Education Research Report
May 2006
Copyright © 2006 Queue, Inc.


In This Issue:


FAILING COLLEGE: WHY WE MUST ALIGN HIGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM WITH COLLEGE EXPECTATIONS

Millions of high school seniors have signed college acceptance letters as of May 1, but does making it into college ensure academic success and a degree?

A new Policy Perspectives paper from WestEd argues that high schools and colleges haven't aligned their separate education systems enough to eliminate college remedial work, decrease college dropout rates, and speed the time toward earning a baccalaureate degree.

In What We Must Do to Create a System That Prepares for College Success, David T. Conley, founder and director of the University of Oregon's Center for Educational Policy Research, outlines the alarming indicators of a system that is not functioning as efficiently as it could:
"If we are to address such problems," says Conley, "it's going to take a coordinated, concerted reform effort involving all stakeholders—policymakers, high school educators, college faculty and administrators, parents, and students."

Conley proposes several actions to smooth the transition between high school and college and ensure academic success:
  1. States should align high school exit exams and other state assessments with college success standards so that scores on state tests also provide diagnostic information to students about their college readiness.
  2. College campuses should utilize placement tests that are consistent across campuses and clearly connected with success in entry-level coursework, and then communicate to high schools the content, the cut scores, and the justification for these tests.
  3. College and high school faculty should collaborate more, sharing course materials and student work across institutions.
  4. High schools should prepare students for the independent, self-motivated learning environment they will encounter in college, and create environments that develop the intellectual maturity of secondary students in areas such as critical thinking, analytic thinking, persistence, and inquisitiveness.
  5. High school students should learn how to actively monitor their own knowledge and skills and seek courses that ask more of them in writing, reasoning, research, and other key areas required in college.
  6. Parents should be familiar with the general expectations for knowledge, skill, and work quality that their high school children should demonstrate to be college ready. For those parents for whom this is challenging or impossible, high schools should make a greater effort to make these determinations and to communicate to parents regarding their children's readiness for college.
According to Conley, such changes would send a consistent message to high school students about what they should be doing to prepare for college success, rather than setting up students for possible failure in a poorly aligned K-16 education system.

A free PDF download of this Policy Perspectives paper is available at http://www.WestEd.org/collegeknowledge.

back to top 


ACHIEVING QUALITY MIDDLE-LEVEL EDUCATION

The National Middle School Association (NMSA), the nation's largest organization focusing exclusively on the education of young adolescents, ages 10 through 14, has announced a national campaign to build collaboration between educators, families, and policymakers at the national, state, and local levels. The campaign is based on a just-released report, "Success in the Middle: A Policymaker's Guide to Achieving Quality Middle Level Education."

"For any type of educational reform to happen and be lasting, it must be based on a shared vision between educators, policymakers, and family/community members," said Sue Swaim, NMSA executive director in announcing the report. "The United States still does not have a cohesive national policy for the middle grades, which represents one-third of a student's K-12 education.

"While policymakers have focused on high school reform they have skipped over critical middle-level reform, which is the gateway to successfully achieving high-performing schools at both the middle and high school levels.

"If No Child Left Behind legislation is to succeed, it must address the needs of these young adolescents and the educators who work with them. Middle level education policy can not be an add-on to either elementary or high school. The issues of middle level education are a distinct part and a crucial link of the K-12 continuum."

The report sets five goals for policymakers and provides specific action steps at the federal, state, and local levels. The goals are to:
"The message in this report is essential for the 20 million young adolescents who attend our middle level schools every day," said Patti Kinney, NMSA president and principal of Oregon's Talent Middle School, during the briefing. "We know putting these recommendations on paper won't do the job. We must put them in the minds and hearts of the policymakers who are impacting middle schools."

A copy of "Success in the Middle: A Policymaker's Guide to Achieving Quality Middle Level Education" is available at
http://www.nmsa.org/portals/0/pdf/advocacy/policy_guide/NMSA_Policy_Guide.pdf

back to top


LEADING EARLY CHILDHOOD LEARNING COMMUNITIES

High-quality early childhood education is not just an ideal; it's an essential investment. Yet, some 30 percent of all American children begin school unable to maximally profit from the educational experience they will encounter. The percentage is higher for poor children. School readiness is extremely important; nearly every educational benchmark—from being on grade level to staying in school—is related to school readiness. Given the critical nature of learning in the first five years of a child's life, it is imperative that school leaders are actively involved in their communities' early learning programs before students arrive for kindergarten or first grade. Missed opportunities from conception to school entry can put children behind when they start school and create barriers to achievement that can last through high school. Strong early learning leads to better educated and more employable individuals, as well as less remediation throughout the education system, benefiting all of society.

The bar for principal performance continues to rise. No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration's education reform act, has increased principals' accountability for student learning. Over the past 15 years, the National Association of Elementary School Principals has partnered with schools, education organizations, and policymakers to study, discuss, and address new ways to support principals in improving education practice. In the coming years, NAESP will continue to work with innovative individuals and organizations to upgrade practice and culture in schools to reflect what we know about how children learn and develop. NAESP also calls on policymakers to support principals' efforts in improving early learning opportunities. In this guide's Call to Action, we identify eight ways principals can work with policymakers and community leaders to create and lead early childhood learning communities. High-quality early childhood education is more than an admirable goal; it is fundamental to making sure all children have the opportunity to succeed. We are committed to helping school leaders ensure that every child can reach academic proficiency and achieve intellectual, social and emotional success—starting with pre-kindergarten.

