim they need the same per-pupil funding as traditional schools, despite the fact that they do not build or operate school buildings, have no student transportation costs, and have a much higher student-to-teacher ratio than traditional schools.

Just five companies, Glass and Welner report, account for most of the content and services sold to full-time cyber schools: K12 Inc., Education Options Inc., Apex Learning, Plato: A+LS, and Connections Academy. These firms, the researchers found, are increasingly involved in funding the campaigns of public officials, lobbying for public funding for their private operations, and writing the rules under which they can use public funds. “These are not illicit activities,” said Welner, “but in the absence of other influential voices representing the interests of students and society there is a clear danger of those interests being damaged.”

As virtual schools continue to grow, Glass and Welner offer several recommendations for state legislators and other policy-makers—recommendations codified in Bathon’s accompanying model legislation. These include:

· Financial audits of cyber schools to determine their actual per-student expenses, so states can determine appropriate reimbursement.

· Authentication of student work: An online instructor, whether located in the U.S. or abroad, has no way to determine whether work submitted via computer was performed by the student enrolled in the class. Trusted organizations should be engaged to administer in-person exams, as is currently the practice at a few virtual schools.

· Accreditation: To avoid abuses that have been found in other proprietary schools – such as truck driving and cosmetology academies – traditional high school accrediting agencies and state and federal departments of education should work together to develop a rigorous approach to accreditation of both part-time and full-time cyber schools.

“Cyber schools and virtual learning will be a growing part of the education landscape,” said Prof. Bathon. “The challenge for educators and policy-makers is how to use this new tool to deliver results for students in a responsible and cost-effective manner.”

“We have to make sure that cyber schools don’t become just a cheap way of providing second-rate service to disadvantaged school districts,” said Prof. Glass.

Welner added, “No matter where they live or in what form they receive instruction, all students deserve quality teachers, supported by a rigorous program of accreditation and accountability. Right now, cyber schools are the wild west of American education. Our children will benefit when policymakers address these key issues.”

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Training Parents Effective for Treating Young Children with ADHD


“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Effectiveness of Treatment in At-Risk Preschoolers; Long-Term Effectiveness in All Ages; and Variability in Prevalence, Diagnosis, and Treatment,”

Formal training in parenting strategies is a low-risk, effective method for improving behavior in preschool-age children at risk for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while there is less evidence supporting the use of medications for children younger than 6 years old, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The report found that formal parenting interventions—known as parent behavior training or PBT—are supported by strong evidence for effectiveness for children younger than the age of 6, with no reports of complications or harms. However, one large barrier to the success of PBT is parents who drop out of therapy programs, the report found. For children older than age 6, the report found that methylphenidate (sold under the brand name Ritalin) and another drug used to treat ADHD symptoms, atomoxetine (sold as Strattera), are generally safe and effective for improving behavior, but their effects beyond 12 to 24 months have not been well studied. Little information is available about the long-term effects of other medications used to treat ADHD symptoms.
The report, a comparative effectiveness review prepared for AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program by the McMaster Evidence-based Practice Center in Hamilton, Ontario, is available at

“ADHD can place many challenges on families with young and school-age children,” said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. “This new report and these summary publications will help children, parents and their doctors work together to find the best treatment option based on the family’s values, preferences and needs.”
Children with ADHD, a condition characterized by inattention, overactivity and impulsivity, are most frequently identified and treated in primary school. It is estimated that approximately 5 percent of children worldwide exhibit behavior consistent with ADHD, with boys twice as likely to be classified as having ADHD than girls.
However, identification and management of ADHD can be challenging, and diagnosis and treatment vary greatly depending on geography and culture. Many preschool-age children who exhibit aggressive or noncompliant behavior and may eventually develop ADHD initially receive a more general diagnosis of disruptive behavior disorder.
Ritalin was first used in the 1950s to treat disruptive behavior, and the use of drug-based treatment has increased since then, along with refinements in understanding and recognition of ADHD as a disorder. By 1999, approximately 11 million prescriptions for Ritalin were written annually in the United States, with another 6 million prescriptions written for amphetamines. There has been ongoing uncertainty about accurate diagnosis of ADHD and potential overprescribing of Ritalin and other drugs, particularly in recent years as drug treatment has spread to other populations.

