Queue News
Education Research Report
October 2008
No. 48

Copyright

© 2008 AICE

 

Tracking the Reasons Many Girls Avoid Science and Math

 

Number Sense Correlates with Test Scores

 

Researchers Identify Best Strategies for Supporting New Science Teachers

 

“Toward a Systematic Evidence Base for Science in Out-of-School Time: The Role of Assessment”

 

Dropout Prevention Practice Guide

 

Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2006

 

Cause of Conduct Problems Among Girls Appears to be Different than in Boys

 

Internet-Based Instruction Effective for Teaching Health-Care Professionals

 

Mobile Phones Help Secondary Pupils

 

More Than One-Third of California’s Dropouts Eventually Finish High School

 

Assignment Monitoring in California of Certificated Employees

 

Report Identifies Inherent Link Between a 21st Century Education System and Economic Success

 

Alabama’s Public Education Dilemma: Does Funding Influence Outcomes?  

 

Results of Kansas Teaching, Learning & Leadership (KANTeLL) Survey Presented to the State Board of Education

 

School’s Making Me Sick!  

 

New Study Assesses the Impact of Soft Drink Availability in Elementary Schools on Consumption

 

High School Sports Participation Increases Again; Boys, Girls and Overall Participation Reach All-time Highs

 

National Poll on Children’s Health

 

School Vouchers and Student Achievement: Recent Evidence, Remaining Questions. 2008.

 

Charter Schools Supported by Public

 

 

 

Tracking the Reasons Many Girls Avoid Science and Math

 

Most parents and many teachers believe that if middle-school and high-school girls show no interest in science or math, there's little anyone can do about it.

New research by a team that includes vocational psychologists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) indicates that the self-confidence instilled by parents and teachers is more important for young girls learning math and science than their initial interest.

While interest is certainly a factor in getting older girls to study and pursue a career in these disciplines, more attention should be given to building confidence in their abilities early in their education, says UWM Distinguished Professor Nadya Fouad. She is one of the authors of a three-year study aimed at identifying supports and barriers that steer girls toward or away from science and math during their education.

"The relationship between confidence and interest is close," says Fouad. "If they feel they can do it, it feeds their interest."

It's a high-priority question for members of organizations like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Research Council as they ponder how to reverse the rapidly declining numbers of women in STEM careers – science, technology, engineering and math.

Many young students, particularly girls, see math and science as difficult, and don't take any more classes than they have to, not realizing they are cutting themselves off from lucrative opportunities in college and careers.

The NSF-funded study – the most highly detailed study on this topic – dug deeply to identify the specific factors that would stoke interest.

"For the last 20 years, there has been all this work done on boosting interest of girls early on. But I don't think that's it," says Fouad, whose research has found evidence that confidence levels in math- and science-related tasks are lower for girls than for boys.

Complexity

The study tracked girls and boys in middle school, high school and their sophomore year in college in both Milwaukee and Phoenix, with the main goal of pinpointing when the barriers for girls appear and how influential they are. Co-authors include Phil Smith, UWM emeritus professor of educational psychology, and Gail Hackett, Provost at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

Self-efficacy is not the only important factor for girls, the study uncovered. Results point to a complicated issue, says Fouad. For one thing, math and science cannot be lumped together when designing interventions because the barriers and supports for each discipline are not the same.

"There were also differences at each developmental level and differences between the genders," she says. That means interventions would need to be tailored for each specific subgroup.

Overall, however, parent support and expectations emerged as the top support in both subjects and genders for middle- and high-school students. Also powerful for younger girls were engaging teachers and positive experiences with them.

The study confirmed that old stereotypes die slowly. Both boys and girls perceived that teachers thought boys were stronger at math and science. For boys this represented a support, while for girls it acted as a barrier.

Top barriers for all age groups and disciplines were test anxiety and subject difficulty. But these differed between boys and girls. In addition, the genders formed their perceptions of math or science based on the barriers and supports, but they often arrived at different views.

Ultimately, it's perception, more than reality, that affects the person's academic and career choices, says Fouad.

Scholarly clout

That's the take-away message from her more than two decades of work. A fourth-generation college professor, Fouad studies cross-cultural vocational assessment, career development of women and minorities, and factors motivating people to choose certain careers.