The Challenge: Expand the Continuum of Learning

Recent brain research makes it clear that children's learning is enhanced by their early childhood experiences. Therefore, educators are shifting their approach to support children's learning well before they arrive at elementary school. Research shows that children who finish pre-K programs are half as likely to need special education services in later grades. Other studies have found that children from low-income families who attend high-quality pre-K programs are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college and less likely to go to jail, become teen parents, or qualify for welfare. Many elementary schools are familiar with the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides $1 billion for after-school programs for children of elementary school age. The same opportunity should be offered to all preschoolers. As schools work to ensure that all children develop as proficient students, they need to include three- and four-year-olds in pre-kindergarten experiences, provide rich full-day kindergarten programs, and build new connections to the many early childhood educators across communities. Early childhood education does not need to be based in a school, but should be connected to local schools. Elementary school principals understand how many children start school unprepared, and they are in a key position to define school readiness. That's why NAESP believes that elementary school principals should be at the forefront of discussions and activities that reach beyond the elementary campus. Everyone involved in pre-K programs should understand what it takes for students to be ready to succeed on the first day of school.

Principles of High-Quality Early Childhood Programs

NAESP endorses accreditation criteria for early childhood programs developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and professional standards developed by Head Start. The following indicators are not meant to replace or replicate that work. Instead, they are meant to be a jumping-off point for principals to begin to define quality in early childhood programs and to engage in conversations about the quality of early childhood programs where they live.

Supportive Interactions Between Teachers and Children

The most important indicator of quality is likely to be the nature of the interaction between teacher and child. Indeed, how teachers relate to and interact with children appears to matter more than curriculum in early childhood education. Teachers facilitate interactions among children to provide opportunities for development of self-esteem, social competence, and intellectual growth.

Safe, Supportive, and Engaging Learning Environments

Young children learn best in environments that are physically and emotionally safe. High-quality programs recognize the role of play in children's learning and provide environments that encourage play as an important opportunity for children to learn through their own experimentation and exploration. The health, safety and nutritional needs of participants are met to promote all phases of development.

Focus on the Whole Child

A program's approach should include a variety of areas of a child's learning and development, such as the eight factors identified by Head Start, which include: language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, approaches toward learning, physical health and development, and social and emotional development.

Meaningful Learning for the Individual Child

High-quality programs provide learning experiences that are grounded in children's interests and that are developed around learning in several disciplines. High-quality teaching reflects the knowledge that young children are active learners, drawing on direct physical and social experience as well as culturally transmitted knowledge to construct their understanding of the world around them.

A Culture of Authentic Assessment and Continuous Learning

Young children learn and develop at different rates, and their learning cannot be defined by any single assessment. High-quality programs pay attention to all aspects of children's development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive. In addition, systematic assessment of the programs themselves helps ensure that the programs are continually improved.

Connections to Families and Community Organizations

Strong connections to families stimulate a child's development. They include parents' classroom participation, two-way communication with families and opportunities to incorporate ideas and languages from a child's home and culture into the school environment.

Effective Administration

Efficient and effective administration focuses on the needs and desires of children, families, and staff. High-quality programs are sufficiently staffed to address and promote children's physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. 

Call to Action

Here are eight policies for which principals can advocate at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure that every child in the United States has an opportunity to start school ready to learn:
  1. Provide universal opportunity for children to attend high-quality early childhood education programs. All states should provide free universal preschool programs, staffed with qualified, certified, and well-paid early childhood teachers and specialists.
  2. Fully fund Head Start to include all eligible children and maintain it as a federal government program. Federal policymakers need to increase funding for Head Start by adding $1 billion for the next fiscal year and additional amounts in the subsequent years until it reaches full funding. NAESP also calls for improvement or at least maintenance of Head Start's comprehensive and quality performance standards and an expansion of Early Head Start.
  3. Create transition programs that ensure close contact among Head Start programs, preschools, daycare programs and public schools. State and local policies must focus on school readiness as a comprehensive concept, including early learning, social development, nutrition, health and family support. We must support the transition of children from home to preschool, from preschool to kindergarten and from third to fourth grade.
  4. Provide full-day kindergarten for all five-year-olds and after-school programs for children from kindergarten through middle school. Research backs up the concept of full-day kindergarten that supports five-year-olds academically, socially and emotionally. We must also commit to after-school programs that provide wraparound services for children from kindergarten through middle school.
  5. Ensure that early childhood programs meet the needs of the whole child. Programs must be well-designed and developmentally appropriate. All developmentally appropriate classrooms have one thing in common: The focus will be on the development of the whole child. Such programs will encourage the growth of children's self-esteem, their cultural identities, their independence and their individual strengths.
  6. Keep a teacher-student ratio of not more than 15-to-1 in early childhood programs, kindergarten and grades one through three. Reducing class size can increase educational effectiveness. All states should set research-based standards that jointly address class size, adult-to- child ratios, teacher qualifications and teaching practices.
  7. Provide professional growth programs for principals in all areas of early childhood instruction. Federal, state, and local education agencies should promote efforts to build the capacity of principals to ensure an understanding of the important linkages between preschool and K-12 education and provide resources and flexibility to help them connect these integral elements of learning.
  8. Train parents to be stronger participants in their child's early learning. All preschool programs should include parent education. Parents must be empowered to be their child's most important teacher, and schools can help them to foster parent leadership skills, self-esteem, and support their connection to community resources.
To see complete executive summary please go to:
http://web.naesp.org/misc/ECLC_ExecSum.pdf