In the past 25 years, four major PBT methods have been developed. These programs are designed to help parents manage their child’s problem behavior with more effective discipline strategies using rewards and non-punitive consequences. Each promotes a positive and caring relationship between parents and their child, and seeks to improve both child behavior and parenting skills.
The AHRQ report found that these PBT interventions are effective, with no reported risk of complications for preschool-age children with disruptive behavior disorder, including ADHD. For older children, the report found that methylphenidate and atomoxetine are effective in controlling ADHD symptoms without significant risk of harms for up to 2 years, although research on longer-term effectiveness and possible adverse effects is sparse.
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High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California


This new report from the Strengthening Science Education in California initiative reveals that students have little access to high quality science education in California elementary schools. Intense pressure to meet accountability goals in mathematics and English has limited time for science, and teachers and schools do not have the infrastructure needed to consistently provide students with quality science learning opportunities.

The report's findings are based on the results of a statewide study of science education conducted in 2010 and 2011 among teachers, principals and school district leaders in California, as well as analysis of secondary data and case studies in selected school districts.

The study was commissioned by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd and conducted by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley and SRI International.

Specifically, the report finds that:

- 40 percent of elementary teachers say they spend 60 minutes or less teaching science each week.
- One-third of elementary teachers say they feel prepared to teach science.
- 85 percent of teachers say they have not received any professional development in science during the last three years.
- Nine in ten principals say science education is very important and should start early.
- Less than half of principals (44%) believe it is likely that a student would receive high-quality science instruction in his or her school.

The report also includes recommendations to assist educators and policymakers in efforts to strengthen science education in California. The recommendations call for an immediate review and revision of the state's educational accountability systems, the restoration of a full and balanced curriculum, including science, for every student, and the establishment of adequate resource allocation and support systems needed to ensure high quality science learning experiences. The recommendations also encourage local school districts to make quality science education a priority.
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Comparing Achievement Trends in Reading and Math


Comparing Achievement Trends in Reading and Math Across Arizona Public School Student Subgroups, examines the 2008/09 reading and math proficiency rates of four categories of Arizona public school students (comprising 11 student subgroups): ethnicity (American Indian, Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White), English language learner status (English language learner students and non–English language learner students), disability status (students with disabilities and students without disabilities), and economic status (receiving free or reduced-price meals and not receiving free or reduced-price meals).

The brief describes how student subgroup performance differs by school level (elementary, middle, and high), across three school types: Title I Schools in Improvement (schools in a program under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to improve academic performance in schools not meeting adequate yearly progress in at least two consecutive years); Title I schools Not in Improvement; and non–Title I schools. The same analyses were conducted for charter schools.
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Brain study reveals how successful students overcome math anxiety


Success in math takes practice to control fears

Using brain-imaging technology for the first time with people experiencing mathematics anxiety, University of Chicago scientists have gained new insights into how some students are able to overcome their fears and succeed in math.

For the highly math anxious, researchers found a strong link between math success and activity in a network of brain areas in the frontal and parietal lobes involved in controlling attention and regulating negative emotional reactions. This response kicked in at the very mention of having to solve a mathematics problem.

Teachers as well as students can use the information to improve performance in mathematics, said Sian Beilock, associate professor in psychology at the University of Chicago. Beilock and PhD student Ian Lyons report their findings in the article, "Mathematics Anxiety: Separating the Math from the Anxiety," published Oct. 20 in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

"Classroom practices that help students focus their attention and engage in the math task at hand may help eliminate the poor performance brought on by math anxiety," said Beilock, a leading expert on mathematics anxiety and author of the book Choke: What The Secrets Of The Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.

Instead of feeling anxious about an impending math task, students who could focus their attention were able to complete difficult math problems more successfully. Perhaps counter-intuitively, their success wasn't just about activating areas of the brain involved in math calculation. For math-anxious individuals to succeed, they need to focus on controlling their emotions, Beilock said.

Lyons and Beilock said their work implies that teaching students to control their emotions prior to doing math may be the best way to overcome the math difficulties that often go along with math anxiety. Without this initial step, simply providing additional math instruction or allowing students to become distracted by trying to squelch emotions once a math exam has begun is likely to prove ineffective in producing math success.

The study, which the National Science Foundation funded, began by administering a questionnaire to a group of UChicago students to determine if they had math anxiety. Students answered questions about how anxious they felt when registering for a math course, walking to a challenging math class, being handed a math textbook and so on. Lyons and Beilock then invited a group of students who were especially anxious about these math-related tasks to have their brains scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they performed difficult math problems and a similarly difficult spelling task. A group of non-math-anxious students was selected as a control group.

