The perils of social networking for school employees


School administrators are facing a growing dilemma resulting from social networking that goes beyond preventing cyber-bullying among students. They're also faced with balancing the rights of privacy and free speech of educators with what should be the appropriate behavior of teachers as role models.

Janet Decker, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor in UC's Educational Leadership Program, reveals more on the dilemma in an article published in the January issue of Principal Navigator, a professional magazine by the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators.

Decker explains that a large number of educators have been fired for Internet activity. She says that some teachers have been dismissed for behavior such as posting a picture of themselves holding a glass of wine.

"Despite the evolving issues, the courts have not provided extensive guidance for administrators," writes Decker. "Part of the difficulty is that technology advances at a quicker pace than legal precedent, leaving school employees and administrators unsure of their legal responsibilities."

Decker's article highlights cases that have landed in court as a result of school policies on social networking that "were not clear or effective." The article also examines the law surrounding sexual harassment or abuse of students and freedom of speech for public employees and employee privacy.

"In general, it is important to understand that school employees are expected to be role models both inside and outside of school – even while on Facebook," concludes Decker.

Decker's article features the following 10 recommendations as she encourages school administrators to implement technology policies for school employees:

1. Educate! It's not enough to have written policies; schools should also offer professional development about these issues. By doing so, staff is notified about the expectations and they have a chance to digest and ask questions about the content of the policies.

2. Be empathetic in policies and actions. Administrators may wish that the school's computers will only be used for educational purposes; however, an expectation such as this is unrealistic.

3. Create separate student and staff policies. Much of the law pertaining to students and staff differs greatly.

4. Involve staff in policy creation. This process will help school employees comprehend the policies and will also likely foster staff buy-in.

5. Be clear and specific. Policies should include rationales, legal support and commentary with examples.

6. Ensure your policies conform to state and federal law.

7. Include consequences for violations in policies and implement the consequences.

8. Provide an avenue for appeal and attend to employees' due process rights.

9. Implement policies in an effective and non-discriminatory manner.

10. Amend policies as the law evolves. Much of the law related to technology is in flux. What is legal today may not be tomorrow.
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English language proficiency levels of limited-English-proficient students in Idaho,


This study examines statewide results on the Idaho English Language Assessment (IELA), the federally mandated annual assessment Idaho administers to all limited English proficient (LEP) students. It documents the distribution of LEP students across English proficiency levels on the IELA in 2010 and compares it with results for 2007. It shows how the distribution varied for LEP students by grade spans in listening, speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension. It also compared results across subgroups of LEP students based on gender, participation in the free or reduced-price lunch program, Spanish as the primary language, enrollment in a U.S. public school for the first time in the previous 12 months, migrant status, and enrollment in special education.

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How prepared are subgroups of Texas students for college-level reading?


Many students graduate from high school unprepared for the rigorous reading required in entry-level college and career work. This brief builds on a (Wilkins et al. 2010) that used the Lexile measure (a method for measuring the reading difficulty of prose text and the reading capability of individuals) to estimate the proportion of Texas grade 11 public school students in 2009 ready for entry-level college reading in English.

The previous study examined the overall grade 11 Texas student population; this brief uses the same methodology to present similar readiness estimates for student subgroups as defined by 10 characteristics that Texas uses for its state accountability system.

The report also describes how the college reading readiness levels of local students can be compared with the statewide normative results for each subgroup and includes a link to an online Excel® tool that can be used to make these comparisons for the subgroups examined in this study. The Excel tool enables school administrators to more easily compare the preparation of grade 11 students to read entry-level English textbooks from University of Texas (UT) system schools with that of students overall or selected subgroups of students statewide.

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Plans to adopt and implement Common Core State Standards in the Southeast Region states,


This study, based on interviews with state officials in the six Southeast Region states examines the processes for adopting and implementing the common standards and aligning assessment programs to the common standards in the Southeast Region states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina). The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a common set of expectations for what K–12 students are expected to know and be able to do in English language arts and math. The Common Core State Standards were released in June 2010. As of November 2011, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories have adopted the standards and plan to implement them and align assessments to them.

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The State of State Science Standards 2012


Report: State Science-Education Standards Jeopardize U.S. Competitiveness

Thomas B. Fordham Institute report released today finds that the K-12 science standards of most states remain mediocre to awful, placing America’s national competitiveness, technological prowess and scientific leadership in grave jeopardy.

Since the Sputnik launch of 1957, Americans have regarded science education as crucial to our national security and economic competitiveness. Just recently, a National Science Board report found that the U.S. could soon be overtaken as global leader in supporting science and technology, and advocates educational improvement as crucial to America maintaining its role as the world’s engine of scientific innovation. But The State of State Science Standards, which reviews and analyzes the guidelines that inform K-12 science curriculum and instruction in every state and the District of Columbia, concludes that what states presently expect of their schools in this critical subject is woefully inadequate.

In this comprehensive appraisal, more than 75 percent of states received grades of C or lower, and a majority received D’s or F’s. California and the District of Columbia earned the only straight As—while Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia received A-‘s for their excellent state science standards. But most states lack rigorous, content-rich standards. Seven of them received B-level grades; 11 states received Cs; 17 states received Ds; and 10 states received failing F grades.


Leading science education experts authored this analysis, evaluating state science standards for their clarity, content completeness, and scientific correctness. Science standards are the foundation upon which a state’s system of assessment, instruction, and accountability rests. Therefore, this review analyzes the standards themselves to ensure that they’re clear, thorough, and academically demanding. It does not investigate whether science standards are being properly assessed with state tests, effectively implemented in the schools, or whether they are driving improvements in student achievement.

Shortcomings were many and diverse but there turned out to be four areas, in particular, where state science standards were flawed.

1. Although the treatment of evolution has improved since Fordham’s last assessment of state science standards in 2005, many states still miss the mark on teaching this vital topic. Anti-evolutionary pressures continue to threaten and weaken science standards in many jurisdictions.

2. A great many standards are so vague for educators as to be completely meaningless. Only 7 states earned full credit scores for clarity and specificity while 29 earned a one or zero out of three.

3. Science educators, curriculum developers, and standards writers have focused excessive attention on “inquiry based learning” — attempting to help students learn through “discovery” instead of direct instruction of specific content. In too many states, these inquiry standards are vague to the point of uselessness—depriving students of an education based on substantive scientific content.

4. Mathematics is essential to science, yet few states make this link between math and science clear—and many seem to go to great lengths to avoid mathematical formulae and equations altogether. Students cannot adequately learn physics and chemistry without understanding mathematical concepts and mastering quantitative operations.

As 26 states work with Achieve, Inc. to produce multi-state Next Generation Science Standards over the coming year, this report emphasizes both the urgency of their efforts and the stakes involved. Besides a commendable science-education “framework” from the National Research Council, they can look to the excellent standards already in use in several states as models. It’s no secret what good science standards look like. It’s a blight upon the United States, however, that such standards are guiding the schools and teachers in so few places today.”

The State of State Science Standards: Grades in Rank Order

(Explore all the state report cards in detail and see how your state performed.)

Read across:

Jurisdiction Grade, Total Score, Content and Rigor Score (out of 7)
Clarity and Specificity Score (out of 3)

California A 10 7 3
District of Columbia A 10 7 3
Indiana A- 9 6 3
Massachusetts A- 9 6 3
NAEP framework A- 9 7 2
South Carolina A- 9 6 3
Virginia A- 9 6 3
New York B+ 8 6 2
Arkansas B 7 5 2
Kansas B 7 5 2
Louisiana B 7 5 2
Maryland B 7 5 2
Ohio B 7 5 2
Utah B 7 5 2
Connecticut C 6 4 2
Georgia C 6 4 2
Michigan C 6 4 2
Missouri C 6 4 2
New Mexico C 6 4 2
Texas C 6 5 1
Washington C 6 3 3
Delaware C 5 3 2
Minnesota C 5 4 1
Mississippi C 5 4 1
Vermont C 5 3 2
Alabama D 4 3 1
Arizona D 4 3 1
Florida D 4 3 1
Hawaii D 4 3 1
Illinois D 4 3 1
Maine D 4 3 1
New Hampshire D 4 3 1
North Carolina D 4 3 1
Rhode Island D 4 2 2
Tennessee D 4 3 1
West Virginia D 4 3 1
Colorado D 3 2 1
Iowa D 3 2 1
Kentucky D 3 2 1
Nevada D 3 2 1
New Jersey D 3 2 1
Pennsylvania D 3 2 1
Alaska F 2 1 1
Idaho F 2 2 0
Nebraska F 2 1 1
Oklahoma F 2 1 1
Oregon F 2 1 1
South Dakota F 2 1 1
Wyoming F 2 2 0
Montana F 1 1 0
North Dakota F 1 1 0
Wisconsin F 0 0 0

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WWC Looks at the NYC Study of Small Schools


A new WWC quick review is also available this week, focusing on a recent study of New York City’s small schools.