back to top 


NATIONWIDE SURVEY SHOWS TODAY'S KIDS ARE ENVIRONMENTALLY SAVVY

Kids across America are turning off the lights, shutting off the water, and recycling their trash! According to the findings of the "Caring About America" survey conducted on behalf of Doubletree Hotels (NYSE:HLT), ninety-nine (99) percent of kids ages six to eleven surveyed across the country believe that it's important to take care of the environment.

According to the survey, unlike previous generations, today's kids are quick to conserve energy by turning off the lights when they leave a room (83 percent), conserve water by turning off the tap when they're brushing their teeth (84 percent), and recycle (82 percent), giving Mom and Dad fewer things to remind them about. A majority of those kids surveyed (65 percent) even report bringing their lunch to school in a reusable container.

Given that 96 percent of those parents whose kids were surveyed believe it's important to teach kids about caring for the environment, it's no surprise that third graders are getting the message—and viewing themselves as an active part of the process. When kids were asked during the survey who helps protect the environment, parents came in first (31 percent), while kids and the President of the United States were close ties (27 and 26 percent, respectively).

Additional survey findings include:
About the Doubletree "Caring About America" Survey

The Doubletree "Caring About America" Survey was conducted in March 2006 by Kelton Research. The survey polled 400 parents and 400 pre-teens (ages six to eleven years old) across the U.S. to learn more about the attitudes and actions of parents and kids on the environment and taking care of it.

back to top   


NEARLY 60 PERCENT OF DROPOUTS GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND EARN A HIGH SCHOOL CREDENTIAL, SAYS NEW REPORT FROM JOBS FOR THE FUTURE

Contrary to the popular notion that high school dropouts are unmotivated and do not value education, a new report from Jobs for the Future (JFF) finds that most dropouts are remarkably persistent in their drive to complete their education. Nearly 60 percent of dropouts eventually earn a high school credential—in most cases a GED—according to Making Good on a Promise: What Policymakers Can Do to Support the Educational Persistence of Dropouts. In addition, almost half of those that earn secondary credentials later enroll in two- or four-year colleges. Yet for all their effort, less than 10 percent of those dropouts who enroll in postsecondary education earn a degree, a critical factor in securing a good paying job in today's economy.

"The educational system is failing these young people twice," said Marlene B. Seltzer, president and CEO of JFF. "Too often, schools do not keep them engaged in learning the first time around; then, when they try to go back and complete their education, the system provides inadequate options.  Anyone who demonstrates such persistence ought to have every opportunity to better themselves and contribute something positive to society. And everyone deserves the quality education promised to them."

Another commonly held belief, that minority students are more likely to drop out than their white peers, is also shown to be false according to data analyzed for the report. Socioeconomic status, not race, is the key indicator for dropping out. Black and Hispanic youth are no more likely to drop out of high school than their white peers of similar family income and education. In fact, black students in the lowest socioeconomic group are actually less likely to drop out than their white and Hispanic peers. About 30 percent of black students in this group drop out compared with 37 percent of Hispanics and 41 percent of whites. However, dropping out affects black and Hispanic communities more because they are overrepresented in the lowest income groups, while whites are underrepresented.

Other findings from Making Good on a Promise show that the dropout problem is far more pervasive than many believe. Nearly 20 percent of all students drop out, and the problem is most severe in central cities and other low-income communities. Close to 40 percent of students in the nation's lowest socioeconomic group drop out. However, students from middle- and upper-class households are not immune. About 10 percent of young people from families at the two highest socioeconomic levels also drop out.

"The public perception is that there is little anyone can do to help young people who leave school get back on track," said Adria Steinberg, associate vice president of JFF and one of the authors of the report. "In fact, we could do so much more by building educational pathways that give them a legitimate second chance."

Among the recommendations offered in Making Good on a Promise are refocusing K-12 education accountability systems to emphasize both higher academic standards and higher graduation rates, and redesigning "recovery" programs for dropouts to catch up with student aspirations and the demands of the knowledge-based economy. Several such programs have already demonstrated success in cities like Boston, New York, and Portland, OR.

Making Good on a Promise was authored by Cheryl Almeida, Cassius Johnson, and Adria Steinberg. It is based on an analysis of data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, which tracked 25,000 students over 12 years beginning in 1988, their eighth-grade year.

Jobs for the Future (http://www.jff.org) is a Boston-based nonprofit that seeks to accelerate the educational and economic advancement of youth and adults struggling in today's economy. JFF partners with leaders in education, business, government, and communities around the nation to: strengthen opportunities for youth to succeed in postsecondary learning and high-skill careers; increase opportunities for low-income individuals to move into family-supporting careers; and meet the growing economic demand for knowledgeable and skilled workers.