In the fMRI scanner, students watched a computer screen for different cues in the form of simple, color-coded shapes. One shape indicated to students they were about to answer questions that tapped their spelling skills, and another shape indicated they were about to do a series of math problems. After a short delay, students then performed a few math or spelling problems. By analyzing brain responses during the cue and problems separately, Lyons and Beilock were able to look at what went on in highly math-anxious student's heads, even before the actual math began.

For the highly math-anxious, the researchers found a strong connection between math performance and activity in a network of brain areas in the frontal and parietal lobes.

The more these frontal and parietal regions were activated in math-anxious students when anticipating an impending math task, the more their math performance looked like the non-math-anxious control group. Indeed, highly math-anxious students who showed little activation in these regions when preparing to do math got only 68 percent of math problems correct. But those who showed the strongest activation got 83 percent correct — nearly on par with low math-anxious controls (88 percent correct). This relationship was not seen for the spelling task.

The study found that for the highly math-anxious students who performed well on the math task, the brain activity that started during the anticipation phase initiated a cascade of brain activity during completion of the math task itself. This activity did not involve areas typically associated with performing numerical calculations. Rather, it was seen in subcortical structures — especially caudate and nucleus accumbens — associated with motivation and juggling risks and rewards with the demands of the task at hand.

"Essentially, overcoming math anxiety appears to be less about what you know and more about convincing yourself to just buckle down and get to it," Beilock said. "But if you wait till the math exam has already started to deal with your anxiety, it's already too late," Lyons added.

For students who were not anxious about math to begin with, there was no relationship between activation in brain areas important for focusing attention, controlling emotion and math performance. This shows that approaching math may be entirely different for high and low math-anxious students. "Think about walking across a suspension bridge if you're afraid of heights versus if you're not — completely different ballgame," Lyons said.

The study also sheds light on how people who get nervous about doing math can put their fears aside in everyday situations, such as balancing a checkbook or figuring out a tip among friends or coworkers. Taking a few breaths before jumping in can help one focus less on preparing to do math, and more on what actually needs to be done. "When you let your brain do its job, it usually will," Lyons said. "If doing math makes you anxious, then your first task is to calm yourself down."
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Psychologists Defend The Importance Of Working Memory Capacity


In a new paper in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, psychologists David Z. Hambrick of Michigan State University and Elizabeth J. Meinz of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville disagree strongly. “We don’t deny the importance of the knowledge and skill that accrue through practice,” says Hambrick. “ But, we think that for certain types of tasks, basic abilities and capacities—ones that are general, stable across time, and substantially heritable—play an important role in skilled performance. “ Such basic capacities are a component of talent, Hambrick and Meinz believe.

The authors’ work involves a particular basic measure of cognitive ability: working memory capacity, the ability to store and process information at the same time, which correlates with success in many cognitive tasks, from abstract reasoning to language learning.

Challenging another “experts-are-made” contention—that beyond a certain threshold, intelligence makes less and less of a difference in accomplishment—the authors cite a study by Vanderbilt University researchers that looked at the math SAT scores of people with PhDs in science, technology, engineering, or math. Those who scored in the 99.9th percentile at age 13 were 18 times more likely to go on to earn a PhD than those who scored better than only 99.1 percent of their teenage peers. “Even at the highest end, the higher the intellectual ability—and by extension, the higher the working memory capacity—the better,” says Hambrick.

“Some would consider this bad news. We’d all like to think that basic capacities and abilities are irrelevant—it’s the egalitarian view of expertise,” Hambrick says. “We’re not saying that limitations can’t be overcome.” Still, no matter how hard you work, it may be what you’re born with or develop very early in life that “distinguishes the best from the rest.”
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Making a Difference in Education Reform, ProComp External Evaluation Report


ProComp is an ambitious alternative teacher compensation system developed by Denver Public Schools (DPS) in cooperation with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA). This report summarizes an evaluation of ProComp conducted collaboratively by The Evaluation Center and the Buechner Institute for Governance at the University of Colorado Denver and the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington. This report describes the implementation of various elements of ProComp and results of the analyses of the association of ProComp with student achievement and changes in the composition of the DPS workforce.

The evaluation examined ProComp from implementation beginning in January 2006 through the 2009--_10 school year. The evaluation used a mixed--_methods design that incorporated data from interviews, focus groups, surveys, document reviews, and analyses of existing district data (e.g., human resources data and assessment results). The available data, and hence evaluation design, did not allow for a definitive distinction between ProComp effects and the impacts of other factors (e.g., concurrent reform efforts, economic changes, demographic shifts) on workforce recruitment and retention and student achievement. However, use of available statistical controls strengthened findings of effects associated with ProComp. The evaluation also incorporated a theory of change, which was used as a guide to examining a logical causal chain between ProComp elements and potential impacts.

