Young children understand the benefits of positive thinking


Even kindergarteners know that thinking positively will make you feel better. And parents' own feelings of optimism may play a role in whether their children understand how thoughts influence emotions.

Those are the findings of a new study by researchers at Jacksonville University and the University of California, Davis. The study appears in the journal Child Development.

In the study, researchers looked at 90 mostly White children ages 5 to 10. The children listened to six illustrated stories in which two characters feel the same emotion after experiencing something positive (getting a new puppy), negative (spilling milk), or ambiguous (meeting a new teacher). Following each experience, one character has a separate optimistic thought, framing the event in a positive light, and the other has a separate pessimistic thought, putting the event in a negative light. Researchers described the subsequent thoughts verbally, then asked the children to judge each character's emotions and provide an explanation for those emotions. They were most interested in the degree to which children predicted different emotions for two characters in the same situation.

The researchers also had the children and their parents complete surveys to measure their individual levels of hope and optimism.

Children as young as 5 predicted that people would feel better after thinking positive thoughts than they would after thinking negative thoughts. They showed the strongest insight about the influence of positive versus negative thoughts on emotions in ambiguous situations. And there was significant development in the children's understanding about the emotion-feeling link as they grew older.

The study also found that children had the most difficulty understanding how positive thinking could boost someone's spirits in situations that involved negative events—such as falling down and getting hurt. In these coping situations, children's levels of hope and optimism played a role in their ability to understand the power of positive thinking, but parents' views on the topic played an even larger part.

"The strongest predictor of children's knowledge about the benefits of positive thinking—besides age—was not the child's own level of hope and optimism, but their parents'," reports Christi Bamford, assistant professor of psychology at Jacksonville University, who led the study when she was at the University of California, Davis.

The findings point to parents' role in helping children learn how to use positive thinking to feel better when things get tough, Bamford notes. "In short, parents should consider modeling how to look on the bright side."
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School absenteeism, mental health problems linked


School absenteeism is a significant problem, and students who are frequently absent from school more often have symptoms of psychiatric disorders. A new longitudinal study of more than 17,000 youths has found that frequently missing school is associated with a higher prevalence of mental health problems later on in adolescence, and that mental health problems during one year also predict missing additional school days in the following year for students in middle and high school.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Florida, Boston University, the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, the Oregon Social Learning Center, and Johns Hopkins University.

"We've long known that students who are frequently absent from school are more likely to have symptoms of psychiatric disorders, but less clear is the reason why," says Jeffrey Wood, associate professor of educational psychology and psychiatry at UCLA, who led the study. "These two aspects of youths' adjustment may at times exacerbate one another, leading over the course of time to more of each."

The study found that between grades 2 and 8, students who already had mental health symptoms (such as antisocial behavior or depression) missed more school days over the course of a year than they had in the previous year and than students with few or no mental health symptoms. Conversely, middle and high school students who were chronically absent in an earlier year of the study tended to have more depression and antisocial problems in subsequent years. For example, 8th graders who were absent more than 20 days were more likely to have higher levels of anxiety and depression in 10th grade than were 8th graders who were absent fewer than 20 days.

"The findings can help inform the development of programs to reduce school absenteeism," according to Wood. "School personnel in middle schools and high schools could benefit from knowing that mental health issues and school absenteeism each influence the other over time. Helping students address mental health issues may in turn help prevent the emergence of chronic absenteeism. At the same time, working to help students who are developing a pattern of chronic absenteeism come to school more consistently may help prevent psychiatric problems."

The researchers looked at more than 17,000 children in 1st through 12th grades using three datasets: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7 to 12; the Johns Hopkins Prevention Intervention Research Center Study, a longitudinal study of classroom-based interventions involving children in grades 1 to 8; and the Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers trial, a longitudinal study of children in grades 1 through 12.

Researchers interviewed students and parents annually or biennially, and they gathered information from school attendance records. In addition, students, parents, and teachers filled out questionnaires.
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Striving for Student Success: Shared Accountability


The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act ushered in a new era of accountability in American education: for the first time, schools were held responsible for improving student achievement across all demographic groups.

Yet there has always been a concern about holding only the schools themselves accountable for student success — especially given the profound impact of poverty on student achievement.

Instead of putting the entire achievement burden on schools, what would it look like to hold a whole community responsible for long-range student outcomes? How can accountability for youth development, health, and safety — as well as for academic achievement — be shared by non-profits, public non-school agencies, foundations, cities, corporations, and others?

In Striving for Student Success: A Model of Shared Accountability, authors Kelly Bathgate, Richard Lee Colvin, and Elena Silva look at communities that are working to create these shared accountability systems. In particular, the authors highlight the work of the Strive Partnership of Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky.

Made up of more than 300 civic groups, businesses, nonprofits, colleges, public agencies, and philanthropies, Strive “coordinates every service and support that children and adolescents need, at every stage of their education and development,” the authors write. Put simply, these organizations are all dedicated to seeing students succeed, from cradle to career. Although many communities provide these services, what’s different about Strive and other such partnerships is their shared goals—and the acceptance of joint responsibility for meeting those goals.

Already, the results of the Strive effort are impressive. In one particularly bright finding, the authors report that the percentage of children who come to kindergarten ready to learn has risen substantially in Cincinnati as well as in Newport and Covington, the two Kentucky communities that are also part of Strive.

The Obama administration’s Promise Neighborhoods program, which encourages communities to build a continuum of services for children and youth, is centered on this sort of comprehensive, community-wide approach to student success. Perhaps the best known example is the Harlem Children’s Zone, which links a variety of children’s services, including schools, in a 100-block area in New York City. A growing number of other communities are establishing community partnerships, as well.

But, as the authors note, no one should underestimate the work involved in making such programs succeed. “Making shared accountability more than notional poses technical, operational, political, and financial challenges,” the authors write. “Such systems require engaging multiple players in decisions about priorities, resource allocation, performance measures, responsibilities, and consequences for participating organizations if performance lags.”

This report provides an in-depth look at where shared accountability works, and on how other communities can use this approach to help all students succeed.
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A Plan for Transforming Indianapolis Public Schools


The Mind Trust has released what it calls “a bold plan for transforming Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) ”

The plan would dramatically shrink and restructure the central administration, send about $200 million more a year to schools without raising taxes, provide universal prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds, give teachers and principals more autonomy in exchange for more accountability, and provide parents with more quality school choices. It is the boldest urban reform plan in the United States. In developing its plan, The Mind Trust engaged local and national experts to analyze highperforming urban public schools across the country and distill the key conditions for their success— autonomy, accountability, and parental choice.

Crafted after a year of research and design, The Mind Trust’s plan presents a new vision for how IPS and other urban districts could be restructured to create these conditions for all public schools. Under The Mind Trust’s plan, $188 million a year would be reallocated to schools by shrinking and refocusing the central office on targeted activities. Funding and responsibility for most services would shift to schools. Schools could use the funds to provide or purchase the services they need, such as curriculum, school lunches, and building maintenance, and do whatever it takes to support student needs, like extending the school day or year, paying great teachers more, and purchasing new technology.

The plan also calls for reallocating up to: $14 million a year for free, high-quality pre-K for all IPS four-year olds; $7.5 million a year to help start excellent new schools; and $2.5 million a year to recruit and develop the next generation of great teachers and school leaders. All aspects of this new design could be funded with existing resources.

The smaller and more efficient IPS central office would no longer directly run schools. It would focus instead on a handful of targeted functions: setting high standards and holding schools accountable; replacing failing programs with quality new schools; managing a district-wide choice and enrollment process; overseeing the New School Incubation and Talent Development Funds; and distributing funds for high-quality prekindergarten. The central office also would manage facilities, transportation, and special education — although schools could contract with other providers over time.

The plan also would break down the confusing distinctions among traditional district, public charter, and magnet schools. These are simply legal terms and none connote quality. The Mind Trust’s plan proposes a unifying designation for all high_quality public schools within IPS boundaries that are given the conditions to succeed: “Opportunity Schools.”

In The Mind Trust’s plan, over time all schools in IPS would become Opportunity Schools, once they have strong leadership teams in place and meet high standards. They would keep that status only if they perform at high levels and attract enough students. In return, all Opportunity Schools would control more resources and be guaranteed autonomy over staffing, budgeting, setting the school culture and other key decisions. Plus, they would be schools of choice, so parents could send their children to the school that best meets their needs.

