An Examination of Performance Based Teacher Evaluation Systems


This study of performance-based teacher evaluation systems in five states that had implemented statewide systems as of 2010/11 finds considerable variation among them. However, all five states’ systems include observations, self- assessments, and multiple rating categories. In addition, the evaluation rubrics in each state reflect most of the teaching standards set out by the Inter-state Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium.

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Retirement Patterns of California Educators


This study examines retirement patterns of California educators from 1995/96 to 2009/10. It finds that

- the percentage of educators over age 60 doubled,
- educators were more likely to retire when a school district’s local revenue decreased,
- the percentage of retired educators returning to work increased.

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Do College-Prep Programs Improve Long-Term Outcomes?


This paper analyzes the longer-run effects of a college-preparatory program implemented in inner-city schools that included payments to eleventh- and twelfth- grade students and their teachers for passing scores on Advanced Placement exams.

Affected students attended college in greater numbers, were more likely to remain in college beyond their first year, more likely to earn a college degree, more likely to be employed, and earned higher wages. This is the first credible evidence that implementing college-preparatory programs in existing urban schools can improve both the long-run educational and labor market outcomes of disadvantaged students.

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School Principals: Estimating the Effect of Leaders on Public Sector Productivity


Although much has been written about the importance of leadership in the determination of organizational success, there is little quantitative evidence due to the difficulty of separating the impact of leaders from other organizational components – particularly in the public sector. Schools provide an especially rich environment for studying the impact of public sector management, not only because of the hypothesized importance of leadership but also because of the plentiful achievement data that provide information on institutional outcomes.

This paper analyzes principal value-added to student achievement. It reports that the effect of significant variation in principal quality that appears to be larger for high-poverty schools.

Patterns of teacher exits by principal quality validate the notion that a primary channel for principal influence is the management of the teacher force.

Finally, looking at principal transitions by quality reveals little systematic evidence that more effective leaders have a higher probability of exiting high poverty schools.

Related article

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Predicting children's language development


We depend on a barrage of standardized tests to assess everything from aptitude to intelligence. But do they provide an accurate forecast when it comes to something as complex as language? A study by Diane Pesco, an assistant professor in Concordia’s Department of Education, and co-author Daniela O’Neill, published earlier this year in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, shows that the Language Use Inventory (LUI) does.

Developed by O’Neill at the University of Waterloo, the LUI assesses the language of children 18 to 47 months old. In answering a series of questions, parents reveal how their children use language in various situations, including interacting with others, playing, and communicating about the world around them. Children’s scores can then be compared to those of hundreds of other children the same age from across Canada. In fact, the test is currently used in eight provinces in Canada, 30 states in the U.S., as well as in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

When Pesco and O’Neill began their study, O’Neill had already established that the LUI can accurately assess a child’s current language ability, but the measure’s relative novelty meant that its ability to accurately predict how toddlers would fare as they blossomed into youngsters could not be assessed until now.

Pesco, who is also a certified speech-language pathologist, was eager to see if the LUI results would hold down the line and perhaps result in fewer false positives than other measures of young children’s language.

“False positives,” Pesco explains, “means that a measure identifies a child as having a language delay or problem when, in fact, he or she does not. That’s a problem, since services for children with true delays are already overtaxed and have long waiting lists. False positives can also lead parents to worry unnecessarily and to incur expenses for private services, and can cause stress for children. At the same time, we don’t want to miss children who have and may continue to have difficulties.”

Finding a measure that can accurately identify children with language issues and that can predict who will continue to have difficulties later in childhood has therefore become a common goal for researchers, speech pathologists, pediatricians and parents who want to ensure that their kids develop strong language skills.

In response to this challenge, Pesco and O’Neill analyzed data from 348 five- to six-year-olds whose parents had completed the LUI when their child was a toddler or preschooler. The two researchers examined the relationship between the children’s scores on the LUI and on later language measures.

The results were promising. Children who had scored low on the LUI as toddlers were far more likely to have low scores on language measures when they hit five or six. These same children were also likely to be identified with a language impairment by the time they hit school age.

According to the study’s findings, therefore, the LUI can both identify kids who are struggling with language now and provide insight into their future facility with words. Early identification of language delays permits parents to seek help before problems set in, potentially resulting in a brighter future for those children whose language skills need a boost.

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I CAN Learn® : no discernible effects on math achievement for high school students.


The latest High School Math report from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviews the research on the pre-algebra and algebra components of I CAN Learn®, a computer software system that provides math instruction through a series of interactive lessons.

The I CAN Learn® curriculum includes more than 100 self-paced lessons in which students must demonstrate mastery before they can progress to the next lesson. Teachers provide individualized instruction based on student performance. The WWC reviewed 11 studies that investigated the effects of I CAN Learn® on high school students. One study is a randomized controlled trial with high levels of attrition that meets WWC evidence standards with reservations. The study included 540 high school students in seven schools in two districts. Based on the one study, the WWC found I CAN Learn® to have no discernible effects on math achievement for high school students.

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Deaths triple among football players


Morning temperatures thought to play a role

Heat-related deaths among football players across the country tripled to nearly three per year between 1994 and 2009 after averaging about one per year the previous 15 years, according to an analysis of weather conditions and high school and college sports data conducted by University of Georgia researchers.

The scientists built a detailed database that included the temperature, humidity and time of day, as well as the height, weight and position for 58 football players who died during practice sessions from overheating, or hyperthermia. The study, published recently in the International Journal of Biometeorology, found that for the eastern U.S., where most deaths occurred, morning heat index values were consistently higher in the latter half of the 30-year study period. Overall, Georgia led the nation in deaths with six fatalities.

"In general, on days the deaths occurred, the temperature was hotter and the air more humid than normal local conditions," said climatologist Andrew Grundstein, senior author of the study and associate professor of geography in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

More than half of the players fell ill on days when practice ended before noon. The majority of the deaths occurred in August, when most high school and college football coaches ramp up preseason training. The American College of Sports Medicine provides guidelines for the intensity of all sports practices based on a measurement called the wet bulb globe temperature, or WBGT.

The WBGT reading is calculated using the familiar dry bulb thermometer usually found in homes, a wet bulb thermometer wrapped in damp cotton and, finally, a dry bulb thermometer encased in a black globe or globe thermometer. Each instrument provides, respectively, a measure of the air temperature, the ability of evaporation to cool the player, and the amount of solar radiation absorbed by a surface or, in this case, the player's exposed skin.

The National Weather Service provides a measurement called the heat index that attempts to convey true ambient temperature. The weakness of that measurement, Grundstein explained, is that it does not account for sun exposure or a person's involvement in athletic activity.

Neither method of measuring temperature accounts for the protective pads and helmets football players wear during practice.

"We all want a single magic number to indicate the heat threshold," Grundstein said. "But so many factors contribute to heat stress that it's impossible to draw the line at a single temperature."

Grundstein cautioned against assigning complete blame for the deaths on warmer temperatures and increasing humidity. He found that football players have also grown larger since 1980. Linemen, who tend to have a higher body mass index than other players, seem especially susceptible to hyperthermia. In Grundstein's sample, 86 percent of those who died were linemen. The increase in deaths also could be explained by an overall increase in weight and BMI in the past 15 years.

Even though specialized tools such as the wet bulb global thermometer are available, not all football coaches decide to use them. In addition to knowing the true temperature outdoors, another approach to avoiding heat illnesses is to make sure players are slowly introduced to an intense workout regime after a summer probably spent inside air-conditioned environments. It is also important to have trained staff watching for signs of heat illness and to have an emergency management plan in place, he said.

Grundstein is currently working with Mike Ferrara, professor of kinesiology in the UGA College of Education, to study heat-related injuries in Georgia high school football players. Deaths from hyperthermia, Grundstein said, are highly avoidable.

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The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Summary of Final Reports


The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Summary of Final Reports

Research by the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP), based in the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform, revealed a pattern of school choice results that range from neutral (no significant differences between the The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), also called the “Choice” program, and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS)) to positive (clear benefit to Choice). Although the researchers have examined virtually every possible way that school choice could systematically affect people, schools, and neighborhoods in Milwaukee, they have found no evidence of any harmful effects of choice.