• Transforming the High School Experience: How New York City’s New Small Schools Are Boosting Student Achievement and Graduation Rates—This study examined whether winning an admissions lottery for a small school of choice improved high school students’ progress toward graduation and graduation rates. The study analyzed data on more than 21,000 students in New York City who participated in a ninth-grade admissions lottery for a small school of choice. Study authors found that students who won an admissions lottery for a small school of choice showed statistically significant improvements in graduation prospects, compared to students who lost the same admissions lottery. The research described in the report meets WWC evidence standards with reservations because carrying out the lotteries using the method described in the report may have resulted in nonrandom differences between the study groups. Read the entire quick review here at

Quick reviews assess whether a study’s design meets WWC evidence standards. The WWC does not vouch for study findings or confirm their correctness.

To see other WWC reports, go to
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WWC Reviews Research on Two Literacy Programs


New reports from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) review the research on Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies and Odyssey Reading, two programs that aim to improve adolescent literacy.

• Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies is a supplementary reading program designed to improve students’ reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension by incorporating peer-tutoring instruction. This WWC report focuses on Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies programs for grades 2–6 and high school. The WWC reviewed 97 studies that investigated the effects of this program on improving adolescent literacy. One study, a randomized controlled trial, meets WWC evidence standards with reservations. The study included 120 students who were, on average, 9.8 years old and attended elementary and middle schools in a southern state. Based on this study, the WWC found the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies program to have potentially positive effects on comprehension for adolescent learners. Read the full report now at

• Odyssey Reading is a web-based K–12 reading/language arts program that uses an interactive, differentiated instructional approach to teach students phonics, context, decoding, and comprehension. The program includes electronic curricula and materials for individual or small-group work, assessments aligned with state curriculum standards, and a data management system that allows teachers to develop individualized instruction and assessment tools to track individual student and classroom performance. The WWC reviewed 27 studies that investigated the effects of Odyssey Reading on improving adolescent literacy, none of which meet WWC evidence standards. Therefore, the WWC is unable to draw any conclusions based on research about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of Odyssey Reading on adolescent learners. Read the full report now at

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International assessment results for Minnesota


Minnesota was one of two states (Massachusetts was the other) that participated in the most recently released Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2007. A new Snapshot from the NCES International Data Explorer web page presents a summary of the Minnesota results.

Findings include:

• In grade 4 mathematics, five education systems (of 43 participating) had average scores higher than Minnesota;

• In grade 4 science, two education systems had higher average scores than Minnesota;

• In grade 8 mathematics, six education systems (of 56 participating) had higher average scores than Minnesota; and

• In grade 8 science, five education systems had higher average scores than Minnesota.

More information about the Minnesota student performance relative to international peers.
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International assessment results for Massachusetts


Massachusetts was one of two states (Minnesota being the other) that participated in the most recently released Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2007.

Key Results:

In mathematics at grade 4, two education systems (Hong Kong-China and Singapore) had average scores higher than Massachusetts; they also had higher percentages of students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. Two education systems (Chinese Taipei and Japan) had average scores not measurably different from Massachusetts; the same two, in addition to Kazakhstan and Minnesota, had percentages of students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark not measurably different from Massachusetts. Among other grade 4 mathematics results:

-The grade 4 mathematics average score for language minority students was higher in Kazakhstan than in Massachusetts, though Kazakhstan's overall average was lower than in Massachusetts.

In mathematics at grade 8, five education systems (Chinese Taipei, Rep. of Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong-China, and Japan) had higher average scores than Massachusetts; the same set of education systems had higher percentages of 8th-graders reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. All other education systems had lower average scores and lower percentages of students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. Among other grade 8 mathematics results:

-The grade 8 mathematics average scores for language minority students and immigrant students were higher in British Columbia-Ca. than in Massachusetts, though British Columbia's overall average was lower than in Massachusetts.

In science at grade 4, Singapore was the only education system with a higher average score or with a higher percentage of students reaching the Advanced benchmark than Massachusetts (Singapore was higher on both measures). Among other grade 4 science results:

-In addition to Singapore, only Kazakhstan had a higher average score than Massachusetts among language minority students and only Hong Kong-China had a higher average score among immigrant students.

In science at grade 8, no countries had measurably higher average scores than Massachusetts. Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Republic of Korea had average scores not measurably different from Massachusetts. Among other grade 8 science results:

-Singapore and Chinese Taipei had higher percentages of 8th-graders reaching the Advanced International Benchmark in science than Massachusetts.

Complete results

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Good Kindergarten Attention Skills Predict Later Work-Oriented Behavior


Attentiveness in kindergarten accurately predicts the development of "work-oriented" skills in school children, according to a new study published by Dr. Linda Pagani, a professor and researcher at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine. The study, Relating Kindergarten Attention to Subsequent Developmental Pathways of Classroom Engagement in Elementary School, was published online by the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, (the official publication of the International Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology), on January 13, 2011. Elementary school teachers made observations of attention skills in over a thousand kindergarten children. Then, from grades 1 to 6, homeroom teachers rated how well the children worked both autonomously and with fellow classmates, their levels of self-control and self-confidence, and their ability to follow directions and rules.

"For children, the classroom is the workplace, and this is why productive, task-oriented behaviour in that context later translates to the labour market," Pagani said. "Children who are more likely to work autonomously and harmoniously with fellow classmates, with good self-control and confidence, and who follow directions and rules are more likely to continue such productive behaviors into the adult workplace. In child psychology, we call this the developmental evolution of work-oriented skills, from childhood to adulthood."

All the children attended kindergarten in the poorest neighborhoods of Montreal, and their teachers used a carefully constructed observational scale to score them on their attentiveness skills. Over time, the researchers identified the evolution of three groups of children: those with high, medium, and low classroom engagement. All analyses were reviewed to take into account various explanations for the link that was observed between kindergarten attention and classroom engagement.

"Teachers spend many hours per day in school-related activities and can therefore reliably report on them," Pagani explained. The researchers found that boys, aggressive children, and children with lower cognitive skills in kindergarten were much more likely to belong to the low trajectory.

"There are important life risks associated with attention deficits in childhood, which include high-school dropout, unemployment, and problematic substance abuse. Pagani said. "Our findings make a compelling case for early identification and treatment of attention problems, as early remediation represents the least costly form of intervention. Universal approaches to bolstering attention skills in kindergarten might translate into stable and productive pathways toward learning."

The researchers noted that the next step would be to undertake further study into how specifically the classroom environment influences children's attention spans.
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Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City


Complete paper

Charter schools were developed, in part, to serve as an R&D engine for traditional public schools, resulting in a wide variety of school strategies and outcomes. In this paper, the authors collect unparalleled data on the inner-workings of 35 charter schools and correlate these data with credible estimates of each school's effectiveness.

They find that traditionally collected input measures -- class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree -- are not correlated with school effectiveness.

In stark contrast, they show that an index of five policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research -- frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations -- explains approximately 50 percent of the variation in school effectiveness. Their results are robust to controls for three alternative theories of schooling: a model emphasizing the provision of wrap-around services, a model focused on teacher selection and retention, and the "No Excuses'' model of education.

They conclude by showing that their index provides similar results in a separate sample of charter schools.

Interesting discussion of this study here.

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Record Number of Children Enrolled in Private School Choice Programs this Year


More than 210,000 children are participating in publicly funded private school choice programs across the nation, according to the School Choice Yearbook 2011-12 released by the Alliance for School Choice.

The Alliance’s annual Yearbook, entitled School Choice Now: The Year of School Choice, is a collection of the nation’s most accurate data on private school choice programs across the country. The 2011-12 edition, which was coauthored by Alliance Communications Manager Michelle Gininger, contains an analysis of trends and information regarding school choice, a directory of the accountability provisions and requirements for each of the 27 private school choice programs, and a chronicle of the events from the past year.