Key Findings:

- Professional Development Units
As part of ProComp, DPS sought to redesign its professional development based on research-based practices. The result was the creation of the Professional Development Unit (PDU) element. This element was introduced as individual and small-group self-directed PDU studies. Over time, PDU learning experiences were expanded to include distric-sponsored and school-based PDU offerings. However, the student achievement analysis found PDUs were not significant predictors of CSAP student achievement in either math or reading.

- Advanced Degrees and Licenses

Another element in the Knowledge and Skills component is the Advanced Degrees/Licenses element. This incentive is most similar to the traditional salary schedule and provides salary increases for earning a master’s or doctorate degree and/or for receiving an advanced license such as National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and School Nurse Practitioner Certification. The Tuition/Student Loan Reimbursement element reimburses teachers for expenditures for past education or professional training. Teachers liked receiving these incentives, but there is limited evidence that they led to changes in instructional practice or improved student CSAP achievement.

- Student Achievement

A primary goal of the ProComp system is to increase student achievement in DPS. DPS has experienced significant student learning gains across grades and subjects, but it is not clear that this was the result of ProComp. There was not a consistent pattern across grade levels and subjects in the relationship between ProComp and observed achievement gains. In some cases, the gains appeared primarily among students with ProComp teachers, while in other cases it is Non-ProComp teachers who appeared to be more effective. Though puzzling, these findings are consistent with research on other well-known interventions that include elements similar to ProComp.
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Strong Support, Low Awareness: Public Perception of the Common Core State Standards


Strong Support, Low Awareness: Public Perception of the Common Core State Standards

To explore the public's awareness of and support for the new Common Core State Standards and aligned common assessments Achieve, Inc. commissioned a national poll in August 2011. It is not surprising that awareness of the Common Core State Standards and common assessments remains low given that implementation efforts are just underway. The voting public favors the idea of states having common standards and assessments and when given additional information about the CCSS, their support remains high. The challenge now is to maintain the public’s—and educators’—enthusiasm for these initiatives as the CCSS and related policies move from being an “idea” to becoming real in classrooms.

- Generally, public education is considered to be a very or extremely important issue to voters across the board. However, only about one in ten voters – and educators – believe public education is working pretty well right now.

- There is strong support among voters and teachers for common standards. The support is strong regardless of age, education level, race, ethnicity or party affiliation.
The Common Core State Standards are in the early stages of implementation and awareness among the general public is very low. Awareness among teachers is significantly higher.

- Among voters who are aware of the Common Core State Standards, there is a mixed impression of the CCSS, with essentially the same percentage having a favorable and unfavorable view. Among teachers who are aware of the Common Core, there is generally a more favorable view.

- There is strong support for common assessments among states, but also disagreement as to how the results of the assessments should be used. The general public strongly supports using the results for a full range of accountability purposes, while teachers are more skeptical of using test results for such purposes.
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IQ can rise or fall significantly during adolescence


The findings may have implications for testing and streaming of children during their school years

IQ, the standard measure of intelligence, can increase or fall significantly during our teenage years, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust, and these changes are associated with changes to the structure of our brains. The findings may have implications for testing and streaming of children during their school years.

Across our lifetime, our intellectual ability is considered to be stable, with Intelligence Quotient (IQ) scores taken at one point in time used to predict educational achievement and employment prospects later in life. However, in a study published today in the journal Nature, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) and the Centre for Educational Neuroscience show for the first time that in fact our IQ is not constant.

The researchers, led by Professor Cathy Price, tested thirty-three healthy adolescents in 2004 when they were between the ages of 12 and 16 years. They then repeated the tests four years later when the same subjects were between 15 and 20 years old. On both occasions, the researchers took structural brains scans of the subjects using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Professor Price and colleagues found significant changes in the IQ scores measured in 2008 compared to the 2004 scores. Some subjects had improved their performance relative to people of a similar age by as much as 20 points on the standardised IQ scale; in other cases, however, performance had fallen by a similar amount. In order to test whether these changes were meaningful, the researchers analysed the MRI scans to see if there was a correlation with changes in the structure of the subjects' brains.

"We found a considerable amount of change in how our subjects performed on the IQ tests in 2008 compared to four years earlier," explains Sue Ramsden, first author of the study. "Some subjects performed markedly better but some performed considerably worse. We found a clear correlation between this change in performance and changes in the structure of their brains and so can say with some certainty that these changes in IQ are real."