She and Smith were among the first teams of researchers to empirically support a model that identified the prominent role that self-confidence and outcome expectations play in predicting career interests.

The next step in the NSF study on girls, and math and science is to examine the relationship between barriers and supports, and then to widen the view to include women who are not working in those fields despite having an educational background in math or science. Fouad received funding from UWM on this project and has just received a half-million-dollar grant to focus on women in engineering.

Nationally, 20 percent of graduates with degrees in engineering are women, she says, but only 11 percent of engineers are women. Her inquiry will explore the reason for the gap.

 

 

Number Sense Correlates with Test Scores

 

Knowing how precisely a high school freshman can estimate the number of objects in a group gives you a good idea how well he has done in math as far back as kindergarten, researchers at The Johns Hopkins University found.

Good "number sense" at age 14 correlates with higher scores on standardized math tests throughout a child's life up to that point and weaker "number sense" at 14 predicts lower scores on those standardized tests, said Justin Halberda, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

"We discovered that a child's ability to quickly estimate how many things are in a group significantly correlates with that child's performance in school math for every single year, reaching all the way back to when he or she was in kindergarten," Halberda said.

Halberda teamed up on the research with colleagues Michèle Mazzocco, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and researcher at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, and Lisa Feigenson, also a Johns Hopkins assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences. The results of their investigation are scheduled for advance online publication by the journal Nature at http://www.nature.com on Sept. 7.

Though people often think of mathematics as a pinnacle intellectual achievement of humankind, research reveals that some intuition about numbers, counting and mathematical ability is basic to almost all animals. For example, creatures that gather or hunt for food keep track of the approximate number of food items they procure in order to return to the places where they get the most sustenance. Humans share this very basic "number sense," allowing them, at a glance, to estimate the number of people in a subway car or bus, Halberda says.

The Johns Hopkins team wondered whether this basic, seemingly innate number sense had any bearing on the formal mathematics that people learn in school. So the researchers asked 64 14-year-olds to look at flashing groups of yellow and blue dots on a computer screen and estimate which dots were more numerous. Though most of the children easily arrived at the correct answer when there were (for example) only 10 blue dots and 25 yellow ones, some had difficulty when the number of dots in each set was more nearly equal. Those results helped the researchers ascertain the accuracy of each child's individual "number sense."

They then examined the teenagers' record of performance in school math all the way back through kindergarten, and found that students who exhibited more acute number sense had performed at a higher level in mathematics than those who showed weaker number sense, even controlling for general intelligence and other factors.

"What this seems to mean is that the very basic number sense that we humans share with animals is related to the formal mathematics that we learn in school," Halberda concludes. "The number sense we share with the animals and the formal math we learn in school may interact and inform each other throughout our lives."

Though the team found this strong correlation between number sense and scholastic math achievement, Halberda cautions against concluding that success or failure in mathematics is genetically determined and, therefore, immutable.

"There are many factors that might affect a person's performance in school mathematics," Halberda says, "What is exciting in our result is that success in formal mathematics and simple math intuitions appear to be related."

Future directions for research include investigating the trainability of one's number sense and seeing whether early help in number sense could affect later formal math learning.

 

 

Researchers Identify Best Strategies for Supporting New Science Teachers

 

With a nationwide shortage of science teachers and plummeting student test scores, many school districts are forced to hire teachers with science degrees but little training in education or experience teaching. Without proper support, research shows that 66 percent of new teachers will quit the profession within three years. Now, new research from George Mason University’s New Science Teachers’ Support Network (NSTSN) has identified the most vital forms of support for new science teachers—providing them with in-classroom support and quality courses in how to teach science.

 

The NSTSN, created by researchers at George Mason University’s Center for Restructuring Education in Science and Technology (CREST) with funding from the National Science Foundation, chronicled the experiences of uncertified teachers in three Virginia school districts and the people supporting them to determine how the new teachers’ needs were addressed and the consequences of those actions.

 

 “Teachers have a daunting task. They must be instructional leaders, curriculum and assessment experts, special needs advisors, cheerleaders, educational visionaries and change agents,” says Donna Sterling, founder of NSTSN. “Growing expectations for teachers to successfully teach a broad range of students with different needs and steadily improve achievement mean that classrooms and teaching typically must be redesigned rather than merely continuing as in the past.”