To see the full report, please go to:
http://www.jff.org/JFF_KC_Pages.php?WhichLevel=1&lv1_id=4&lv2_id=0&lv3_id=0&KC_M_ID=287

back to top 


RESEARCHERS CALL FOR SPATIAL THINKING IN K-12 CURRICULA

The National Research Council (http://www.nas.edu/nrc) advises the federal government on critical issues in science and technology. It has issued a report calling on schools to incorporate "spatial literacy" into their curricula. Spatial thinking is an increasingly important skill for living and working in the 21st century, the council said, and geographic information system (GIS) technology can help schools teach this skill to their students.

Currently, spatial thinking is "not systematically instructed in the K-12 curriculum, despite its fundamental importance," the report notes, calling this omission "a major blind spot in the American educational system."

The report defines spatial thinking as the ability to understand spatial relationships, the knowledge of how geographic space is represented, and the ability to reason and make key decisions about spatial concepts. These skills are essential to a wide range of tasks and fields, the report says, and yet "there are neither content standards nor valid and reliable assessments dedicated solely to spatial thinking."

Spatial literacy is not a stand-alone subject in the way that physics, biology, and economics are subjects, NRC said. Instead, it's a way of thinking that cuts across most other disciplines. To foster spatial literacy in students, the academy's report recommends that schools take an approach similar to the movement to teach writing "across the curriculum"—that is, to integrate it into instruction in all appropriate content areas.

The report urges federal agencies and education leaders to encourage the development of spatial literacy standards and curriculum materials to help educators teach students how to think spatially. It also calls on technology developers and educators to tailor GIS technologies to the needs of students, giving them easy-to-use tools to explore and practice spatial thinking both inside—and outside—the classroom.

Bishop Dunne Catholic School in Dallas is a leader in using GIS technology to enhance student learning. The school's GeoTech Research Lab allows students to become the researchers and creators of geographic and environmental solutions in an authentic, problem-based approach to instruction.

For example, Bishop Dunne students have partnered with the Dallas Police Department for several projects. In the early stages of the partnership, students produced maps for neighborhood crime-watch organizations. The maps illustrated where crimes were and what types of crimes were occurring on a monthly basis. Later projects have included producing maps to help determine where the Dallas Police Department should deploy its Robbery Task Force.

For more information on Bishop Dunne's GeoTech Research Lab: http://www.bdhs.org/gis

To see the complete article, please go to:
http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6259

To read or buy the complete study, go to:
http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11019.html

back to top 


COMPARING SCIENCE CONTENT IN THE NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS (NAEP) 2000 AND TRENDS IN INTERNATIONAL MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE STUDY (TIMSS) 2003 ASSESSMENTS

This report describes a study that was undertaken to compare the content of two fourth- and eighth-grade assessments in science: the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The report provides information that will be useful for interpreting and comparing the results from the two assessments, based on an in-depth look at the content of the respective frameworks and assessment items. The report draws upon information provided by the developers of the assessments, as well as data obtained from an expert panel convened to compare the frameworks and items from the two assessments on various dimensions.

To see the full report, please go to:
http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006026.pdf

back to top


NON-SCHOOL FACTORS AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

This report describes differences in non-school factors that are related to student achievement. The data are from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2003, an international assessment of 15-year-olds in reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy. The report focuses on data from 20 countries that are considered to be the most developed (based on the World Bank High Income Group). The report investigates six non-school factors that are related to student achievement: highest level of education attained by either of the students' parents; the highest occupational status of either of the students' parents; the number of books that students have access to in the home; whether students speak the native language of the country at home; students' immigrant status; and students' family structure. The PISA data indicate that the observed variation in the distribution of student characteristics across countries does not place the United States at a disadvantage in international assessments compared with other highly developed countries; students with high levels of socioeconomic status had an educational advantage over their low SES counterparts across all 20 countries, even after considering the differences in the percentage of students who are immigrants, from less-advantaged homes, non-native language speakers, and other factors.

To see the full report, please go to
http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006014.pdf

back to top 


NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF TITLE 1: INTERIM REPORT TO CONGRESS

As part of NCLB, the Congress mandated a National Assessment of Title I to evaluate the implementation and impact of the program. This is a huge report, full of fascinating data. Two key findings:
Volume I contains key findings on the implementation of Title I under No Child Left Behind. Volume II is a report on the findings from Closing the Reading Gap, an evaluation of the impact of supplemental remedial reading programs on student achievement.

Three large-scale evaluations were undertaken.  The first is examining the effects of remedial reading programs for 3rd and 5th graders. The second evaluation will look at the effectiveness of reading comprehension interventions for 5th graders.  The third evaluation will assess the effectiveness of mathematics curricula that are widely used in the early elementary grades.  The rationales for these three large-scale evaluations of specific interventions are described briefly below.

    1.  Remedial Reading Interventions

According to the NAEP, nearly 4 in 10 fourth graders read below the basic level.  Historically, nearly three-quarters of these students never attain average levels of reading skill.  To address this problem, many school districts have created remedial programs that aim to improve the skills of students reading below grade level.  However, it is very difficult for these students to close the reading gap and become average readers.  We know very little about the effectiveness of remedial reading programs for struggling readers in regular school settings.