The researchers measured each subject's verbal IQ, which includes measurements of language, arithmetic, general knowledge and memory, and their non-verbal IQ, such as identifying the missing elements of a picture or solving visual puzzles. They found a clear correlation with particular regions of the brain. An increase in verbal IQ score correlated with an increase in the density of grey matter – the nerve cells where the processing takes place – in an area of the left motor cortex of the brain that is activated when articulating speech. Similarly, an increase in non-verbal IQ score correlated with an increase in the density of grey matter in the anterior cerebellum, which is associated with movements of the hand. However, an increase in verbal IQ did not necessarily go hand-in-hand with an increase in non-verbal IQ.

According to Professor Price, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, it is not clear why IQ should have changed so much and why some people's performance improved whilst others' decline. It is possible that the differences are due to some of the subjects being early or late developers, but it is equally possible that education played a role in changing IQ, and this has implications for how schoolchildren are assessed.

"We have a tendency to assess children and determine their course of education relatively early in life, but here we have shown that their intelligence is likely to be still developing," says Professor Price. "We have to be careful not to write off poorer performers at an early stage when in fact their IQ may improve significantly given a few more years.

"It's analogous to fitness. A teenager who is athletically fit at 14 could be less fit at 18 if they stopped exercising. Conversely, an unfit teenager can become much fitter with exercise. "

Other studies from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and other research groups have provided strong evidence that the structure of the brain remains 'plastic' even throughout adult life. For example, Professor Price showed recently that guerrillas in Columbia who had learned to read as adults had a higher density of grey matter in several areas of the left hemisphere of the brain than those who had not learned to read. Professor Eleanor Maguire, also from the Wellcome Trust Centre, showed that part of a brain structure called the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory and navigation, has greater volume in licensed London taxi drivers.

"The question is, if our brain structure can change throughout our adult lives, can our IQ also change?" adds Professor Price. "My guess is yes. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that our brains can adapt and their structure changes, even in adulthood."

'Understanding the brain' is one of the Wellcome Trust's key strategic challenges. It funds a significant portfolio of neuroscience and mental health research, ranging from studies of molecular and cellular components to work on cognition and higher systems. At the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, clinicians and scientists study higher cognitive function to understand how thought and perception arise from brain activity, and how such processes break down in neurological and psychiatric disease.

"This interesting study highlights how 'plastic' the human brain is," said Dr John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust. "It will be interesting to see whether structural changes as we grow and develop extend beyond IQ to other cognitive functions. This study challenges us to think about these observations and how they may be applied to gain insight into what might happen when individuals succumb to mental health disorders."
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Analysis Finds Failing Public Schools in Pennsylvania Racked by Violence


The Commonwealth Foundation released today an alarming new analysis of school violence that uncovered more than 4,500 criminal acts occurred at the 141 public schools scoring worst in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.

Using data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Safe Schools Online, policy analysts at the free-market think tank discovered more than 100 indecent or sexual assaults and 225 indecent exposures; nearly 2,600 assaults on students and staff; more than 330 cases of reckless endangerment, and more than 500 weapons possessions and terroristic threats occurred at these academically failing schools in the 2009-2010 school year.  On average, only 32 percent of students at these schools were able to reach proficiency in reading, 38 percent in math.

"When the 'Three Rs' have turned from reading, writing and arithmetic to run, report and recover, we don't have a state of education, we have a state of emergency," said Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. "As many adults debate whether a school rescue bill is needed in Pennsylvania, children trapped in these violent and failing public schools are forced to survive unconscionable, undeniable and unacceptable conditions."  

Students currently attending all the schools identified in the analysis would be eligible for rescue under proposed legislation.  

Among the lowest rates of academic performance with high rates of violence were schools in Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading and York.  Wilkinsburg High School, Pittsburgh, mustered 16 percent proficiency in math, but ranked among the highest in violence at 128 incidents of crime for every 100 students.  

Philadelphia schools accounted for more than half of those on the academically failing list, including Germantown High School, where only 8 percent of 11th graders scored proficient in math, with only 17 percent in reading.

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Musical aptitude relates to reading ability


Auditory working memory and attention, for example the ability to hear and then remember instructions while completing a task, are a necessary part of musical ability. But musical ability is also related to verbal memory and literacy in childhood. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Behavioral and Brain Functions shows how auditory working memory and musical aptitude are intrinsically related to reading ability, and provides a biological basis for this link.

