July 2006
Copyright © 2006 Queue, Inc.

The following letters were sent in response to the May 2006 newsletter articles. Back issues of this e-newsletter can be found

THE EDUCATION INTELLIGENCE AGENCY is included in your newsletter, EIA is not an educational resource—it is an anti-teacher, anti-union newsletter that trashes what we as teachers do on a regular basis. His bias is evident in only reporting on the worst in education and rarely on our many successes. Your inclusion of this in your own newsletter sheds doubt in the intent of your own newsletter.
—Michael Freeman

The "No Child Left Behind" will never work because you cannot force all children into the same mold.  Why does this nation think that every child needs to go to college.  We are the only nation in the world that does not provide federally funded vocational training for those who are not college material.  There will be more children left behind than ever due to the fact that not all children can be forced into this nations mold of what they should be and more will leave school unprepared or will drop out due to frustration.

—Tim Yates

As a former middle school principal, I agree wholeheartedly that the middle schools must add rigor to the instruction.  Too much "touchy-feely" stuff has been part of the Middle School movement and these students regrettably are not ready for high school when they arrive.  It is not good enough for the middle-level teacher to help these kids feel good about themselves (affective) if they are going to flunk their ninth-grade material in high school. What does that do for their self-esteem?

—David Godfrey

Thanks for this report. Please continue to send it to me on a monthly basis.

—Frank McKenzie, Ph.D.

Perhaps for middle schoolers they need to think outside the box. Knowledge alone does not help these students function in today's world. We seem to be throwing the baby away with the bathwater. We must meet the emotional needs of this group in order to develop mature and well-balanced individual. When I see one of these topics stated as more important, I cringe. We need to teach the WHOLE child. They are the future!!!

—Thomas Barbara

Dear Colleagues:

I read you summary of David T. Conley article [Failing College: Why We Must Align High School Curriculum with College Expectations, May] in your ERP of 5/19 with interest.  The need for more vertical integration is crucial and well stated.

I do have one concern.  Your summary suggested everyone else should accommodate what is going on in the colleges.  Maybe the colleges/universities need to do a bit of accommodating, too.

Shirley J. Hansen, Ph.D.

Sounds to me like we are sending too many students to college and not enough to Tech Schools.

—Larry Cunningham

To submit letters to the editor for this e-newsletter, please reply to  Please indicate whether or not we have permission to publish your comments in future newsletters.  The editor reserves the right to trim content for length purposes when necessary, but will not edit the tone of the letters. 

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A report from The National Council on Teacher Quality:


The persistent reading struggles and failure of nearly 40 percent of all American children, little improved over time, has led to aggressive government-funded efforts in school districts to train veteran teachers in the science of reading. The accumulated scientific findings of nearly 60 years of research gained the nation's attention with the release of a number of significant reviews and compendia of the research beginning in 1990, but most notably the National Reading Panel report in 2000. The findings call for explicit, systematic teaching of phonemic awareness and phonics, guided oral reading to improve fluency, direct and indirect vocabulary building, and exposure to a variety of reading comprehension strategies. All this attention on veteran teachers begs the question: How are future teachers being prepared to teach reading? In this study, the National Council on Teacher Quality makes a unique effort to learn what aspiring teachers are taught about reading instruction. From a randomly selected, representative sample of 72 education schools, NCTQ reviewed 222 required reading courses, including evaluations of syllabi as well as 226 required reading texts. Schools were scored on how well their courses presented the core components of the science of reading. The findings are alarming. Only 15 percent of the education schools provide future teachers with minimal exposure to the science. Moreover, course syllabi reveal a tendency to dismiss the scientific research in reading, continuing to espouse approaches to reading that will not serve up to 40 percent of all children. Course texts were equally disappointing. Only four of the 226 texts were rated as "acceptable" for use as a general, comprehensive textbook. This distressing trend in teacher training demands attention from federal and state governments, professional organizations dedicated to improving and supporting education schools, textbook publishers, and educations schools themselves. The report closes with recommendations to ameliorate this serious failure in adequately preparing teachers in the best practices of reading instruction.

To see the complete report, please go to:

For additional copies or the full version of this study, contact:

National Council on Teacher Quality
1225 19th Street N.W., Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel 202 222-0561, Fax 202 222-0570, Web

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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires all students to be "proficient" in math and reading by 2014 but allows each state to determine its own level of proficiency. Some states are leaving their citizens with a misleading impression of their accomplishments by grading students against low standards, while those states that have high standards may suffer by comparison.

Education Next editors Paul E. Peterson and Frederick M. Hess first revealed this discrepancy a year ago ("Johnny Can Read . . . in Some States," Education Next, summer 2005) by comparing states' passing percentages on their math and reading tests with their passing percentages on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Now, the Education Next editors have issued a new "report card" for each state.

Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to looking at hard facts about school reform. Other sponsoring institutions are the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

"We are not evaluating state tests, nor are we grading states on the performance of their students," explain Peterson and Hess. "We are checking for 'truth in advertising,' investigating whether state-announced proficiency levels mean what they say."

This year, a total of 48 states were assessed, including nine new ones. In the good news category, a handful of states have kept their standards rigorous for a second consecutive year, each assessing their own performance on a particularly tough curve. Massachusetts, South Carolina, Wyoming, Maine, and Missouri once again earned As.

Montana topped all others as the nation's most improved state, and Texas, Arkansas, and Wisconsin significantly boosted their proficiency standards over last year.

The bad news is that some states that had been in good standing are letting their standards slide. The biggest decline was in Arizona, with significant drops (in order of magnitude) in Maryland, Ohio, North Dakota, and Idaho.

In the "cream puff" category, states with already low standards have done nothing to raise them. Oklahoma and Tennessee both earned Fs because their self-reported performance is much higher than can be justified by the NAEP results. States with nearly equally embarrassing D minuses included Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

To learn your state's grade and how it was graded, go to

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High school students in the United States are consistently outperformed by those from Asian and some European countries on international assessments of mathematics and science, according to The Condition of Education 2006 report released today by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Fourth graders, by comparison, score as well or better than most of their international peers, although their counterparts in other countries are gaining ground.

"While our younger students are making progress on national assessments and are ahead on some international measures, the same cannot be said at the high school level," said Mark Schneider, NCES Commissioner. "U.S. students do relatively well in reading literacy when compared to their international peers, but they are outperformed in mathematics and science and our 15-year-old students trail many of our competitors in math and science literacy."

The Condition of Education is a congressionally mandated report that provides an annual statistical portrait of education in the United States. The 50 indicators included in the report cover all aspects of education, from student achievement to school environment and from early childhood through postsecondary education.

The report shows that U.S. public schools have the most diverse student population than at any other time in history. In addition, more individuals are enrolling in postsecondary education, and more bachelor's degrees have been awarded than in the past.

Among the report's other findings:

Elementary/Secondary Achievement
  • U.S. fourth-grade students had higher reading literacy scores than students in 23 of the 34 participating countries, according to one international assessment. In mathematics, fourth graders' performance was better than their peers in 13 countries but lower than 11 others. In science, students in only three countries scored higher. However, while other countries made gains from 1995 in mathematics and science, U.S. scores were unchanged.
  • U.S. eighth graders improved their standings relative to students of 21 other countries that participated in international assessments in math and science from 1995 to 2003.
  • U.S. 15-year-olds had lower average scores in mathematics and science literacy compared with most of their peers from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries.
  • Fourth graders showed improvements in math and science, with rising scores between 1996 and 2005 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • Twelfth graders' performance in NAEP science declined between 1996 and 2005.

Postsecondary Education
  • More students are enrolling in colleges and getting degrees, and the enrollment increase is projected to continue through 2015.
  • The number of bachelor's degrees awarded increased by 33 percent between 1989–1990 and 2003–2004, while the number of associate's degrees increased by 46 percent.
  • The sole decline among the top five most popular degree fields between 1989–1990 and 2003–2004 was in engineering and engineering technologies (five percent).
America's Students Today

  • Nineteen percent of children ages 5–17 speak a language other than English at home.
  • Minority students make up 43 percent of public school enrollment.
  • Female college enrollment passed male enrollment in 1978, and the gender gap has widened and is expected to grow.
NCES is the statistical center of the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education. The full text of The Condition of Education 2006 (in HTML format), along with related data tables and indicators from previous years, can be viewed at:

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I don't think Newsweek's "America's Best High Schools" list ( lives up to its name.