Closing the Reading Gap, the evaluation of remedial reading programs, is addressing three broad questions:
Volume II of this Interim Report contains the full report on this study.

    2.  Reading Comprehension Interventions

The decision to conduct an evaluation of the efficacy of reading comprehension interventions for informational materials in content areas such as social studies or science resulted from a series of discussions between the IRP and reading experts, as well as from the advice of a subsequent expert panel convened to identify important and policy-relevant evaluation questions to study in reading.  The expert panel's advice was that there are increasing cognitive demands on student knowledge in middle elementary grades where students become primarily engaged in reading to learn, rather than learning to read.  Children from disadvantaged backgrounds lack general vocabulary as well as vocabulary related to academic concepts that enable them to comprehend what they are reading and acquire content knowledge.  They also do not know how to use strategies to organize and acquire knowledge from informational text in content areas such as science and social studies.  The panel advised that strategies for improving comprehension are not as well developed as those for decoding and fluency.  While there are multiple techniques for direct instruction of comprehension in narrative text that have been well-demonstrated in small studies, there is not as much evidence on teaching reading comprehension within content areas.

This evaluation of reading comprehension is addressing the following questions:
Five supplemental interventions have been selected by an expert panel and are being piloted in 5th-grade classrooms during the 2005–2006 school year.  Selection of the interventions was based on existing research evidence, quality of the intervention design, capability to implement the intervention, and appropriateness of the intervention for the target population.  All of the selected interventions teach reading comprehension of text containing information such as science or social studies content.  The interventions being piloted and their publishers are:
The reading comprehension interventions that are successfully piloted will be randomly assigned to a total of 100 participating elementary schools during the 2006–2007 school year.  The impact of the interventions on reading comprehension of informational social studies texts will be assessed.  The first report on the effectiveness of the reading comprehension interventions is planned for Spring 2008.

    3.  Mathematics Curricula
 
The decision to conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of mathematics curricula resulted from a series of discussions with and recommendations from the IRP, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), and an expert panel convened to provide advice on policy-relevant questions it would be important to address in an impact evaluation focused on mathematics.  Information on the effectiveness of mathematics curricula is crucial to improving performance on state mathematics assessments under NCLB.  There is considerable controversy about what mathematics children should learn and how it should be taught, but there is very little reliable information available to educators and policy makers about which curricula are most likely to improve mathematics achievement.

This evaluation will focus on early elementary grades because disadvantaged children fall behind their more advantaged peers in basic mathematics competencies even before entering elementary school.  If basic concepts are not mastered in early elementary grades, students have great difficulty understanding more advanced mathematics concepts in upper elementary grades.  The evaluation will compare different approaches to teaching early elementary mathematics, since there are many mathematics curricula that are being widely implemented without evidence of their effectiveness.
Up to five mathematics curricula will be competitively selected during the 2005–2006 school year.  The selected curricula will be randomly assigned to participating schools.  Teachers will be trained and the curricula will be implemented during the 2006–2007 school year.  Data will be collected on implementation of each curriculum and student mathematics achievement at the beginning and end of the 2006–2007 school year.  The first report on the relative effectiveness of the mathematics curricula is planned for Spring 2008.

To see the complete report, or the Executive Summary, please go to:
http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/disadv/title1interimreport/index.html

To order print copies of the Executive Summary:
back to top 


PRAXIS EXAM CHALLENGED

A pair of long-term studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association challenge longstanding policies in 48 states that require teachers to pass standardized exams to get jobs.

In one, Marc Claude-Charles Colitti of Michigan State University examined data going back to 1960 and found teachers' scores had almost no correlation to principals' evaluations of their classroom performance.

"How smart a teacher is doesn't necessarily tell us that they're a good teacher," he says. Teachers' SAT or ACT college entrance exam scores, or even their own scores on fifth-grade skills tests when they were children, would be as accurate at telling whether they'll be good teachers, he says.

But University of Washington researcher Dan Goldhaber warns that passing a general-knowledge or even a specific-subject-matter test isn't a silver bullet.

Goldhaber matched North Carolina teachers' scores with their students' skills on standardized tests and found almost no correlation.

The new studies echo one released last week by the Brookings Institution that recommended requiring fewer credentials for new teachers, but increasing requirements for teachers to keep their jobs and earn higher salaries.

To see the complete USA Today article, please go to:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2006-04-09-teachers_x.htm

To see Dan Goldhaber's report, please go to:
http://www.crpe.org/workingpapers/pdf/Goldhaber_TeacherLicensureApril06.pdf

back to top
 

THE EDUCATION INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

The Education Intelligence Agency (http://www.eiaonline.com/index.htm) publishes an interesting newsletter. Here is a sample:
  1. Per-pupil spending in the U.S. increased by 13.77% in the three-year period.
  2. Twenty-six states had fewer students in 2003–2004 than they had in 2000–2001.
In those 26 states, per-pupil spending increased an average of 17.6% over those three years, well beyond the national average. All the states with spending increases of more than 20% (Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Vermont) lost students in the last three years.

The reverse is mostly true, with some notable exceptions. Large enrollment increases in Nevada, Texas and Florida led to lower-than-average per-pupil spending increases, but Arizona and New Jersey managed to raise per-pupil spending substantially even with burgeoning enrollments.