Among the findings:

- School choice programs in the United States have grown nearly 25 percent since 2007.
- Seven new programs were enacted last year, including a new program in Indiana that boasted the highest first-year enrollment ever for a voucher plan. Of the new programs, there are four voucher programs, one scholarship tax credit program, one individual tuition tax credit, and one education savings account program—a new program that lets parents use education dollars on a variety of educational tools.
- Ten of the 27 school choice programs are specifically tailored to serve children with special needs, benefiting almost 30,000 students nationwide.
- Nearly all of the children participating in America’s school choice programs come from low- or middle-income families or are students with special needs.
- Florida is home to the greatest number of students who benefit from school choice, with 65,000 students participants in the state’s two existing programs.
- Two states—Ohio and Arizona—have four school choice programs each.

In step with what The Wall Street Journal has dubbed as “The Year of School Choice,” the Yearbook chronicles not only the new programs, but how significant expansions everywhere from Wisconsin to Georgia to Washington, D.C. made 2011 such a breakthrough year.

“It was unquestionably a remarkable year in the fight to give educational opportunities to low-income families,” said Yearbook coauthor Malcom Glenn, the national director of communications at the Alliance. “The gains of 2011 give us great momentum towards helping even more kids in the year ahead.”
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Where Should Student Teachers Learn to Teach? Effects of Field Placement School Characteristics on Teacher Retention and Effectiveness


This study is motivated by an ongoing debate about the kinds of schools that make for the best field placements during pre-service preparation. On the one hand, easier-to-staff schools may support teacher learning because they are typically better-functioning institutions that offer desirable teaching conditions. On the other hand, such field placements may leave new teachers unprepared to work in difficult-to-staff schools and with underserved student populations that need high quality teachers the most.

Using administrative and survey data on almost 3,000 New York City teachers, their students, and their schools, this study finds that learning to teach in easier-to-staff field placement schools has positive effects on teacher retention and student achievement gains, even for teachers who end up working in the hardest-to-staff schools. The proportion of poor, minority, and low-achieving students in field placements is unrelated to later teacher effectiveness and retention suggesting something beyond student populations explain these results.
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Algebra A Challenge at the Crossroads of Policy and Practice


The authors of this study review what is known about early and universal algebra, including who is getting access to algebra and student outcomes associated with algebra course taking in general and specifically with universal algebra policies. The findings indicate that increasing numbers of students, some of whom are underprepared, are taking algebra earlier. At the same time, other students with requisite skills are not given access to algebra. Although studies using nationally representative data indicate strong positive outcomes for students who take algebra early, studies conducted only in contexts where all students are mandated to take algebra in eighth or ninth grade provide mixed evidence of positive outcomes, with increased achievement when policies include strong supports for struggling students.

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Changing people's behavior: From reducing bullying to training scientists


If you want to change how teenagers view bullying, go to the straight to the source of most school trends: the most connected crowd. According to new intervention research, targeting the most influential students in a school could be a key factor in reducing harassment and bullying.

These results are part of a group of studies that are being presented today at a social psychology conference in San Diego, CA, on new, sometimes small, ways to make meaningful impacts on people's lives. "This is an exciting time in the field of social psychology," says Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia who wrote Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change. "Increasingly, researchers are devising theory-based interventions that have dramatic effects in the areas of education, prejudice reduction, adolescent behavior problems, health, and many others."

The idea behind such intervention work is to change the behavior for a particular group of individuals. Reducing student bullying, increasing interest among teens in math and science, and improving perceptions of women in engineering are the focus of today's talks in San Diego.

Reducing student bullying

In the bullying intervention study, Elizabeth Levy Paluck and Hana Shepherd of Princeton University set out at a U.S. public high school to change students' perceptions that harassment of fellow students is a normal way to gain and maintain status.

"We were interested in the idea that harassment and bullying in schools is a social norm that is not necessarily related to students' personal feelings," says Levy Paluck. Her team used social network analysis to identify the students who might have the most influence in setting social norms. A random subset of these students participated in public denouncements of harassment and bullying. The researchers then tracked the social network over one year, also collecting data on disciplinary records and teacher assessments.

Levy Paluck and Shepard found that students who were socially tied to the intervention significantly decreased their perception that harassment and bullying is a desirable norm. At the same time, those students' decreased their harassment and bullying behavior as measured through disciplinary records, teacher assessments, and independent behavioral observations.

Increasing teens' interest in math and science

In a different intervention study aimed at changing teen behavior in math and science, researchers did not target the students themselves but rather their parents. The goal was to increase students' interest in taking courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). "We focus on the potential role of parents in motivating their teens to take more STEM courses, because we feel that they have been an untapped resource," says Judith Harackiewicz of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The participants consisted of 188 U.S. high school students and their parents from the longitudinal Wisconsin Study of Families and Work. Harackiewicz and her colleague Janet Hyde found that a relatively simple intervention aimed at parents – two brochures mailed to parents and a website that all highlight the usefulness of STEM courses – led their children to take on average nearly one semester more of science and mathematics in the last two years of high school, compared with the control group. "Our indirect intervention," funded by the National Science Foundation, "changed the way that parents interacted with their teens, leading to a significant and important change in their teens' course-taking behavior," Harackiewicz says.

Improving perceptions of women engineers

"Many of these interventions work by changing the stories people tell themselves about who they are and why they do what they do, in ways that lead to self-sustaining changes in behavior," says Wilson of the University of Virginia. For example, new work being presented by Greg Walton of Stanford University tested the effects of two interventions on female engineering students, one aimed at making them feel like they belong in engineering and another at teaching them to reflect on core values to help them cope with stress.

Both interventions improved the first-year grades of women enrolled in male-dominated engineering majors compared to a control group, eliminating a gender gap. The two interventions worked in different ways, however: Women in the belonging group were able to build better relationships with male engineers, while women in the value-training group made more friends outside of engineering, according to the study funded by the Spencer Foundation. "The two interventions suggest the power of social-psychological approaches to help people cope with settings in which their group is underrepresented and negatively stereotyped," Walton says.
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Analysis of state policies that shape the teaching profession


The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has released its fifth annual comprehensive (an encyclopedic 9,000 pages of analysis packed into 51 state volumes and a national overview report) review of everything there is to know about the state policies that shape the teaching profession today—the 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook.

It was a year like no other since NCTQ started the Yearbook project. NCTQ documented more changes in teacher policy than any previous review of the laws and regulations governing the profession.

In this not-so-ordinary year, the nation finds itself just one state shy of half the states requiring that objective measures of student achievement be included in teacher evaluations. More states than ever before are opting to take evidence of teacher effectiveness in the classroom seriously in making decisions about teacher tenure and dismissal.

Largely driven by policy adoption around teacher evaluation, 28 states improved their standing since the last time NCTQ graded the states, in our 2009 Yearbook.

Seven states—Florida, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio—earned the highest grades we've ever handed out. States topping the list for the most progress on teacher policy include Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Rhode Island.

But it wasn't an extraordinary year for all the states or for all areas of teacher policy. Some states—Alaska, California, Mississippi, Missouri and Montana—made no progress whatsoever on even a single one of the Yearbook's 36 research-based teacher goals. The not-so-insignificant state of California ranks dead last in the nation on teacher policy progress. The average of all state grades is a mere D plus and the lowest grades of all are for teacher preparation policies, where the states average a D for dismal.

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Rising Test Scores in Connecticut School Districts Related to the Exclusion of Students with Disabilities


This report finds that the exclusion of thousands of students with disabilities from reported Connecticut Mastery Test results has distorted reported trends in test scores. Following test scores from year to year in the same grade, the study finds that statewide improvements in standard Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) scores reported by the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) between 2008 and 2009 -- the period of the largest reported gains -- were largely the result of the exclusion of students with disabilities from these standard test results, rather than overall improvements in performance. For example, 84% of the reported improvement in 4th grade math proficiency between 2008 and 2009 and 69% of the improvement in 8th grade reading proficiency could be attributed to the exclusion of these students. Much of the reported improvements in later years could also be attributed to this exclusion, though there were some modest overall gains as well.

In 2009, state and federal policy changes enabled school districts to offer a modified assessment (MAS) to students with disabilities that the districts determined would not have passed the CMT in math and/or reading. As a result of these policy changes, the share of students taking the regular CMT declined substantially. Prior to 2009, students who did not reach the proficient level on the CMT because of their disabilities were included in statewide CMT results. In 2009, thousands of low-scoring students were assigned to take the MAS test instead of the standard CMT, and these students were not included in the CMT results. Thus, CMT scores reported by the State Department of Education appeared to improve in large part because these low-scoring students were no longer included in the calculations.