The major findings from this last set of seven topical reports are that:

• Participation in MPCP continues to grow even as both MPCP and MPS have succeeded in closing or at least denying public funds to a substantial number of low-performing schools over the past five years (Report #33).
• Enrolling in a private high school through MPCP increases the likelihood of a student graduating from high school, enrolling in a four-year college, and persisting in college by 4-7 percentage points (Report #30).
• When similar MPCP and MPS students are matched and tracked over four years, the achievement growth of MPCP students compared to MPS students is higher in reading but similar in math. The MPCP achievement advantage in reading is only conclusive in 2010-11, the year a high-stakes testing policy was added to the MPCP (Report #29).
• When a snapshot of all MPCP students who took the state accountability test is compared to a snapshot of the performance of MPS students with similar income disadvantages, the MPCP students are performing at higher levels in the upper grades in reading and science but at lower levels in math at all grade levels examined and in reading and science in 4th grade (Report #32).
• Based on MPCP and MPS administrative data on MPCP students as well as parent surveys, between 7.5 and 14.6 percent of MPCP students have a disability, a rate at least four times higher than previously reported by DPI (Report #35).
• Visits to 13 MPCP schools revealed that many Choice students come to the schools behind by 1-2 years academically; the MPCP schools use various strategies to try to “catch them up” and prepare them for college and succeed with some but not all of them (Report #34).
• When similar independent public charter and MPS students are matched and tracked over four years, the achievement growth of the charter students compared to MPS students is similar in both reading and math, though conversion charters, which used to be private schools, clearly deliver higher achievement growth than MPS (Report #31).

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Milwaukee School Voucher Program has more Students with Disabilities than Previously Reported


Study shows that 7 to 14 percent of voucher students have disabilities, as compared to 2 percent estimate by Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

A new study, “Special Choices: Do voucher schools serve students with disabilities?,” estimates that between 7.5 and 14 percent of students in Milwaukee’s voucher program have disabilities, a much higher rate than the one provided by the Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which has stated, “about 1.6 percent of choice students have a disability.”

The new research is significant in that it affords an unusual opportunity to obtain high quality information on the participation rate in school voucher programs by students with disabilities. It is sometimes argued, particularly by critics of voucher programs, that private schools exclude most students with disabilities. The scarcity of information reflects the fact that private schools, unlike public schools, do not receive additional funding for students with disabilities, and consequently are not required by federal law to follow complex procedures for the identification of those students.

The Milwaukee voucher program is the largest and longest-running urban school choice program in the U.S., established in 1990 and now serving over 22,000 low-income students who attend 107 private schools using $6,000 vouchers toward tuition.

In a five-year study (2006-11), the three researchers used three different methods to identify the percentage of voucher students who would have been identified as in need of special education had they been enrolled in public school.

Their first method analyzed information on 1,475 students (20% of the total 7,338 sample) who had attended schools with a voucher for part of their education but had also been in public schools. Among this group of students they found that 9.1 percent were identified as disabled when attending a private school, but 14.6 percent were identified as disabled when attending Milwaukee’s public schools. The authors conclude that the rate of identification is 5.5 percent higher by public schools than by private schools, when the exact same students are being classified.

Their second method relies on reports from principals at private schools, who say that 7.5 percent of their students have disabilities.

The third method is based on interviews with parents of students in grades 3 through 9. According to parents, the disability rate among voucher students is 11.4 percent, as compared to 20.4 percent in the public schools.

The authors suggest that the 7.5 percent estimate from private school officials is “a lower-bound estimate, since several principals (said) they resist labeling students as disabled.”

Parent satisfaction with special education services was similar for both voucher students and public school students. When parents of students with disabilities were asked “how well do the facilities at the child’s school attend to his/her particular needs?” about half the parents reported. Fifty percent of the parents of voucher students said they were doing “very well” as compared to 52 percent of public school parents.
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Preschools Get Disadvantaged Children Ready for the Rigors of Kindergarten


Preschools help children prepare for the rigors of grade school—especially children who come from a minority family, a poor family, or whose parents don’t provide high-quality interactions. The results of a new study of over 1,000 identical and fraternal twins, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, confirm that preschool programs are a good idea.

Of course, many children from poor families excel in school. But it’s no secret that many do not. People used to think this had to do with the lower-quality schools in poor neighborhoods, but it has become clear that many poor children start first day of kindergarten playing catch-up. They score lower on tests that measure the kinds of skills that are foundational for learning mathematics and reading.

Elliot Tucker-Drob, of the University of Texas at Austin, used a study of 1,200 twins from 600 families to examine how their environment affects their achievement later. The goal of twin studies is to figure out how much of a particular trait is influenced by genetics and how much is influenced by the environment. If identical twins are more similar to each other than fraternal twins, it’s because genes have some influence on the trait—in this case, test scores. If fraternal twins are also quite similar, that suggests that the trait is influenced by the family environment—how their parents play with them, for example. In this study, twins were followed from age 2 until they entered kindergarten at age 5.

Tucker-Drob found that children who went to preschool did better than children who did not, and that the family environment was important. Preschools were particularly beneficial for minority children and poor children, and for children whose parents didn’t play with them in a way that stimulated the child’s cognitive development. Parents’ play styles were measured by having trained coders watch a videotape of a parent playing with each child.

“This indicates that children who are growing up in homes that have fewer resources and lower-quality stimulation from parents aren’t being held back as much by their homes if they’re attending preschool,” Tucker-Drob says.

For kids from wealthier backgrounds, with more stimulating environments, there was no difference between children who went to preschool and those who didn’t. “But for children who came from poorer backgrounds, test scores were a lot higher if they went to preschool than if they stayed home,” Tucker-Drob says. That means that, on average, preschools help children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The gap in test scores between rich and poor was much smaller among children who went to preschool than among children who did not.

Tucker-Drob emphasizes that these are average effects; many children will thrive no matter the environment. “It’s in no way saying that poor parents are bad; it’s simply saying that there are these associations, and, potentially, one way to break this cycle is with preschools.”

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New Report Shows Federal Program Helping Major Cities Turn Around Low-Achieving Schools


A new report by the Council of the Great City Schools finds that urban school districts mounted an unprecedented number of school turnaround efforts in the 2010-2011 school year with funds from the revamped federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program.

While the nation’s big-city schools have seen significant academic gains in the past several years, there are still pockets of schools that are not responding to districtwide reforms and need special intervention. Increasingly, urban school districts are utilizing SIG funds to turn around these schools, implementing some of the toughest reform models called for in SIG at higher rates than seen in other schools nationwide.

The report – The School Improvement Grant Rollout in America’s Great City Schools: School Improvement Grants 2010-2011 – indicates that the number of urban turnaround schools has increased significantly since the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program underwent transformation and expansion as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and launched in 2010. Some 298 chronically low-achieving Tier I and II schools in urban districts were selected to receive grants and undergoing turnaround efforts in the first year of SIG—roughly as many schools as these districts tackled in the previous five years of reform (284 schools).

The report offers a detailed picture of the specific strategies being pursued in urban schools across the country. Some 54 percent of the SIG schools in the urban districts implemented the turnaround intervention model, which includes replacing the principal and at least half of the staff; 36 percent of the urban schools used the transformation model, which also includes replacing the principal and instructional reforms; 5 percent of the urban schools utilized the restart intervention model, which includes closing the school and re-opening as a charter school; and another 5 percent of the schools used the closure model, which involves closing the school and moving students to a nearby school with higher performance.

These findings indicate that the nation’s urban school districts are using the turnaround and closure models at about twice the rate of the nation.

“The School Improvement Grant program provides an important and substantial new tool in the arsenal of many big-city school districts,” says Council Executive Director Michael Casserly. “In addition to districtwide reforms, urban school systems are tailoring interventions to address the needs of specific schools that are struggling to achieve.”

Prior to the expanded SIG program, school districts faced a number of challenges in their efforts to turn around low-achieving schools, such as removing ineffective teachers, securing turnaround funding and recruiting teachers to challenging schools. The report found that the urban school districts believed the revamped SIG program can help address some of these challenges.

Although it’s too early to measure the impact of SIG on student achievement in the first year of the expanded program, the report points out that most big city schools responding to the survey were satisfied with how the grant gave them ample flexibility to implement turnaround measures. They also expressed optimism that the SIG program has a “strong chance of significantly improving student achievement in these persistently low-achieving schools.”

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Girls' Verbal Skills Make Them Better at Arithmetic


While boys generally do better than girls in science and math, some studies have found that girls do better in arithmetic. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that the advantage comes from girls' superior verbal skills.

"People have always thought that males' advantage is in math and spatial skills, and girls' advantage is in language," says Xinlin Zhou of Beijing Normal University, who cowrote the study with Wei Wei, Hao Lu, Hui Zhao, and Qi Dong of Beijing Normal University and Chuansheng Chen of the University of California-Irvine. "However, some parents and teachers in China say girls do arithmetic better than boys in primary school."