What this suggests is that there is a lag in the time it takes money to follow the pupil. States with booming enrollment increase spending quickly to accommodate the new students, but not rapidly enough to keep up with the national average. Meanwhile, states with falling enrollment at the very least continue to spend the same total amount among fewer students, thereby increasing per-pupil spending substantially.

It also fits political reality. The public education establishment has a tough time raising new revenues, even when increasing enrollment demands it. On the other hand, school officials and advocates are very good at keeping the money already built into the formula, even when falling enrollment calls for cuts to be made."

Here is more:

The "enrollment lag" when it comes to per-pupil spending appears to hold true everywhere. School districts that lose students—particularly if the loss is 6% or more over three years—show a higher than average increase in per-pupil spending over the same time period. This suggests that districts at least maintain the same level of spending, spread out among fewer students. How long this effect endures would require research over a longer time frame.

There are notable exceptions: Oakland, Atlanta and Baltimore all had substantial drops in enrollment and lower-than-average spending increases. But more typical were districts like Flint, Michigan, which saw a 9.2% drop in enrollment, coupled with an 18.2% increase in per-pupil spending.

The Michigan tables also provide what is so far a unique opportunity for comparisons. The U.S. Census Bureau included Michigan charter schools as "districts" for data collection. They are included individually in EIA's Michigan table, ranked along with school districts by enrollment. Since charter schools take on many school district duties, this juxtaposition isn't as jarring as it seems.

In Arizona, the top 89 school districts in enrollment did not spend 65% on instruction. In Michigan, the top 72 did not. In Colorado, the top 93 did not. In Florida, none of the state's 67 county-wide school districts reached the 65% plateau.

In Michigan, only one school district in the top 10% in enrollment was a 65% instruction district. Of the districts in the bottom 10% in enrollment, 27 reached the 65% level.

In other states, the picture is murkier. Cobb County School District in Georgia had more than 102,000 students, but still spent 65% on instruction. Bridgeport is the largest district in Connecticut, but it managed to spend 65% on instruction.

There are a host of explanations for the relationship between district size and spending priorities. I have my theory, but others are legitimate. But 65% solution advocates have another, more pressing, question to answer. Does it really matter? Maryland is the place where this question absolutely needs to be answered.

Can the case be reasonably made that the Baltimore school district—subject of an Oprah tirade—is making better instructional spending decisions than the Montgomery County school district? Baltimore is a 65% district. Montgomery County is not.

The Education Intelligence Agency offers tables that list overall state statistics:
http://www.eiaonline.com/districts/USA.pdf

They also offer information on districts within each state along with their enrollment figures, per-pupil spending, labor costs, and "65% solution" status for the 2003–2004 school year (based on U.S. Census Bureau data). The tables also contain the percentage changes in each category since the 2000–2001 school year:
http://www.eiaonline.com/districts.htm


From another great newsletter by the Education Intelligence Agency:

"In order to draw attention to National Teacher Day, the National Education Association released a lengthy press statement (http://www.nea.org/newsreleases/2006/nr060502.html) on "five main trends that have emerged over the past five years." They were that public schoolteachers are the most experienced and educated ever, that the work of teachers is being transformed, that the number of teachers leaving the profession is increasing, that the teaching force is not as diverse as the student body, and that there are fewer male teachers than in the past.

NEA is to be commended for providing citations to the numerous claims it makes in its press release, because the footnotes undermine the union's analysis and recommendations.

Thirty-one statistics in the press release cite the same source: NEA's Status of the American Public School Teacher (http://www.nea.org/newsreleases/2003/nr030827.html), which has a load of information, but was released in August 2003, describing the status of the American public school teacher in 2000–2001. Comprehensive education statistics do have a significant lag in reaching the public, but five-year-old information tells us little about where we are now, and even less about where we're going.

Even worse, NEA cites a 1998 study on teacher shortages and a 1996 study on teacher retention.

Fortunately, there is newer information on at least some of the topics NEA addresses, in the form of Characteristics of Schools, Districts, Teachers, Principals, and School Libraries in the United States: 2003–04 Schools and Staffing Survey (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006313) released on March 23, 2006 by the National Center for Education Statistics. NEA states that "more than half (57%) hold at least a master's degree." But the newer data show that number is reduced to 48.1 percent in 2003–2004. A majority of teachers hold only a bachelor's degree.

The newsletter also analyzes data on teacher retention and on charter schoolteachers.

back to top
  

FINANCIAL LITERACY SHOWS SLIGHT IMPROVEMENT AMONG NATION'S HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

There has been an increase in the number of survey questions that students answered correctly on the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy nationwide biennial survey of financial literacy. The students taking the Jump$tart survey demonstrated an increased aptitude and ability to manage financial resources such as credit cards, insurance, retirement funds, and savings accounts at a level slightly higher than in 2004.

"We also experienced increased participation this year, both in the number of students and the number of high schools," said Laura Levine, executive director of the national coalition.

"These increased levels of participation indicate that educators across the country are beginning to recognize the importance of financial literacy and the need for financial literacy education.  I hope we see more improvement in performance in the near future. And, I hope that more state education departments and state governments move financial literacy to the top of the priority list."