 

Working with middle and high school science teachers, the NSTSN research revealed that students enrolled in the classes of teachers who received the support of in-class mentors who were retired science teachers and a science teaching course performed significantly better on standardized tests and had better science grades than students enrolled in the classes of a comparable set of new science teachers who did not receive the in-class support from retirees or a science methods course. Also, by enlisting the help of retired science teachers, new science teachers were able to perfect their teaching and enhance student learning.

 

“Retired master science teachers are one group not to overlook as a source of support because many have the skills, knowledge and time to work with new teachers,” says Wendy Frazier, associate director of CREST and program manager on the NSF grant. “Not only can retirees observe classroom teaching and provide support throughout the school day, but they can identify when a teacher is being treated poorly and serve as an advocate.”

 

Free of the constraints of teaching their own students, retired science teachers have both the time and the knowledge to make a difference. Retirees are able to help new teachers plan effective lessons, identify strategies and organizational ideas for laboratory activities and model effective teaching techniques during a lesson.

Studies have shown that teacher attrition can be reduced through attention to improving new science teachers’ working conditions. Through improved working conditions, new science teachers are provided the time they need to learn how to teach well.

In addition, the NSTSN makes the following recommendations.

·   Assign new teachers only one class preparation so they have time to reflect and revise lessons between class periods to perfect their teaching skills.

·   Provide new science teachers their own classroom instead of having them float between classrooms with a cart.

·   Establish a plan and identify a person or team to provide new teachers with an orientation to the school, policies and procedures.

·   Provide teaching resources, including teaching supplies, computer equipment and science equipment, along with a trainer to demonstrate effective equipment use.

 

 

 

 

“Toward a Systematic Evidence Base for Science in Out-of-School Time: The Role of Assessment”

 

Politicians, educators, and business leaders alike emphasize the critical importance of scientific literacy among citizens for both individual and national success in the 21st century. Yet, research indicates that by most measures, our system of science education is not working. Middle school and high school students are performing poorly on international tests when compared to their peers in other developed nations. In addition, few undergraduates are choosing to major in science or engineering (15% in the United States, as compared to 47% in France, 50% in China, and 67% in Singapore). Moreover, students report low levels of interest in science classes in middle and high school.

 

In response to this need to enhance both the quality and quantity of science education in the U.S., practitioners, researchers and policy-makers have begun to expand the role of informal science learning as a venue to promote science literacy and engagement. This strategy focuses increasingly on the large potential of out-of-school time (OST) settings, which include programs that occur after school and during the summer. After-school and summer programs typically provide an environment where exploration can take place in a more relaxed, experiential, and test-free setting.

 

Moreover, a chief reason for low levels of interest in science among students in the United States is that school science often feels disconnected from students’ lives outside of school. Because the after-school setting exists in between the world of school and students’ homes and communities, it is in a privileged position to address this perceived disconnect, offering science programs that may be more personally and contextually relevant than those that are driven primarily by defined curricula and tests.

 

There is considerable philosophical overlap between after-school programs and informal science education. Youth development research has shown ideal after-school settings as student-centered and providing opportunity for cooperation and relationship-building while developing knowledge and skills through authentic, handson activities. Similarly, ideal informal science programs are described as hands-on, learner-directed, and interactive in the context of a social group and consisting of cooperative activities and real-world tasks.

 

While there are many reasons to believe after-school programs can play a significant role in increasing students’ interest, engagement, knowledge and achievement in science, the evidence that after-school science programs are succeeding in these goals remain sparse. In the past decade, there have been increasing numbers of independently commissioned evaluations of science after-school programs. The data from these studies are very promising, indicating that after-school science programs can improve students’ attitudes towards science; increase their scientific knowledge and skills; and, in some cases, raise grades, test scores, and college attendance. Participation in science after-school and summer programs has also been correlated with increased likelihood of selecting science-related college majors.