Zhou and his colleagues did a series of tests with children ages 8 to 11 at 12 primary schools in and around Beijing. Indeed, girls outperformed boys in many math skills. They were better at arithmetic, including tasks like simple subtraction and complex multiplication. Girls were also better at numerosity comparison -- making a quick estimate of which of two arrays had more dots in it. Girls outperformed boys at quickly recognizing the larger of two numbers and at completing a series of numbers (like "2 4 6 8"). Boys performed better at mentally rotating three-dimensional images.

Girls were also better at judging whether two words rhymed, and Zhou and his colleagues think this is the key to their better math performance. "Arithmetic and even advanced math needs verbal processing," Zhou says. Counting is verbal; the multiplication table is memorized verbally, and when people are doing multiple-digit calculations, they hold the intermediate results in their memory as words.

"Better language skills could lead to more efficient verbal processing in arithmetic," Zhou says. He thinks it might be possible to use these results to help both boys and girls learn math better. Boys could use more help with verbal strategies for learning math terms, while girls might benefit from more practice with spatial skills.
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California Charter Schools Don’t Narrow Black-White Achievement Gap


In a recent report, the California Charter School Association claims that the state’s charter schools are narrowing the Black-White achievement gap. Not so, explains Arizona State University professor David Garcia, an expert on charter school research, in a review of the CCSA study conducted for the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Garcia finds flaws in the report’s methods, and he explains that the gap is “largely unaffected by charter enrollment.” Further, Garcia pours cold water on the report’s claim that innovative practices are at work in charter schools that aren’t found in traditional public schools.

Garcia reviewed Chartering and Choice as an Achievement Gap-Closing Reform: The success of California charter schools in promoting African American Achievement, published by the California Charter Schools Association, for the NEPC’s Think Twice think tank review project.

In his review,Garcia notes that the report claims that African American students attending California charter schools scored, on average, 19 points higher than the average for African Americans attending traditional schools on California’s Academic Performance Index (API), which is derived from statewide standardized tests under the state’s accountability system for public schools. The report also claims that California charter schools are reversing the trend of low academic achievement among African American students and effectively closing the Black-White achievement gap.

Garcia observes that the data in the report itself show that “African Americans in California charter schools started out higher and actually lost ground relative to traditional public schools over time,” with traditional public schools outgaining charter schools by 6 points. Moreover, he writes, “closing the achievement gap requires that African American students make more gains relative to White students – and by this definition, traditional public schools outperformed charter schools.”

Garcia also points out that the report’s confusing and poorly supported claims are due in part to its “shotgun approach”: “it includes so many findings that it loses track of which schools are included in which findings.”

According to Garcia, the most positive spin that can be put on the evidence is that while the gap is still wide, it might be growing at a slower pace for charter school students. Even this interpretation, however, is not well-supported by the data or analyses in the new report. This is largely because the main statistical model presented in the report has several prominent weaknesses. It accounts for only 3-6 percent of overall variance, meaning that the observed outcome differences are explained overwhelmingly by factors not included in the authors’ model. One cannot make reliable policy decisions based on such a weak model.

Moreover, throughout the report, the authors chose to set aside differences in socio-economic status as regards charter elementary and middle schools, not considering the likely effects those differences have on the measured outcomes. The sole exception occurs when the performance numbers appear to favor traditional public high schools, in which case the authors point to socio-economic status differences as the explanation.

The report’s greatest strength, Garcia writes, is that it again demonstrates what other studies have found: namely, that “charter schools are of variable quality, and there are very few innovations in charter school practices as a whole that are not also present in traditional public schools.” In the main, however, he says: “The most useful policy briefs are concise as well as accurate. This report is lacking on both counts.”

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Incentive programs that merely pay teachers for student test scores produce limited results


Other incentives are more popular with teachers, produce better outcomes and can be used to spread expertise to colleagues.

Do teachers think like salesmen or assembly line workers? Does a financial reward tied to a production goal or sales target motivate teachers to teach better, and do students benefit from these financial incentives? The answer is that few or no gains come from such teacher incentives. This is because pay-for-performance schemes don’t respond to what teachers care most about, but other incentives might be much more successful, according to Creating Teacher Incentives for School Excellence and Equity, issued by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The policy brief provides state governments, schools, and school districts with fundamental information about what research tells us concerning the kinds of incentives that are likely to get the best teachers to work in and stay in schools — particularly high-needs schools.

The policy brief is written for the NEPC by Barnett Berry, founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality, and Jonathan Eckert, an education professor at Wheaton College in Illinois and former Teaching Ambassador at the U.S. Department of Education, where he worked in both the Bush and Obama administrations on teacher quality issues. A companion document takes the policy brief’s recommendations and offers legislative language that would translate those recommendations into law. This legislative brief is written by professor Scott R. Bauries of the University of Kentucky College of Law, whose areas of expertise include education law and employment law.

In their review of the empirical evidence, Berry and Eckert note that “teacher incentive proposals are rarely grounded on what high-quality research indicates are the kinds of teacher incentives that lead to school excellence and equity.”

For example, the authors note that “empirical evidence, including large-scale studies and an increasing number of teacher testimonies, suggest that working conditions are far more important than bonuses.” Moreover, those important working conditions go well beyond the issues of time, class size, and the length of the workday. Policymakers need to focus on the conditions that allow teachers to teach effectively, including: “(1) principals who cultivate and embrace teacher leadership; (2) time and tools for teachers to learn from each other; (3) specialized preparation and resources for the highest needs schools, subjects, and students; (4) the elimination of out-of-field teaching assignments; (5) teaching loads that are differentiated based on the diversity and mobility of students taught; (6) opportunities to take risks; (7) integration of academic, social, and health support services for students; and (8) safe and well-maintained school buildings.”

In addition, missing from virtually all of the currently in-vogue strategies to give teachers incentives to improve achievement is an understanding of how incentives could be used to reward teachers who spread their expertise to their colleagues. Teachers have long been organizationally “siloed” from each other. Berry and Eckert point out that strategic compensation could be used to reward teachers who collaborate, not compete, with their colleagues in helping them teach for more effectively.

The authors offer other specific recommendations as well, concluding, “What most teachers desire is the know-how to teach their subjects as well as the autonomy and supports to best meet the needs of their students.” Effectively addressing the conditions that the best teachers want and need will go a long way toward supporting their professional activities and retaining them — particularly in high-needs schools.

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Report on School Leadership is Poorly Researched and Misleading, says New Review


A review by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC)
of a recent report that proposes a range of state policies designed to make school principals more effective finds that the report ignores existing research on the subject, lacks evidence for the approaches it advocates, and sidesteps both state and professional policies that directly address the sorts of problems it purports to remedy.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) report, Gateways to the Principalship: State Power to Improve the Quality of School Leaders, was reviewed for NEPC’s Think Twice think tank review project by Margaret Terry Orr, a professor at Bank Street College of Education and director of the College’s Future School Leaders Academy. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Gateways to the Principalship, written for CAP by Gretchen Rhines Cheney and Jacquelyn Davis, focuses on policies concerning the preparation, licensure and retention of school principals. The report identifies eight states it considers “lagging” and eight it considers “leading,” asserting that the “leading” states employ practices that the “lagging” states and others like them should adopt in order to improve the performance of school principals. The lagging states are Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington. The leading states are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

Professor Orr’s review, however, finds that the report makes assertions without evidence and arguments without foundation. Further, she writes, the report appears to be unaware of scholarship and common practices on the subject it seeks to address.

Particularly glaring omissions include not using policy-related reports from the Wallace Foundation (not referenced), the Education Commission of the States (not referenced), and the National Conference of State Legislators (referenced but never used), each of which have in various ways addressed how to improve school leadership. Each of these has also taken note of what policymakers are actually doing to improve the education of principals.

Further, the report’s identification of 16 focus states is never adequately explained. It does not define what it means when it labels eight states as “lagging” in their eligibility requirements for candidates admitted to principal-preparation programs. Similarly, it selects eight “leading” states in this area for their adoption of other policies the report’s authors favor, yet it never compares the two groups of states on similar types of policies.

“Very little in the way of supporting data is presented to justify [the report’s] claims,” Orr writes. For example, of the sources cited, only one is from a peer-reviewed journal; the rest are from organizations and foundations whose claims and assertions are often weakly supported and poorly argued—yet are accepted uncritically in the CAP report.

“The report has little utility for policy or practice,” Orr concludes. Instead, she writes, it merely “distracts from more relevant and potent policy strategies to improve leadership preparation.”

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Overpaid Teachers Report from Heritage/AEI is Based on Bad Stats, Groundless Assumptions


A recent report from the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, Assessing the Compensation of Public School Teachers, claims public school teachers are paid 52 percent more than fair market rates. While attention-grabbing, this contention is based on a faulty assessment that relies on “an aggregation of spurious claims” to make its case, according to a labor market expert.