Several schools in the "Top 100" reported half or fewer of their African-American students graduating. All of those schools are still on Newsweek's list this year.

For example, Atlantic Community High School, in Delray Beach, Florida, ranked #25 on Newsweek's list, reported a 50-percent graduation rate for its African-American students in 2004, according to its detailed NCLB report card from the Florida Department of Education.

About 45 percent of the school's 2,000+ students are African American, and about 35 percent qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. That's not an affluent, lily-white suburban school, like many on Newsweek's list, but it's not "high-poverty, high-minority," either. In fact, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students at Atlantic Community is lower than the statewide average in Florida, which is 46 percent. Now, I think it's a scandal that nearly half of Florida's kids are economically disadvantaged, but does that mean we shouldn't expect the state's high schools to get more than half their black students to graduation?

Further, there are schools on Jay's own list that prove him wrong. For example, this year's school #87, YES College Preparatory School in Houston, Texas, has a student enrollment that is 92 percent Hispanic, 5 percent black, and has 75 percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch—a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students than all but one other school in Newsweek's list. But YES reports a 93.9-percent graduation rate, and 100 percent of its graduates are accepted to four-year colleges.

Atlantic may be doing great things for some of its students, but a method that ranks it higher than YES seems to defy common sense.

To see the complete article, please go to:

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Research Center Grades the States on School Tech: West Virginia Leads Nation With an "A," Nevada Trails With a "D-"

While the No Child Left Behind Act has touched off a boom in school data collection, much work needs to be done before the vast amounts of student information can be harnessed to improve learning, according to Technology Counts 2006: The Information Edge: Using Data to Accelerate Achievement, a new report from Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center. The report is based on a systematic analysis by the EPE Research Center of the structure and quality of states' computerized data systems, and how those systems are being used. It comes at a time when states are under tremendous pressure to get technology systems and access to data up and running as genuinely useful tools to accelerate student learning on a broad scale.

In a survey of state education officials conducted for the report, the EPE Research Center finds that despite the federal government's push to make data central to instructional decisions, states are still far away from putting their electronic information into a form that local educators can easily use. . . .

Report Cards: Grading the States

For the first time ever, Technology Counts issues letter grades for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, ranking their efforts to improve access to and use of school technology and the ability of teachers to use it more effectively. While the nation earned an overall grade of C-plus, West Virginia and Virginia earned the highest marks, with grades of A and A-minus, respectively. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a small group of states is lagging behind. Minnesota, Oregon, and Rhode Island all received an overall D grade, while Nevada ranked last in the nation with a D-minus. Grades are based on where states stand in three core areas of state policy and practice, including access to instructional technology, use of technology, and capacity to effectively use technology. They are contained both in the print version of the report and in new online-only State Technology Reports created by the EPE Research Center.

For the complete article, please go to:

To access individual state reports please go to:

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Being able to take high-quality, high-intensity classes during high school can play a key role in the success of students whose parents have either lower incomes or lower educational levels. Though these students are less likely to enroll in college than students from more advantaged backgrounds, pursuit of rigorous classes in high school can help change that.

The relationship between high school math and college enrollment is particularly striking: just 27 percent of high school graduates in the U.S. whose parents did not go to college enroll in a four-year institution within two years. However, this rate jumps to 64 percent for students who take at least one math course beyond Algebra II.

The reason? Taking higher-level math most likely reflects a lifetime of high expectations, previous success with math, and a willingness to take challenging courses—attributes that are key to college enrollment and that students may have acquired from parents, teachers, other role models, or on their own. In fact, of all pre-college courses, the highest level of math taken in high school has the strongest influence on degree completion.

For tips on how to establish high expectations for students as early as middle school and for assistance in planning for higher education academically and financially, visit

TG provides this Web site as a public service to help all families and students achieve their educational and career dreams.

SOURCES: State of Student Aid and Higher Education in Texas 2006; National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Students Whose Parents Did Not Go to College: Postsecondary Access, Persistence, and Attainment, by Susan Choy, 2001

About TG

TG is a public, nonprofit corporation that helps create access to higher education for millions of families and students through its role as an administrator of the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). As a public service, TG provides Edufacts, a publication containing current information about education issues, on a monthly basis. Edufacts is one of the many ways in which TG promotes awareness of education issues, advising the public on national and state trends in education and student aid, and serving as a premier source of information.

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A group of Indiana high school students traded in their textbooks for a multi-player video game and achieved higher test scores than students learning the exact same material the old-fashioned way.

Under the watchful tutelage of David McDivitt, an enterprising Social Studies teacher at Oak Hill High School in Converse, 64 sophomore students played "Making History," the historical simulation game from Muzzy Lane Software. Another group of students used their standard history textbooks along with the usual lectures and assignments that define a typical day in high school.

Both groups were attempting to learn the same material: the political and economic causes of World War II.

Both groups were tested on their knowledge of key events, such as the 1938 Munich Conference and their general knowledge of European geography.

One group—the students who played "Making History"—learned more facts and wrote more sophisticated essays in tests conducted after a week of game play. According to Mr. McDivitt, "Making History" also addresses several key components of Indiana's state curriculum guidelines for secondary education.

"For every teacher using a video game in the classroom there are probably a hundred others watching and wondering about the real educational impact of this technology," says Mr. McDivitt.

"I am not an expert in statistics unless it has to do with points allowed by my defense on the Oak Hill Golden Eagle football team. But what I am seeing here is the game players are doing better on assessment. The kids who played the game scored as well or better on every single test question we administered."

Mr. McDivitt applied a common set of questions to both groups of students prior to game week, and then tested the students with the same questions after each group had completed their learning cycles.

What he found was a noticeable and in some cases stunning difference in the degree to which the game-play students improved compared with the textbook students.

Here are some of the highlights (percentages indicate the relative increase in performance from the pre-lesson test to the post-lesson test):
  • Identify the countries of Europe on a blank map outline:
    • Game Players: 70%
    • Non-Game Players: 45%
  • Explain the significance of the 1938 Munch Conference:
    • Game Players: 90%
    • Non-Game Players: 55%
  • Define the reasons for the start of World War II:
    • Game Players: 67%
    • Non-Game Players: 35%
"I am not saying that games are the panacea for all of education's problems," says Mr. McDivitt. "But there is no doubt anymore that the right video game integrated properly with traditional curriculum has a clear and meaningful impact on the quality of learning."

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K-12 students across the U.S. say they'd find math more engaging if teachers infused more technology into their lessons. They also say they want to explore the sciences through technology simulations, field trips, and "CSI"-like problem-solving exercises rather than textbooks.

These are among the insights revealed in the third annual NetDay Speak Up survey sponsored by Dell and BellSouth Foundation. NetDay, a nonprofit organization focused on preparing today's students to be tomorrow's innovators, collected viewpoints from more than 185,000 students and 15,000 teachers from all 50 states in the study, held in fall 2005.

"We learn a lot by listening to students and teachers about how they use—and how they want to use—technology for teaching and learning," said Karen Bruett, vice president of Dell's K-12 business. "This kind of real-world feedback is a great tool to help us deliver what technology users will value."

The student survey also revealed:
  • 62 percent of students in grades 6-12 said a mobile computer is integral to a 21st-century classroom. More than 40 percent of this group said a modern classroom should include cell phones, interactive whiteboards, televisions, digital cameras, video cameras, scanners and CD/DVD burners.
  • 60 percent of 6-12-grade respondents said they teach their parents how to use new technology, and more than half teach their siblings (55 percent) and their friends (60 percent).

Teacher responses included:
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of teachers said they've seen technology enhance student achievement; and 59 percent said technology is enhancing students' engagement in school.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) of the respondents identified "not enough computers" as their top barrier to integrating technology into curriculum. Others feel restricted by "lack of time in the school day" (57 percent) and "not all students and families (having) computer access at home (43 percent)."
  • Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they'd like more professional development and training in integrating technology into the curriculum. For the most part, respondents say they use technology as a productivity tool for recording grades and attendance, word processing, teaching materials and preparing lessons.