 

To date, many of the studies that show promising results have used “homegrown” assessment tools to demonstrate impact. Although this practice has its benefits (e.g., instruments relate directly to a specific program), it results in two challenges. First, the use of program-by-program assessments calls into question the validity and/or reliability of the studies (since they traditionally lack norms, psychometric properties, and peer-reviewed reports), and this can render them less persuasive in the eyes of researchers, funders and policymakers. Second, because many programs and program evaluators create their own tools, it is difficult to compare or summarize results across programs or evaluators. As a consequence, there is very little comparative data available to support the claim that OST science programming is effective, or to support best practices for the field. It should be noted that other applications of informal science, particularly in museum science, have a voluminous body of evaluation research.

 

Furthermore, there are several organizations that make available an open source for evaluation findings studying informal science (see informalscience.org, visitorstudies.org, and the National Science Foundation’s Informal Science Education website). While these sites do not focus specifically on after-school science, they demonstrate the accumulation of a large body of collective knowledge of the informal science field. Yet even in this more mature field, the evaluations remain, for the most part, quite focused on individual projects, and they rarely can be generalized or used to compare data across programs.

 

The field of after-school and summer science is at a critical juncture. Interest in and federal funding for after-school programs has surged over the last decade. In 2005, 40% of all students in grades K-8 were in at least one weekly non-parental after-school care arrangement. Yet in order for the field to continue to grow and improve in quality, research and evaluation efforts must keep pace. Increasingly, funding is contingent upon programs’ capacity to show evidence of their success. Consequently, there has been an increase in the number of instruments created to evaluate individual programs.

 

Although the use of these instruments has already made significant contributions to the assessment of after-school science programs, the field is now at a point where it is necessary to examine critically what are the most efficacious and efficient means of assessment, whether these assessments should differ across programs, and how they should relate to constructs of science learning and program quality.

 

To address these fundamental questions, the Noyce Foundation, a leading funder in the after-school science field, invited this study, review and report to better understand the current state as well as the needs of the after-school informal science assessment world.

 

Complete report:

http://www.pearweb.org/research/pdfs/Assessment+of+Science+in+OST.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dropout Prevention Practice Guide

 

This new practice guide from its What Works Clearinghouse formulates specific and coherent evidence-based recommendations that are intended to be useful to educators in high schools and middle schools, to superintendents and school boards, and to state policymakers in planning and executing dropout prevention strategies.

 

Guide:

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/practiceguides/

 

 

 

Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2006

 

This report builds upon a series of National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports on high school dropout and completion rates that began in 1988. It presents estimates of rates for 2006 and provides data about trends in dropout and completion rates over the last three decades (1972-2006), including characteristics of dropouts and completers in these years. Report highlights include: The averaged freshman graduation rate (AFGR), which provides an estimate of the percentage of public high school students who graduate with a regular diploma 4 years after starting 9th grade, was 74.7 percent for the class of 2005. Students living in low-income families were approximately four times more likely to drop out of high school between 2005 and 2006 than were students living in high-income families. In October 2006, approximately 3.5 million civilian noninstitutionalized 16- through 24-year-olds were not enrolled in high school and had not earned a high school diploma or alternative

 credential.

 

To view, download and print the report as a PDF file, please visit:

http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2008053

 

 

Cause of Conduct Problems Among Girls Appears to be Different than in Boys

 

The first study to include a significant number of aggressive girls with conduct problems indicates that psychological conditions including conduct disorder may have separate causes in the two sexes.

The research reaffirmed that boys 8 to 12 years of age diagnosed with conduct and oppositional defiance disorders have lower heart rates and sweated less while at rest and playing a video game for money compared to boys without these conditions. However, girls of the same age exhibited the same physiological responses whether they did or did not have conduct problems.

“Previous studies have focused on boys because boys with conduct disorder outnumber girls by a 10-to-1 ratio,” said Theodore Beauchaine, a University of Washington associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “We went out of our way to find girls with conduct problems because we thought something different must be going on since there is such a big difference in the number of boys and girls with conduct disorder.

“Our findings suggest we had better start studying girls differently than boys. We can’t assume the same processes are at work in boys and girls. When there are different mechanisms it suggests there should be different treatments.”

In the study, UW researchers took physiological measurements – focusing on the autonomic nervous systems that controls and regulates such involuntary body functions as heart rate, blood flow, and the workings of muscles and glands – of 110 boys and 65 girls while they played a computerized game. About half of the boys and girls met the criteria for conduct and/or oppositional defiant order. The other boys and girls had no psychological problems.