The Heritage/AEI report was authored by Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs. It pits the wages and benefits of teachers against those of similarly educated and experienced private-sector workers and concludes that teachers are overpaid. But in his review of the report, professor Jeffrey H. Keefe, of Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations, finds that it rests on a series of flawed and one-sided assumptions and sloppy statistical analyses.

Using these assumptions, the authors stand normal conclusions on their head. While the straightforward evidence suggests that teachers are undercompensated by about 19 percent compared with their non-teacher peers in the workforce, the report concludes that they are instead overpaid by more than twice that percentage.

Central to the original report’s argument is the claim that teachers are less intelligent than other workers of comparable education and experience. The report bases this claim on the lower scores of teachers on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT). Yet the AFQT is simply not an intelligence test. Further, the authors claim that AFQT scores alone can be used to compare teacher and non-teacher populations. But that conclusion relies on a data sample that’s too small to provide any meaningful long-term analyses or conclusions, Keefe points out.

In fact, “measured cognitive ability is correlated only weakly with wages and explains little of the variance in wages across individuals and time,” Keefe writes. That is, people aren’t generally paid based even on a valid IQ test; they tend to be paid based on factors such as their preparation, skills, reliability, knowledge, and experience. “The only reliable comparison in this report is its starting point: there is a 19 percent [compensation] penalty for teachers.”

Other statistical missteps in the report include its erroneous calculations for benefits costs, both during employment and after retirement, which lead the authors to contend that benefit costs for teachers amount to more than their salary costs, thus more than doubling teachers’ overall costs. Keefe’s review explains why this is “a claim that cannot be reasonably supported.”

The review, which is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, also uncovers in the report a significant miscalculation that doubles the supposed monetary value embedded in the customary “summers off” work schedules of teachers. The report also asserts, notwithstanding recent widespread teacher layoffs, that teachers enjoy a substantial benefit of disproportionate job security, and the authors then proceed to pull, out of thin air, a monetized value of this asserted benefit.

Keefe warns that the study isn’t merely useless, but that it will lead to “headline-grabbing claims of dramatic overpayment of teachers” that, in turn, will result in ill-informed and harmful policy decisions that further undercut support for public education.

“Any discussion of teacher compensation should be based on high-quality evidence,” Keefe warns, adding that “this report does not advance that discussion.”

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Looking Again at Long-Term Teacher Effects and ‘Value-Added’


Can short-term measures of teacher effects indicate long-term effectiveness? A recent, highly publicized report, The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood, concludes that elementary school teachers’ so-called value-added effects on their students show up years later in those students’ teenage pregnancy rates, college success and career earnings. A new review of that study, conducted for the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), found that while the study is impressive in many ways, more evidence is needed to prove a key part of its case.

The report is authored by economists from Harvard and Columbia University: Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff.

Dale Ballou, an economist and professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, reviewed The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers for NEPC’s Think Twice think tank review project.

The Chetty, Friedman and Rockoff study was covered extensively in major newspapers and was cited in President Obama’s State of the Union address. It has quickly become an important part of national discussions about how we should evaluate teachers. In particular, some policy makers believe that we should base decisions about teacher pay, retention and other considerations on the basis of how a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests, measured using “value-added” approaches that attempt to isolate the effects of individual teachers on student growth.

Past examinations of the value-added methodology have found that these analyses can vary widely based on even modest changes to the assumptions employed in the model or the assessment used. Teachers also have expressed concern that overreliance on test scores for teacher evaluations leads to a narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the test.

The new study merges IRS data with archival test-score data from a large urban district, using value-added modeling to estimate the short-term test score growth of the students of teachers in reading/language arts and mathematics in grades 4 through 8. It then looked at certain longer-term outcomes for those students. The researchers concluded that teachers who proved to be effective at raising test scores in either of those subjects also had positive effects on other student outcomes, even years later.

According to Ballou, “The report claims that these positive outcomes are the result of having had higher value-added teachers, above and beyond any association that might arise for other reasons.”

The three economists support their conclusions regarding short-term effects with strong tests for systematic bias in the assignment of students to teachers. Those tests found that the value added was estimated without bias. Family background factors that predict high test scores were not distributed in such a way as to systematically favor teachers with high value-added estimates.

But Ballou explains that a similar set of tests is needed to establish that the estimated effect of high-value-added teachers on long-term outcomes is also free of bias. He writes:

What is needed now is to test whether family background factors that predict long-term success in employment, college attendance, etc., are distributed in such a way as to favor high-value-added teachers. … [T]he tests for bias need to be run again… The fact that similar tests have already validated the estimates of teacher value added does not imply that they are not needed to validate inferences about the impact of teachers on long-term outcomes. Indeed, it is probably even more important that these tests be conducted with respect to outcomes like earnings and the avoidance of teen pregnancy. Data available from tax returns are not likely to distinguish well between families that nurture the development of character and families that are much less successful in this task. Unobserved differences between families are likely to be very important. The way to test whether high-value-added teachers have been systematically assigned more students whose families are richer with respect to these unobservable factors is to conduct the quasi-experimental tests described above. Absent that, we will not know whether such differences were present and were the underlying reason for the observed association between teacher value-added and students’ long-term success.

“On this key point the report falls short,” Ballou writes. “While some of these tests have been reported, much more evidence could have been presented to support this claim. The same kind of tests conducted to establish that value added was estimated free of bias could have been applied to test the larger and more significant claim of this report: that high-value added teachers improve life outcomes many years after students have left their classrooms. In the absence of such evidence, it is premature to conclude that the report's central conclusions are correct.”

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Can Charters and Equity Goals Coexist?


NEPC reports offer guidance and model legislation to ensure charter schools promote equity and not inequality

While our society is more diverse than ever before, schools are more segregated today than they were 30 years ago. School choice policies that allow children to enroll in schools outside of their neighborhood have the potential to reduce segregation and many of the inequities that flow from that segregation. Yet some of the nation’s most segregated K-12 schools are public charter schools.

A new report from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), Chartering Equity: Using Charter School Legislation and Policy to Advance Equal Educational Opportunity, written and researched by Julie F. Mead of the University of Wisconsin and Preston C. Green III of Penn State, offers guidance on how charter school policies can best be shaped to promote equity goals.

More than 5,400 charter schools in 40 states as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico enroll some 1.7 million students. The expansion of charters has been promoted by the No Child Left Behind act, as well as by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top policy, and the charter segment is growing rapidly. Advocates contend that charters give poor families new opportunities to choose better schools for their children, just as the wealthy have had choices of either moving to other school districts or paying for private schools.

But skeptics argue that the growth of charter schools has led to the stratification and isolation of students by race, class, special education status, and English language learner status. This consequence of school choice has undermined key national goals of inclusion and integration.

“Further, 43 percent of black charter school students attended schools that were 99 percent minority,” Mead and Green write. By contrast, less than 15 percent of black students in traditional public schools attend such highly segregated schools.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Charter school policies can be shaped in ways that promote equity and inclusion. Mead and Green argue that policies can balance other societal goals with the benefit that arises from giving parents greater choice in schools.

“When school reform embraces parental choice in the form of charter schools, the value of equal educational opportunity must remain central,” they write. “Ensuring that public educational dollars serve equity requires balancing the parents’ choices against ... the state’s interest in ensuring children’s education meets appropriate standards.” And one of those standards is whether the schools in question “serve all children regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, language, disability and gender.”

To accomplish that end, the report recommends guidelines and rules for charter school authorizers and state legislatures. It makes similar recommendations for Congress as it considers a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind act.

The net effect of the recommended requirements would be to bring charter school authorization and revocation policies within the broader set of policies designed to promote equal access to education regardless of ethnic, racial or socioeconomic status.

For instance, Mead and Green suggest that charter schools be required to address how they would broaden opportunities for disadvantaged students. Additionally, charter schools would be held accountable, particularly at the time of charter renewal or revocation decisions, for taking concrete steps to ensure equal educational opportunity.

“Growth in the charter school sector for the mere sake of growth neglects the central justification for their existence: to improve the current public educational landscape for children and their families,” Mead and Green write. The recommendations they offer are intended to shape charter school policies in ways that help address, rather than exacerbate, the existing the inequalities in U.S. schools. In a companion report, Model Policy Language for Charter School Equity, Mead and Green offer model legislation to carry out those recommendations.

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Review of state policies on teacher induction


In this report New Teacher Center (NTC) summarizes existing policies for each state, related to 10 key criteria most critical to the provision of universal, high-quality induction and mentoring support for beginning educators.