The Mind Trust’s plan calls for bold changes because the current system is broken _ _ in IPS and in large cities around the country. Despite a 61% increase in per pupil funding over the last two decades adjusted for inflation, IPS is among the lowest performing districts in the country. Only 45% of students pass state tests in reading and math, and about 58% graduate on time.

“Decades of failure demonstrate that it’s not the people who are at fault, it’s the system. Most IPS schools don’t have the conditions that research shows schools need to succeed. This plan creates those conditions,” said David Harris, Founder and CEO, The Mind Trust.

“We know that poverty’s a major challenge, but around the country a growing number of schools are achieving remarkable success with students just like ours. Schools like CFI and school networks like YES Prep, KIPP, and Achievement First are proving that all kids can achieve at high levels. If they can do it, we have an obligation to ensure IPS schools have the conditions and talent that will achieve similar success with all students,” Harris said.

To carry out the new vision, the plan recommends that the mayor take responsibility for the schools by appointing three members of a new five person school board; the City-County Council would appoint the other two. The plan states that while no system of governance is perfect, mayoral accountability is much better than the alternatives: continuing the catastrophic status quo with the current school board or having the state take over all IPS schools. “The only way to make a plan this bold happen and succeed is if it stays at the top of the city’s agenda for years. The mayor is best positioned to provide this sustained leadership,” the plan says.

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CT Early Care/Education: Poor Coordination & Inadequate Funding Limit Access


Connecticut Early Care and Education Progress Report, 2011

Following Connecticut’s loss in the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge funding competition and the Governor’s call this week for education reform legislation, a report on the state’s early care and education system finds that a lack of central coordination of early childhood programs and stagnant or declining funding levels are leaving many children in need of early care unserved. The organization called on state legislators and Governor Malloy, who has identified increasing access to preschool as a priority, to maintain early childhood program funding and to develop a more integrated approach to child care and early education.

“High quality early care and education can help our state’s children be more academically and socially ready for kindergarten.” said Sarah Esty, Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children and co-author of the report. “The early education we provide now will have long-term consequences for our children’s school performance and the health of our economy.”

Key findings in the report include:

· Connecticut’s patchwork of early care and education programs needs reform to create a coordinated and comprehensive system. Connecticut’s publicly-funded early care and education programs rely on multiple funding streams controlled by multiple agencies with varied reporting and eligibility and data requirements. This creates confusion and complications for both providers and parents, according to Connecticut Voices.

Funding for early care and education has been stagnant and is more than 10% below 2002 levels. Total state funding for early care and education increased by less than 1% between 2010 and 2011, and remains substantially below levels from early in the decade.

· Connecticut is not serving many of the children who need help. Despite the need for child care from working families struggling through the recession, over 86% of infants and toddlers, and at least 25% of preschoolers living in struggling families (families earning under 75% of the state median income) remain unserved by any state or federal subsidy for early care and education.

· The state lacks the data necessary to determine which aspects of the early care system are working effectively. The report indicates that there is not sufficient data gathered to evaluate the impact of Connecticut’s early education services on a child’s later school success or which programs are having the greatest impact.

To improve access to and quality of child care programs, Connecticut Voices recommends that the Governor and state legislators:

· Maintain and ultimately increase funding for early care and education.
· Move forward on creating plans for a more coordinated system of early care and education that works to integrate existing program "silos," gather data to evaluate and improve quality of care, and fund services based on the actual costs of providing care.

Early care and education has recently been a significant focus of attention among Connecticut policy makers. In the 2011 legislative session, legislation was approved to create a planning process for a more coordinated early care and education system. Connecticut’s application for federal Race to the Top education funding focused on improving quality in the state’s early education services. Also, Governor Malloy called this week for education reform legislation that “enhances families’ access to high-quality early childhood education opportunities.”

“Connecticut has many high-quality early care and education services already in place, and our Race to the Top application provided an excellent road map to achieving a more coordinated system that will ultimately lead to better long-term results for children,” said Cyd Oppenheimer, Senior Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices and co-author of the report. “We know that our Governor and policy makers understand the importance of early care and education and will remain true to their commitment to better coordination and increased funding.”

Connecticut Voices is a research-based think tank that works to advance policies that benefit the state’s children, youth, and families.
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Abnormality in auditory processing underlies dyslexia


People with dyslexia often struggle with the ability to accurately decode and identify what they read. Although disrupted processing of speech sounds has been implicated in the underlying pathology of dyslexia, the basis of this disruption and how it interferes with reading comprehension has not been fully explained. Now, new research published by Cell Press in the December 22 issue of the journal Neuron finds that a specific abnormality in the processing of auditory signals accounts for the main symptoms of dyslexia.

"It is widely agreed that for a majority of dyslexic children, the main cause is related to a deficit in the processing of speech sounds," explains senior study author, Dr. Anne-Lise Giraud and Franck Ramus from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. "It is also well established that there are three main symptoms of this deficit: difficulty paying attention to individual speech sounds, a limited ability to repeat a list of pseudowords or numbers, and a slow performance when asked to name a series of pictures, colors, or numbers as quickly as possible. However, the underlying basis of these symptoms has not been elucidated."

Dr. Giraud and colleagues examined whether an abnormality in the early steps of auditory processing in the brain, called "sampling," is linked with dyslexia by focusing on the idea that an anomaly in the initial processing of phonemes, the smallest units of sound that can be used to make a word, might have a direct impact on the processing of speech.

The researchers found that typical brain processing of auditory rhythms associated with phonemes was disrupted in the left auditory cortex of dyslexics and that this deficit correlated with measures of speech sound processing. Further, dyslexics exhibited an enhanced response to high-frequency rhythms that indirectly interfered with verbal memory. It is possible that this "oversampling" might result in a distortion of the representation of speech sounds.

"Our results suggest that the left auditory cortex of dyslexic people may be less responsive to modulations at very specific frequencies that are optimal for analysis of speech sounds and overly responsive to higher frequencies, which is potentially detrimental to their verbal short-term memory abilities," concludes Dr. Giraud. "Taken together, our data suggest that the auditory cortex of dyslexic individuals is less fine-tuned to the specific needs of speech processing."
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Degrees of Failure: The Unprepared High School Graduate


A significant number of American teenagers graduate from high school unprepared to take their next big steps toward adulthood, according to a study by researchers at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education.

More than 40 percent of high schoolers do not follow a college preparatory track or take adequate career and technical education courses, and these missed opportunities can leave young people at a disadvantage after graduation when they enroll in college or look for a job, according to Stefanie DeLuca, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins, and Regina Deil-Amen of the University of Arizona.

“This group is a virtual underclass of students who are neither college-ready nor in an identifiable career curriculum,” DeLuca said. “They are likely to depart from high school having taken classes mainly from the high school general curriculum in which they received little to no job preparation or guidance. This group is also less likely to enroll in college, but if they do, they enroll at a remedial level and leave before earning a degree. Either path places them at risk for failure.”

DeLuca and Deil-Amen’s study, “The Underserved Third: How Our Educational Structures Populate an Educational Underclass,” was published by the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk.

Analyzing data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study along with other studies, DeLuca and Deil-Amen found that today’s high schoolers fall into three categories: those on a college preparatory track, making up an estimated one-third of the student body; those who prepare for the post-graduation labor force through career and technical education programs, making up a quarter of the student population; and the more than 40 percent of high school students who don’t have access to adequate college preparation or occupational training.

The college-track students were disproportionately white and of higher socioeconomic status, and the most unprepared students were the poorest, disproportionately underrepresented minority students, immigrant English language learner, and first-generation college students.

For some students who delay preparation for four-year colleges or jobs while in high school, two-year colleges seem like a second chance. Some students manage to meet the requirements for highly selective two-year community college programs or make it through expensive occupational programs at for-profit colleges—both options can prepare them for more lucrative jobs. However, many others end up in less selective two-year degree programs and often don’t complete the requirements. When they do, such programs may lead to less economically rewarding jobs, DeLuca and Deil-Amen wrote.
“Unfortunately, many who seek a concrete route to a good job pay the high cost of for-profit colleges when the same programs are often offered a much lower cost in community colleges or state universities,” DeLuca said. “Nowhere is there a safety net to prevent these youth from falling through the cracks in the two-year pipeline. They leave demoralized, having spent time and money, with no clear job skills or credentials to show for it.”

To combat these problems, the researchers support the fusion of both career and academic curricula in high school to provide more feasible methods of opening up career and college options for all.