"This year's Speak Up data findings demonstrate that students of all ages are 'pushing the envelope' in their innovative use of technology for learning, communications and networking," said Julie Evans, NetDay CEO. "The Speak Up data provides education, business, community and policy leaders with a unique opportunity to learn from today's students and use that information to create 21st-century learning environments."

For additional results from this year's NetDay Speak Up survey, visit:

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Three-quarters of American public elementary schools offer physical education more than one day a week, and 8 out of 10 have daily recess, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

But the report, Calories In, Calories Out: Food and Exercise in Public Elementary Schools, 2005, also found that seven percent of these schools have no daily recess. Fifteen percent sell candy at school, and 29 percent do not weigh students. The study, prompted by concern over the rate of obesity among school-age children, was designed to obtain current national information on the availability of food and opportunities for physical activity in public elementary schools.

The report includes findings on the types of food sold in schools and in their cafeterias or lunchrooms; the types of food dispensed by vending machines and school stores or snack bars, and the times when foods are available at those locations; food service operations and contracts with companies to sell food at schools; the amount of scheduled recess and physical education; and the extent to which schools measure students' height and weight and calculate body mass index.

Other highlights of the report:

In 2005, schools offered both healthy and less nutritious foods for sale outside of full school meals, although a higher proportion of the schools offered nutritious than less nutritious items. For example, schools were more likely to offer 100-percent juice (53 percent), bottled water (46 percent), and green salad or fruit (40 percent) than less nutritious items such as french fried potatoes (17 percent).

Fifteen percent of public elementary schools sold candy at one or more locations in the school, and 5 percent sold candy in the cafeteria or lunchroom. In addition, 9 percent of the schools sold soft drinks and about 5 percent sold snack foods at vending machines.

Fifteen percent of public elementary schools had school store or snack bar foods available to students during mealtimes, and 11 percent had foods available at school stores or snack bars at other times during the school day.

Almost all public elementary schools (94 percent) offered foods for sale outside of full school meals. Of these schools, 36 percent indicated that the foods were sold to generate funds to support food service operations at the school or district.

Schools were more likely to report the availability of foods in the school stores or snack bars at mealtimes if foods were sold to generate funds than if the foods were not sold for this purpose.

Almost a quarter (23 percent) of public elementary schools indicated that one or more companies had a contract to sell drinks or snack foods at the school.

Most public elementary schools reported daily recess, with the proportion of schools reporting this schedule ranging from 83 to 88 percent across elementary grades. The average number of minutes per day of scheduled recess ranged from 27.8 for first grade to 23.8 for sixth grade.

While almost all public elementary schools (99 percent) reported that they scheduled physical education for elementary grades, the proportion of schools that provided daily physical education ranged from 17 to 22 percent across elementary grades.

At least half of all elementary schools scheduled physical education one or two days a week.

Fifty-one percent of public elementary schools offered school-sponsored before- or after-school activities that emphasize exercise, such as walking or running, sports, dance, or group games.

The full text of Calories In, Calories Out: Food and Exercise in Public Elementary Schools, 2005 is available online at

A copy of the report can be ordered by calling toll free 1-877-4ED-Pubs (1-877-433-7827) (TTY/TDD 1-877-576-7734); via e-mail at or via the Internet at

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Executive Summary National Board Certification is a voluntary process established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) to measure what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. Certification is achieved through a rigorous performance-based assessment that takes between one and three years to complete. As of November 2004, approximately 40,200 teachers had earned National Board Certification. This study was undertaken as part of the National Board's continuing effort to measure the impact of National Board Certification and the effects of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) on the quality of teaching and student achievement in America's schools. End-of-grade mathematics and reading test scores from two large North Carolina school districts (Charlotte-Mecklenberg and Wake County) from the 1999–2000 through 2002–2003 school years, grades 4 through 8 were analyzed to compare NBCTs with other teachers. Over 260,000 student records (about half in mathematics and half in reading), representing over 4600 teacher-subject-grade-year combinations, were included in the analyses. Of that 4600+, 281 represented National Board Certified mathematics teacher-years, 306 represented National Board Certified reading teacher-years.

Models were fitted to each of the ten subject-grade combinations (1) using end-of-grade scores as the response variable with end-of-grade scores from the previous year as covariates, and (2) using gain scores (end-of-grade score minus previous year end-of-grade score) as the response variable. Additional explanatory variables included: teacher certification status (the factor of interest), teacher years-of-experience, and the gender and race of the student. A hierarchical model was used to account for the fact that students were nested within teachers. For comparison with other recent studies, non-hierarchical models were fitted as well.

Three planned comparisons assessed the differences between NBCTs and other teachers: (1) NBCTs versus teachers who have never been involved in the certification process, (2) NBCTs versus teachers who planned to attain certification in the future, (3) NBCTs versus teachers who failed in their attempt at certification.


Overall, based on the hierarchical models, students of NBCTs did not have significantly better rates of academic progress than students of other teachers and estimated effect sizes were relatively small. The more relevant and important finding was that the variation among teachers within the same certification status was sufficiently large that whatever small average differences there were between teachers in different certification status categories were rather meaningless in comparison. As a result, a student randomly assigned to a NBCT is no more likely to get an "effective" (or an "ineffective") teacher than a student assigned to a non-NBCT.

For the full report, please go to:

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The following is a brief summary of performance results of American Indian/Alaska Native students at grades 4 and 8 on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment.

Nationally representative samples of about 166,000 grade 4 and 159,000 grade 8 students participated in the assessment. Of these, approximately 3,800 American Indian/Alaska Native students participated at grade 4 and approximately 3,400 American Indian/Alaska Native students participated at grade 8. The national sample includes students from both public and nonpublic schools (i.e., Bureau of Indian Affairs [BIA], Department of Defense Education Activity [DoDEA], and private schools).

Results are presented for the nation, for regions, for selected states, and for student groups. The regions included in the study are Atlantic, North Central, South Central, Mountain, and Pacific. In addition to the national sample, states with relatively large populations of American Indian/Alaska Native students were selected for this study. Those states whose results are included in this report—Alaska, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota—are the seven states with the largest proportions of American Indians and Alaska Natives as a percentage of the state's total population. The state samples included only public and BIA schools.


At both grades 4 and 8, American Indian/Alaska Native students had lower average scale scores in reading than all other students in the nation (students who are neither American Indian nor Alaska Native).

The percentages of students performing at or above Basic and at or above Proficient were also lower for American Indian/Alaska Native students than those for all other students at both grades.


At grade 4, American Indian/Alaska Native students had lower average scores than those of all other students in all the regions.

At grade 8, American Indian/Alaska Native students in the North Central, Mountain, and Pacific regions had lower average scores than all other students in the same regions.

Selected States

At grade 4, American Indian/Alaska Native students in Oklahoma had a higher average score and a higher percentage of students performing at or above Basic than their peers in the nation and in the other selected states.

Compared to their peers in the nation, American Indian/Alaska Native students at grade 4 in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, and South Dakota had lower average scores.

At grade 8, compared to American Indian/Alaska Native students in the nation, American Indian/Alaska Native students in Oklahoma had higher average scores, and those in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, and South Dakota had lower average scores.

American Indian/Alaska Native students at grade 8 in Oklahoma had higher average scores than their peers in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

Student Groups

At both grades 4 and 8, compared to Black students in the nation, American Indian/Alaska Native students had higher average scores and higher percentages performing at or above Basic. American Indian/Alaska Native students had lower average scores and lower percentages performing at or above Basic than White and Asian/Pacific Islander students. No significant difference was found between the performance of Hispanic students and American Indian/Alaska Native students on either measure.

At grade 4, the average scores and the percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native students performing at or above the Basic and Proficient levels were higher in urban fringe/large town and central city locations than in rural/small town locations. For other students at both grades 4 and 8, reading performance was higher in urban fringe and rural locations than in central city locations.