The latest evidence suggests that beginning teachers are more common in our schools today than at any other time in at least the last twenty years. In 1987-88 the typical teacher had 15 years of experience; by 2007-08, the typical teacher had but one year in the classroom. As policymakers work on strengthening accountability and expectations for teachers, they must ensure that teacher development is a more central focus of their efforts -- especially for these beginning teachers.

A meaningful evaluation system should not only measure teaching performance, but also provide systemic opportunities to develop teaching practice and help teachers continuously learn and improve. In response to these trends, high-quality induction programs are needed today more than ever. State policy has a critical role to play in creating a supportive context and establishing a strong expectation that comprehensive support will be provided toe very beginning educator.

NTC's Review of State Policies on Teacher Induction provides the first comprehensive look at induction policies in each of the 50 states (during the 2010-11 school year). For each state, NTC summarizes existing policies related to 10 key criteria most critical to the provision of universal, high-quality induction and mentoring support for beginning educators. These criteria work in concert to support and guide local school districts to design and implement high-quality induction programs. States that come closest to meeting all 10 criteria will raise the likelihood that every new educator receives a sufficient level of induction and mentoring support, will ensure that local programs are comprehensive and include key quality components, and will enjoy the resulting benefits-including enhanced teacher effectiveness.

With a policy paper and the 50 individual state policy reviews, NTC aims to assist state policymakers in designing and revising policies on new educator induction and mentoring. NTC made an intentional decision not to grade or rank states against these policy criteria. Instead, NTC chose to share this information with state leaders and other interested stakeholders in an effort to provide a clear assessment of state policy and to suggest areas for improvement.

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Attending middle school increases risk of dropping out of high school


As compared to students in K-8 elementary schools, middle school students also score lower on achievement tests. Losses amount to as much as 3.5 to 7 months of learning.

A new study of statewide data from all Florida public schools, “The Middle School Plunge: Achievement tumbles when young students change schools,” finds that moving to a middle school in grade 6 or 7 causes a substantial drop in student test scores relative to those of students who remain in K-8 schools, and increases the likelihood of dropping out of high school.

In the past ten years, urban school districts such as New York City, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg have reorganized some middle schools along the once-prevalent K-8 model. The study’s findings support these school conversions and “are also relevant to the expanding charter school sector, which has the opportunity to choose grade configurations” when schools are established.

Data on state math and reading test scores for all Florida students attending public schools in grades 3 to 10 from the 2000-01 through 2008-09 years were analyzed. The researchers also conducted a test-score analysis separately for schools in Miami-Dade County, which is Florida’s largest district (345,000 students) and offers a wide range of grade configurations up through grade 8. They find that “the negative effects of entering a middle school for grade 6 or grade 7 are, if anything, even more pronounced in Miami-Dade County than they are statewide.”

The research, conducted by Martin R. West at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Guido Schwerdt of the University of Munich’s Ifo Institute, found that students who make school transitions at grade 7 experience drops in achievement of 0.22 and 0.15 standard deviations in math and reading, respectively. For those making the transition at grade 6, math achievement falls by 0.12 standard deviations, and reading achievement falls by 0.09 standard deviations. These declines in achievement amount to between 3.5 and 7 months of expected learning over the course of a 10-month school year.

The relative achievement of middle-school students continues to decline through grade 8. For example, students who entered in 6th grade score 0.23 standard deviations lower in math and 0.14 standard deviations lower in reading by the end of 8th grade than would have been expected had they attended a K-8 school.

Nor do the researchers find evidence that students who attend middle schools make larger achievement gains than their K-8 peers in grades 9 and 10, by which time most Florida students have entered high school. On the contrary, they show that entering a middle school in 6th grade increases the probability of dropping out of high school by grade 10 by 18 percent (1.4 percentage points).

The negative effects of entering a middle school are somewhat smaller outside of urban districts, but they remain substantial even in rural areas. Among student subgroups, the study finds that black students suffer larger drops both at and following the transition to middle school; there are only insignificant differences in effects for students of different ethnicities in reading.

Principal surveys indicate that aspects of school climate, such as safety and order, are worse in Florida middle schools than in K-8 schools. The authors surmise that students in grades 6-8 who remain in K-8 schools “may benefit from being among the oldest students in a school setting that includes very young students, perhaps because they have greater opportunity to take on leadership roles.”

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A Review of Gifted and Talented Education in the United States


Gifted and talented education programs provide children who have been identified as having high ability in some intellectual or creative characteristic with a supplemental curriculum to their traditional coursework. Despite the popularity of these programs, the literature lacks a comprehensive review of gifted education in the United States. This policy brief aims to fill this void by providing national and state-level statistics on participation rates, funding appropriations, and policies on gifted education.

Since many of the operational details of these programs are determined by local education agencies, data on a nationally representative sample of schools are then used to provide information on gifted curricula, instructor training and experience, and the selection process for admission. Finally, a review of the research on gifted education is provided. This research highlights that gifted programs vary widely and that further research on this topic can provide valuable information to policy makers and educators.

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When the Bell Tolls: The Effects of School Starting Times on Academic Achievement


A number of high schools across the United States have moved to later bell times on the belief that their previous bell times were too early for the “biological clocks” of adolescents. In this article the author asks whether doing so improves academic performance.

The author first focused on the Twin Cities metropolitan area, where Minneapolis and several suburban districts have made large policy changes but St. Paul and other suburban districts have maintained early schedules. He used individual-level ACT data on all individuals from public high schools in this region who took the ACT between 1993 and 2002 to estimate the effects of school starting times on ACT scores.

He then employed school-level data on schedules and test scores on statewide standardized tests from Kansas and Virginia to estimate the effects of bell times on achievement for a broader sample. The results do not suggest an effect of school starting times on achievement.

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Do More Effective Teachers Earn More Outside the Classroom?


The authors of this study examined earnings records for more than 130,000 classroom teachers employed by Florida public schools between the 2001–2 and 2006–7 school years, roughly 35,000 of whom left the classroom during that time. A majority of those leaving the classroom remained employed by public school districts. Among teachers in grades 4–8 leaving for other industries, a 1 standard deviation increase in estimated value added to student math and reading achievement is associated with 6–8 percent higher earnings outside teaching. The relationship between effectiveness and earnings is stronger in other industries than it is for the same groups of teachers while in the classroom, suggesting that current teacher compensation systems do not fully account for the higher opportunity wages of effective teachers.
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Can you recognize an effective teacher when you recruit one?


Study reveals that districts could benefit from collecting a broader set of information on teacher candidates

Research on the relationship between teacher characteristics and teacher effectiveness has been underway for over a century, yet little progress has been made in linking teacher quality with factors observable at the time of hire. A recent study suggests that one can predict economically significant variation in teacher effectiveness using a broadened set of information on new recruits. The researchers administered an in-depth survey to new math teachers in New York City and collected information on a number of nontraditional predictors of effectiveness, including teaching-specific content knowledge, cognitive ability, personality traits, feelings of self-efficacy, and scores on a commercially available teacher selection instrument, the Haberman PreScreener. Ultimately, the results suggest collecting a set of measures that would not appear on a teacher's curriculum vitae. The research was featured in Education Finance and Policy.

With the assistance of school district officials, the professors identified 602 teachers with no prior experience who were listed as teaching mathematics to students in grades 4-8 in the academic year 2006-07. They limited the sample to math teachers in these grades in order to calculate a value-added measure of teacher effectiveness using at least one prior test score as a control. Of the teachers invited to complete the roughly 90 minute survey, 418 (69.4 percent) responded and 55.3 percent completed it entirely. The survey assesses a host of teacher qualities at the time of hire, including SAT scores, whether the teacher passed their licensure test on the first try, their undergraduate major, and the selectivity of their undergraduate college. The list also included less commonly used measures like tests of cognitive and mathematic ability and efficacy. The researchers also test what teacher characteristics are associated with high scores on the Haberman PreScreener and then test whether performance on this instrument predicts a variety of teacher and student outcomes. The study then documents how these metrics can be used to create composite measures of cognitive and noncognitive skills, both of which have statistically significant relationships with student achievement. By combining these measures of cognitive and noncognitive abilities, hiring committees could pull out useful information; the added information could explain 12 percent of the variance in teacher effectiveness.

The results are also consistent with the notion that data on job performance may be a more powerful tool for improving teacher selection than data available at the recruitment stage. However, they note that gathering information for selection during the recruitment process is likely to be far less costly than after teachers are already working with students. The researchers also find that more work is necessary in this line of research, and that further validation of their findings will require researchers or policymakers to gather a similar set of information on a different sample of teachers and test whether their results also emerge for this new sample.