“College access has increased dramatically, but to parade enrollment in higher education as a guaranteed pathway to social mobility is illusory,” DeLuca and Deil-Amen said. “To imagine that youth in poverty can be upwardly mobile via college access denies the fact that the education system positions them to be members of an educational underclass and ensures that they experience a structured lack of opportunities.”

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Between 30% and 40% of youths arrested by age 23


Cumulative Prevalence of Arrest From Ages 8 to 23 in a National Sample

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the cumulative proportion of youth who self-report having been arrested or taken into custody for illegal or delinquent offenses (excluding arrests for minor traffic violations) from ages 8 to 23 years.

METHODS: Self-reported arrest history data (excluding arrests for minor traffic violations) from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (N = 7335) were examined from 1997 to 2008.

RESULTS: By age 18, the in-sample cumulative arrest prevalence rate lies between 15.9% and 26.8%; at age 23, it lies between 25.3% and 41.4%. These bounds make no assumptions at all about missing cases. If we assume that the missing cases are at least as likely to have been arrested as the observed cases, the in-sample age-23 prevalence rate must lie between 30.2% and 41.4%. The greatest growth in the cumulative prevalence of arrest occurs during late adolescence and the period of early or emerging adulthood.

CONCLUSIONS: Since the last nationally defensible estimate based on data from 1965, the cumulative prevalence of arrest for American youth (particularly in the period of late adolescence and early adulthood) has increased substantially. At a minimum, being arrested for criminal activity signifies increased risk of unhealthy lifestyle, violence involvement, and violent victimization. Incorporating this insight into regular clinical assessment could yield significant benefits for patients and the larger community.
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Very Few Youths Invovled in Sexting


Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study
published in Pediatrics

OBJECTIVES: To obtain national estimates of youth involved in sexting in the past year (the transmission via cell phone, the Internet, and other electronic media of sexual images), as well as provide details of the youth involved and the nature of the sexual images.

METHODS: The study was based on a cross-sectional national telephone survey of 1560 youth Internet users, ages 10 through 17.

RESULTS: Estimates varied considerably depending on the nature of the images or videos and the role of the youth involved. Two and one-half percent of youth had appeared in or created nude or nearly nude pictures or videos. However, this percentage is reduced to 1.0% when the definition is restricted to only include images that were sexually explicit (ie, showed naked breasts, genitals, or bottoms). Of the youth who participated in the survey, 7.1% said they had received nude or nearly nude images of others; 5.9% of youth reported receiving sexually explicit images. Few youth distributed these images.
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America’s Youth: Transitions to Adulthood


America’s Youth: Transitions to Adulthood compares the current generation of youth and young adults in the United States to youth and young adults in 2000, 1990, and 1980. Data for the report came from NCES and other federal surveys.

According to this new NCES report, the youth of 2011 are different than their peers in 1980, 1990, and 2000 in many aspects – they have greater education and less labor force participation, they have delayed the establishment of their own families, and they have higher expectations for their future.

Other findings include:

• In 2010, there were 47.1 million youth and young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 in the United States, compared with 46.2 million in 1980. While the number of youth and young adults increased by 0.9 million since 1980, their percentage of the U.S. population declined from 20 to 15 percent.

• For young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, the current generation is enrolled in school at higher rates than their predecessors in 1980. In 2009, some 69 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds were enrolled in school, compared with 46 percent in 1980. In addition, about 52 percent of 20- and 21-year-olds were enrolled in school in 2009, compared with 31 percent in 1980, and 30 percent of 22- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in school in 2009, compared with 16 percent in 1980.

• In 1980, about 86 percent of young adult males, ages 20 to 24, were in the labor force, compared to 69 percent of young adult females. By 2010, some 75 percent of young adult males and 68 percent of young adult females were in the labor force.

• Between 1980 and 2010, the percentage of persons ages 20 to 24 who were householders (i.e., those who owned or rented their own house) or the spouses of householders decreased from 38 to 19 percent. For females in this age range, the decrease was from 47 to 25 percent between these years; for males, the decrease was from 28 to 13 percent.
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Does Practice-Based Teacher Preparation Increase Student Achievement?


Early Evidence from the Boston Teacher Residency

The Boston Teacher Residency is an innovative practice-based preparation program in which candidates work alongside a mentor teacher for a year before becoming a teacher of record in Boston Public Schools.

The authors find find that BTR graduates are more racially diverse than other BPS novices, more likely to teach math and science, and more likely to remain teaching in the district through year five.

Initially, BTR graduates for whom value-added performance data are available are no more effective at raising student test scores than other novice teachers in English language arts and less effective in math.

The effectiveness of BTR graduates in math improves rapidly over time, however, such that by their fourth and fifth years they out-perform veteran teachers.

Simulations of the program’s overall impact through retention and effectiveness suggest that it is likely to improve student achievement in the district only modestly over the long run.

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Bullying in Schools


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has released Peer Victimization in Schools: A Set of Quantitative and Qualitative Studies of the Connections Among Peer Victimization, School Engagement, Truancy, School Achievement and Other Outcomes,

Conducted by the National Center for School Engagement in 2007, the OJJDP-funded study focused on the connection between bullying, truancy and low academic achievement and examined whether engaging students in academics or extracurricular activities mediates these factors.

Bullying does not directly cause truancy, researchers found. A caring school community where students are challenged academically and adults support them can serve as a powerful antidote. Victimization often distances students from learning and contributes to a myriad of other problems, including truancy and academic failure.

The researchers found "bullying in a box" curricula—generic, pre-fabricated anti-bullying curricula—to be an ineffective substitute for intentional, student-focused engagement strategies.

The researchers further recommended these strategies for schools:

- Offer mentoring programs;
- Provide students with opportunities for community service;
- Address the difficult transition between elementary and middle school (from one single classroom teacher to teams of teachers with periods and class changes in a large school); and
- Start prevention programs early.

The report examines the relationship among bullying, school attendance, school engagement, and school achievement; presents survey findings of young adults bullied in grade school; provides teachers' observations on efforts to ameliorate school bullying; and compares findings to existing research on bullying.
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Unwanted Online Sexual Exposures Decline For Youth


A new study from the University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Center finds declines in two kinds of youth Internet sexual encounters of great concern to parents: unwanted sexual solicitations and unwanted exposure to pornography. The researchers suspect that greater public awareness may have been, in part, what has helped.

The study found that the percentage of youth receiving unwanted online sexual requests declined from 13 percent in 2005 to 9 percent in 2010. Youth experiencing unwanted pornography exposure declined from 34 percent to 23 percent over the same period.

On the other hand, youth reports of online harassment increased slightly from 2005, up from 9 percent to 11 percent.

The study, “Trends in Youth Internet Victimization: Findings From Three Youth Internet Safety Surveys 2000–2010,” was published today online in the Journal of Adolescent Health. It is based on national surveys of youth ages 10 through 17 conducted in 2000, 2005, and 2010.

“The constant news about Internet dangers may give the impression that all Internet problems have been getting worse for youth but actually that is not the case,” said lead author Lisa Jones, research associate professor of psychology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center. “The online environment may be improving.”

Jones pointed out that unwanted sexual solicitations are down more than 50 percent since 2000, when attention first was drawn to the problem.

“The arrests, the publicity and the education may have tamped down the sexual soliciting online” said author Kimberly Mitchell, research assistant professor of psychology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center. ”The more effective safety and screening features incorporated into websites and networks may have helped reduce the unwanted encounters with pornography.”

Jones said harassment may not have fallen because attention to that online problem has been more recent. ”Hopefully, the new focus on online harassment will produce some of the same improvements in this problem that we have seen in sexual solicitations,” she said.

The authors cautioned that unwanted sexual solicitations should not be understood as necessarily communications from adult online predators. Previous research has found that while youth do not know the source of all the unwanted sexual solicitations they receive, when they did know, half were believed to come from other youth.
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AYP Results for 2010-11


This report updates previous Center on Education Policy research with data from the 2010-11 school year on the number of schools not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The estimated percentage of all U.S. schools not making AYP was 48% in 2011, an all-time high and an increase from 39% in 2010. The report also provides six years of trends in the percentage of schools in all 50 states, D.C., and the nation not making AYP, using official numbers from the State Consolidated Performance Reports submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

Related article

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State High School Tests: Changes in State Policies


This 10th installment of the Center on Education Policy's annual study of high school exit exams and other assessments finds that fewer states are requiring students to pass a high school exit exam, though testing in other areas has increased. The report, based on a survey of all 50 state departments of education, discusses state policies associated with high school exit exams, college entrance exams (such as the ACT or SAT), and college and career readiness assessments.