Researchers from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University tested children on their ability to read and to recognize words. This was compared to the extent of their auditory working memory (remembering a sequence of numbers and then being able to quote them in reverse), and musical aptitude (both melody and rhythm). The electrical activity within the children's brains was also measured as auditory brainstem responses to rhythmic, or random, sounds based on speech.

The team lead by Dr Nina Kraus found that poor readers had reduced neural response (auditory brainstem activity) to rhythmic rather than random sounds compared to good readers. In fact the level of neural enhancement to acoustic regularities correlated with reading ability as well as musical aptitude. The musical ability test, specifically the rhythm aspect, was also related to reading ability. Similarly a good score on the auditory working memory related to better reading and to the rhythm aspect of musical ability.

Dr Kraus explained, "Both musical ability and literacy correlated with enhanced electrical signals within the auditory brainstem. Structural equation modeling of the data revealed that music skill, together with how the nervous system responds to regularities in auditory input and auditory memory/attention accounts for about 40% of the difference in reading ability between children. These results add weight to the argument that music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms and suggests a mechanism for the improvements in literacy seen with musical training."
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Gifted and Talented Programs in Middle-Schools Have Little Impact on Math and Reading Achievement


However, science scores improve from attending a gifted and talented magnet program

Studies of two middle-school programs for high-achieving students — known as gifted and talented (G&T) programs — show that being placed in programs with academically strong peers does not boost students’ achievement over and above what is learned in a regular classroom from the start of 6th grade to mid-way through 7th grade. However, student performance in science was higher for those who attended G&T magnet schools.

A team of scholars from the University of Houston – Sa Bui, Steven Craig, and Scott Imberman – studied programs in a large urban school district with a substantial minority and low-income population in the southwestern United States, where since 2007 all 5th-grade students have been tested for eligibility to participate in GT programming. Students deemed eligible often are grouped in classes with other high-achieving students; they also are permitted to apply for admission to two schools that focus on high-achieving students.

The report, “Poor Results for High Achievers: New evidence on the impact of gifted and talented programs,” results from two separate studies. One study looks at students who attended two magnet middle school programs that had an exclusive focus on high-achieving students. Because these schools were popular, applicants exceeded space available and lotteries were held to determine which students were admitted. Of the 542 eligible students who applied to these schools, 394 won the lottery, while 148 lost the lottery and were not admitted.

The lottery process allowed the researchers to compare the performance of students who won the lottery with those who lost the lottery and either attended a neighborhood G&T program, a charter school, or an alternative magnet school. The two groups of students are assumed to be identical in all respects other than admission to the program, allowing for a precise identification of the effect of attending a school for high-achieving students. The study found positive effects of attending the school on student performance on a science test. The effect was 0.28 standard deviations, approximately one extra year’s worth of learning. No statistically significant effects in math, reading, language and social studies were identified, however.

Another study examines the effects of participation in a G&T program offered within regular middle schools to students who were just barely deemed eligible to participate as compared to those who just missed becoming eligible, based on the “identification matrix” scores the district used. The researchers assumed that those who barely passed the threshold of acceptance were little different from those who barely missed that threshold. Students entered the G&T program in 6th grade, and their progress was measured when they were 7th graders, using data drawn from their Stanford Achievement Test scores and attendance rates. Using data on 2,600 students the study shows no statistically significant impact on performance in math, science, language, reading or social studies.

The data do not allow for a clear explanation for striking gains in science from attending a magnet school but not in other subjects. The authors suggest that instruction in science may require especially qualified teachers with access to excellent science facilities, something that may be more available in G&T programs than in regular middle schools.

The authors caution that test scores are not the only way in which programs for high-achieving students should be assessed. There might also be benefits that the researchers said they are not able to study, such as the impact on graduation rates and college attendance. Further, they caution that the analysis of G&T programs within regular schools focuses only on students who are on the margin of entering a gifted program and hence may not apply to higher achieving students.
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Trends in merit and need-based aid for undergraduates


According to a new NCES report, merit aid rose among undergraduates from 6 to 14 percent from 1995–96 to 2007–08. Merit Aid for Undergraduates: Trends from 1995–96 to 2007–08 examines the receipt of merit aid by undergraduates from 1995–96 to 2007–08, describing who receives how much merit and other non-need-based grant aid by student and institutional characteristics and in comparison to need-based grant aid.

Results are based on nationally representative data collected through the 1995–96, 1999–2000, 2003–04 and 2007–08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Studies (NPSAS:96, NPSAS:2000, NPSAS:04 and NPSAS:08).