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Decline in natural world, wild animals in illustrated books for kids


Was your favorite childhood book crawling with wild animals and set in places like jungles or deep forests? Or did it take place inside a house or in a city, with few if any untamed creatures in sight?

A new study has found that over the last several decades, nature has increasingly taken a back seat in award-winning children's picture books -- and suggests this sobering trend is consistent with a growing isolation from the natural world.

A group of researchers led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociology professor emeritus J. Allen Williams Jr. reviewed the winners and honor books receiving the prestigious Caldecott Medal from the award's inception in 1938 through 2008. In total, they examined nearly 8,100 images contained in nearly 300 books. Caldecott awardees are the children's books judged by the American Library Association to have the best illustrations in a given year.

Researchers looked at whether images depicted a natural environment, such as a jungle or a forest; a built environment, such as a house, a school or an office; or something in-between, such as a mowed lawn. They also noted whether any animals were in the pictures -- and if so, if those creatures were wild, domesticated or took on human qualities.

Their results, Williams said, visibly exhibited a steady decline in illustrations of natural environments and animals, as well as humans' interactions with both. Meanwhile, images of built environments became much more common.

"I am concerned that this lack of contact may result in caring less about the natural world, less empathy for what is happening to other species and less understanding of many significant environmental problems," Williams said.

Overall, built environments were depicted in 58 percent of the images and were the major environment 45 percent of the time, while natural environments were present in 46 percent of the images and were the major environment 32 percent of the time. But recent trend lines were discouraging: Latter decades showed an obvious shift away from nature -- while built and natural environments were almost equally likely to be shown from the late 1930s until the 1960s, cities and towns and the indoors started to increase in books in the mid-1970s while fewer and fewer books pictured the natural environment.

During the seven decades included in the study, more people have lived in and around built environments, so researchers said they were not surprised such images would be prominent. But "what we find in these books ... is not a consistent proportional balance of built and natural environments, but a significant and steady increase of built environments," the authors wrote. "Natural environments have all but disappeared."

While the study was limited to Caldecott awardees, researchers said the findings are important because the award leads to strong sales and the honorees are featured in schools and libraries. Caldecott winners also can influence tastes for children's literature more generally.

The study does not say that increasing isolation from the natural world influenced the content trends, but it does hint that the steady increase in built environments and the simultaneous decline in natural environments and wild animals are consistent with that isolation.

"This does not mean, of course, that environmentalism is not an important part of American culture, but it does suggest that the current generation of young children listening to the stories and looking at the images in children's books are not being socialized, at least through this source, toward greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the place of humans within it," the authors wrote.

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Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2011


Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2011 examines crime occurring in school as well as on the way to and from school and presents data on crime and safety at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals, drawing from an array of sources.

A joint effort by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics, this annual report examines crime occurring in school as well as on the way to and from school. It provides the most current detailed statistical information to inform the Nation on the nature of crime in schools. This report presents data on crime at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, principals, and the general population from an array of sources--the National Crime Victimization Survey, the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the School Survey on Crime and Safety and the School and Staffing Survey. Data on crime away from school are also presented to place school crime in the context of crime in the larger society.

This report provides the most current detailed statistical information on the nature of crime in schools and school environments and responses to violence and crime at school. It also presents data on crime away from school to place school crime in the context of crime in the larger society. The report covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, and student perceptions of personal safety at school.

Findings include:

• In 2010, students ages 12–18 were victims of about 828,000 victimizations at school, including 470,000 thefts and 359,000 violent victimizations, 91,400 of which were serious violent victimizations.

• In 2010, a greater number of students ages 12–18 experienced victimizations (theft and violent crime) at school than away from school. That year, 32 victimizations per 1,000 students occurred at school, and 26 victimizations per 1,000 students occurred away from school.

• The total crime victimization rate of students ages 12–18 at school declined from 43 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2009 to 32 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2010.

• During the 2009–10 school year, 85 percent of public schools recorded that one or more crime incidents had taken place at school, amounting to an estimated 1.9 million crimes. This figure translates to a rate of 40 crimes per 1,000 public school students enrolled.

• In 2009, about 28 percent of 12- to 18-year-old students reported having been bullied at school during the school year and 6 percent reported having been cyber-bullied.

• During the 2009–10 school year, 39 percent of public schools took at least one serious disciplinary action against a student for specific offenses. Of the 433,800 serious disciplinary actions taken during the 2009–10 school year, 74 percent were suspensions for 5 days or more, 20 percent were transfers to specialized schools, and 6 percent were removals with no services for the remainder of the school year.
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My Teaching Partner-Secondary Studied


My Teaching Partner-Secondary (MTP-S) is the focus of a newly released What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) quick review.

The study, An Interaction-Based Approach to Enhancing Secondary School Instruction and Student Achievement, examined the effects of the MTP-S program on student achievement.

Researchers compared test scores of students taught by teachers randomly assigned to receive MTP-S with those of students taught by teachers who received regular in-service training. The study analyzed data from two student cohorts. The first cohort included about 1,300 students whose test scores were analyzed at the end of the intervention year, while teachers received the MTP-S program. The second cohort included about 1,000 students whose test scores were analyzed at the end of the post-intervention year, when teachers were no longer receiving the program.

After analyzing data from the intervention year, researchers found no statistically significant difference in achievement between students of MTP-S teachers and students of control group teachers. The analyses based on the intervention year meet WWC evidence standards because they are based on a well-executed randomized controlled trial with low attrition.

Analyses of the post-intervention year found that achievement among students of MTP-S teachers was significantly higher than among students of control group teachers. The analyses based on the post-intervention year meet WWC evidence standards with reservations because MTP-S teachers had higher attrition than control teachers. Although the study provided evidence that the two groups of students were equivalent on prior achievement, it is possible that other differences existed that could have influenced achievement and were not accounted for in the analysis.

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High-school dropouts falling further behind


Complete article

"While the U.S. job market is showing signs of improvement, one sizable group of workers has been falling further behind: high-school dropouts. Some 1.8 million more college graduates have found work since January 2010, when the recovery began producing jobs, but about 128,000 high-school dropouts lost work in the same period, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Less than 40% of the 25 million Americans over age 25 who lack a high-school diploma are employed.

Those who are working don't earn much. High-school dropouts earn about $23,400 on average, compared with $33,500 for those with a high-school diploma and $54,700 for four-year college grads, the labor bureau says. This gap is expected to widen as jobs demand higher skills and more education. In 2020, there will be nearly six million more high-school dropouts than jobs available to such U.S. workers, according to a 2011 McKinsey Global Institute study."
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Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Alabama STEM Initiative


Full report

Partly motivated by the 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, which were below the national average for Alabama’s grade 4-8 students in mathematics and grade 8 students in science, the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) developed a statewide initiative to improve mathematics and science teaching and student achievement in kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12). The Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) is a two-year intervention intended to better align classroom practices with national and statewide teaching standards—and ultimately to improve student achievement—by providing professional development, access to materials and technology, and in-school support for teachers.

The effect of AMSTI on student achievement in mathematics after one year, as measured by end-of-the-year scores on the Stanford Achievement Test Tenth Edition (SAT 10) mathematics problem solving assessment of students in grades 4–8, was 2.06 scale score units. The difference of 0.05 standard deviation in favor of AMSTI schools is equivalent to a gain of 2 percentile points on the SAT 10 mathematics problem solving assessment for the average control group student had the student received AMSTI. The 0.05 standard deviation is statistically significant but smaller than the effect the research team believed would be detectable by the experiment as designed. Whether this size effect is educationally important is an open question. It may be useful to convert this effect into a more policy-relevant metric—additional student progress measured in days of instruction. In these terms, the average estimated effect of AMSTI was equivalent to 28 days of additional student progress over students receiving conventional mathematics instruction.

The effect of AMSTI on student achievement in science,as measured by end-of-the-year scores on the SAT 10 science assessment, required only in grades 5 and 7, was not statistically significant after one year.

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Research highlights national, international 'excellence gaps' in education


News media and think tanks often call attention to achievement gaps in education, highlighting test-score differences between racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups. A related issue that gets little attention is the "excellence gap," the fact that minority and underprivileged students make up a disproportionately small share of top scorers on national and international assessments.

Research from scholars at Indiana University and Michigan State University -- presented today, Feb. 18, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science -- provides new insights into excellence gaps, both in the United States and on an international scale.

And the news is mixed. Gaps in the United States remain large and, in many areas, have continued to grow in recent years. But international data show girls are catching up with boys in many parts of the world, while differences remain small and stable between native-born and immigrant students.