State Profiles for Assessment Policies Through 2010-11

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NCLB: "The Accountability Plateau"


This new analysis of NAEP scores—focusing on Texas and on the entire nation—by former NCES commissioner Mark Schneider finds that solid gains in math achievement coincided with the advent of "consequential accountability," first in the trailblazing Lone Star State and a few other pioneer states, then across the land with the implementation of NCLB.

But Schneider warns that the recent plateau in Texas math scores may foreshadow a coming stagnation in the country’s performance. Has the testing-and-accountability movement as we know it run out of steam? How else might we rekindle our nation’s education progress?

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More On In School Arrests


From the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog, today!:

The Justice Department, stepping up its oversight of the juvenile justice system, has launched an investigation into whether school and law enforcement officials are targeting black students in Meridian, Miss., for unfair treatment.

The Civil Rights Division chief, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, disclosed the investigation in letters to local officials earlier this month. The department is investigating whether city and county authorities have a “pattern or practice” of violating the youths’ constitutional rights, specifically the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the law, and the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Department officials said the allegations involve a “very tight relationship” between the schools and the juvenile court that works to put black students under law enforcement supervision. Black students cited “for very minor infractions end up in front of a juvenile judge,” who then sentences them to probation contingent on compliance with school rules, an official said. That way, “kids who’ve been out of school uniform by wearing the wrong color jacket or shirt” can be sent to juvenile hall for a probation violation. White students allegedly are treated more leniently for similar behavior, officials said.
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Restorative practices found to be effective alternative to zero tolerance in schools


Restorative practices appear to be an effective alternative to exclusionary and punitive zero-tolerance behavior policies mandated in many schools today.

So reports Laura Mirsky in an article in the December 2011 issue of The Prevention Researcher, a quarterly journal that focuses on successful adolescent development and serves professionals who work with young people.

Mirsky interviewed educators and students at schools using restorative practices. She concludes that "although formal research is just beginning in this area, early indications and anecdotal evidence suggest that restorative practices, by intentionally promoting open communication, enhance relationships and thereby improve school climate, discipline and safety."

The International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) in Bethlehem, PA has gathered data—mainly discipline statistics—from approximately 40 schools since 1999 to evaluate the effects of restorative practices.

"The data indicate that restorative practice implementation increased school safety and decreased discipline problems," Mirsky writes.

At West Philadelphia High School, for example, which received its first formal training in restorative practices in 2008, suspensions decreased by half from April to December of that year. A year later the school was removed from Pennsylvania's persistently dangerous schools list, where it had been for six years.

Mirsky, assistant director of communications and technology for IIRP, says the restorative approach engages students in processes where they can take responsibility for their behavior. It also includes proactive ways for them to build relationships and community.

She discusses 11 elements used to change the learning climate in schools. Seven of these are school-wide and used by all staff members who come in contact with children. One—affective statements—underpins all other elements. Affective statements are "personal expressions of feelings in response to specific positive or negative behaviors of others."

"Understanding and using affective statements can help foster an immediate change in the dynamic between teacher and student," says Mirsky. "When teachers tell students how they feel, they humanize themselves to students, who often perceive teachers as distinct from themselves."

In the fall of 2010, City Springs Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland began concentrating wholeheartedly on affective statements and the 10 other elements of whole-school change. The number of suspensions at City Springs declined from 86 in 2008-2009 to nine in 2010-2011.

While affective statements are the most informal restorative practice, at the other end of the 11-step continuum is the most formal one: the restorative conference. This is a structured protocol used in response to serious incidents. All persons involved come together to explore what happened, who was affected, and what needs to be done to make things right. The conference is run by a trained facilitator who leads participants through a series of scripted questions to think about the incident, who it affected and how, and how they can repair the situation.

Mirsky describes a restorative conference held at Kosciusko Middle School in Detroit's Hamtramck School District. Two girls had written a "hit list" naming 25 fellow students and signing their names. The situation upset the entire school. A restorative conference was held with the girls, all of the students on the list, and everyone's parents, along with teachers, administrators and translators in four languages. Everyone spoke. At the end, all agreed that the two girls, who were remorseful, would not be expelled. They would, however, not be allowed to attend the eighth-grade trip and would work in the school office all summer to make amends.

"In the center of the restorative practices continuum—and fundamental to it—are circles," says Mirsky. One person speaks at a time. Everyone has a chance to speak.

"Circles change the classroom dynamic," she says. "Students who might normally behave obstructively are integrated into the classroom when given a forum to be heard, and assertive students who might dominate discussion can no longer do so."

Said one student at Hamtramck High School, "Before we had circles we didn't feel like our voices mattered. Now the violence and fighting have stopped. Circles make you feel safe. We all come together. A lot of us want to change the world."

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Online: most children feel safe doing things that adults often perceive as risky


Sweden has one of Europe's highest rates of Internet use among children. The increasing number of children online implies increasing opportunities – but also risks. Yet a majority of 9-16 year olds say that they have not encountered anything on the Internet that has bothered or upset them in the past year.

The Swedish part of the study EU Kids Online also found that most children feel safe doing things that adults often perceive as risky.

However, in response to a general question, one in five (19%) Swedish children said that something on the Internet had bothered or upset them in the last twelve months. This figure varies from one-tenth of the 9-10 year olds to one-quarter of the 15-16 year olds.

One percent of the children said that they in the past year had felt upset when meeting face-to-face with a person they had first met online.

Five percent said that images with an obviously sexual content had made them feel uncomfortable online in the past year.

Most of those who had been cyberbullied in the past year (9 %) said that it had made them bothered and upset.

These are some of the results presented in the report Hur farligt är internet? (How dangerous is the Internet?) published today by NORDICOM's International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media, University of Gothenburg.

The report covers the Swedish part of the project EU Kids Online, where 9-16 year old Internet users and their parents in 25 European countries have been interviewed. About 1000 children have been interviewed in their homes in each country. The project is headed from London School of Economics and Political Science by Sonia Livingstone and Leslie Haddon, and is financed by the EC Safer Internet Plus Programme.

Many of the interviewed Swedish parents expressed that they would like more information from schools about Internet security. One suggestion presented in the report is therefore that a national directive targeting schools be developed concerning Internet security among young people.
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Society may get stuck with the bill for expensive higher education


The rising cost of a college education and limited access to financial aid may create a less productive workforce and steeper wealth inequity, according to a study by North American economists.

Students with low-income parents are discovering that it is more difficult to find funds to pay for a college education now compared to students of similar economic backgrounds in the 1980s, said Alexander Monge-Naranjo, assistant professor of economics, Penn State.

"The consensus was that in the 1980s, credit constraints didn't seem to matter for those who went to college," said Monge-Naranjo. "But according to the latest data, we see family income and parental wealth are making a big difference in who is attending college."

Monge-Naranjo said there were several reasons for the move away from affordability. Over the last two decades, more higher-paying jobs required a college degree. The higher demand for a college education led universities to increase tuition, according to Monge-Narajo.

At the same time, money available through government loan programs remained flat or, when adjusting for in inflation, declined. During the 1990s, the percentage of undergraduates who borrowed from government lending programs increased significantly. Of those students, the ones at the top limit of their borrowing capacity tripled to 52 percent. Many more students are relying on private lenders for loans, Monge-Narajo said.

In the 1980s, credit constraints -- factors that limit financial access to college funding, such as caps on financial assistance and family income -- did not significantly stop students from attending college, once the researchers controlled for other factors, such as SAT score, age and race. Even poor students who had little financial resources to pay for college, but who were smart, could access credit to pursue an education, Monge-Naranjo said.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the current issue of the American Economic Review, said a shift occurred in the 1990s as more low-income students began to struggle to access credit to pay for a college. During the 1990s, youths from high-income families were 16 percent more likely to attend college than youths from low-income families.

Monge-Naranjo, who worked with Lance Lochner, associate professor, Western economics and director, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity, University of Western Ontario, used the most recent data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth and the Armed Forces Qualifying Test to examine the relationships between intelligence, family income and college attendance.

According to Monge-Naranjo, constraints on financial aid could have far-reaching economic impacts. When poor but intelligent workers are unable to earn a college degree, their career choices are restricted, Monge-Naranjo said. That could mean less qualified and less productive workers will attain those positions.