To see the Math Summary and/or complete report, please go to:

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Significant improvement in African-American literacy; overall math skills rise.
Washington, D.C.—American adults can read a newspaper or magazine about as well as they could a decade ago, but have made significant strides in performing literacy tasks that involve computation, according to the first national study of adult literacy since 1992.
The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), released December 15th by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), found little change between 1992 and 2003 in adults' ability to read and understand sentences and paragraphs or to understand documents such as job applications.
"One adult unable to read is one too many in America," said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who today announced plans to coordinate adult education efforts in 2006 across multiple federal agencies. "We must take a comprehensive and preventive approach, beginning with elementary schools and with special emphasis in our high schools. We must focus resources toward proven, research-based methods to ensure that all adults have the necessary literacy skills to be successful."
African Americans scored higher in 2003 than in 1992 in all three categories, increasing sixteen points in quantitative, eight points in document, and six points in prose literacy. Overall, adults have improved in document and quantitative literacy with a smaller percentage of adults in 2003 in the Below Basic category compared to 1992. Whites, African Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders have improved in all three measures of literacy with a smaller percentage in 2003 in the Below Basic category compared to 1992.
Hispanic adults showed a decrease in scores for both prose and document literacy and a higher percentage in the Below Basic category. The report also showed that five percent of U.S. adults, about 11 million people, were termed "nonliterate" in English, meaning interviewers could not communicate with them or that they were unable to answer a minimum number of questions.
NAAL in 2003 assessed a nationally representative sample of more than 19,000 Americans age 16 and older, most in their homes and some in prisons. NCES, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, conducted the assessment in both 1992 and 2003.
NAAL uses three categories to define English-language literacy: prose, document, and quantitative. Prose literacy includes the skills needed to understand continuous text, such as newspaper articles. Document literacy is the ability to understand the content and structure of documents such as prescription drug labels. Quantitative literacy involves using numbers in text, such as computing and comparing the cost per ounce of food items.
NAAL reports literacy in each category using a 0-500 scale score. Scores are then grouped in four literacy levels: Below Basic, Basic, Intermediate, and Proficient. Below Basic is the lowest level and indicates having "no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills." Those who can perform "complex and challenging" tasks are considered at the Proficient level.
The report, A First Look at the Literacy of America's Adults in the 21st Century, analyzed literacy results based on a variety of factors, including race/ethnicity, gender, age, and level of educational attainment. A companion report, Key Concepts and Features of the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, describes the assessment's key features and major data types. It was also released today.
Other report highlights:
  • White adults' scores were up nine points in quantitative, but were unchanged in prose and document literacy.
  • Hispanic adults' scores declined in prose and document literacy 18 points and 14 points, respectively, but were unchanged in quantitative literacy.
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders' scores increased 16 points in prose literacy, but were unchanged in document and quantitative literacy.
  • Among those who spoke only Spanish before starting school, scores were down 17 points in prose and document literacy between 1992 and 2003. 
To put its findings in perspective, NAAL also reported on U.S. population changes between 1992 and 2003. During the decade, the percentage of white adults decreased from 77 to 70 percent, while the percentage of Hispanic adults increased from eight to 12 percent. The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander adults doubled (to 4 percent). The percentage of adults who spoke only English before starting school decreased from 86 to 81 percent.
To view the reports and for more information, visit

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A new report released by Springboard Schools turns conventional wisdom on its head by revealing that school districts, previously thought to be roadblocks to reform, can play a key role in boosting student achievement. The report identifies "promising practices," including reporting publicly on progress and creating a balance between centralization and decentralization, that have enabled some high-poverty districts to succeed.

These best practices were identified through a statewide survey and studied in depth in three high-performing, high-poverty districts profiled in the report: Elk Grove Unified (Sacramento), Rowland Unified (Los Angeles), and Oak Grove (San Jose). Each of these districts defies the odds by successfully serving high populations of English-language learners and low-income students. Research included a combination of a survey of principals, site visits, and interviews with district leaders.

The report, entitled "Minding the Gap: New Roles for School Districts in the Era of Accountability," identifies five key ways that high-performing, high-poverty districts play an active role in student achievement. These districts:
  • Seek Transparency. Set explicit goals, identify key strategies to achieve those goals, and report publicly on progress.
  • Balance Centralization and Decentralization. Find a clear and workable balance between what will be centralized and where to maintain autonomy and flexibility.
  • Use Testing to Drive Improvement. Testing is not an end, but a way to identify and respond as part of a larger improvement process.
  • Invest in Professional Development. Invest in professional development so that administrators' and teachers' knowledge is continually updated.
  • Build Infrastructure. Build structures and processes by which teachers can be part of a learning organization.
While these practices may seem like common sense, many school districts in California have not embraced them. Too many California school districts stick to their old roles—managing plant and human resources and setting goals without linking those goals to appropriate actions.

Springboard Schools is a nonprofit and non-partisan network of educators committed to raising student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap. To accomplish this, Springboard Schools functions both as a research organization and a provider of support for schools

Read the full report, "Minding the Gap: New Roles for School Districts in the Era of Accountability," at:

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In keeping with the goal of ensuring that all students achieve to high standards, the U.S. Department of Education announced the availability of a new tool kit to help states fully implement the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind for students with disabilities.

The "Tool Kit on Teaching and Assessing Students with Disabilities" was released by John H. Hager, assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Henry Johnson, assistant secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

A collaborative effort of OSERS and OESE, the Tool Kit is a publication that provides up-to-date guidance on assessing the achievement and progress of students with disabilities.

It also includes a set of technical assistance products that offer practical, research-based approaches to the challenges schools are facing in the areas of assessment, instruction, behavioral interventions, and use of accommodations for students with disabilities.

In addition, the Tool Kit offers information about research now under way to further expand educators' knowledge in this area.

The Tool Kit is being disseminated to the state leadership so that they can share these materials with those in their states who have responsibility for improving teaching and assessment of all students. The Tool Kit is also accessible at

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a college degree adds about a million dollars to your lifetime earnings—compared to the earnings of those with only a high school degree.

But does it matter which college you attend? If you spend $200,000 to go to Harvard or Yale, does that mean you'll make more money when you get out?

Robert Binion is finding out, first hand.

His SAT score was 1580, his GPA 4.27. He had no problem getting into college.

"I got into Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Virginia, and then in-state school," he lists off.

So he had to decide: at a cost of over $40,000 per year, is an elite college a good investment?

"According to some of the studies and the articles I've read," says Lorraine Hastings of The College Board, "I think the research is showing that there's really not a big difference in money."

In fact, a Princeton economist looked at the wages of adults who, 20 years earlier, were in college—and found that annual income didn't depend on where you went to school, but how hard you work. "It really depends on how you perform when you get there," explains Hastings.

She says what really matters is who you are—your talent, effort and attitude. . . .

On the other hand, she says, because of their huge endowments, elite schools are a good choice for qualified kids who are poor.

"If you're a low-income student, you may have a better chance getting an education paid for at Harvard than at a state school, where you have more students that look like you, that are in the same financial category," Hastings says.

To see the complete report, please go to:

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President in State of the Union Calls for More AP Teachers

New York, Maryland, Utah, California, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Florida Lead the Way; Record-Breaking Gains in Arkansas

The College Board, the not-for-profit membership association that administers the AP Program, has released the second annual Advanced Placement Report to the Nation, showing that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have achieved an increase in the percentage of high school students earning a grade of 3 or higher in college-level AP courses since 2000.

In the nation's public schools, 14.1 percent of students in the class of 2005 demonstrated mastery of an AP Exam by earning an exam grade of 3 or higher—the grade predictive of college success—on one or more AP Exams while in high school. This is up from 13.2 percent for the class of 2004 and 10.2 percent for the class of 2000.

Although 35 states and the District of Columbia have lower results than the nationwide average of 14.1 percent, every single state and the District of Columbia saw a greater proportion of its class of 2005 score a 3 or higher than occurred within its class of 2000. AP achievements for each state's class of 2000 and class of 2005 are detailed in the report.

These achievements are noteworthy because, over the last five years, the U.S. public high school population has increased by more than 100,000 students. U.S. schools have done more than maintain the proportion of students who succeed on an AP Exam before graduating from high school—they have increased that proportion from 10 percent to 14 percent.

The achievement in spreading AP courses is elevating the quality of our nation's secondary school classrooms. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (formally known as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study) found that while the rest of U.S. students ranked at the bottom of advanced math and physics achievement among developed nations, the U.S. AP Calculus and AP Physics students, even those who failed to earn a successful AP Exam grade, were competitive in math and science achievement with students from the top-performing nations.