"We are entering an era where the world will face a set of global problems not imaginable to past generations, many of which cannot be solved without extensive international cooperation," Indiana University researchers David Rutkowski, Leslie Rutkowski and Jonathan Plucker write in "Trends in Excellence Gaps," one of several papers prepared for the AAAS symposium.

"Without strong intellectual leadership, global issues such as climate change, large-scale demographic shifts and depletion of natural resources will only be more difficult to resolve, if not impossible. As a global society, we must do more to increase the number of high-achieving students."

Presentations at AAAS include:

Plucker, director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University, providing new data on U.S. excellence gaps, updating the 2010 study "Mind the (Other) Gap: The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education."
Nathan A. Burroughs of the Institute for Research on Mathematics and Science Education at Michigan State University, presenting evidence of growing U.S. excellence gaps in science by race, ethnicity and gender.
David Rutkowski, an assistant professor of education policy studies at Indiana University, presenting evidence on international excellence gaps in math and science.
Plucker analyzed 15 years of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as "The Nation's Report Card," focusing on students who score at the highest level, called advanced. NAEP is given every two years to students in the fourth and eighth grades.

The latest data show that gaps continued to grow between 2007 and 2011 for students of different races and ethnicities and for poor and non-poor students. For example:

On the fourth-grade math test, the number of white students scoring advanced increased from 7.6 percent to 9 percent. African-American students at the advanced level increased only from 0.8 percent to 1.1 percent and Hispanic students from 1.5 percent to 1.9 percent.
Gaps increased even more between students from low-income families and others. On the eighth-grade math test, disadvantaged students at the advanced level rose from 1.7 percent to 2.5 percent while others scoring advanced increased from 10 percent to 12.8 percent.
Boys outperformed girls in math, but more girls than boys scored at the advanced level in reading.
Extending the work on excellence gaps to an international focus, IU researchers analyzed data from 82 educational systems that participated in at least one of the four assessments between 1995 and 2007 under the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

While more boys than girls performed at the advanced level on TIMSS in math and science, the gender excellence gap grew smaller over 12 years. Girls appeared to be outperforming boys in 2007 in Singapore in math and in Iran and Singapore in science. The analysis found little change in the relative performance of native-born and immigrant students on the TIMSS assessments. Data by race or socio-economic status were not available for TIMSS.

The researchers said more investigation is needed to understand the causes of excellence gaps and to design effective policies for bridging them. In the U.S., they said, the focus on basic skills produced by the No Child Left Behind Act may have distracted attention from high-achieving students.

Plucker said policies are often created without consideration of how they will affect advanced students. For example, rigorous high school graduation rules that deny college financial aid to students without a diploma can penalize advanced students who are ready to start college early.

"When policy makers adopt new policies," he said, "they should sit back for a minute and ask two questions: How is this going to impact advanced students, and how is it going to help us get more students to be advanced?"

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No kids in public school? You still benefit


Quality public schools benefit everyone – including those without school-aged children – and therefore everyone should play a role in maintaining them, according to a study by two Michigan State University scholars.

Senior citizens and others who don’t have children in school often argue they should be exempt from paying school taxes because they don’t benefit from the schools. But that’s not true, argues Zachary Neal, sociologist and lead researcher on the study, which appears in the Journal of Urban Affairs.

“Those without kids in school are getting just as much benefit from public schools as those with kids and accordingly should be just as responsible for maintaining the schools,” Neal said. “It’s unfair for those without kids to benefit from public schools but not play a role in taking care of the schools.”

While many communities offer various school-tax exemptions, those who don’t have children in school routinely oppose paying any school taxes, Neal said. In Michigan, nearly half of the 505 school bond elections between 2000 and 2005 failed, according to a March 2010 study in the journal Educational Policy.

In their study, Neal and co-author Jennifer Watling Neal, assistant professor of psychology, analyzed the data from a Gallup survey of more than 20,000 people from 26 U.S. communities from Michigan to Florida to California. As part of the survey, participants were asked how satisfied they were with their communities and to rate the overall quality of their public schools.

The researchers found a strong relationship between those who were satisfied with their communities and quality schools. This finding was not affected by gender, age, race, employment status or whether the participant owned or rented a home or had children in school.

“We found that having quality public schools makes people more satisfied with their community regardless of whether they had kids in the schools or not,” Neal said.

Neal said this is likely due to two major reasons:

- Public schools offer amenities to the entire community such as adult education courses, after-hours computer labs, workout facilities, auditorium space for churches and other groups, and more.
- Public schools have the more indirect benefit of promoting relationships among neighborhood residents. These relationships lead to issues getting solved – such as broken streetlights, unplowed streets or crime problems – that benefit everyone.

“I think it really boils down to seeing public schools as more than just schools,” Neal said. “They’re community institutions that have an educational mission first and foremost, but they also have these other benefits as well.”
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Puzzle play may help boost learning math-related skills


Children who play with puzzles between ages 2 and 4 later develop better spatial skills, a study by University of Chicago researchers has found. Puzzle play was found to be a significant predictor of spatial skill after controlling for differences in parents’ income, education and the overall amount of parent language input.

In examining video recordings of parents interacting with children during everyday activities at home, researchers found children who play with puzzles between 26 and 46 months of age have better spatial skills when assessed at 54 months of age.

“The children who played with puzzles performed better than those who did not, on tasks that assessed their ability to rotate and translate shapes,” said psychologist Susan Levine, a leading expert on mathematics development in young children.

The ability to mentally transform shapes is an important predictor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) course-taking, degrees and careers in older children. Activities such as early puzzle play may lay the groundwork for the development of this ability, the study found.

Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology at UChicago, is lead author on a paper, “Early Puzzle Play: A Predictor of Preschoolers’ Spatial Transformation Skill,” published in the current early view issue of Developmental Science.

The study is the first to look at puzzle play in a naturalistic setting. For the research, 53 child-parent pairs from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds participated in a longitudinal study, in which researchers video-recorded parent-child interactions for 90-minute sessions that occurred every four months between 26 and 46 months of age.

The parents were asked to interact with their children as they normally would, and about half of the children in the study were observed playing with puzzles at least once. Higher-income parents tended to engage children with puzzles more frequently. Both boys and girls who played with puzzles had better spatial skills, but boys played with more complicated puzzles than girls, and the parents of boys provided more spatial language during puzzle play and were more engaged in play than the parents of girls.

Boys also performed better than girls on a mental transformation task given at 54 months of age.

“Further study is needed to determine if the puzzle play and the language children hear about spatial concepts is causally related to the development of spatial skills — and to examine why there is a sex difference in the difficulty of the puzzles played with and in the parents’ interactions with boys and girls.” Levine explained. “We are currently conducting a laboratory study in which parents are asked to play with puzzles with their preschool sons and daughters, and the same puzzles are provided to all participants.

“We want to see whether parents provide the same input to boys and girls when the puzzles are of the same difficulty,” Levine said. “In the naturalistic study, parents of boys may have used more spatial language in order to scaffold their performance.”

Alternatively, the difference in parent spatial language and engagement may be related to a societal stereotype that males have better spatial skills. “Our findings suggest that engaging both boys and girls in puzzle play can support the development of an aspect of cognition that has been implicated in success in the STEM disciplines,” Levine said.

Levine was joined in writing the paper by Kristin R. Ratliff, project director for research and development at WPS Publishing; Janellen Huttenlocher, the William S. Gray Professor Emeritus in Psychology at UChicago, and Joanna Cannon, New York City Department of Education.

The research on puzzle play is part of a series of studies based on observations in naturalistic settings Levine has led. In previous papers, she and colleagues have shown the importance of using words related to mathematics and spatial concepts in advancing children’s knowledge.

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The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education


The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education distills the results of studies to examine the state of education in the United States. In particular, the report focuses on education policy, student learning measures, trends on achievement test scores and education reform outcomes.

Highlights from three of the studies featured in the report are:

Predicting the Effect of the Common Core State Standards on Student Achievement: The Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement. The quality or rigor of state standards has been unrelated to state NAEP scores, Loveless finds. Moreover, most of the variation in NAEP scores lies within states, not between them. Whatever impact standards alone can have on reducing within-state differences should have already been felt by the standards that all states have had since 2003.

Measuring Achievement Gaps on NAEP: The Main NAEP consistently reports larger SES achievement gaps than the Long Term Trend NAEP. The study examines gaps between students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and those who do not; black and white students; Hispanic and white students; and English language learners and students who are not English language learners.