"It's a matter of economic efficiency," said Monge-Naranjo. "Are we choosing the best individuals for the job, or just the individual whose parents are wealthy? In the long-term that may have an effect on the economy, although it may take a couple of generations to find out and, even then, perhaps be hard to quantify."
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Cigarette and alcohol use at historic low among teens


The 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows continued high levels of abuse of alternate tobacco products, marijuana and prescription drugs

Cigarette and alcohol use by eighth, 10th and 12th-graders are at their lowest point since the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey began polling teenagers in 1975, according to this year's survey results. However, this positive news is tempered by a slowing rate of decline in teen smoking as well as continued high rates of abuse of other tobacco products (e.g., hookahs, small cigars, smokeless tobacco), marijuana and prescription drugs. The survey results appear to show that more teens continue to abuse marijuana than cigarettes; and alcohol is still the drug of choice among all three age groups queried.

MTF is an annual survey of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The survey was conducted in classrooms earlier this year.

"That cigarette use has declined to historically low rates is welcome news, given our concerns that declines may have slowed or stalled in recent years," said NIDA director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "That said, the teen smoking rate is declining much more slowly than in years past, and we are seeing teens consume other tobacco products at high levels. This highlights the urgency of maintaining strong prevention efforts against teen smoking and of targeting other tobacco products."

The 2011 results showed that 18.7 percent of 12th-graders reported current (past-month) cigarette use, compared to a recent peak rate of 36.5 percent in 1997 and 21.6 percent five years ago. Only 6.1 percent of eighth-graders reported current smoking, compared to a recent peak of 21 percent in 1996 and 8.7 percent five years ago.

"While it is good news that cigarette use has declined to historically low rates, we can and must do more to accelerate that decline," said Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, assistant secretary for health. "The actual decline is relatively small compared to the sharp declines we witnessed in the late nineties."

For alcohol, 63.5 percent of 12th-graders reported past year use, compared to a recent peak of 74.8 percent in 1997. Similarly, 26.9 percent of eighth-graders reported past year use of alcohol in 2011, compared to a recent peak rate of 46.8 percent in 1994. There also was a five-year decrease in binge drinking, measured as five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks, across all three grades. Binge drinking was reported by 6.4 percent of eighth-graders, 14.7 percent of 10th-graders, and 21.6 percent of 12th-graders, down from the 2006 rates of 8.7 percent, 19.9 percent and 25.4 percent respectively.

Despite the declines noted in the report, use of marijuana has shown some increases in recent years and remains steady. Among 12th-graders, 36.4 percent reported past year use, and 6.6 percent reported daily use, up from 31.5 and 5 percent, respectively, five years ago. The upward trend in teens' abuse of marijuana corresponded to downward trends in their perception of risk. For example, only 22.7 percent of high school seniors saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 25.9 percent five years ago. Similarly, 43.4 percent of eighth-graders reported that they saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 48.9 percent five years ago. In addition, concerns about the use of synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or spice, prompted its inclusion in the survey for the first time in 2011. Surprisingly, 11.4 percent of 12th-graders reported past year use.

"K2 and spice are dangerous drugs that can cause serious harm," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. "We will continue to work with the public health and safety community to respond to this emerging threat but in the meantime, parents must take action. Parents are the most powerful force in the lives of young people and we ask that all of them talk to their teens today about the serious consequences of using marijuana, K2, or spice."

There was mixed news seen in the non-medical use of prescription drugs. Abuse of the opioid painkiller Vicodin was reported by 8.1 percent of 12th graders -- similar to 2010 and down from 9.7 percent in 2009. There was also a decline reported by 10th graders -- to 5.9 percent from 7.7 percent in 2010. However, no such declines were seen for the opioid painkiller OxyContin.

In 2011, the non-medical use of the ADHD medicines Adderall and Ritalin remained about the same as last year among 12th-graders, at 6.5 and 2.6 percent, respectively. There was, however, a significant decline in the abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine among eighth-graders, down to 2.7 percent in 2011 from 4.2 percent in 2006, when the survey first asked about its abuse. A similar decline in cough medicine abuse was seen among 12th-graders, to 5.3 percent from 6.9 percent five years ago.

"To help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, NIDA is launching an updated prescription drug section on our teen website," said Dr. Volkow. "Teens can go to our PEERx pages to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make healthy decisions and understand the risks of abusing prescription drugs. We are also encouraging teens to provide feedback on these resources through NIDA's teen blog, Sara Bellum, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or email." PEERx can be seen at

Overall, 46,773 students from 400 public and private schools participated in this year's MTF survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th-graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Questions are also asked about daily cigarette and marijuana use. NIDA has providing funding for the survey since its inception by a team of investigators at the University of Michigan, led by Dr. Lloyd Johnston. Additional information on the MTF Survey, as well as comments from Dr. Volkow, can be found at To hear the audiocast of the event, visit:

MTF is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services that provide data on substance use among youth. The others are the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The MTF website is:

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is the primary source of statistical information on substance use in the U.S. population 12 years of age and older. More information is available here.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, part of HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, is a school-based survey that collects data from students in grades 9-12. The survey includes questions on a wide variety of health-related risk behaviors, including substance abuse. More information is available here.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found here.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

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California Principals Between a Rock and a Hard Place


New report by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd finds principals challenged to meet dual roles of school manager and instructional leader

A new survey of more than 600 school principals finds California’s school site leaders between a rock and a hard place. Historic budget cutbacks present significant challenges to classroom teachers, thereby increasing the importance of the role principals play as a source of instructional leadership and support. But California’s disinvestment in its schools is also expanding school management responsibilities for principals. Facing growing demands and declining resources, school principals increasingly struggle to find the time, resources and capacity to meet the dual challenges of effective school management and ensuring quality instruction for California’s students.

These findings and others can be found in The Status of the Teaching Profession 2011, the annual report on California’s educator workforce by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd with research by SRI International.

“Research shows that second only to classroom teachers, school principals play a key role in improving student achievement,” says Holly Jacobson, director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd. “But budget cuts and increasing accountability pressures are clearly making the job harder. Just as teachers most need their support, principals have more to do, and less time, resources and support to do it.”

In addition to its findings on school principals, the report provides new information on key issues impacting the teaching workforce, including more than $100 million in cutbacks to teacher professional development, a dramatic decline of more than 50% in the enrollment of prospective teachers in training programs, a 40% drop in the production of newly credentialed teachers, and escalating retirements. The report also makes clear that California does not have the data system it needs to inform and guide future education policy decisions.

“California has increased its educational expectations, embracing the new Common Core State Standards and more meaningful systems of assessment, but historic budget cuts are impacting the abilities of teachers and principals to do their jobs,” says Patrick Shields of SRI International. “Schools are struggling to get the resources they need to increase student learning and California faces heightened uncertainties as to whether it will be able to meet future demand for a high quality teacher and principal workforce.”

Amid an increasing state and national focus on teaching quality, the report also examines the capacity of principals to conduct teacher evaluations. While the majority of principals have prior experience in key areas of evaluation, more than one third of principals say they had no or minimal experience in formally evaluating teachers prior to becoming a principal. One quarter report they had no or minimal experience in conducting classroom observations. Once on the job, about one third of principals say they receive minimal or no professional development in these areas of teacher evaluation.

When it comes to using the information to strengthen teaching, just over one half of principals strongly agree that their administrative team has the expertise needed to conduct classroom observations to identify teachers’ areas of need. And while a majority of principals say that formal performance evaluations inform individual teachers’ professional development or school-wide professional development, just one third say it does so to a great extent. Less than half report that teacher evaluations inform to a great extent whether teachers are retained. Almost 40 percent said that when a teacher is not performing satisfactorily, they tend to handle the matter outside the formal teacher evaluation system.

The report also examines principal’s views on barriers to teaching quality. Principals more frequently identified staffing-related issues than limited time or resources to increase the expertise and skills of their staff as a whole. Nearly half identified the influence of teacher seniority on staffing decisions as a “serious barrier.” Just under three quarters (73%) say overly cumbersome procedures for removing a teacher identified as unsatisfactory pose a serious barrier to teaching quality.

“California’s principals face significant challenges in meeting their dual responsibilities as school managers and instructional leaders and they are frustrated by the time consuming chore of removing unsatisfactory teachers, no matter how few those may be,” says Holly Jacobson. “But at a time when teachers may most need their help, principals are also greatly challenged to use evaluation in ways that inform and improve classroom teaching. California needs a fair and effective system of evaluation focused on strengthening the quality of teaching.”