Students who take AP math and science courses in high school are much more likely than other students to continue a course of study in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) majors than students who do not take such courses in high school. In his State of the Union address on January 31, President George W. Bush called for the training of 70,000 high school teachers "over five years" for Advanced Placement science and math courses.

"Educators and leaders at the federal, state, district, and school levels deserve tremendous credit for enabling a wider segment of our nation's youth than ever before to achieve success on an AP Exam," said College Board President Gaston Caperton.

"Participation in AP has remarkable benefits for students; most notably, AP math and science courses are enabling American students to develop a level of math and science expertise that exceeds that of students from all other nations; the AP world language courses are developing our students' capacity to engage with Asian and European cultures, while AP English and social science courses develop the skills necessary for students to write effectively, think critically, and engage with great minds from the world's cultures."

Maintaining Quality in the AP Classroom

The report shows that the quality of learning in AP classrooms has remained steady as schools have invited more students to take on the challenge of an AP course. AP Examinations use standards that are set by college and university professors who administer AP Exam questions to their own students and identify the knowledge and skills that must be demonstrated on each question. To ensure that each AP Exam, from year to year, is of equivalent difficulty and rigor, selected multiple-choice questions, which are not disclosed, are woven back into subsequent AP Exams, enabling psychometricians and statisticians to ensure that an AP Exam grade one year represents the same level of content mastery as in previous years.

The report includes graphs for four high-volume AP Examinations and shows that the students who took AP Exams in 2005 are achieving learning outcomes equivalent to those experienced by the smaller, less diverse AP student population who took AP Exams in earlier years.

"Across AP Exams, there are no statistically significant increases or decreases in content mastery from 2001 to 2005, indicating that educators have done a tremendous job of preserving quality and learning outcomes even while increasing the number of students who have access to AP," said Caperton.

To assist schools in maintaining the quality of courses labeled "AP" as these opportunities continue to expand, beginning in fall 2006 [in the soon-to-be-published AP Policy Guides], the College Board is implementing an AP Course Audit designed to ensure that each course labeled "AP" provides students with the content knowledge and resources needed for them to have a successful, college-level experience while still in high school.

Equity Gaps in Advanced Placement

Despite increased diversity in the AP classroom, African-American and Native-American students remain significantly underrepresented in AP classrooms. Nationwide, African-American students make up 13.4 percent of the student population, but only 6.4 percent of AP Exam takers, and Native Americans make up 1.1 percent of the student population, but only 0.5 percent of the AP examinee population.

Latino students are well represented in AP classrooms nationally—they represent 13.4 percent of the student population and 13.6 percent of AP Examinees. However, Latino students remain underrepresented in AP programs in many states.

The report warns that despite the strides that have been made by educators to provide traditionally underrepresented students with AP courses, lower performances on AP Exams indicate that many high-potential teachers and students are not receiving adequate preparation for the rigors of an AP course. As a result, traditionally underrepresented students currently demonstrate significantly lower performances on AP Exams.

"Major initiatives are needed to ensure that all students are adequately prepared starting in middle school so that students will have a fair shot at AP success when they reach high school," said Caperton. "And just as important, as America's classrooms continue to diversify, new programs must be initiated to build schools' capacities to offer AP courses to all student populations, especially underserved minority students and young people from rural America."

Such initiatives, based in legislation designed to expand access to AP courses, have been successful in many states. In Arkansas last year, policy legislation resulted in record-breaking improvements in AP participation, particularly among traditionally underrepresented African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students. Beginning with the 2008–2009 school year, Arkansas legislation mandates that all school districts provide AP courses in each of the four core areas of mathematics, English, science, and social studies. Thereafter, the districts must add at least one core course each year. Arkansas is covering the cost of the AP Exams for all students and is providing schools with professional development funds.

The results of Arkansas's initiatives are unparalleled; in just one year's time, Arkansas doubled the number of students participating in AP, more than doubled the number of Hispanic students and low-income students participating in AP, and more than tripled the number of African-American students participating in AP. Across the entire fifty-year history of the AP Program, there have never been such large increases in participation, particularly among traditionally underserved students, achieved in a single year.

Celebrating Exemplary AP High Schools

Part II of the Advanced Placement Report to the Nation uses data from all schools participating in AP worldwide to identify schools currently leading in AP participation and performance. This year California, Florida, and Texas have the most schools (public and independent) cited in the report.

Part II also includes performance information for each of the AP subject areas and feedback on student learning from past AP Exams so AP teachers and administrators can revise and refocus their syllabi to address weaknesses or deficiencies in their curricula.

The College Board's Advanced Placement Program enables students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Thirty-five courses in 20 subject areas are offered. Based on their performance on rigorous AP Exams, all of which require students to craft written responses to open-ended questions that are scored by current college faculty and AP consultants, students can earn credit, advanced placement, or both for college.

"AP benefits students, educators, and schools," said Caperton. "The number of students participating in AP has more than doubled in 10 years, and today almost 15,000 U.S. schools offer AP courses. Students who succeed on an AP Exam are more likely to complete college. More often than not they have achieved a mastery of writing, sophisticated study habits, and a penchant for critical reasoning. Teachers who participate in AP professional development improve as teachers in general, not just as teachers of AP classes. And it is often the case that schools that participate in AP experience a diffusion of higher academic standards throughout their entire curriculum."

Leading the Nation
  • New York leads the nation: Nearly 23 percent of students in New York's class of 2005 earned an AP Exam grade of 3 or higher while in high school.
  • This year Maryland and Utah joined New York in seeing more than 20 percent of their students achieve such AP results.
  • California, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Florida are all poised to achieve that milestone soon, perhaps with this year's graduating class.

The Most Improvement
  • Maryland, North Carolina, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, and Florida have seen the greatest amount of positive change since 2000 in the proportion of students who succeed on an AP Exam in high school.
  • The states that achieved the largest expansion of successful AP Exam performance from 2004 to 2005: Oregon, Delaware, Alaska, Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Washington.

Eliminating Equity Gaps
  • Florida, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have each achieved the significant milestone of seeing Latino student representation in AP courses outpace Latino student representation in non-AP courses.
  • California and Texas, states with large Latino populations, are within reach of this goal.

The full report is available at:

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The State Educational Technology Directors Association has released its third annual Trends Report on educational technology. In addition to reporting trends on the NCLB Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, the 2006 report also includes general state policy trends in educational technology. The findings in the 2006 report are based on surveys from 50 states and the District of Columbia. Seven trends were reported across the first three years of the program.

Finding 1: Promising Interim Results at 3-Year Mark Warrant Continued Investment

States have been targeting NCLB EETT funds on the three program goals: increasing student achievement, closing the digital divide, and integrating research-based technology practices into learning.

Finding 2: States Have Set the Bar High for Professional Development

With the states exceeding the required 25% of NCLB II D funding mandated for professional development, over $159 million was dedicated to building the capacity of teachers to use technology effectively. Many states established criteria for professional development that have been met by LEA grantees.

Finding 3: States Are Leveraging Resources through Collaborations and Partnerships

The states are leveraging resources across federal, state, local private and public funding to advance NCLB goals.

Finding 4: The Large Volume of Small Formula Grants Diminishes Overall Impact

As noted in the first and second Trends report, approximately 48% of the formula grants are under $5,000. That means that less than 4% of the funds require almost 50% of the administrative support for formula grants. Grants that small have very little impact on the advancement of the NCLB goals.

Finding 5: States Are Grappling with Evaluation and Impact Research

With few funds available at the state level for evaluation and research, states are grappling with the challenge of conducting high-quality evaluations of their NCLB programs. Most are requiring that LEA grantees conduct local evaluations and many are building the capacity of LEAs to do so. In addition, nearly 25% of the states are funding or commissioning research studies on the impact of educational technology on learning in schools.

Finding 6: Through Leadership, a Knowledge Base Is Emerging

State directors are beginning to develop wide-scale efforts to establish a common knowledge base of sound research practices or to conduct research studies that will establish that common knowledge base for technology-enriched programs.

Finding 7: In Many States, NCLB II D is the Only Source of Funding for Technology

The following states report that NCLB II D is the only source of funding in their state for educational technology: Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

To see the full report, please go to:

If you would like a hard copy, please email

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Keith Curry Lance of the Library Research Service in Denver, Colorado is the author of the study, "Powerful Libraries Make Powerful Learners: The Study of Illinois School Libraries."