The analysis by Connecticut Voices for Children, a research-based think tank, focused on 4th and 8th grade CMT scores and also finds:

· Across school districts, there was a very strong correlation between a declining percentage of students taking the standard CMT and increasing percentages of students reported as reaching proficient scores – ie, as more students with disabilities were excluded from score results, more students were reported as reaching the proficiency level.

· If students with disabilities that took the modified assessment in reading and math in 2009 to 2011 were included in the total sample of 4th and 8th grade test takers, then the revised percentages of students at or above the proficient level would be two to three percentage points lower than the state reported. There were some modest improvements in scores, but not to the degree that the state initially reported.

· The percentage of students who were assigned to take the MAS rather than the standard CMT varied substantially across school districts – from 0% to 12.8%. Most districts had some participation on the modified assessment that affected their test score data.

To ensure more valid, “apples to apples” comparisons of trends over time, Connecticut Voices recommends that state officials clarify the impact of the exclusion of students with disabilities when reporting on changes in CMT scores over time. Further, the organization suggests that policymakers:
· use a variety of indicators, not just standardized test scores, to evaluate improvements in public education; and
· reconsider policies that assign rewards and punishments based on these test scores.

The report includes district-level data on 4th and 8th grade CMT scores, the percentage of local students who took the CMT and MAS, and a recalculation of district test scores that includes students with disabilities (see appendices F and G for local 2011 data).

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Adolescents from unstable families lose ground in rigorous high schools


Research continues to support a connection between instability in the home and school performance in adolescents, but a new study in the January issue of Sociology of Education takes the research a step further by exploring how the relationship between family structure change and adolescent academic careers is also affected by the kinds of schools they attend.

According to study co-author Shannon Cavanagh, a professor in The University of Texas at Austin's Department of Sociology, schools vary considerably in terms of socio-demographic composition and "academic press," measured by whether the school is defined by academic, achievement-oriented values, goals, and norms and by specific standards of achievement.

"For these reasons, we were curious about whether the family instability effect on course-taking behaviors might be different (stronger or weaker) in different kinds of schools," she said.

What Cavanagh and study co-author Paula Fomby, an assistant professor in the University of Colorado Denver's Department of Sociology, found supports what is called the "mismatch hypothesis"—a theory that suggests that students who have experienced repeated changes in their family structure status will be less successful academically when attending schools with higher levels of academic press.

Cavanagh and Fomby used data from a nationally representative, longitudinal study of students who were in high school in the mid-1990s. They chose to focus on math course-taking patterns, since math is among the strongest predictors of college matriculation. Academic status in mathematics at the end of high school not only represents interest and ability in the subject, but, more generally, it captures a clearer picture of a student's cumulative high school career.

Because the data from the chosen study included information on students' school records and their families as well as multiple reporter accounts of the characteristics of their schools, Cavanagh and Fomby were able to relate a specific characteristic of each student—their family structure history—with school characteristics such as the level of academic press and the percentage of students who were from single-parent homes.

"This interaction allowed us to determine the context in which a student's own family history had the greatest impact on their course-taking patterns," Cavanagh said.

"While students in a high-academic press school, regardless of family instability histories, are higher achieving in terms of course-taking compared to their peers overall, students who have experienced repeated family structure changes lose some part of their advantage," Cavanagh said. As such, Cavanagh and Fomby frame their results in terms of "lost gains."

Unfortunately, the results of the study complicate the work of policymakers and educators who have historically sought to mitigate social disadvantages through access to opportunities and resources found in higher-performing schools. While acknowledging that there are people specifically trained to convert academic findings into policy, Cavanagh does highlight the need for teachers and school leaders to clarify what she calls the "opaque process of college preparation" and to help parents ask the right questions about their student's college preparation.

"[School administrations] can remove some of this opacity with broad information campaigns about the expectations that colleges and employers have for student learning," Cavanagh suggested. "Local business and community leaders who join schools in an effort to prepare college-ready high school graduates may also be effective in reaching parents and adolescents."

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High school whiz kids may face reading comprehension issues in university


Everyone knows a high-school high achiever who has floundered in university. Now U of A researcher and Reading Research Lab director George Georgiou may have an explanation for the problem.

Georgiou and co-researcher J. P. Das say it is likely that some of these students may have undetected reading comprehension difficulties. Using funding from a Killam Cornerstone grant, Georgiou and Das screened about 400 University of Alberta students and found that five per cent of them were experiencing difficulties. Georgiou says that, while they were reading fluently, they had trouble making sense of what they were reading. Georgiou and Das analyzed the students' cognitive skills such as working memory, attention, planning ability and processing, and found that that even though these students had good fluency skills, they experienced pronounced difficulties in working memory and simultaneous processing of information.

"When they were doing the test, I noticed some of them were highlighting, writing ideas on the margins of the page. It was obvious that they had developed a strategy to help them with the ideas," he said. "But they still had a significant difficulty looking at the full picture, as reflected in poor simultaneous processing."

Organization: Make a mental map

The journey towards better reading comprehension starts with a single paragraph; the key, says Georgiou, is organizing the ideas in the texts and keeping them in mind. Students can start with a single paragraph then move to longer and harder texts. He says getting the students to identify and write down the main idea of a paragraph as they read is helpful. While it may be time-intensive, it helps them learn to decode the meaning of the text as they read it and appreciate the fact that, in order to comprehend, one needs all the information that is available in a text, not just part of it. He says that learning to create that mental map of ideas while reading can lead to improved reading comprehension.

"The students invest most of their time on reading and they forget the meaning. They read and they decode the whole passage. So, by the time they get to the end, they forget what the first paragraph was talking about," said Georgiou. "We want to break that massive task of decoding the text into smaller, manageable steps."

Solution: Read more often

While it may seem counterintuitive for someone with reading comprehension challenges to read more, Georgiou says that reading outside a known subject area – and outside the classroom in general – is an excellent way to develop background knowledge that can be helpful in reading and decoding different texts. He says that this practice improves the basics of memory and retention as well as simultaneous processing, the skills needed to overcome comprehension problems. Further, Georgiou added that reading helps students build a much-needed content knowledge base.

"Read beyond your coursework. Get a magazine and read outside of the field of your own study," Georgiou says, adding that reading creates a background knowledge that's necessary to comprehend general ideas involved in all kind of texts.

"If you don't read, then basically you reduce the exposure to print. It's like you deprive yourself of all the background knowledge that people have about different topics."

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Good handwriting and good grades linked


In research funded by the Children’s Trust and soon to be published in the Journal of Early Childhood Education and Development, Laura Dinehart, an assistant professor at Florida International University’s College of Education, discovered that 4-year-olds who demonstrate strong handwriting skills are more likely to excel academically in elementary school. Research on the importance of handwriting is just beginning to emerge, and Dinehart’s findings establish a new link in understanding how penmanship plays a role in a child’s academic development.

We talk about reading, we talk about math, but no one talks about handwriting,” Dinehart said. “It’s not even a subject area in many classrooms anymore. We don’t ask kids to spend time on their handwriting, when in fact, the research is clear that kids who have greater ease in writing have better academic skills in 2nd grade in both reading and math.”

Dinehart took a sample of 1,000 2nd grade students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and linked their grades and academic scores back to the information gathered from them when they were still in pre-kindergarten.

Students who received good grades on fine motor writing tasks in pre-k had an average GPA of 3.02 in math and 2.84 in reading – B averages. Those who did poorly on the fine motor writing tasks in pre-k had an average GPA of 2.30 in math and 2.12 in Reading – C averages.

More impressively, those who did well on the fine motor writing tasks in pre-k scored in the 59th percentile on the Reading SAT in second grade (just above average) and in the 62nd percentile on the Math SAT. Kids who did poorly on the fine motor writing tasks in pre-k scored in the 38th percentile on the Reading SAT in second grade and in the 37nd percentile on the Math SAT.

There is still much research to be done, and many questions to answer. What exactly is happening when a child’s academic performance improves when his or her handwriting is practiced? Exactly how much practice is necessary before results are seen?

Dinehart will attempt to answer those questions in the second part of her research. However, one thing is clear.