The report also includes recommendations for strengthening teaching and leadership in California’s schools. The recommendations are focused on improving the state’s system of teacher development and evaluation in ways that strengthen the quality of classroom practice and address the challenge of preparing for the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards. The recommendations also encourage the development of data systems capable of providing policymakers and educators with the information needed to promote student learning, strengthen the teacher and principal workforce and address educational equity issues.

Key Findings

Fiscal uncertainty — California’s new normal
More than $20 billion in cumulative cuts to schools and districts occurred between 2007-08 and 2010-11. School districts have responded by increasing class size, laying off teachers and administrative staff, reducing support and professional development for teachers, and reducing the number of instructional days. Schools face the potential of additional mid-year budget cuts.

Teachers — doing more with less

California’s budget situation is transforming the state’s teaching workforce and increasing pressure on teachers in the classroom. Between 2009-10 and 2010-11, the size of the student population increased, but there were nearly 13,000 fewer teachers serving the population. Average class size in grades K-3 has risen from 20 students in in 2008-09 to 25 in 2010-11, and in grades 4-12 from 28 to 31 students. There are also fewer instructional days. Just 43% of schools reported providing 180 days of instruction in 2010-11, down from 100% in 2008-09. There are also fewer personnel to support teachers. More than half (55%) of principals reported a reduction in supporting instructional personnel (counselors, librarians, aides) since 2008-09. Professional development for teachers has also been cut by more than $100 million since 2007-08, and many schools are using professional development funds for other educational purposes.

Principals under pressure — more management, less instructional leadership

Layoffs of administrative and support staff have increased the management and administrative responsibilities of principals. In 2008-09, California already ranked 48th out of 50 states in its ratio of principals and assistant principals to students. But nearly one third (31%) of school districts report a decrease in the number of school administrators since then. Principals also report reductions in non-instructional support staff, including clerical workers and janitors. As school districts reduce district administrative staff, some principals also report increasing district responsibilities and receiving less district support. Principals also said that prior to becoming principals they had little experience with the management functions of their job, with more than half saying they have minimal or no experience in such areas as managing a school site budget (66%) or developing a school’s master schedule (55%). These challenges are compounded by the relative inexperience of the state’s principals. More than half have been in the job five years or less, and 53% have been principals in their current schools for three years or less. Despite these needs, professional development for principals has also been reduced. Two thirds (67%) of school districts have shifted funds away from the Administrator Training Program.

Principals report working an average of 60 hours each week, but despite long hours, increased administrative responsibilities leave principals with less time for instructional leadership. Principals consistently cited the challenge of insufficient time to meet all their responsibilities: One in three principals cited insufficient time to observe teachers for formal evaluation and insufficient time to debrief with all teachers after classroom observations as serious barriers to improving teaching quality.

While a majority of principals report prior experience in core job functions related to evaluation, a quarter (26%) say they have no or minimal experience conducting classroom observations or walk-throughs. More than one third (37%) say they have no or minimal experience or formally evaluating teachers. Principals also face challenges in the use of evaluation to improve teaching quality. About one third say that formal performance evaluations inform to a great extent teachers’ professional development or school-wide professional development. Fewer still (28%) say evaluation informs allocations of resources to strengthen areas of teacher weaknesses. Just under half (45%) reported that teacher evaluations inform to a great extent whether teachers are retained.

Principal views of barriers to teaching quality

Survey responses suggest that when principals think about improving teaching quality, many think first about staffing—removing any poorly performing teachers and keeping more effective teachers—and second about increasing the expertise and skills of their staff as a whole. Nearly three quarters of principals (73%) say cumbersome procedures for removing a teacher identified as unsatisfactory pose a serious barrier to teaching quality. Nearly one half say the same about the role teacher seniority plays in staffing decisions.

Heightened uncertainties

California faces heightened uncertainties about the future. Current progress on student achievement is insufficient to meet federal accountability requirements. And expectations for student learning will only increase with the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards and assessments. But in the face of these new expectations, teachers are receiving less support at all stages of the teacher development system.

There are very few new teachers in the system, with just six percent of the workforce in its first or second year of teaching. Additionally, enrollment in teacher preparation programs declined by more than 50% between 2001-02 and 2009-10, and the number of teaching credentials issued declined 40% between 2003-04 and 2009-10. Meanwhile, educator retirement is also steadily climbing — reaching 15,500 in 2009-10 — an increase of 21% over the previous year. California also lacks a statewide data system capable of informing policymakers and the public about decisions to address these and other educational challenges.
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Study Examines the 6+1 Trait® Writing Model


Strong writing skills are important for student success in high school and college, and, increasingly, for success in the workplace. To add to the evidence base on effective strategies for teaching writing in the elementary grades, REL Northwest conducted a rigorous study to test the impact of the 6+1 Trait® Writing model on grade 5 writing achievement. The Trait® Writing model emphasizes analysis of writing using a set of characteristics, or “traits,” of written work, including ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.

The study, An investigation of the impact of the 6+1 Trait® Writing model on grade 5 student writing achievement, found that students who experienced the model had higher scores on essay writing in comparison to students whose schools used their “business as usual” writing instruction.

The study’s exploratory analyses found statistically significant differences between Trait® Writing students and comparison students in performance on organization, voice, and word choice traits. There were no differences in the effects of the intervention by gender or ethnicity and for the ideas, sentence fluency, and conventions traits.
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In school arrests - Connecticut


Complete report

From March through May of this year, more than 700 arrests were made in Connecticut schools, two-thirds of them for minor offenses such as breach of peace or disorderly conduct, according to data obtained from the Court Support Services Division (CSSD).

In Hartford alone, 87 arrests were made in schools, including 54 at grade K-8 schools. One Hartford elementary school, the Latino Studies Academy at Burns, recorded 16 arrests in the 2 1/2 month period. Similarly in Waterbury, 59 arrests were reported, more than half at elementary and middle schools. Offenses run the gamut from possession of tobacco, to swearing at a teacher, to fist-fighting.

The arrest data, which provides only a preliminary snapshot since the state began collecting it last spring, “blows out the myth that kids get in trouble after school or over the summer, when they’re idle,” said Abby Anderson, director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, which has been working to reduce school-based arrests. “If you look at how kids get in trouble, it makes sense: They get in trouble as a group—especially in overcrowded, under-resourced schools.”

Connecticut is one of a handful of states trying to tackle school-based arrests, which experts say fuel recidivism in the criminal justice system and often are used in place of interventions that can lead to better outcomes for children. School arrests have become increasingly commonplace in the post-Columbine era, with many districts imposing “zero tolerance” policies on student misbehavior. Zero tolerance, originally coined in the 1980s for strict drug-seizure policies, has been expanded to include punishment for fighting, swearing, disrupting class, disobedience, truancy and other forms of misbehavior.

Additional resources:

“Hard Lessons: School resource Officer Programs and School-Based Arrests in Three Connecticut Towns”

18 Signs That Life In U.S. Public Schools Is Now Essentially Equivalent to Life In U.S. Prisons
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The Role of Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment Programs


Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Enrollment (DE) are two programs that allow high school students to earn college credits. The recent growth of these programs has been unprecedented. However, there is little evidence that compares how they fare in terms of improving college access and success. Using data from two cohorts of all high school students in Florida and controlling for schools’ and students’ characteristics (including prior achievement), this study examines the relative power of AP and DE in predicting students’ college access and success.

The study finds that both AP and DE are strongly associated with positive outcomes, but the enrollment outcomes are not the same for both programs. DE students are more likely than AP students to go to college after high school, but they are less likely to first enroll in a four-year college. Despite this difference in initial enrollment, the difference between DE and AP in terms of bachelor’s degree attainment is much smaller and not statistically significant for some model specifications. In addition, the effect of DE is driven by courses taken at the local community college campus; there is no effect for DE courses taken at the high school.
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High School Dual Enrollment Programs: Are We Fast-Tracking Students Too Fast?


Dual enrollment (DE), an arrangement by which high school students take college courses, is becoming increasingly popular as a means of improving high school education. However, there is little rigorous evidence on its impact on student outcomes. This working paper from the National Center for Postsecondary Research represents the first attempt to use a regression discontinuity (RD) design to gauge the causal effect of DE on the likelihood of high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion among students who are on the margin of eligibility for participation in DE.