The game had the children, who were seated at a monitor, look a number that appeared on the screen and then press the same number on a keyboard. A correct response enabled them to win money. The faster and more accurately they played the more money could earn.

“It was not unusual for some children to make $50 playing this game, which is a considerable amount of money for kids of these ages,” said Beauchaine. “Normal boys get pretty excited while they play, but boys with conduct problems don’t. However, we found no differences in the way the groups of girls responded.”

Biological markers that seem to make boys more vulnerable to conduct problems appear to be largely inherited, according Beauchaine.

“We know impulsivity is 80 percent inheritable and these markers go along with sensation seeking. So boys inherit this low arousal from their parents. This doesn’t mean they will have conduct disorder, but it puts them at risk for it.”

He added that the failure to find a biological marker among girls with conduct problems suggests that this behavior is driven by different causes. They may be strong social or environmental influences such as ineffective parenting or simply hanging around the wrong kids.

Conduct problems typically begin with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in young children. Some then develop oppositional defiance disorder in elementary school. This behavior is marked by talking back to parents and teachers and refusing to do what adults say. This cycle of behavior problems ends at this point for most children, but in middle school a small number go on to develop conduct disorder that is much more severe and can include such behaviors as stealing, property damage and, in extreme cases, arson and cruelty to animals.

 

 

Internet-Based Instruction Effective for Teaching Health-Care Professionals

 

A study led by a team of education researchers from Mayo Clinic and published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concludes that Internet-based education generally is effective.

Lead author David Cook, M.D., an associate professor of medicine who practices general internal medicine at Mayo Clinic, worked with researchers from Mayo and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. They reviewed more than 200 studies about Internet-based instruction. The researchers concluded that Internet-based instruction is associated with large learning gains compared with no instruction. The research also showed that Internet-based instruction compared favorably to traditional instructional methods.

"Our findings suggest that Internet-based instruction is an effective way to teach health care professionals," says Dr. Cook. "We now can confirm that, across a wide variety of learners, learning contexts, clinical topics, and learning outcomes, Internet-based instruction can be as effective as traditional methods."

Dr. Cook also notes that Internet-based instruction has unique advantages, including flexible scheduling, adaptability of instruction, and readily available content that is easily updated. "As health care workers balance challenging practice demands, the ever-expanding volume of medical knowledge requires us to find more effective, efficient ways to learn," says Dr. Cook. "Internet-based instruction will be an important part of the solution."

He also notes that this research likely applies to training outside of health care, citing studies in the engineering, computer science, and teaching fields that have shown similar results.

 

 

Mobile Phones Help Secondary Pupils

 

Ask a teacher to name the most irritating invention of recent years and they will often nominate the mobile phone.

Exasperated by the distractions and problems they create, many headteachers have ordered that pupils must keep their phones switched off at school. Others have told pupils to leave them at home.

However, education researchers at The University of Nottingham believe it is time that phone bans were reassessed — because mobile phones can be a powerful learning aid, they say.

Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and her colleagues have reached this conclusion after studying the consequences of allowing pupils in five secondary schools to use either their own mobile phones or the new generation of 'smartphones' in lessons.

During the nine-month experiment, 14 to 16-year-old pupils used the phones for a wide range of educational purposes, including creating short movies, setting homework reminders, recording a teacher reading a poem, and timing experiments with the phones' stopwatches. The smartphones, which could connect to the Internet, also allowed pupils to access revision websites, log into the school email system, or transfer electronic files between school and home.

The research involved 331 pupils in schools in Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire and Nottingham.

"At the start of the study, even pupils were often surprised at the thought that mobile phones could be used for learning, " Dr Hartnell-Young will tell the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association in Edinburgh today. "After their hands-on experience, almost all pupils said they had enjoyed the project and felt more motivated."

Some teachers also had to reassess their views even though staff who took part were already champions of new technology in their schools. "Students like mobiles and they know how to use them," one said. "Using this technology gives them more freedom to express themselves without needing to be constantly supervised."

Other teachers found that pupils who lacked confidence gained most from the project. However, they recognised that greater use of mobile phones in schools could prove problematical.

Increased temptation to steal phones was one worry. "I thought, well, four of these smartphones are going to end up on eBAY tomorrow," one teacher said.