Other findings include:

• The proportion of dependent students receiving any grant aid who were from high-income backgrounds rose from 13 percent in 1995–96 to 18 percent in 2007–08.

• In 1995–96, a higher proportion of students at 4-year institutions received need-based institutional grants than merit aid. By 2007–08, the proportion of merit aid recipients exceeded that of need-based grant recipients at public 4-year institutions and was the same at private nonprofit 4-year institutions.

• In 2007–08, students at moderately selective 4-year institutions received merit aid more often than those at very selective institutions.

• The Southeast had the highest proportion of state merit scholarships (24 percent) of any region in the United States, while the nationwide total was 10 percent in 2007–08.
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Can charter principles work in traditional schools?


Complete article

...Harvard economist Roland Fryer published research last week showing that the education policies that have succeeded in charter schools can also increase test scores in traditional, public schools.

Fryer looked at “No Excuses” charter schools, places like the Harlem Promise Academy and KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools, to get a sense of how they had made such big education gains in low-income communities. He boiled it down to five “best practices,” including longer school days, better teachers and data-driven education, that emphasized education gains.

Fryer went into nine of the lowest performing, public middle and high schools in Houston during the last school year, and implemented those five principles. The changes didn’t just nibble around the edges: Fryer did things like add 10 days to the school year and replace 100 educators, including all of his test school’s principals and more than half the teachers.

Across the board, students’ math and reading scores went up compared to other Houston schools where these changes weren’t implemented. “These results provide the first proof point that charter school practices can be used systematically in previously unsuccessful traditional public schools to significantly increase student achievement,” Fryer writes.

But at the same time, the study is also far from a silver bullet for education reform: many of the changes that the researchers implemented in Houston would have a hard time gaining traction elsewhere.

Sweeping out sitting principals, for example, would often draw vociferous opposition from teachers’ unions. As the authors note, Houston currently has “a remarkably innovative and research driven Superintendent” with a supportive school board. The program comes with a big price tag, too: it cost more than $2,000 per student to implement. That’s a big budget item when most states are in the midst of slashing education budgets...
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The impacts of education on crime, health and mortality, and civic participation


by Lance Lochner


Given recent budget problems around the world, many governments have proposed sharp cuts to education. What are the likely long-run costs of these cuts? This column reviews a growing body of studies and concludes that crime rates are likely to increase, health and mortality are likely to deteriorate, and political and social institutions may suffer.

Given recent budget problems around the world, many governments have proposed sharp cuts to education. What are the likely long-run costs of these cuts? Growing evidence suggests that the lasting impacts of reductions in early childhood investments, school quality, and educational attainment among today’s youth are likely to extend beyond declines in future productivity and earnings. Crime rates are likely to increase, health and mortality are likely to deteriorate, and political and social institutions may suffer.

Economists have long recognised and measured the lifetime benefits of education from improved learning opportunities (eg Card 1999, Heckman et al 2008). More recently, however, economists have begun to study the effects of education on other personal and social outcomes. A growing body of evidence I surveyed (Lochner 2011) and discuss here suggests that education can reduce crime, improve health, lower mortality, and increase political participation. The implied social benefits from these impacts can be sizeable.

Around the world, incarceration and conviction rates are high among the least educated. A number of recent studies find that this correlation reflects a causal relationship. For example, Lochner and Moretti (2004) estimate that increasing high school graduation rates by one percentage point in 1990 would have resulted in nearly 100,000 fewer crimes in the US, providing an annual social benefit valued at more than $2 billion (or $3,000 per additional male graduate). Notably, our estimates suggest that increases in education would reduce both violent and property crimes. In the UK, Machin et al (2011) estimate the social savings from crime reduction associated with increasing the population of individuals with an education qualification. Accounting only for benefits from property crime reduction, their estimates suggest a savings of over £10,000 per additional student qualification.

Open school enrolment lotteries and desegregation efforts appear to reduce crime rates by improving school quality. Deming (2009) estimates that reductions in arrests associated with offering better quality school options to a high-risk youth produces a roughly $16,000 social savings to victims over the next seven years. Because better schools are also likely to have reduced crimes that never led to an arrest, total victimisation savings may be 3-5 times higher. Total social savings would be still greater after factoring in savings on prisons and other crime prevention.

The long-run impacts of early childhood and school-age interventions on juvenile delinquency and adult crime can be substantial for disadvantaged youth. For example, estimates suggest that Perry Preschool produced a social benefit from crime reduction of roughly $150,000 per child (through age 40). Yet other model early childhood programs like Abecedarian produced no significant impacts on crime. Unfortunately, we do not yet understand these differences.