“People should take a second look at how important handwriting might actually be,” she said. “And public schools should rethink how much they focus on handwriting in the classroom and how those skills can really improve reading and mat
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Helping Newcomer Students Succeed in Secondary Schools and Beyond


Adolescent newcomer students are at risk in our middle and high schools, and districts across the United States have been looking for effective program models to serve them. Helping Newcomer Students Succeed in Secondary Schools and Beyond has been written for educators and policymakers to focus attention on these newcomer adolescent English language learners at the middle and high school grades and to communicate promising practices for serving their educational and social needs.

The report is based on a 3-year national research study, Exemplary Programs for Newcomer English Language Learners at the Secondary Level, conducted by the Center for Applied Linguistics on behalf of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. This research project consisted of a national survey of secondary school newcomer programs; compilation of program profiles into an online, searchable database; and case studies of 10 of these programs, selected for their exemplary practices.

Helping Newcomer Students Succeed in Secondary Schools and Beyond addresses the successes, challenges, and day-today implementation of newcomer programs, drawing from information provided by the programs that participated in the national survey and those that served as case study sites. This report shows how successful newcomer programs develop students’ academic English literacy skills, provide access to the content courses that lead to college and career readiness, and guide students’ acculturation to U.S. schools and their eventual participation in civic life and the global economy.

The findings in this report show that there is no one set model for a newcomer program. Diverse designs can be very effective providing that a program considers the varied characteristics of their middle and high school newcomer students and is carefully designed to meet the learners’ academic and social needs. The differences in the newcomers’ literacy skills and educational backgrounds prove to be the most important factors to consider when planning such a program. The report highlights design features and policies that are working well to promote academic rigor and put newly arrived adolescent learners on the path to high school graduation and postsecondary opportunities.

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Educating Multiples in the Classroom: Together or Separate?


Complete report

The drastic increase in the birthrate of twins and multiples makes the education of these children an important issue for parents and educators. Many educators and parents disagree on whether it is better for these children to be educated in the same classroom or apart. After conducting research, one can analyze the feelings of parents and educators on the education of twins and multiples. In addition to research, additional interviews were also analyzed to assess the feelings of twins and multiples on being educated together or apart from one’s siblings.

The children interviewed for this study offered the most insight into the implications involved in separating twins and multiples in the classroom versus keeping them in the same classroom. While both separation and keeping children together has its pros and cons, one can conclude that the children involved should have the most say in their own education. Twins and multiples themselves may be the best source of information when rendering a decision about whether or not to educate them in the same classroom.
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National Education Report Card Ranks Massachusetts First, West Virginia Last


The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has released its 17th Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform. The comprehensive report grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to data from national test scores, state education policy, charter school regulation, and other benchmarks of quality. Additionally, the report discusses what resources are being wasted, what students are being left behind, and what administrators, parents, and teachers can do to make a difference in education. This year, Massachusetts beat out all other states while West Virginia placed last.

Authors Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips rank states based on two factors. The first is student performance and their progress on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams.

See Grades for each State

Student Performance (NAEP Scores)

Top Five

1. Massachusetts
2. Vermont
3. New Jersey
4. Colorado
5. Pennsylvania

Bottom Five

47. Missouri
48. Mississippi
49. Louisiana
50. South Carolina
51. West Virginia

The second metric ranks states from A to F based on education reform policies including academic standards, school choice programs, charter schools, online learning, and that state’s ability to hire good teachers and fire bad ones. In this category, Missouri is the clear leader.

Education Reform Policy Grades
Highest Scoring Reform States

“A-“ Missouri
“B” Colorado
“B” Indiana
“B” Ohio
“B” District of Columbia
“B” Georgia
“B” California
“B” New Mexico
“B” Arizona
“B” Utah
“B” Oklahoma

Lowest Scoring Reform States
“D+” Alabama
“D+” Nebraska
“D+” North Dakota
“D+” Vermont
“D+” West Virginia

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School Obesity Programs May Promote Worrisome Eating Behaviors and Physical Activity in Kids


A new report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health examines the possible association between school-based childhood obesity prevention programs and an increase in eating disorders among young children and adolescents.

The Poll asked parents about obesity prevention programs in their children’s schools and about food-related behaviors and activity that may be worrisome.

Overall, 82 percent of parents of children age 6-14 report at least one school-based childhood obesity intervention program taking place in their child’s school. Among these programs are nutrition education, limits on sweets or “junk food” in the classroom, height and weight measurements, and incentives for physical activity.
Additionally, 7 percent of parents report that their children have been made to feel bad at school about what or how much they were eating.

This same group of parents was also asked about their children’s eating behaviors.

Thirty percent of parents of 6-14 year-olds report least one behavior in their children that could be associated with the development of an eating disorder. These behaviors include inappropriate dieting, excessive worry about fat in foods, being preoccupied with food content or labels, refusing family meals, and having too much physical activity.

“The issue of childhood obesity is a serious problem. In order to intervene in what seems like an epidemic of childhood obesity, everyone needs to be involved,” says David Rosen, M.D., M.P.H., Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School and Chief of Teenage and Young Adult Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics.

However, Rosen says, “When obesity interventions are put in place without understanding how they work and what the risks are, there can be unintended consequences. Well-intentioned efforts can go awry when children misinterpret the information they’re given.

“Many of these behaviors are often dismissed as a phase,” says Rosen, “But given what we know about the association of these behaviors with the development of eating disorders and knowing that eating disorders are increasing in prevalence, they should be taken very seriously.”

Parents that report incentive programs at their children’s school to increase physical activity are more likely to say their children are “too physically active” (11%) compared with parents who do not report incentives for physical activity at their child’s school (4%). Otherwise, the poll did not find an association between school-based obesity prevention programs and other worrisome eating behaviors among children.

The fact that 30% of parents report at least one worrisome eating behavior in their children is concerning.

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Benefits of high quality child care persist 30 years later


Adults who participated in a high quality early childhood education program in the 1970s are still benefiting from their early experiences in a variety of ways, according to a new study.

The study provides new data from the long-running, highly regarded Abecedarian Project, which is led by the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Researchers have followed participants from early childhood through adolescence and young adulthood, generating a comprehensive and rare set of longitudinal data.

According to the latest study of adults at age 30, Abecedarian Project participants had significantly more years of education than peers who were part of a control group. They were also four times more likely to have earned college degrees; 23 percent of participants graduated from a four-year college or university compared to only 6 percent of the control group.

The findings were published online Wednesday (Jan. 18) in the journal Developmental Psychology.

Elizabeth Pungello, Ph.D., scientist at the FPG Institute and co-author of the study, said the educational attainment findings were especially noteworthy.

“When we previously revisited them as young adults at age 21, we found that the children who had received the early educational intervention were more likely to go to college; now we know they were also more likely to make it all the way through and graduate,” Pungello said. “What’s more, this achievement applied to both boys and girls, an important finding given the current low rate of college graduation for minority males in our country.”

Other benefits included that Abecedarian Project participants were more likely to have been consistently employed (75 percent had worked full time for at least 16 of the previous 24 months, compared to 53 percent of the control group) and less likely to have used public assistance (only 4 percent received benefits for at least 10 percent of the previous seven years, compared to 20 percent of the control group). They also showed a tendency to delay parenthood by almost two years compared to the control group. Project participants also appeared to have done better in relation to several other social and economic measures (including higher incomes), but those results were not statistically significant.

Of the 111 infants originally enrolled in the project (98 percent of whom were African-American), 101 took part in the age 30 follow-up.

“Being able to follow this study sample over so many years has been a privilege,” said Frances Campbell, Ph.D., senior scientist at the institute and lead author of the study. “The randomized design of the study gives us confidence in saying that the benefits we saw at age 30 were associated with an early childhood educational experience.”

Craig Ramey, Ph.D., professor and distinguished research scholar at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and study co-author, said the findings have powerful implications for public policy.

“I believe that the pattern of results over the first 30 years of life provides a clearer than ever scientific understanding of how early childhood education can be an important contributor to academic achievement and social competence in adulthood,” Ramey said. “The next major challenge is to provide high quality early childhood education to all the children who need it and who can benefit from it.”

The Abecedarian Project was a carefully controlled scientific study of the potential benefits of early childhood education for children from low-income families who were at risk of developmental delays or academic failure. Participants attended a full-time child care facility that operated year-round, from infancy until they entered kindergarten. Throughout their early years, the children were provided with educational activities designed to support their language, cognitive, social and emotional development. Follow-up studies have consistently shown that children who received early educational intervention did better academically, culminating in their having greater chance of adult educational attainment.