The comprehensive written survey of 5775 high school students in 37 states measured 12th graders' level of knowledge of personal finance basics and compared the results with those from similar surveys conducted in 2004, 2002, 2000, and 1997. The survey was administered by individual teachers in classes other than finance and management, mostly English and Social Studies classes.

The average score for the 2005–2006 survey was 52.4 percent, up marginally from 52.3 percent in the 2003–2004 survey.  After falling from 57.3 percent in the 1997–1998 survey, financial literacy scores are up from the low of 50.2 percent in 2002, but now seem to hover in the low- to mid-50 percent range.

"This indicates that, despite the attention now paid to the lack of financial literacy, the problem is not about to resolve itself any time soon," said Lewis Mandell, Ph.D., professor of finance and managerial economics at SUNY Buffalo School of Management, who conducted the survey for Jump$tart.

Compounding the problem of low financial literacy scores is their distribution.  In the current survey, white students scored an average of 55 percent, while African Americans scored significantly lower at 44.7 percent and Hispanics, 46.8 percent.  It is interesting to note that students from the highest income families, more than $80,000 per year, have widened their margins over the next highest group, those with incomes from $40,000 to $80,000.

Prior to 2002, financial literacy scores dropped for students from the highest income families, presumably because family affluence shielded them from having to take much responsibility for their lives and immediate futures.

"This has apparently changed, but we don't know whether it is due to more focus on this issue on the part of more affluent families and school districts or perhaps to the rapidly rising costs of higher education and the necessity for even the affluent students to bear more of the responsibility for their financial futures," Professor Mandell continued.

A number of important concepts are not well understood by the next generation.  Only 14.2 percent felt that stocks are likely to have higher average returns than savings bonds, savings accounts, and checking accounts over the next 18 years in spite of the fact that there has never been an 18-year period when this was not true.  This year's percentage was the lowest since the Jump$tart surveys began and probably indicates why so few young people invest in stocks, even through their 401(k).

"We target students in classes other than finance and money management because we are testing general financial literacy and not what students can recall from a financial management course," Levine pointed out. "Clearly the survey demonstrates the large gap between what students know and learn from life-experiences and the need on the part of adults to find the right combination that will make financial literacy meaningful to young adults leaving the safety of high school."

Examples:
Some previous Jump$tart surveys have shown this figure to be slightly above the national average and some slightly below, but it is clear that students don't appear to be learning or retaining those things that are needed for making important financial decisions in their own interest.

To see whether financial literacy, as measured by the Jump$tart survey, is even useful in making important financial decisions, the 38.7 percent of students who reported having a checking account were asked whether they ever bounced a check.  Those who have never bounced a check had average financial literacy scores of 53.4 percent, while those who had bounced a check averaged just 45.8 percent showing that this behavior, at least, is strongly related to financial literacy.

"It is also possible that students don't focus much on financial literacy and don't retain what they have learned because they don't think it is relevant to their lives," Dr. Mandell stated.

To test this, three new questions were added.  The first asked students to choose the greatest cause of serious financial difficulty, where families can't pay their bills.  Those who blamed it on bad luck, such as unexpected illness or job loss, had average financial literacy scores of 49 percent.  Those who felt that it was due to buying too much on credit had average scores of 55 percent.

A second question asked how bad they thought it was for families who don't have enough money to pay their bills.  Those who said it was "not so bad, a lot of families go through this," had average financial literacy scores of 43.2 percent.

A third question asked students what they think happens to older people when they retire if they haven't saved much money and don't have a good pension from their former jobs.  Those who feel that such people live pretty well on Social Security had average scores of 39.9 percent.  Those who felt that "they find it tough to live on Social Security" averaged 56 percent.

The Jump$tart survey, conducted primarily this past December and January, consisted of a written examination administered to 12th graders in 305 schools across the United States.

A copy of the survey questionnaire is available at:
http://www.jumpstart.org/media/2006SurveyWithAnswers.doc

The Jump$tart Personal Finance Clearinghouse, which lists more than 580 titles of financial literacy materials available, can be found at http://www.jumpstartclearinghouse.org.

More information about Jump$tart and its biennial survey can be found at http://www.jumpstart.org

back to top 


SCHOOL NUTRITION EFFORTS UNDERMINED BY PARENTS; STUDY REVEALS THAT PARENTS ARE CONTRIBUTING TO SODA CONSUMPTION AT SCHOOL

According to the Electronic Share of Intake Panel (eSIP™) study, among six- to ten-year-olds, about half of the Carbonated Soft Drinks (CSDs) and Sports Drinks consumed at school are brought from home or purchased off school grounds. Parents are supporting the consumption of these products by making them available to young children and allowing them to bring CSDs and sports drinks into school.

This finding is in contrast to a Clinton Foundation announcement that the beverage industry is supporting new guidelines regarding the sale of CSDs and other high-calorie beverages in school environments.

Empty calories from soda heavily contribute to obesity issues in the U.S., and the Clinton announcement supports the school initiatives to reduce the amount of soda that is made available to students. Yet, while efforts to reduce opportunities to purchase soda at school are having an impact, children are continuing to consume large amounts of CSDs elsewhere.