In two separate RD analyses, the paper examines the effects of taking an academic DE course in any subject and the effects of taking a DE course in college algebra. While the former appears to have no significant effects on student outcomes, participation in DE algebra was found to have large and significant effects on college enrollment and graduation rates for students on the margin of participation eligibility.
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Online Algebra I broadens access for grade 8 students


As schools’ technology capacity has increased, online courses have helped to expand curricular offerings, particularly in small schools and rural areas. To add to the evidence base on the effectiveness of online courses, REL Northeast and Islands conducted a rigorous experimental study of the impact of offering an online Algebra I course to grade 8 students in Maine and Vermont on algebra knowledge and subsequent mathematics course taking patterns.

The study, Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students, found that algebra-ready students in schools offering online Algebra I scored higher on an algebra test and were more likely to participate in an advanced mathematics course sequence in high school, compared to algebra-ready students in schools that did not offer the online course. The study also found no evidence of negative effects on non-algebra-ready students attending schools where online Algebra I was offered to algebra-ready students. This combination of findings demonstrates that offering an online Algebra I course is an effective way to broaden access to this course.
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Academic Libraries: 2010

Academic Libraries: 2010


Academic Libraries: 2010 summarizes services, staff, collections, and expenditures of academic libraries in 2- and 4-year, degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Findings include:

• Academic libraries held approximately 158.7 million e-books and about 1.8 million electronic reference sources and aggregation services at the end of FY 2010.

• Academic libraries spent approximately $152.4 million for electronic books, serial backfiles, and other materials in FY 2010. Expenditures for electronic current serial subscriptions totaled about $1.2 billion.

• During FY 2010, some 72 percent of academic libraries reported that they supported virtual reference services.

• Academic libraries reported 88,943 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff working in academic libraries during the fall of 2010.
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Study debunks myths about gender and math performance


A major study of recent international data on school mathematics performance casts doubt on some common assumptions about gender and math achievement — in particular, the idea that girls and women have less ability due to a difference in biology.

"We tested some recently proposed hypotheses that try to explain a supposed gender gap in math performance and found they were not supported by the data," says Janet Mertz, senior author of the study and a professor of oncology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Instead, the Wisconsin researchers linked differences in math performance to social and cultural factors.

The new study, by Mertz and Jonathan Kane, a professor of mathematical and computer sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, was published today (Dec. 12, 2011) in Notices of the American Mathematical Society. The study looked at data from 86 countries, which the authors used to test the "greater male variability hypothesis" famously expounded in 2005 by Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, as the primary reason for the scarcity of outstanding women mathematicians.

That hypothesis holds that males diverge more from the mean at both ends of the spectrum and, hence, are more represented in the highest-performing sector. But, using the international data, the Wisconsin authors observed that greater male variation in math achievement is not present in some countries, and is mostly due to boys with low scores in some other countries, indicating that it relates much more to culture than to biology.

The new study relied on data from the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the 2009 Programme in International Student Assessment.

"People have looked at international data sets for many years", Mertz says. "What has changed is that many more non-Western countries are now participating in these studies, enabling much better cross-cultural analysis."

The Wisconsin study also debunked the idea proposed by Steven Levitt of "Freakonomics" fame that gender inequity does not hamper girls' math performance in Muslim countries, where most students attend single-sex schools. Levitt claimed to have disproved a prior conclusion of others that gender inequity limits girls' mathematics performance. He suggested, instead, that Muslim culture or single-sex classrooms benefit girls' ability to learn mathematics.

By examining the data in detail, the Wisconsin authors noted other factors at work. "The girls living in some Middle Eastern countries, such as Bahrain and Oman, had, in fact, not scored very well, but their boys had scored even worse, a result found to be unrelated to either Muslim culture or schooling in single-gender classrooms," says Kane.

He suggests that Bahraini boys may have low average math scores because some attend religious schools whose curricula include little mathematics. Also, some low-performing girls drop out of school, making the tested sample of eighth graders unrepresentative of the whole population.

"For these reasons, we believe it is much more reasonable to attribute differences in math performance primarily to country-specific social factors," Kane says.

To measure the status of females relative to males within each country, the authors relied on a gender-gap index, which compares the genders in terms of income, education, health and political participation. Relating these indices to math scores, they concluded that math achievement at the low, average and high end for both boys and girls tends to be higher in countries where gender equity is better. In addition, in wealthier countries, women's participation and salary in the paid labor force was the main factor linked to higher math scores for both genders.

"We found that boys — as well as girls — tend to do better in math when raised in countries where females have better equality, and that's new and important," says Kane. "It makes sense that when women are well-educated and earn a good income, the math scores of their children of both genders benefit."

Mertz adds, "Many folks believe gender equity is a win-lose zero-sum game: If females are given more, males end up with less. Our results indicate that, at least for math achievement, gender equity is a win-win situation."

U.S. students ranked only 31st on the 2009 Programme in International Student Assessment, below most Western and East-Asian countries. One proposed solution, creating single-sex classrooms, is not supported by the data. Instead, Mertz and Kane recommend increasing the number of math-certified teachers in middle and high schools, decreasing the number of children living in poverty and ensuring gender equality.

"These changes would help give all children an optimal chance to succeed," says Mertz. "This is not a matter of biology: None of our findings suggest that an innate biological difference between the sexes is the primary reason for a gender gap in math performance at any level. Rather, these major international studies strongly suggest that the math-gender gap, where it occurs, is due to sociocultural factors that differ among countries, and that these factors can be changed."

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Autism researchers make exciting strides


Teaching young children with autism to imitate others may improve a broader range of social skills, according to a new study by a Michigan State University scholar.

The findings come at a pivotal time in autism research. In the past several years, researchers have begun to detect behaviors and symptoms of autism that could make earlier diagnosis and even intervention like this possible, said Brooke Ingersoll, MSU assistant professor of psychology.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Ingersoll said. “I think we, as a field, are getting a much better idea of what autism looks like in infants and toddlers than we did even five years ago.”

In the current study, Ingersoll found that toddlers and preschoolers with autism who were taught imitation skills made more attempts to draw the examiner’s attention to an object through gestures and eye contact, a key area of deficit in autism.

Imitation is an important development skill that allows infants and young children to interact and learn from others. However, children with autism often show a lack of ability to imitate.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, analyzed children with autism who were 27 months to 47 months old.

The findings come on the heels of a paper Ingersoll published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science that highlighted recent findings in autism research by U.S. scientists.

While autism is typically diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 3, new research is finding symptoms of autism disorders in children as young as 12 months, the paper found.

“I think there’s a lot of hope that if we can figure out the right behaviors early enough, and intervene early enough, we may be able to prevent the development of autism,” Ingersoll said.
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Is it possible to learn high-performance tasks with little or no conscious effort?


New research published today in the journal Science suggests it may be possible to use brain technology to learn to play a piano, reduce mental stress or hit a curve ball with little or no conscious effort. It's the kind of thing seen in Hollywood's "Matrix" franchise.

Experiments conducted at Boston University (BU) and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, recently demonstrated that through a person's visual cortex, researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks.

Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future.

"Adult early visual areas are sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning," said lead author and BU neuroscientist Takeo Watanabe of the part of the brain analyzed in the study.

Neuroscientists have found that pictures gradually build up inside a person's brain, appearing first as lines, edges, shapes, colors and motion in early visual areas. The brain then fills in greater detail to make a red ball appear as a red ball, for example.

Researchers studied the early visual areas for their ability to cause improvements in visual performance and learning.

"Some previous research confirmed a correlation between improving visual performance and changes in early visual areas, while other researchers found correlations in higher visual and decision areas," said Watanabe, director of BU's Visual Science Laboratory. "However, none of these studies directly addressed the question of whether early visual areas are sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning." Until now.

Boston University post-doctoral fellow Kazuhisa Shibata designed and implemented a method using decoded fMRI neurofeedback to induce a particular activation pattern in targeted early visual areas that corresponded to a pattern evoked by a specific visual feature in a brain region of interest. The researchers then tested whether repetitions of the activation pattern caused visual performance improvement on that visual feature.

The result, say researchers, is a novel learning approach sufficient to cause long-lasting improvement in tasks that require visual performance.

What's more, the approached worked even when test subjects were not aware of what they were learning.

"The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns corresponding to a specific visual feature led to visual performance improvement on the visual feature, without presenting the feature or subjects' awareness of what was to be learned," said Watanabe, who developed the idea for the research project along with Mitsuo Kawato, director of ATR lab and Yuka Sasaki, an assistant in neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"We found that subjects were not aware of what was to be learned while behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed that subjects' visual performance improved specifically for the target orientation, which was used in the neurofeedback training," he said.