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Elementary & Secondary Math & Science Education - Leading Indicators


The United States remains the global leader in supporting science and technology (S&T) research and development, but only by a slim margin that could soon be overtaken by rapidly increasing Asian investments in knowledge-intensive economies. So suggest trends released in a new report by the National Science Board (NSB), the policymaking body for the National Science Foundation (NSF), on the overall status of the science, engineering and technology workforce, education efforts and economic activity in the United States and abroad.

"This information clearly shows we must re-examine long-held assumptions about the global dominance of the American science and technology enterprise," said NSF Director Subra Suresh of the findings in the Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 released today. "And we must take seriously new strategies for education, workforce development and innovation in order for the United States to retain its international leadership position," he said.

According to the new Indicators 2012, the largest global S&T gains occurred in the so-called "Asia-10"--China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand--as those countries integrate S&T into economic growth. Between 1999 and 2009, for example, the U.S. share of global research and development (R&D) dropped from 38 percent to 31 percent, whereas it grew from 24 percent to 35 percent in the Asia region during the same time.

In China alone, R&D growth increased a stunning 28 percent in a single year (2008-2009), propelling it past Japan and into second place behind the United States.

"Over the last decade, the world has changed dramatically," said José-Marie Griffiths, chair of the NSB committee that oversees production of the report. "It's now a world with very different actors who have made advancement in science and technology a top priority. And many of the troubling trends we're seeing are now very well established."

Key Findings from Chapter 1. Elementary and Secondary Mathematics and Science Education:

Student Learning in Mathematics and Science

Gains in average mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) between 2007 and 2009 leveled off for grade 4 and continued for grade 8. For 12th graders, average mathematics scores improved from 2005 to 2009.

• From 1990 to 2007, average mathematics scores increased by 27 points for fourth graders. Scores then leveled off in 2009 across almost all demographic groups and performance levels and among students at public and private schools.

• At grade 8, average mathematics scores steadily gained 20 points from 1990 to 2009, with improvement for most demographic groups, performance levels, and school types.

• At grade 12, average mathematics scores improved by 3 points from 2005 to 2009, with improvement patterns similar to those of eighth graders.

Score gaps among demographic groups narrowed over time but remained substantial.

• At grades 4, 8, and 12, white and Asian/Pacific Islander students had significantly higher scores than their black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native counterparts.

• Students from higher income families also performed significantly better than their peers from lower income families. Although boys scored higher than girls, the differences were relatively small.

• At grade 4, some gaps narrowed over time. Between 1990 and 2009, the score gap between white and black students fell from 32 to 26 points, the score gap between public and private school students dropped from 12 to 7 points, and the score gap between low- and high-performing students narrowed by 9 points.

Few students in ninth grade mastered high level algebra skills in 2009, according to the High School Longitudinal Study assessment.

• A majority of ninth graders demonstrated proficiency in lower level algebra skills such as algebraic expressions (86%) and multiplicative and proportional thinking (59%).

• Few students reached proficiency in systems of equations (18%) and linear functions (9%), the two highest algebra skills assessed.

Relatively few students at grades 4, 8, and 12 reached their grade-specific proficiency levels in science on the 2009 NAEP assessment. Science scores varied significantly across student subgroups.

• At all three grade levels, whites, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and students from higher income families scored significantly higher than their counterparts. Boys also scored higher than girls at all three grade levels, but the difference was substantially smaller.

In both 2006 and 2009, U.S. 15-year-olds scored below those of many other developed countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment, a literacy assessment designed to test mathematics and science. Nonetheless, U.S. scores improved from 2006 to 2009.

• The average mathematics literacy score of U.S. 15-yearolds declined about 9 points from 2003 to 2006, and then rose about 13 points in 2009, placing the United States below 17 of 33 other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

• The average science literacy score of U.S. 15-year-olds was not measurably different from the 2009 OECD average, though it improved by 3 points from 2006 to 2009. The U.S. score was lower than the score of 12 out of 33 other OECD nations participating in the assessment.

Student Coursetaking in High School Mathematics and Science

High school graduates in 2009 continued an upward trend of earning more credits in mathematics and science, including advanced mathematics and science courses.

• The average number of credits earned in all mathematics courses was 3.9 in 2009, up from 3.2 in 1990. The average number of credits earned in all science courses was 3.5 in 2009, up from 2.8 in 1990.

• Graduates in 2009 earned an average of 1.7 credits in advanced mathematics and 1.9 credits in advanced science and engineering courses, compared with 0.9 and 1.1 credits, respectively, in 1990.

The percentages of students completing advanced mathematics and science courses increased in all subject areas.

• In 2009, 76% of all graduates earned a credit for algebra II, compared with 53% of all graduates in 1990.

• The percentage of students earning a credit in precalculus/ analysis more than doubled since 1990, with 35% of graduates completing precalculus/analysis in 2009, compared with 14% in 1990.

• From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of students earning a credit in advanced chemistry increased from 45% to 70%. Increased rates were also seen in advanced biology (28% to 45%) and physics (24% to 39%).

• The percentage of students taking algebra I before high school increased. Twenty-six percent of high school graduates took algebra I before high school in 2009, up from 20% in 2005.

Although students in all racial/ethnic groups are earning more advanced mathematics and science credits, differences among these groups have persisted.

• Asian/Pacific Islander students earned the most credits in advanced mathematics, an average of 2.4 credits in 2009. Hispanics and blacks earned the fewest credits in advanced mathematics, approximately 1.4 credits. White students earned more credits (1.8) than black or Hispanic students, but fewer than Asian/Pacific Islander students. Similar patterns were seen in science coursetaking.

Teachers of Mathematics and Science

The percentage of public middle and high school mathematics and science teachers with advanced degrees and full certification has increased since 2003, but school differences persist.

• Fifty-four percent of mathematics teachers and 58% of science teachers had earned a master’s or higher degree in 2007, compared with 48% and 52%, respectively, in 2003.

• Eighty-seven percent of mathematics and science teachers held regular or advanced teaching certification in 2007—a significant increase for science teachers from 83% in 2003.

• Degree and certification differences persist among schools with different student populations. For example, 69% of science teachers in low-poverty schools had advanced degrees versus 49% in schools with high poverty rates.

• In 2007, about one in five new mathematics and science teachers was hired through an alternative certification program. Relatively more of these teachers were found in high-poverty or high-minority schools. For example, 26% of mathematics teachers in schools with the highest poverty levels became teachers through alternative certification, compared with 12% of those in schools with the lowest poverty levels. (Some alternative certification programs aim to place teachers in high-poverty schools.)

Novice teachers — those with 3 or fewer years of experience — are more prevalent at high-poverty and high-minority schools.

• In 2007, about 20% of all public middle and high school mathematics and science teachers were novice teachers. Proportionally, more of those in high-minority schools were novices: 22% of mathematics teachers and 25% of science teachers were novices, compared with 13% and 15% in low-minority schools.

Most high school teachers of mathematics and science taught in field (i.e., they had a degree or full credential in the subject matter they taught) in 2007. In-field teaching is less prevalent among middle school teachers but has increased among middle school mathematics teachers since 2003.

• In-field mathematics teachers in public middle schools increased from 53% in 2003 to 64% in 2007. Approximately 70% of middle school science teachers taught in field in both 2003 and 2007.

• Eighty-eight percent of high school mathematics teachers in 2007 taught in field, as did 93% of biology/life science teachers and 82% of physical science teachers.

Participation has increased in new teacher induction programs, which provide professional development and support during early teaching years, and the gap in participation rates between teachers at schools with different demographics has narrowed.

• In 2007, 79% of new mathematics teachers and 73% of new science teachers in public middle and high schools had participated in an induction program. The corresponding rates in 2003 were 71% among mathematics teachers and 68% among science teachers.

• In 2003, 63% of new mathematics teachers in high-minority schools had been in an induction program, 25 percentage points fewer than their counterparts at low-minority schools. In 2007, this gap narrowed to 8 percentage points because of higher participation in high-minority schools.

More than three-quarters of mathematics and science teachers in 2007 said that they had received some professional development in their subject matter. However, few participated for as many hours as research suggests is desirable.

• In 2007, 83% of mathematics teachers and 77% of science teachers in public middle and high schools said they had received professional development in their subject matter during the previous 12 months.

• Among those with professional development in their subject matter, 28% of mathematics teachers and 29% of science teachers received 33 hours or more. Research has suggested that 80 hours or more may be required to affect teacher knowledge and practice.