Startling statistics from the study reveal:
When looking at data regarding the consumption of CSDs and sports drinks among 15- to 19-year-olds, the study indicates that this age group is drinking the equivalent of at least two 12-ounce servings of these drinks per day. This amounts to approximately 120 teaspoons or 1 1/2 pounds of sugar in a week, five pounds in a month. Even 6- to 10-year-olds are consuming, on average, the equivalent of 12 ounces of CSD or sports drinks every day.

Overall, the study confirms the reported trend of declining consumption of CSDs. In addition to today's announcement, government mandates, such as the recent legislation passed by the State Senate in Connecticut on April 20th are making a positive impact on schools by removing machines with unhealthy beverages and educating students about nutrition. Over the past several years, nearly every state has taken similar steps to reduce the threat of childhood obesity, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia in 2005.

State legislation regarding CSD consumption has also been expanded to include sports drinks. While CSD sales have decreased, sports drink consumption has skyrocketed, increasing by 200 percent at home and over 100 percent at school over the past five years. Sports drinks are commonly misperceived as healthy alternatives to CSDs, but in fact contain high amounts of sugar and carbohydrates. Experts agree that parents should encourage their children to reach for healthy beverages, including water, milk, 100-percent fruit juice, and fruit juice with at least 50 percent real juice and no added sweeteners.

back to top 


MORE THAN 29% OF STUDENTS DRINK ALCOHOL AND OVER 16% SMOKE CIGARETTES DAILY

According to America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2005, the following indicators depict our children's behavioral and social environment and focuses on illegal or high-risk behaviors such as drinking alcohol, using forbidden drugs, smoking cigarettes, and involvement in serious and violent crimes:
To see the complete report, please go to:
http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/pdf/ac2005/front.pdf

back to top 


LEADING READING MEASUREMENT COMPANIES TO LINK EARLY LITERACY ASSESSMENT TO MOST WIDELY ADOPTED READING MEASURE

MetaMetrics, Inc., developer of The Lexile Framework(R) for Reading; Dynamic Measurement Group, developer of Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS®); and Wireless Generation, an educational software and services company, have announced plans to conduct a linking study during the 2006–2007 school year that will make Lexile® measures from DIBELS data available in summer 2007.

As the most widely adopted reading measure in use today, The Lexile Framework provides a common scale for matching reader ability and text difficulty, allowing easy monitoring of student progress and ensuring reading comprehension. Recognized as the most accurate way to match readers with text, there are currently Lexile measures for more than 100,000 books and more than 80 million articles. More than 20 million students will receive a Lexile measure during the 2005–2006 school year.

"By linking the DIBELS and Lexile reading measures, teachers and parents will be able to connect very young readers with targeted materials from the more than 100,000 books and more than 80 million articles with Lexile measures," said Malbert Smith III, Ph.D., president, MetaMetrics. "By reading materials that are ability-appropriate, more children will be able to build strong literacy skills and increase their chances of becoming lifelong readers."

DIBELS is a set of standardized, individually administered measures of early literacy development. The measures assess skills that are consistent with the essential early literacy domains discussed in both the National Reading Panel (2000) and National Research Council (1998) reports in the areas of phonemic awareness, alphabetic understanding, accuracy and fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension. Each DIBELS measure has been researched and has demonstrated to be a reliable and valid indicator of early literacy development and predictor of later reading proficiency.

Roland Good III, Ph.D., co-author of DIBELS and associate professor at the University of Oregon, said that understanding a child's reading ability at the earliest age and working to develop skill levels are keys to building strong readers. "It is natural to link DIBELS to Lexiles so students have reading measures that follow them throughout their educational careers, and are used to connect them with materials that promote reading comprehension both at school and at home," he said.

Good will join other nationally recognized experts on reading and assessment as a keynote speaker at the 2006 Lexile National Reading Conference, June 19-21, in Atlanta. Also slated to present at the conference is Susan Hall, Ed.D., president of 95 Percent Group. Hall is the author of I've DIBEL'd—Now What? and has developed instructional activities linked to DIBELS data available through the mCLASS:DIBELS "Act" feature.

The conference theme is "Developing Tomorrow's Readers . . . Today." To register or for more information, visit http://www.lexile.com/conference2006

For more information on DIBELS, visit http://dibels.uoregon.edu or http://www.dibels.org

back to top 


FREE STUDENT WORKBOOKS FOR EDUCATORS (Advertisement)

Queue, Inc. offers free previews to public schools of its state-specific and generic test preparation workbooks.  Queue publishes test prep books in many different subjects, including Mathematics, Reading Comprehension, Language Arts, Editing and Revising, and Composition for, in many states, Grades K–high school.  In some states, Practice Tests in Math and/or Language Arts are currently available.
 
Queue also offers workbooks in Literature, Science, History, Government, Health, and ESL.  Only samples of student workbooks are available for preview.
 
For further information on Queue, Inc., and our product line, visit http://www.qworkbooks.com.  To order free previews, please visit http://www.qworkbooks.com/samplerequest.html.

or call: 800-232-2224
 
or fax: 800-775-2729
 
or e-mail: jdk@queueinc.com
 
or write: Queue, Inc., 1 Controls Dr., Shelton, CT 06484

back to top