The report, which sampled 661 Illinois public elementary and secondary schools, compared Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) scores with the presence of school libraries and librarians.

"The study confirms that the strongest library predictor of high student achievement scores is a staff that includes at least one trained librarian, as well as support staff," says Lance. "Reading, writing, and ACT scores rise when students have larger, more current book collections and computers connected to library databases and catalogs."

Key research findings of the study include:
  1. Schools with better-staffed libraries have more students who succeed on tests.
  2. High schools with computers that connect to library catalogs and databases average 6.2% improvement on ACT scores.
  3. Students that visit the library more frequently receive improved reading and writing scores.
  4. Students with access to larger, more current book collections achieve higher reading, writing, and ACT scores.
The study was commissioned by the Illinois School Library Media Association with a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant awarded by the Illinois State Library, a division of the office of Jesse White, Secretary of State and State Librarian. Funding for the study was also provided by the 21st Century Information Fluency Program, a grant funded project that trains teachers, librarians and students in enhancing their ability to locate, evaluate and use digital information resources. The study is endorsed by the Illinois State Board of Education, who provided data for the research.

The Illinois School Library Media Association, based in Canton, was created in 1988 to provide leadership and support for the development, promotion, and improvement of the school library media profession and programs in Illinois.

For more information, including the executive summary, video, and fact sheets go to:

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A preliminary report is available at:

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A long-awaited study using North Carolina data concludes that Students of teachers who hold certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards achieve, on average, no greater academic progress than students of teachers without the special status.

The study was conducted by William L.Sanders. He is the statistician who pioneered the concept of "value-added" analysis of teaching effectiveness. The study found that there was basically no difference in the achievement levels of students whose teachers earned the prestigious NBPTS credential, and those who didn't. The study examined more than 35,000 student records and more than 800 teachers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County districts in North Carolina.

"The amount of variability among teachers with the same NBPTS certification status is considerably greater than the differences between teachers of different status," says the report.

Mr. Sanders, who manages the value-added assessment and research center at the private SAS Institute in Cary, N.C., said one way to think about the implications of the study would be to envision two teachers with identical experience and education applying for the same job—one holding national board certification and one not. To choose the board-certified teacher over the teacher without the credential would be "only trivially better than a coin flip," the researcher said.

Andrew Rotherham—co-founder and director of Washington-based Education Sector, a nonprofit think tank—posted on his Eduwonk blog a note that the privately organized national board had apparently been "sitting on" the results because they were not favorable.


The board, which had commissioned the study, then posted an "overview" of the research on its Web site last week, though officials there denied the posting was prompted by Mr. Rotherham's blog entry. They said they did not intend to provide a link to the full study.


The overview is largely critical of the study, citing methodological problems. For instance, the overview said the study lacked a sufficient number of teachers.

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Carol McDonald Connor, professor at Florida State University and research faculty member for the Florida Center for Reading Research; Frederick J. Morrison, developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan; and Leslie E. Katch, graduate research assistant for Loyola University, Chicago School of Social Work, share the International Reading Association's 2006 Dina Feitelson Research Award for their article, "Beyond the Reading Wars: Exploring the Effect of Child-Instruction Interactions on Growth in Early Reading," published in Scientific Studies of Reading.

Twenty years of accumulating research suggests most children become better readers when they receive explicit phonics instruction in combination with meaningful language activities, an approach commonly referred to as balanced instruction. What Connor, Morrison, and Katch explore is the next step. Given the range of students' abilities coming into the classroom, are there specific instructional approaches that seem to work best?

Differences in children's early literacy development, such as phonological awareness, vocabulary, and word decoding, emerge early and set children up for very different experiences, even though they are in the same classroom. For example, a first-grade student who has poor phonics skills and a limited vocabulary is likely to make more progress over the course of the year when the teacher explicitly teaches decoding and, only gradually, increases the amount of time the child spends in self-managed learning, as would happen when reading silently or completing a worksheet. By contrast, explicit decoding instruction has virtually no effect on a child with strong decoding skills and a high vocabulary. That child will experience the greatest growth when the classroom provides a consistent amount of time for child-managed learning.

"Beyond the Reading Wars: Exploring the Effect of Child-Instruction Interactions on Growth in Early Reading" demonstrates the effectiveness of individualized instruction, while conceding that classroom management becomes more complex when students demonstrate a range of skills. The researchers suggest studying classroom instruction at multiple levels, given the interaction between classroom practices and the characteristics of the children in the classroom.

Patricia G. Mathes of Southern Methodist University, Carolyn A. Denton of the University of Texas, Jack M. Fletcher and David J. Francis at the University of Houston, Jason L. Anthony of the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, and Christopher W. Schatschneider of Florida State University, are recipients of IRA's 2006 Albert J. Harris Award for their co-authored article, "The effects of theoretically different instruction and student characteristics on the skills of struggling readers," published in Reading Research Quarterly. They received their award, including the $1,000 prize, on May 1st during the International Reading Association's 51st annual convention in Chicago, Illinois.

This study focuses on the 5–7 percent of students who struggle with reading even though they are receiving high quality instruction in either their regular classroom or in supplementary one-on-one or small group situations. The researchers examined the impact on reading when these approaches are combined, and further examined two supplementary programs—Proactive Reading, derived from a Direct Instruction model, and Responsive Reading, which follows a cognitive instruction model. Another design element of the study examined the interaction between student characteristics and specific interventions.

Through "The Effects of Theoretically Different Instruction and Student Characteristics on the Skills of Struggling Readers," Mathes, Denton, Fletcher, Schatschneider, Francis, and Anthony demonstrate the importance of providing struggling first-grade readers with both supplementary intervention and enhanced classroom reading instruction. While the combined services did not eliminate struggling readers, more students achieved better results than they would have if offered only one option.

The findings do not support the notion that there is "one best approach" or a theory that is right. Instead, the gains by children were generally comparable. Instead, the award-winning researchers noted, "Time is better devoted to determining how to overcome the great challenges that exist in getting effective interventions placed into schools. Likewise, our findings support the idea that schools can be allowed to choose from among good choices those interventions that best fit personal philosophies and personnel talents."

Improving Middle School Reading Performance

Improving middle school reading performance for all students may require building instructional capacity, note Judith A. Langer and Arthur N. Applebee, University of Albany, State University of New York. Building on the work of the National Research Center on English Learning & Achievement, Langer and Applebee have been involved in a two-year study assessing the impact of professional development on curriculum, instruction, and student achievement. Known as the Partnership for Literacy, the intervention provides teachers with a framework for thinking about how to increase students' literacy skills, plus specific curriculum and instruction approaches associated with higher achievement.

The Partnership study involved 21 urban schools in high poverty neighborhoods, 69 classroom teachers, eight support teachers, and 119 classes in two states, New York and Wisconsin. Through it, teachers were encouraged to change how they taught so that students would be more likely to become cognitively engaged in challenging subject matter. The professional development focuses on five components that make a difference in student learning and achievement: strategic curriculum; knowledge from discourse and thought-in-action; thinking and learning in a social context; coherence, connections, and continuity; and generative learning.

Initial analysis indicates that this approach to professional development does result in classrooms where students, including low achievers who typically zone out, are more cognitively engaged. Soon after involvement in the Partnership, teachers changed how they taught, increasing both the time spent in instruction and the extent to which they built on student responses during instruction. Other teaching practices changed more slowly as practice evolved over the course of the two-year study. Some aspects of teachers' beliefs and attitudes changed as well, although there was little movement on the key issue of whether all students are capable of learning. But learn they did. Although the study design meant that most students would have only one year of instruction in a cognitively engaged environment, a comparison of fall and spring measures of reading comprehension showed significant gains.

For more information, please see:

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High school students who plan to enter workforce training programs after they graduate need academic skills similar to those needed by students planning to enter college, according to a new study conducted by ACT. The findings suggest that the math and reading skills needed to be ready for success in workforce training programs are comparable to those needed for success in the first year of college.

Based on these results, ACT recommends that all high school students should experience a common academic program, one that prepares them for both college and workforce training, regardless of their post-graduation plans.