Teachers’ views of their working conditions varied with the characteristics of the student population at their schools, but some differences have narrowed since 2003.

• Half of mathematics and science teachers at high-poverty or high-minority schools viewed student tardiness and class cutting as interfering with teaching. In contrast, a third of their counterparts at low-poverty and low-minority schools expressed this view.

• Some differences have narrowed since 2003. Then, about half of mathematics teachers at high-poverty schools saw student apathy as a serious problem, compared with 12% at low-poverty schools. In 2007, that gap had narrowed by about 20 percentage points, reflecting more positive views of teachers at high-poverty schools. The gap in reported lack of student preparedness for learning also shrank.

Transition to Higher Education

Rates of students graduating within 4 years of entering ninth grade (“on-time” graduation) increased slightly in recent years, but gaps among racial/ethnic groups persist.

• In 2009, 76% of students completed high school on time, up from 73% in 2001.

• The on-time graduation rates of black and Hispanic students increased between 2006 and 2009: from 59% to 64% for black students and from 61% to 66% for Hispanic students.

• Wide gaps remained between the on-time graduation rates of black and Hispanic students and those of white students, who graduated at a rate of 82% in 2009.

The U.S. high school graduation rate lags behind those of most other developed (OECD) nations.

• The United States ranked 18th out of 25 OECD countries for which graduation rate data were available in 2008.

• According to OECD estimates, the United States had an average graduation rate of 77% compared with the OECD average of 80%.

The majority of U.S. high school graduates enroll in a postsecondary institution immediately after high school completion.

• Seventy percent of 2009 high school graduates had enrolled in a postsecondary institution by the October following high school completion, an increase of 19 percentage points since 1975.

• Relatively more female graduates than male graduates enrolled immediately in postsecondary education in 2009 (74% versus 66%).

• Students from high-income families enrolled at a higher rate (84%) than did students from middle-income (67%) or low-income families (55%).

• The rate for white students was 71%, compared with 63% for black and 62% for Hispanic students.
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Bias, Bullying and Homophobia in Grades K-6


"Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States" First National Study to Look at Homophobia, Gender Nonconformity in Elementary Schools

Gender Nonconforming Students at Particular Risk for Bullying, Many Teachers Unprepared to Address Issues of Gender Expression, LGBT Families

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) today released a new report on school climate, biased remarks and bullying, Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States. The report, based on national surveys of 1,065 elementary school students in 3rd to 6th grade and 1,099 elementary school teachers of K-6th grade, examines students' and teachers' experiences with biased remarks and bullying, and their attitudes about gender expression and family diversity. The surveys were conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of GLSEN during November and December 2010.

Playgrounds and Prejudice

"School climate and victimization can affect students' educational outcomes and personal development at every grade level," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. "Playgrounds and Prejudice offers invaluable insights into biased remarks and bullying in America's elementary schools. The report also shows the need for elementary schools to do more to address issues of homophobia, gender expression and family diversity."

GLSEN today also released Ready, Set, Respect! GLSEN's Elementary School Toolkit, an instructional resource developed to help educators address issues raised in Playgrounds and Prejudice, particularly teachers' willingness to address but lack of understanding of biased language, LGBT-inclusive family diversity and gender nonconformity.

Ready, Set, Respect! contains suggested lesson plans that focus on name-calling, bullying and bias, LGBT-inclusive family diversity and gender roles and diversity. The templates are designed for teachers to use as either standalone lessons or for integration into existing curriculum content or school-wide anti-bullying programs. The toolkit also contains helpful tips for teaching more inclusively and intervening in bullying and promoting respectful recess playtime and physical education.

The GLSEN toolkit was developed in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) that serves elementary and middle school principals in the United States, Canada, and overseas and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world's largest organization working on behalf of young children.

"Elementary principals are painfully aware of the impact that name-calling, bullying, and bias have not only on an individual student's development, but also in disrupting a positive school culture that nurtures the whole child" said Gail Connelly, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. "Principals, who are key instructional leaders, are poised to partner with teachers and to use resources such as Ready, Set, Respect!, ensuring that schools are safe and respectful environments that nurture students' social and emotional development."

The GLSEN toolkit outlines its application within the Common Core States Standards for English Language Arts and the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) Standards (4th Edition).

"Over the past few years, there has been an increase in research on bullying in schools, including elementary schools," said GLSEN Senior Director of Research & Strategic Initiatives Dr. Joseph Kosciw. "However, our report is one of the few that examines bias-based bullying at the elementary school level and the first to examine incidence of homophobic remarks and the negative experiences of children who do not conform to societal standards in their gender expression from a national vantage point."

"Playgrounds and Prejudice articulates a desire among elementary educators to create optimal learning environments for all students, but there is a larger need to provide educational tools and resources that enhance their understanding of gender nonconforming students and families with LGBT parents," said Byard. "Providing this kind of support to teachers and school staff serving our nation's youngest students will build a lasting foundation of learning and development for all elementary school students."

Key Findings on Biased Language, Name-Calling and Bullying

- The most common forms of biased language in elementary schools, heard regularly (i.e., sometimes, often or all the time) by both students and teachers, are the use of the word "gay" in a negative way, such as "that's so gay," (students: 45%, teachers: 49%) and comments like "spaz" or "retard" (51% of students, 45% of teachers). Many also report regularly hearing students make homophobic remarks, such as "fag" or "lesbo" (students: 26%, teachers: 26%) and negative comments about race/ethnicity (students: 26%, teachers: 21%).
- Three-fourths of students (75%) report that students at their school are called names, made fun of or bullied with at least some regularity. Most commonly this is because of students' looks or body size (67%), followed by not being good at sports (37%), how well they do at schoolwork (26%), not conforming to traditional gender norms/roles (23%) or because other people think they're gay (21%).

Key Findings on Gender Non-Conforming Students

- Nearly 1 in 10 of elementary students in 3rd to 6th grade (8%) indicate that they do not always conform to traditional gender norms/roles - either they are boys who others sometimes think, act or look like a girl, or they are girls who others sometimes think, act or look like a boy.
- Gender nonconforming students are less likely than other students to feel very safe at school (42% vs 61%), and are more likely than others to indicate they sometimes do not want to go to school because they feel unsafe or afraid there (35% vs 15%). Gender nonconforming students are also more likely than others to be called names, made fun of or bullied at least sometimes at school (56% vs 33%).
- Less than half of teachers believe that a gender nonconforming student would feel comfortable at their school (male student who acts or looks traditionally feminine: 44%, female student who acts or looks traditionally masculine: 49%)
- Only a third (34%) of teachers report having personally engaged in efforts to create a safe and supportive classroom environment for gender nonconforming students.

Key Findings on Family Diversity

- Seven in ten students (72%) say they have been taught that there are many different kinds of families. However, less than 2 in 10 (18%) have learned about families with gay or lesbian parents (families that have two dads or two moms).
- While an overwhelming majority of elementary school teachers say that they include representations of different families when the topic of families comes up in their classrooms (89%), less than a quarter of teachers report any representation of lesbian, gay or bisexual parents (21%) or transgender parents (8%).
- Only a quarter (24%) of teachers report having personally engaged in efforts to create a safe and supportive classroom environment for families with LGBT parents.

Key Findings on Teacher Preparedness

- A majority of elementary school teachers believe they are obligated to ensure a safe learning environment for gender nonconforming students (83%) and students with LGBT parents (70%). Eight in 10 teachers would feel comfortable addressing name-calling, bullying or harassment of students because a student is perceived to be gay, lesbian or bisexual (81%) or is gender nonconforming (81%).
- Less than half of teachers (48%) indicate that they feel comfortable responding to questions from their students about gay, lesbian or bisexual people. There was a lower level of comfort found among teachers (41%) responding to questions from their students about transgender people.
- A majority of teachers (85%) have received professional development on diversity or multicultural issues, but less than half of teachers have ever received specific professional development on gender issues (37%) or on families with LGBT parents (23%).


Findings in Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States came from online surveys conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of GLSEN among 1,065 U.S. elementary school students in 3rd to 6th grade and 1,099 U.S. elementary school teachers of Kindergarten to 6th grade. The national sample was drawn primarily from the Harris Poll Online (HPOL) opt-in panel and supplemented with sample from trusted partner panels. All respondents were invited to participate through password protected emails. Interviews for students averaged 15 minutes in length and were conducted between November 3 and November 29, 2010. Interviews for teachers averaged 20 minutes in length and were conducted between November 11 and December 7, 2010. The data were weighted to key demographic variables to align with the national population of the respective groups. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. In addition, an online strategy session was conducted on June 14, 2010 among a group of 20 elementary school teachers of grades ranging from Kindergarten to 6th grade to inform the development of the survey. Key informants (e.g., elementary school teachers, administrators, students, and teacher educators) reviewed the student and teacher surveys to assess for comprehension and face validity.


GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit
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Annual National Rankings of Charter School Laws


The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has released its annual ranking of state charter school laws across the country. The report, and the NAPCS model charter school law it is based upon, is meant to be a useful tool to assist in passing laws that support the creation of more high-quality schools. Following one of the most positive years for state charter school legislation in recent memory, there were numerous changes in this edition’s rankings. Sixteen states saw their charter school law scores increase, 22 states’ overall scores remained the same, and four states fell in their overall score. Maine’s law, which passed last year, vaulted to the top of the rankings. Of the states that allow charter schools, Mississippi’s law remains at the bottom of the list.

In its third year, Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws ranks each of the country’s 42 state charter school laws. Each state receives a score on its law’s strength based on the 20 essential components from the NAPCS model law, which include measuring quality and accountability, equitable access to funding and facilities and limited caps on charter school growth.

“What’s most encouraging about the charter school movement’s legislative efforts is that they are more frequently marrying growth with quality and accountability,” said lead author of the report and NAPCS Vice President for State Advocacy and Support, Todd Ziebarth. “The long-term viability of the charter school movement is primarily dependent on the quality of the schools that open. It’s critical that state lawmakers recognize the importance of charter school quality and accountability – and the impact that their laws have on it. We are glad to see that they are increasingly doing so.”

In the 2011 rankings, the average score of all states with a charter school law was 100 (out of a maximum possible 208), and in this year’s rankings the average state score rose to 107, demonstrating that state charter laws are increasingly improving. The top 10 states with laws best positioned to support the growth of high-quality charter schools are Maine, Minnesota, Florida, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Indiana, Colorado, New York, California and Michigan.

At long last, Maine enacted a charter school law, becoming the 42nd jurisdiction to do so. Additionally, as a result of positive policy changes made over the past year, New Mexico made a big jump in the rankings, moving from 20th to fourth; Indiana went from 25th to sixth; and Rhode Island from 37th to 26th.

Conversely, Georgia fell from seventh to 14th and New Jersey dropped from 26th to 31st. Louisiana dipped in the rankings from ninth to 13th, and Idaho dropped four spots from 28th to 32nd.
The nine states that have still failed to enact a charter school law include Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

"There were a lot of shake-ups on the list this year. Most notably, Maine's new charter law is ranked number one after passing a strong charter law that is aligned with the NAPCS' model charter law, although it is yet to be seen how the implementation or enforcement of the law plays out," says Ursula Wright, interim president and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "While we see an increasing number of states creating favorable policy environments for high-quality charter schools, we acknowledge there is still a lot of work to be done.”

As lawmakers prepare for the upcoming legislative sessions, the rankings provide clear indications of where some states excel and others come up short in their charter school laws. The report is meant to be a tool that offers a roadmap for how governors and legislators can take action to strengthen education reform laws.

The complete analysis can be downloaded at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ website:

See detailed state-by-state summaries and color-coded maps of how states measure against each component at the

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4 decade analysis finds technology enhances educational experience


Technology has grown by leaps and bounds, yet are computers helping students progress in their learning? Absolutely, says a 40-year retrospective on the impact of technology in classrooms.

Published in the journal Review of Educational Research, the findings gathered by Concordia University researchers suggest that technology delivers content and supports student achievement.

Expanded from a doctoral thesis by Rana Tamim, the study’s first author, the research brought together data from 60,000 elementary school, high school, and post-secondary students. It compared achievement in classrooms that used computer technology versus those that used little or none.

In those classrooms where computers were used to support teaching, the technology was found to have a small to moderate positive impact on both learning and attitude. “We deduce that the impact would be even greater if observed over a student’s entire educational experience,” says co-author Richard Schmid, chair of Concordia’s Department of Education and a member of the university’s Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance.

The research team found technology works best when students are encouraged to think critically and communicate effectively. “A standard PowerPoint presentation will most likely not enhance the learning experience beyond providing content or enhancing teacher-directed lectures or class discussions,” says Schmid.

The team now plans to evaluate what technologies work best for what subjects. “Educational technology is not a homogenous intervention, but provides a broad variety of tools and strategies for learning,” says Schmid, adding there are few resources available to keep teachers abreast of newer technologies and their potential.

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Physical Activity Program Leads to Better Behavior for Children with ADHD


While children who suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle with hyperactive-impulses and have trouble maintaining attention, a recent study found that a structured physical activity program may help to improve their muscular capacities, motor skills, behavior assessments, and the ability to process information. This study, "A Physical Activity Program Improves Behavior and Cognitive Functions in Children with ADHD: An Exploratory Study," was released in the recent issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders (published by SAGE).

Authors Claudia Verret, Marie-Claude Guay, Claude Berthiaume, Phillip Gardiner, and Louise Béliveau enrolled ten children in a physical activity program that included a warm-up, aerobic activity, muscular and motor-skill exercises, and a cool-down. The objective of each session was to maintain moderate to high-intensity activity throughout each session as observed by a heart-rate monitor.

"A main finding of this study is that both parents and teachers observed better behavioral scores in the physical activity group," wrote the authors. "This could mean that positive effects of physical activity may occur in different settings of the children's life."

The authors monitored ten children with ADHD who were participating in the physical activity program three times a week and eleven different children with ADHD as part of a control group.

The authors wrote, "Considering the beneficial effect of physical activity participation on some important ADHD-related variables, schools and parents of children with ADHD should look to maximize opportunities for structured group physical activity in their children's life."

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Junk food in schools doesn't cause weight gain among children


While the percentage of obese children in the United States tripled between the early 1970s and the late 2000s, a new study suggests that—at least for middle school students—weight gain has nothing to do with the candy, soda, chips, and other junk food they can purchase at school.

"We were really surprised by that result and, in fact, we held back from publishing our study for roughly two years because we kept looking for a connection that just wasn't there," said Jennifer Van Hook, a Professor of Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University and lead author of the study, which appears in the January issue of Sociology of Education.

The study relies on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, which follows a nationally representative sample of students from the fall of kindergarten through the spring of eighth grade (the 1998-1999 through 2006-2007 schools years). Van Hook and her coauthor Claire E. Altman, a sociology and demography doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University, used a subsample of 19,450 children who attended school in the same county in both fifth and eighth grades (the 2003-2004 and the 2006-2007 school years).

The authors found that 59.2 percent of fifth graders and 86.3 percent of eighth graders in their study attended schools that sold junk food. But, while there was a significant increase in the percentage of students who attended schools that sold junk food between fifth and eighth grades, there was no rise in the percentage of students who were overweight or obese. In fact, despite the increased availability of junk food, the percentage of students who were overweight or obese actually decreased from fifth grade to eighth grade, from 39.1 percent to 35.4 percent.

"There has been a great deal of focus in the media on how schools make a lot of money from the sale of junk food to students, and on how schools have the ability to help reduce childhood obesity," Van Hook said. "In that light, we expected to find a definitive connection between the sale of junk food in middle schools and weight gain among children between fifth and eighth grades. But, our study suggests that—when it comes to weight issues—we need to be looking far beyond schools and, more specifically, junk food sales in schools, to make a difference."

According to Van Hook, policies that aim to reduce childhood obesity and prevent unhealthy weight gain need to concentrate more on the home and family environments as well as the broader environments outside of school.

"Schools only represent a small portion of children's food environment," Van Hook said. "They can get food at home, they can get food in their neighborhoods, and they can go across the street from the school to buy food. Additionally, kids are actually very busy at school. When they're not in class, they have to get from one class to another and they have certain fixed times when they can eat. So, there really isn't a lot of opportunity for children to eat while they're in school, or at least eat endlessly, compared to when they're at home. As a result, whether or not junk food is available to them at school may not have much bearing on how much junk food they eat."

The study results also intimate that when it comes to combating childhood obesity and weight issues, policymakers should put more emphasis on younger children, Van Hook said. "There has been a lot of research showing that many children develop eating habits and tastes for certain types of foods when they are of preschool age, and that those habits and tastes may stay with them for their whole lives," Van Hook said. "So, their middle school environments might not matter a lot."

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