That fear turned out to be misplaced but a few teachers remained concerned that phones could prove a distraction for some pupils. Allowing pupils to access school emails via mobiles would also pose data security risks if passwords were shared, they said.

Teacher unions have similar fears and have supported phone bans in schools. "Pupils nowadays come to school equipped with mobile phones, MP3 players, and portable games consoles when teachers would like them to just bring a pen," Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said last month.

Dr Hartnell-Young says that the teachers' worries are understandable. "While the eventual aim should be to lift blanket bans on phones we do not recommend immediate, whole-school change," she said.

"Instead we believe that teachers, students and the wider community should work together to develop policies that will enable this powerful new learning tool to be used safely. We hope that, in future, mobile phone use will be as natural as using any other technology in school."

 

 

More Than One-Third of California’s Dropouts Eventually Finish High School

 

Thirty Four Percent of High School Dropouts are Not in School and Not Working

 

 

The latest report from the California Dropout Research Project (CDRP) looks at what happened to students from the graduating class of 2004 who dropped out after tenth grade. The study finds that, two years after their scheduled graduation, 37 percent of high school dropouts in California eventually complete high school, with 21 percent earning a regular diploma, and another 16 percent earning an alternative credential—a General Education Development (GED). In addition, 17 percent were still in high school or pursuing a GED. Compared to the rest of the nation, high school completion rates of California’s dropouts were significantly lower.

 

The report, entitled What Happened to Dropouts From the High School Class of 2004?, also found that two years after their scheduled graduation, 34 percent of high school dropouts in California were neither going to school nor working.

 

The report is the latest in a series of 24 policy and statistical briefs on California’s dropouts conducted by CDRP, a research program based at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In February of this year, the CDRP Policy Committee—composed of researchers, policymakers and educators—released a state policy agenda identifying short-term and long-term recommendations for improving California’s high school graduation rate.

 

The latest and all previous reports can be viewed at http://www.lmri.ucsb.edu/dropouts/.

 

 

 

 

Assignment Monitoring in California of Certificated Employees

 

Between September 2003 and June 2007, 6.3 percent of certificated employees were in a position  for which they did not hold an appropriate credential or authorization. A total of 22,352 certificated employees were initially found to be placed in unauthorized assignments. While this figure is more than double the 9,112 initial misassignments identified in the last report cycle (1999-2003), the increase appears to be the result of additional scrutiny rather than an increase in actual misassignments.

 

The added emphasis in reviewing assignments for the teachers of English learners is a result of the Williams settlement in 2004. The unauthorized assignments of these teachers of English learners account for more than half of the total misassignments reported and this category of misassignments increased by more than 88 percent from the previous report cycle (1999-2003).

 

Complete report:

 http://www.ctc.ca.gov/commission/agendas/2008-08/2008-08-4B.pdf

 

 

 

Report Identifies Inherent Link Between a 21st Century Education System and Economic Success

 

Creating a 21st century education system that prepares students, workers and citizens to triumph in the global skills race is the central economic competitiveness issue currently facing the United States, according to a new report released by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The report, 21st Century Skills, Education & Competitiveness, finds that the United States, in order to be globally competitive and for states to attract growth industries and create jobs, requires a fresh approach to education that recognizes the importance 21st century skills play in the workplace.

Sponsored by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Ford Motor Company Fund, KnowledgeWorks Foundation and the National Education Association, the report notes that the country’s economic output has changed dramatically over the past 30 years and there is no sign this trend will stop.

In 1967, the production of material goods (cars, equipment, etc.) and delivery of material services (transportation, construction, etc.) accounted for nearly 54 percent of the country’s economic output. However, by 1997, the development of information products (computers, for example) and the provision of information services (financial and broadcast services and others) accounted for 63 percent of the country’s output. As the world continues to shift from an industrial economy to a service economy driven by information, knowledge and innovation, cultivating 21st century skills is vital to economic success.

While the global economy has been changing, the United States has focused primarily on closing domestic achievement gaps and largely ignored the growing necessity of graduating students capable of filling emerging job sectors. This remains a legitimate and worthy agenda but still dangerously discounts the global competitiveness issue.