Recent evidence suggests that educational attainment also improves health. Mazumder (2008) and Oreoupolos (2006) estimate that an additional year of high school improves self-reported health outcomes by 15-30% in the US, while European-based studies (eg Clark and Royer 2010, Silles 2009, Kempter et al 2010) typically estimate more modest impacts. There is little consensus in the literature regarding the impacts of education on mortality. Estimates range from negligible to implausibly large (Lleras-Muney 2005 and 2006, Mazumder 2008, Albouy and Lequien 2009, Clark and Royer 2010). A number of studies, especially those analysing more recent years, estimate that an additional year of schooling reduces current smoking rates by at least 10% (see, eg, Kenkel et al 2006, de Walque 2007, Grimard and Parent 2007, Clark and Royer 2010). In contrast, some of these same studies find that education has little impact on obesity. Finally, there is limited evidence that parental education levels affect child health; however, estimates vary widely (see, eg, Currie and Moretti 2003, McCrary and Royer 2009).

We can value the estimated reductions in mortality associated with schooling using measures of the value of a statistical life. Based on typical life-value estimates of $3-5 million, if education reduces ten-year mortality rates by 0.01 (a figure within the range of recent mortality estimates and roughly consistent with the much larger set of estimates on self-reported health), and if half of that reduction is ‘paid for’ in the form of costly health investments and behaviour changes, then a ballpark figure for the mortality benefits of an extra year of school is probably on the order of $1,500-2,500 per year. The value of more general health improvements is also likely to be sizeable.
Civic participation

More educated societies tend to be more democratic, but does education actually improve citizenship and political engagement? Three recent individual-based analyses suggest that it does – in the US at least. Dee (2004) and Milligan et al (2004) estimate that an additional year of schooling increases voter registration and voting in the US, with impacts typically ranging from 30% to 40%. By contrast, Milligan et al (2004) and Siedler (2007, 2010) estimate negligible impacts on voting in the UK and Germany. More generally, education appears to increase political interest and other forms of political participation, as well as the extent to which individuals are informed about politics. As with voting, impacts on these behaviours appear to be greater in the US than in Europe.
General lessons and caveats

Given the empirical strategies used to estimate the impacts of schooling on crime, health, and citizenship, we know much about the impact of additional years of high school but much less about the effects of higher education. There is good reason to believe that increases in college-going are not likely to yield dramatic benefits from crime reduction (at least in the near future), since studies have shown that education-based interventions and policies appear to reduce crime and delinquency most among the least able, most disadvantaged. A few studies have estimated significant reductions in smoking and improvements in political participation in response to additional years of college, but studies that measure the impacts of higher education on health or citizenship are the exception. There is growing evidence that preschool and school interventions at early ages can reduce delinquency and crime years later; although not all programs do.

Much of the evidence is US-based. While a number of very recent studies have begun to analyse the wider benefits of education in Europe, very few studies exploit data from developing countries where education levels are much lower. One might expect substantial differences in the impact of education on crime, health, and political engagement across countries with very different criminal justice, healthcare, and political systems. Indeed, comparisons across estimates from the US and Europe seem to suggest that education may improve health and mortality less in Europe, where healthcare tends to be universal and economic inequality is generally lower. Education also appears to impact voting and political participation less in Europe, where voter registration is often required and governments are more active in registering voters. While it is tempting to speculate about factors that might explain observed differences in estimates across countries, we are far from understanding them.

What role should government play? Crime reduction is an obvious externality that may justify expenditures on policies that improve the skills of the most disadvantaged (eg targeted preschool programs, improvements in school quality in low-income areas, or policies that encourage high school completion). Current evidence suggests that well-targeted education-based programs can be more cost-effective than traditional law enforcement policies once all costs and benefits are accounted for. Education policies targeted to the most disadvantaged have the added benefit of reducing economic inequality. There is little evidence of important education externalities in the health domain; most gains are private or, at least, contained within the family. As such, arguments for education interventions based on health gains are likely to be based on equity and social justice or on the argument that individuals are unaware of important health benefits when they make their schooling decisions. Even if youth are unaware of the health benefits associated with schooling, the social value of education-based initiatives is likely to be small if those benefits are largely achieved through greater health care expenditures or costly changes in behaviour. Unfortunately, we still know very little about how education improves health. Finally, it is clear that increases in political participation will affect the democratic process; however, it is difficult to know exactly how and even more difficult to put a value on this.

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