The finding brings up an inevitable question. Is hypnosis or a type of automated learning a potential outcome of the research?

"In theory, hypnosis or a type of automated learning is a potential outcome," said Kawato. "However, in this study we confirmed the validity of our method only in visual perceptual learning. So we have to test if the method works in other types of learning in the future. At the same time, we have to be careful so that this method is not used in an unethical way."

At present, the decoded neurofeedback method might be used for various types of learning, including memory, motor and rehabilitation.
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Reading, Math Focus Crowding Out Other Core Academic Subjects


New research reveals that two-thirds of educators in the nation's K-12 public schools believe that an overemphasis on English-language arts and mathematics has resulted in denying students a proper focus on other core academic subjects, such as social studies, science, foreign languages, and the arts.

Conducted by the Farkas Duffett Research (FDR) Group on behalf of Common Core, the research is based on a survey of 1,001 third through 12th grade public school teachers that gathered data about teacher behavior and classroom practice. The research was funded by the Ford Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers. A full study based on this research will be released in 2012.

“During the past decade, our public schools have focused – almost exclusively – on reading and math instruction, hoping to fulfill the latest in federal mandates,” said Lynne Munson, President and Executive Director of Common Core. “NCLB clearly identifies our „core curriculum_ as reading, math, science, social studies, and even the arts. But in our efforts to meet AYP, we have abandoned many of these core subjects in pursuit of higher reading and math scores. As a result, we are denying our students the complete education they deserve and the law demands.”

The Common Core/FDR Group survey found:

• Two-thirds (66%) said that academic subjects other than reading and math “get crowded out by extra attention being paid to math or language arts”

• Math (55%) and language arts (54%) are the only two subjects getting more attention, according to most teachers

• In sharp contrast, about half of those surveyed said art (51%) and music (48%) get less attention, with 40% saying the same for foreign language, 36% for social studies, and 27% for science

• 77% of teachers who believe math and language arts crowd out other subjects say this happens across the full student body, with 21% saying it is targeted to struggling students

• The vast majority (81%) of elementary school teachers report other subjects are getting crowded out by extra attention to math or language arts

• About half (51%) of elementary school teachers say struggling students get extra help in math or language arts by getting pulled out of other classes, with the most likely subjects for pull out being social studies (48%) and science (40%)

• Among all teachers who say crowding out is taking place in their schools, virtually all (93%) believe that this is largely driven by state tests

• Almost two out of three teachers (65%) say they have “had to skip important topics in [my] subject in order to cover the required curriculum”

“According to most teachers, schools are narrowing curriculum, shifting instructional time and resources toward math and language arts and away from subjects such as art, music, foreign language, and social studies,” the survey found. Additionally, “most of the teachers surveyed believe that state tests in math and language arts drive curriculum narrowing. They say that the testing regimen has penetrated school culture and caused vast changes in day-to-day teaching,” the survey continued.
other academic subjects. Narrowing is happening throughout the grades but the problem is acute in the elementary grades, with 81 percent of teachers reporting narrowing. It is unbelievable to think that we_re denying even our youngest students the benefits, and excitement, of learning science, social studies, the arts, music, and foreign languages.”

Common Core believes that a child who graduates from high school without an understanding of culture, the arts, history, literature, civics, and language has in fact been left behind. To improve education in America, Common Core creates curriculum tools and also promotes programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels that provide students with challenging, rigorous instruction in the full range of liberal arts and sciences. Common Core is not affiliated with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

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Supplemental reading programs work better when aligned with core curricula


Students who struggle with reading get an extra benefit from a supplemental reading program when its content is aligned with the students' core reading curriculum, according to a study published in the December issue of the Elementary School Journal.

The findings suggest that supplemental reading programs work best when they mirror core curricula in scope and sequence rather than simply being "layered on top," write the study's authors, Carla Wonder-McDowell, D. Ray Reutzel (Utah State University), and John A. Smith (University of Texas-Arlington).

The study focused on 133 second-graders who had scored in the lowest quartile of a reading assessment test. The students were divided in two groups, with one receiving supplemental instruction that was aligned with the core curricula and the other receiving unaligned supplementary instruction. Both groups were given a pre- and post-test to assess their progress.

"Lesson activities in the aligned … group were designed to reinforce classroom core reading instruction content, delivery, sequence, and pacing," the researchers write. For example, the classroom curriculum specified that phonics instruction begin with short vowel sounds. In the aligned group, the supplemental program was altered to start with short vowels, mirroring the core instruction. In the unaligned group, the students followed an unaltered supplemental program, which started phonics with a mixture of long and short vowels.

Students' test scores showed that while both groups showed significant improvement in reading skills, the aligned group did better. Sixty percent of students in the aligned group scored above the 40th and 50th percentiles, while less than 50 percent of students in the unaligned group scored that high. The aligned group showed greater skill in reading comprehension, fluency, and word decoding.

"This study points to small but consistent advantages for aligning supplementary reading instruction with the classroom core instruction provided to struggling grade 2 readers," the researchers conclude. "To do so requires significant collaboration of classroom teachers and other school service providers to unify the educational experiences of students learning to read."
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2,000,000+ in Charter Schools


The number of students attending public charter schools across the nation has surpassed two million according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS). Over 500 new public charter schools opened their doors in the 2011-12 school year, an estimated increase of 200,000 students. This year marks the largest single–year increase ever recorded in terms of the number of additional students attending charters.

There are now approximately 5,600 public charter schools enrolling what is estimated to be more than two million students nationwide. The numbers equate to a 13 percent growth in students in just one year, while more than 400,000 students remain on wait lists to attend the public school of their choice. This significant milestone demonstrates increased demand from families who want more high-quality educational options for their children.

“We are very encouraged to see the active role parents are playing to ensure their children receive a high-quality education,” said Ursula Wright, interim CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The results that charter schools are demonstrating are not only a testament to the hard work of thousands of teachers and charter leaders, but to families demanding more in terms of what a high-quality education means for their individual children.”

The top states that added the greatest number of students over the past year include: California with 47,000 new students; Florida with 23,500 additional students; Texas with 22,000 additional students; and Ohio with more than 12,000 additional students.

California leads the nation in total number of charter schools with 983 schools in
operation, followed by Arizona with 524, Florida with 520, Ohio with 360, and Texas with

In addition to the more than 500 new schools nationwide, roughly 150 public charter schools did not re-open their doors this fall. These schools closed for a variety of reasons, including low enrollment, financial challenges and low academic performance. The closures provide further evidence that the charter school intent works—schools that do not meet the needs of their students should close.

The states with the largest number of school closures include: California (34), Arizona (22), Florida (18), Ohio (14), and Wisconsin (11).

More data
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States Need to Improve the Middle Grades


States across the South need to take steps now to improve student achievement in the middle grades — considered by many experts to be a critical weak point in public education — or else risk creating a generation of high school students ill-prepared for the 21st century and its changing work force demands, a major new report from the SREB Middle Grades Commission asserts.

Although SREB states have made good progress in early grades achievement in recent years, "when students reach the middle grades, they start to lose momentum — especially in reading and also in math — and often reach the ninth grade unprepared for high school," SREB President Dave Spence said. "Too many give up and drop out."

A New Mission for the Middle Grades: Preparing Students for a Changing World points out that 25 out of 100 rising ninth-graders in the SREB region do not graduate from high school on time. The chance that a ninth-grader is on the way to college by age 19 is less than 50-50. Yet recent research shows the fastest-growing jobs in the years ahead will be those requiring a college degree or technical certificate.

"The middle grades are the make-or-break point of our K-12 public school system. If states are serious about raising graduation rates and preparing more students for postsecondary study, work has to begin now on the middle grades," Spence said.

The SREB Middle Grades Commission was created to craft specific recommendations for change. Chaired by Governor Beverly Perdue of North Carolina (then chair of the Southern Regional Education Board), the 35-member Commission met in 2010 and 2011 and included the heads of state Departments of Education in many of SREB’s 16 member states, state legislators, educators and other state policy-makers.

The report challenges SREB states to jumpstart the stall in middle grades achievement by creating a richer, more active and relevant learning experience that helps middle-graders relate school to their future goals. Among its recommendations, it calls for states to:

- focus the middle grades curriculum on literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses.
- identify the middle grades students likely to drop out and intervene with increased learning time and accelerated instruction.
- require middle-graders to complete individual academic and career plans.

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