"We can't afford to have one expectation for students who plan to attend college and another for those who plan to enter the workforce or workforce training programs after high school," said ACT CEO Richard L. Ferguson. "If we educate some students to a lesser standard than others, we narrow their options to jobs that, in today's economy, no longer pay well enough to support a family."

"This landmark report makes it clear that we must ensure high school is relevant and rigorous for all students," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, chair of the National Governors Association Education, Early Childhood, and Workforce Committee. "We need to bring accountability and focus to our classrooms in order to prepare graduates for the fiercely competitive global economy, whether their next step is college or a career."

In the study, ACT looked at the types of occupations that offer a wage sufficient to support a family of four, as well as potential for career advancement, but that do not require a four-year college degree. These occupations—which include electricians, construction workers, upholsterers, plumbers, etc.—typically require some combination of vocational training and on-the-job experience or an associate's degree.

The academic skill levels compared in the study were based on job profiles from ACT's WorkKeys program and the company's College Readiness Benchmarks on its ACT college admission and placement exam. The results show that the levels of math and reading skills needed for success in the first year of college are comparable to those needed by high school graduates to enter the vast majority (90 percent) of these profiled jobs.

"In today's increasingly technological society, more and more jobs that offer the potential for good wages and future growth are requiring at least some type of training or education beyond high school," said Ferguson. "Students who graduate from high school without the skills they need for college are also likely to lack the skills they need to successfully complete job training programs."

The ACT report emphasizes that the context within which these important skills are taught and tested in schools may differ for students with different goals. However, the level of expectation for all students should be the same.

"Our education system should give every student the knowledge and skills they need to have meaningful options when they finish high school," said Ferguson. "These skills can be taught within rigorous high school classes, whether they be academic- or career-focused."

The report offers a number of recommendations to policymakers, including the following:
  • Establish a statewide commitment that all students will be prepared for college and workforce training programs when they graduate from high school.
  • Require that all students take a rigorous core preparatory course program in high school.
  • Hold schools and states accountable for preparing all students for college and workforce training through rigorous core courses.
  • Ensure that state standards reflect the skills needed for college and workforce training readiness for all students.
  • Begin measuring student progress with aligned assessments as early as the eighth grade to monitor progress, make appropriate interventions, and maximize the number of high school graduates who are ready for college and workforce training programs.
  • Use college and workforce training readiness as a prerequisite for entry into funded training or development programs and offer remediation for those who do not meet established expectations.

View the ACT report: Ready for College and Ready for Work: Same or Different?

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When mentors are trained to do coaching, the impact of the coaching on the mentors is as profound as it is on the new teachers. Mentors usually choose to mentor for altruistic reasons: they want to help a rookie have a less stressful beginning, they want to give back to the profession, or they simply want to be a good neighbor. Mentors are frequently surprised at how much they themselves gain, reporting that the experience of promoting another's reflection enhances reflection on their own practice. Some mentors continue to do peer coaching with other mentors and colleagues after they are no longer mentors. Reflection on practice, self-esteem, and new learning are just a few rewards of mentoring. Regularly scheduled meetings also help to alleviate the isolation teachers sometimes feel and enhance the sense of the school as a community of learners.

To see the complete article, please go to:

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Participation in dance classes and music classes are associated with an increased chance of a student pursuing a college degree, but art classes or visits to the public library are not, according to recent research by sociologists.

Jay Gabler, a Harvard University doctoral student, and Jason Kaufman, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, looked at which extracurricular activities and attributes increase students' likelihood of attending college, including elite institutions, and which do not. They found that some extracurricular activities increase a student's probability of attending college and prestigious institutions, but grades, test scores, and family background matter more.

Gabler and Kaufman's research uses data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS), which asked thousands of students hundreds of questions about their activities and achievements at home and at school. The NELS also gathers information about students' families and communities.

"Grades and standardized test scores matter a great deal, as do parents' income and education," said Gabler and Kaufman. "Even when we consider these, however, we find that participation in some extracurricular activities in high school makes it much more likely that a student will go on to college."

Participation in varsity team sports makes matriculation to college more likely, but attributes such as English as a student's first language or whether parents limit TV do not matter much.

The results changed somewhat when the researchers looked at admission to highly selective colleges (according to rankings from U.S. News & World Report for the year respondents were college-shopping). Surprisingly few extracurricular activities increase students' likelihood of college matriculation. When it comes to elite schools, participation in sports, student council, and music or dance lessons do not matter, but involvement in the yearbook or the school newspaper do make a difference. Participation in a school hobby club makes a student much more likely to attend a selective school, too.

A most interesting finding, according to Gabler and Kaufman, is that "students whose parents visited art museums regularly were much more likely to attend an elite college than students whose parents did not. It does not even matter whether the students themselves visit museums." This was one of the strongest effects the researchers observed.

This finding is related to what the eminent sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called cultural capital, said Gabler and Kaufman. In other words, knowledge about elite cultures (for example, fine art) is an asset as much as money or social connections are. Even on a college application or a college interview, these differences are likely to be apparent. They also hypothesize that cultural taste may increase their likelihood of applying to elite schools in the first place.

This research focuses on college matriculation, which requires that students must complete these steps: apply to, gain admission to, and enroll in college. Gabler and Kaufman are currently following up with additional research (with Harvard graduate student Nathan Fosse) to examine each of these steps individually. "We're interested in what predicts students' admission to college," say the researchers, "but it may be more important to understand why most students never even apply."

Gabler and Kaufman conclude by noting, "There are no magic bullets.. Only a few activities matter, and the most important predictors in our data have to do with family background rather than extracurricular activities."

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It's a feeling nearly everyone remembers experiencing at least once: sitting in class unprepared, silently praying the teacher won't call your name.

For those students, the days of quiet safety may be numbered.

A new University of Florida study suggests that when teachers use a hand-held computer that randomly chooses whom to call on, even the quiet student in the back won't be missed.

And that may not be a bad thing. It turns out students actually do better in class when they know their number could come up at any time.

Paige Allison, who did the research for her dissertation in educational anthropology at UF, found that students at one North Central Florida high school where she conducted her research reported they were more engaged in the activities of school success when teachers used the name generator.

"The interview data from the teachers and students shows this technique helped students do those things that we know help them to be successful in school—paying attention, being prepared for class, staying focused and doing homework," Allison said.

Allison, who teaches high school math, said she became interested in doing the study after listening to a radio report describing how math teachers call on boys more than girls.

"There is real, although subtle intimidation that takes place in the classroom reinforcing the idea that women and minority students cannot do math as well as white male students," she said. "Research has shown that teachers not only tend to call on white male students more frequently than other students, but they respond to their questions and requests for help differently and provide them with entirely different experiences in the classroom."

One reason girls can get less attention in math class is that teachers may find themselves calling on boys, who tend to be more assertive in class, Allison said.

"People aren't aware of how hard a teacher physically has to work, not only to manage but to actually teach 150 children a day," she said. "As in any activity, the natural tendency is to want to conserve energy. It's easier and faster to let the student who knows the answer respond for you. So the quiet person in the corner who doesn't raise a hand doesn't get called on as much."

Often, teachers may call on students as a way to keep them on task or stop misbehavior, Allison said. "In an effort to maintain order in the classroom, teachers respond to this kind of pressure," she said. "When I became aware of the research on this subject, I noticed that I called on boys more than girls as kind of a behavior control management device."

Mathematics is important because it is a gate-keeping course for many college preparatory courses that lead to high-paying scientific and technical fields, yet math-related careers are not sought by females and minorities to the same extent as white males, she said.

To test the effectiveness of a random naming system, Allison compared participation rates of students in 15 math classes where the device was used with students in 11 math classes where it was not used.

Contrary to expectations, the study found no significant difference between classes that used the new experimental technique and those where teachers called on students according to their own methods, Allison said. This showed that teachers at this particular school did not show bias in calling on one gender or ethnic group more than another, she said.

The random questioning device was effective, she said, because students who participated in a series of focus groups afterward said they were more likely to show up for class prepared and to concentrate on what was being said when they knew the computer could spell out their name at any time.

"Both students and teachers reported that students paid more attention in class," she said. "They felt they had to tune in more because they knew they had a chance of being called on for every question."

To make the computerized name-generating system non-threatening, Allison allowed students who were called on to take a free "pass" without penalty if they did not know the answer or did not wish to respond for some reason.