Misinterpreting International Test Scores: Educators & policymakers often misinterpret International Test Scores in three ways: 1) Dubious Conclusions of Causality, 2) The Problem With Rankings, and 3) The A+ Country Fallacy. The errors are usually committed by advocates of a particular policy position who selectively use data to support an argument, argues Loveless.

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Girls Like Biology, Boys Like Physics?


Complete report

We all have our stereotypes about which subjects appeal more to girls or boys. Well, in perusing a new report on the Advanced Placement program, Erik Robelen was intrigued to discover some hard data to help shed light on the matter. In addition to reporting participation on AP exams by racial and ethnic groups, the College Board includes the gender breakdown for all subjects tested...

What girls like:
• Art history: 66 percent female
• Biology: 59 percent female
• English literature and composition: 63 percent female
• French language and culture: 69 percent female
• Psychology: 63 percent female
• Spanish Language: 63 percent female
• Studio Art: Drawing Portfolio: 74 percent female

What boys like:
• Calculus BC, 59 percent male
• Computer Science A: 80 percent male
• Computer Science AB: 86 percent male
• Music Theory: 58 percent male
• Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism: 77 percent male
• Physics C: Mechanics: 74 percent male

Among the AP subjects in which gender differences seemed marginal were 'Calculus AB,' Chemistry, European History, 'Latin:Vergil,' Statistics, and U.S. Government and Politics.
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The Battle Over Common Core Math Standards: Will A Larger Federal Role Help or Hinder Curriculum Improvement?


Standards raise the bar in many, but not all, states, and still do not reach the highest international level

More than 40 states have now agreed to adopt the Common Core standards in English Language Arts and math. In a forum released today by Education Next, former U.S. Department of Education official Ze’ev Wurman and Johns Hopkins University professor of mathematics W. Stephen Wilson offer differing opinions about the standards. Wurman and Wilson address key issues raised – including 1) how much the standards will improve on those currently in place in various states, 2) whether they will resolve deep disagreements over what skills constitute sound math education, and 3) whether they might have the unintended consequence of removing incentives for further improvement.

Both Wurman and Wilson acknowledge the urgent need for improvement in math curricula if the U.S. is to become more competitive internationally. Wilson notes the dramatic withdrawal from arithmetic in the elementary grades that has occurred over the past two to three decades, reflecting the mistaken but increasingly popular view that learning whole number operations (such as the multiplication tables) to the point of instant recall is bad for a student, not necessary to higher math, and impedes students’ ability to understand mathematical principles.

While arithmetic is “the foundation,” Wilson states, and “has to be done right,” at present “fewer than 15 states are explicit about the need for students to know the single-digit number facts…to the point of instant recall.” Only seven states expect students to know explicitly the standard algorithm for whole number multiplication, and “often states expect students to develop their own strategies or a variety of strategies for dealing with fractions.”

Both experts recognize that there are clearer and more rigorous sets of standards than Common Core in place in several states, among them California, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, and Washington. Nonetheless, Wilson views Common Core math as a vast improvement over existing standards in more than 30 states, doing “a pretty good job with arithmetic,” and ranking in terms of quality in the top 20 percent of current state standards.

Wurman finds many gaps in the Common Core standards and sequencing problems that will impede college readiness. The standards do not expect Algebra I to be taught in grade 8, “reversing the most significant change in mathematics education in America in the last decade,” and contrary to the practice of the highest-achieving nations.

The authors address whether the new system of federal involvement that Common Core establishes is the most effective route to world-class math education. Wurman notes that Common Core might have the unintended effect of removing incentives for states to continually improve. Within the existing American system where each state sets its own standards, states that aspire to raise the bar are likely to do so, accounting for the level of excellence that some have reached. Common Core will, he fears, make math standards an apparently settled matter, leading to a drift toward easier standards over time.

The Common Core math standards might also lose strength in their implementation through the sheer force of popular pedagogical trends. In other countries, notes Wilson, the statement, “learn to multiply whole numbers,” has an agreed-upon meaning and it is understood that students should learn the standard algorithm. In the U.S., “some people will declare wriggle room and try to avoid the standard algorithm.” He states, “Without a unified, concerted effort to teach real mathematics, there isn’t much chance of catching up” to the highest-achieving countries, even if states say they’ll adopt Common Core.

Wurman observes that the Common Core math standards are grade-by-grade specific and hence more detailed than the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) 2000 standards, which replaced the organization’s “unfocused and mostly math-less” 1989 standards, but without significantly strengthening them. However, he notes that the Common Core standards do resemble those of NCTM “in setting their sights lower than our international competitors.”

About the Authors

Ze’ev Wurman was a U.S. Department of Education official under George W. Bush, is currently an executive with MonolithIC 3D Inc., and is coauthor with Sandra Stotsky of “Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade” (Pioneer Institute, 2010).

W. Stephen Wilson is professor of mathematics at Johns Hopkins University, served on the National Governors Association-Council of Chief State School Officers “feedback group” for the Common Core standards, and was mathematics author of Stars by which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards in 2009: An Interim Report on Common Core, NAEP, TIMSS, and PISA.

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13 Questions About Education Reform By Diane Ravitch


Do politicians know anything at all about schools and education? Anything?

as first posted here: Nieman Watchdog

(Some links added)

By Diane Ravitch

1.     Both Republican candidates and President Obama are enamored of charter schools—that is, schools that are privately managed and deregulated. Are you aware that studies consistently show that charter schools don’t get better results than regular public schools? Are you aware that studies show that, like any deregulated sector, some charter schools get high test scores, many more get low scores, but most are no different from regular public schools? Do you recognize the danger in handing public schools and public monies over to private entities with weak oversight? Didn’t we learn some lessons from the stock collapse of 2008 about the risk of deregulation?
2.    Both Republican candidates and President Obama are enamored of merit pay for teachers based on test scores. Are you aware that merit pay has been tried in the schools again and again since the 1920s and it has never worked? Are you aware of the exhaustive study of merit pay in the Nashville schools, conducted by the National Center for Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt, which found that a bonus of $15,000 per teacher for higher test scores made no difference? 
3.     Are you aware that Milwaukee has had vouchers for low-income students since 1990, and now state scores in Wisconsin show that low-income students in voucher schools get no better test scores than low-income students in the Milwaukee public schools? Are you aware that the federal test (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) shows that—after 21 years of vouchers in Milwaukee—black students in the Milwaukee public schools score on par with black students in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana?

4.     Does it concern you that cyber charters and virtual academies make millions for their sponsors yet get terrible results for their students?
5.     Are you concerned that charters will skim off the best-performing students and weaken our nation’s public education system?
6.     Are you aware that there is a large body of research by testing experts warning that it is wrong to judge teacher quality by student test scores? Are you aware that these measures are considered inaccurate and unstable, that a teacher may be labeled effective one year, then ineffective the next one? Are you aware that these measures may be strongly influenced by the composition of a teacher’s classroom, over which she or he has no control? Do you think there is a long line of excellent teachers waiting to replace those who are (in many cases, wrongly) fired?

7.     Although elected officials like to complain about our standing on international tests, did you know that students in the United States have never done well on those tests? Did you know that when the first international test was given in the mid-1960s, the United States came in 12th out of 12? Did you know that over the past half-century, our students have typically scored no better than average and often in the bottom quartile on international tests? Have you ever wondered how our nation developed the world’s most successful economy when we scored so poorly over the decades on those tests? 
8.     Did you know that American schools where less than 10% of the students were poor scored above those of Finland, Japan and Korea in the last international assessment? Did you know that American schools where 25% of the students were poor scored the same as the international leaders Finland, Japan and Korea? Did you know that the U.S. is #1 among advanced nations in child poverty? Did you know that more than 20% of our children live in poverty and that this is far greater than in the nations to which we compare ourselves?
9.     Did you know that family income is the single most reliable predictor of student test scores? Did you know that every testing program—the SAT, the ACT, the NAEP, state tests and international tests—shows the same tight correlation between family income and test scores? Affluence helps—children in affluent homes have educated parents, more books in the home, more vocabulary spoken around them, better medical care, more access to travel and libraries, more economic security—as compared to students who live in poverty, who are more likely to have poor medical care, poor nutrition, uneducated parents, more instability in their lives. Do you think these things matter?

10. Are you concerned that closing schools in low-income neighborhoods will further weaken fragile communities? 
11. Are you worried that annual firings of teachers will cause demoralization and loss of prestige for teachers? Any ideas about who will replace those fired because they taught too many low-scoring students?
12.  Why is it that politicians don’t pay attention to research and studies?

13.  Do you know of any high-performing nation in the world that got that way by privatizing public schools, closing those with low test scores, and firing teachers? The answer: none.

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