Jerome Dancis, a University of Maryland math professor emeritus, said Allison's research is important because only a small number of students are willing to raise their hands in class, usually the best students. "It's important for teachers to realize that students need to be encouraged to speak in class, especially high school students because this is a shy age," he said.

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Students who had block scheduling enjoyed no advantage in college science compared to peers who had traditional class schedules in high school, according to Robert Tai, assistant professor of science education at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education. In fact, they performed worse, he said.

In an article published in the April/May issue of the High School Journal, Tai and co-authors Kirsten Dexter, a biology teacher in Greene County who earned her master's degree at the Curry School, and Philip Sadler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, looked at a national sample of 8,000 introductory college science students from 31 states, many of whom went to high schools that use block scheduling.

Block scheduling is a way of structuring the school day so that students have fewer classes for longer periods of time. The most common type comprises classes that last for 90 minutes alternating two or three days a week, in contrast with the traditional schedule of classes that run 45–55 minutes and are held every day. Increasingly adopted over the past 15 years, the schedule remains a subject of debate. Claimed as a way to help prepare students better for college, Tai found that was not the case when students in introductory biology, chemistry and physics courses were surveyed.

Final college course grades are a real-world measure with long-term impacts," Tai said. "Even when students had teachers who used instruction methods specifically geared toward block scheduling, the students who had a traditional schedule had better grades in college."

With the additional pressure of the No Child left Behind Act, schools are trying to help all students graduate and pursue an education beyond high school," Dexter said. "We need to create an educational environment that helps facilitate success in college, and if something is inhibiting the preparation, it needs to be fixed."

Block scheduling was sold as a way that students would learn much better, especially in the sciences, Tai said, but they're doing worse.

It may be harder for some students to grasp the material in a longer block of time, Tai said. Plus, if a student misses a class, he or she misses more of the subject matter. Even peer tutoring didn't end up helping the students in block scheduling.

"An hour and a half is a long time for high school students to stay in one class," said Dexter, who teaches high-school biology and has taught in a variety of schedules.

The 90-minute classes also are hard on the teachers, she added. It takes more energy and more time to plan enough activities to fill the period. Although many teachers regard longer laboratory sessions as beneficial, students report that teaching methods differ little whether in long or short classes.

Over the school year, block scheduling also costs the students class time, the researchers found. A 50-minute class held every day for two weeks equals 500 minutes of class time, whereas a 90-minute block class held five times in two weeks (on alternate days) equals 450 minutes. In addition, more time may be lost in the class period as a teacher changes from one activity to another.

"This is not advantageous," Tai said.

The survey sample includes the higher-performing students who went to four-year colleges and controls for students' backgrounds. And if these top high school students are doing worse, Tai continued, we could extrapolate that it must be even harder for struggling students. Block scheduling does not appear to be a better option. When schools go through all the changes of switching to block scheduling, even if there was no difference, it wouldn't be worth it.

Harvard's Sadler adds, "Instead, schools should invest in changes that have been shown to produce large student gains and that are backed by rigorous research studies."

The April/May 2006 issue of the High School Journal is available online at:

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by Sarah Theule Lubienski and Christopher Lubienski

A RECENT report of mathematics results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) highlighted this "major finding": "Public-school students scored lower on average than non-public-school students at both grades 4 and 8." Of course, this finding is nothing new. Indeed, it is part of the common wisdom in the United States that private school students outscore public school students on standardized tests. Furthermore, studies have suggested that this is true even when researchers account for the fact that the enrollment at public schools differs from the enrollment at private schools.

This belief is based, in part, on past studies involving the 1980 High School and Beyond dataset that found that private schools are more effective than public schools at boosting student achievement, including that of disadvantaged students.2 These studies of test performance, which controlled for some potentially confounding variables such as socioeconomic status (SES), affirmed widespread assumptions about the superiority of private schools. These assumptions, in turn, have influenced recent reform efforts promoting various forms of privatization of public schools, including the No Child Left Behind Act, which makes use of a variety of private sector sanctions for "failing" public schools.

(W)ithin each SES quartile, the public school mean is actually higher than that of the corresponding private school mean at both grades 4 and 8. Specifically, public school fourth-grade means were 6 to 7 points higher than private school means within each SES quartile, and eighth-grade differences favoring public schools ranged from 1 to 9 points.

This situation is a classic case of Simpson's Paradox: although within each subgroup, public school means are higher than private school means, the overall private school means are higher than public school means because of the larger proportion of higher-SES students in private schools. These results call into question common assumptions about public and private school effects and highlight the importance of carefully considering SES differences when making comparisons of school achievement.

To see the full report, please go to:

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A new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute finds that at a time of rapid globalization, most states don't even try to provide young Americans with a solid grounding in world history.

Renowned historian and foreign policy expert Walter Russell Mead, the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, conducted this first ever review of states' academic standards for K-12 world history—the blueprints that outline what students are expected to know in a given subject. Fully two-thirds of states earn a "D" or an "F," while only eight (California, Massachusetts, Virginia, Indiana, Georgia, New York, Minnesota, and South Carolina) earn an "A."

"At a time when the United States faces threats and competitors around the globe, and when our children's future is more entangled than ever with world developments, our schools ought not treat world history so casually," said Institute president Chester E. Finn, Jr. "Nations that once were little more than curiosities to most Americans have transformed themselves into places of vital interest and concern. No one can be considered adequately prepared for life in the 21st century unless they understand the history and culture of the world's major civilizations. The National Geographic Society recently reported that students don't think learning about the world is all that important. Sadly, state officials don't seem to think so, either. It's as if Americans were wearing blinders—and happy about it."

Mead finds that only a handful of states require students to pass a world history test to graduate or get promoted to the next grade. Given educators' preoccupation with subjects tested under the No Child Left Behind Act, this only increases the chances that world history will be "narrowed" out of the curriculum.

"A working knowledge of world history is socially, politically, economically, and culturally indispensable for young Americans," said Mead. "The failure of public schools to teach world history amounts to denying equal opportunity to our most vulnerable populations. Millions of low-income and minority students are being denied basic cultural and economic rights."

Several problems were ubiquitous in the standards of poorly performing states:
  • Little or no historical content;
  • Alternatively, so much content that teachers couldn't possibly begin to cover it all;
  • An excessive focus on modern European history and neglect of significant non-Western cultures in Latin America and Asia;
  • Alternatively, an extreme multiculturalism that treats all nations and cultures as equally significant;
  • Standards that are buried in the murky non-subject of "social studies."
  • Standards that provide students with no logical timeline, relying instead on trendy "themes" without regard to the story of history.

Mead notes that states get their lowest marks for their coverage of Latin America. Only nine states directly reference Simon Bolivar, perhaps the most well-known figure in Latin American history. And only six states make mention of famed explorer Hernando Cortez.

"At a time when we're in the middle of a great national debate about how to assimilate the massive influx of immigrants from Latin America, it's unconscionable that the states would consider a student well-educated without knowing much of anything about the history of this region," said Mead. "Today's students will be critical players in working out terms of accommodation and assimilation between Latin-American culture and Anglo-American culture. They desperately need a firm grounding in the history of our hemisphere."

One Bright Spot: World History Exams

Mead also reviewed three major world history exams: the Advanced Placement (AP), the SAT II, and the New York Regents exam. In 2005, more than 64,000 students took the AP World History exam, and a stunning 220,000-plus took the New York Regents Exam in World History. (Some 15,000 took the SAT II World History test in 2004.) While the AP exam is the best, all three tests earned an "A" rating.

"National exams in world history can and should put pressure on the states to get their heads out of the sand and produce sound world history standards," said Finn. "The number of young people taking these exams is soaring, and they deserve the chance to do well on them. States could go far toward improving their world-history standards if they modeled them on the syllabi of exams like these."


States can take several actions to improve their world history standards, including:
  • Follow the lead of high-scoring states, using the A-rated standards as a model;
  • Emphasize the importance of world history by requiring students to pass a test in the subject to graduate, and/or hold schools accountable for their pupils' performance in the subject; and
  • Build the state's high-school world history program around the excellent Advanced Placement syllabus in this subject.

Complete state and exam reviews, as well as the full text of the report, can be found at

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