“Equally important to the domestic achievement gap, is the global achievement gap between United States students – even top-performers – and their international counterparts,” said Paige Kuni, worldwide manager of K-12 education for Intel Corporation and chair of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. “Quite simply, for the United States to stay economically viable and remain a world leader, the country must make closing all achievement gaps a national priority.”

Abroad, developed and competing nations have focused on imparting a different set of skills – 21st century skills –  to their graduates because these skills increasingly power the wealth of nations. Furthermore, businesses now require workers who can handle more responsibility and contribute more to productivity and innovation. In fact, from 1995 to 2005, the United States lost three million manufacturing jobs, but, during that same time, 17 million service-sector jobs were created. It is critical that the United States graduate students capable of filling those jobs and keeping pace with the change in skill demands.

“Through my work with the business community, it has become apparent that there isn’t a lack of employees that are technically proficient but a lack of employees that can adequately communicate and collaborate, innovate and think critically,” said Ken Kay, president of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. “At this pivotal moment in our nation’s history, legislators and policymakers must focus on the outcomes we know produce graduates capable of competing in the 21st century and forging a viable economic future.”

The Partnership, the leading national advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills into education, encourages the United States to do a better job teaching and measuring advanced, 21st century skills beyond simply assessing science and mathematics. In addition, the report outlines several actions at the national, state and local levels that the United States must implement to improve economic results and better prepare citizens to participate in the 21st century. For a full set of recommendations and the report itself:

http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=82&Itemid=40

 

 

Alabama’s Public Education Dilemma: Does Funding Influence Outcomes?

 

Like most other states, Alabama devotes considerable resources to its public education system. In the 2006–2007 school year, more than $3.7 billion was spent on K–12 programs for 743,000 students in more than 1,500 schools in 130 school districts. Every year, the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) publishes reports on each school, district, and the entire education system in order to track the academic progress of their students. The ALSDE uses a variety of measures to chronicle its work, including the ever-present cost-per-child, standardized test scores, teacher readiness, student-to-teacher ratios, in-school violence reports, dropout rates, and poverty levels as they are measured by students participating in free/reduced lunch programs.

 

Despite this immense amount of readily available data, these reports do not attempt to show the relationship between the ALSDE’s inputs—e.g., teacher readiness, course difficulty, and teacher pay—and its outputs—graduation rates, standardized test scores, and remedial education costs. Alabama’s Public Education Dilemma: Does Funding Influence Outcomes? is the first of its kind in Alabama to examine the relationship between a battery of educational inputs and the desired outputs of academic proficiency, low dropout rates, and readiness for the workforce and college.

 

Alabama’s Public Education Dilemma: Does Funding Influence Outcomes? examines the relationship between academic inputs and outputs in Alabama via two research perspectives. The first perspective borrows heavily from a similar study conducted by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions in 2006. “Bang for the Buck: How Cost Effective are Kentucky’s Public Schools?” examined the return on investment Kentucky’s public school system provided taxpayers by looking at the standardized test scores of the Commonwealth’s best- and worstperforming schools, controlling for per-student spending. Their scoring method, known as the Score-Spending Index (SSI), is used in this report to make school-by-school comparisons for a variety of standardized tests used in Alabama, including the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test (ARMT), the Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing (ADAW), the ACT, and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE).

 

The second perspective of this report compares the state’s academic inputs and outputs to those of the rest of the nation. While Alabama’s education standards may look reasonably good to Alabamians, it would be myopic not to compare our state’s levels of academic preparation to the remainder of the country. State-by-state comparisons are made in this report for such inputs as course difficulty, teacher salaries and benefits, and teacher-to-non-teacher ratios, while outputs are compared for ACT scores, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and high school graduation rates.

 

In the words of the Bluegrass Institute’s study, this report aims to determine the “bang for the buck” Alabamians are receiving from their public education system, and the relationships—if any—between what our state devotes to education and what it receives after being responsible for the dozen or so years it has them in class.

 

Complete report:

http://www.alabamapolicy.org/pdf/education-2007-final.pdf

 

 

 

 

Results of Kansas Teaching, Learning & Leadership (KANTeLL) Survey Presented to the State Board of Education

 

The interim report of the results of the Kansas Teaching, Learning, & Leadership (KANTeLL) survey was presented to the State Board of Education today by Eric Hirsch, New Teacher Center at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The Kansas State Board of Education contracted with the New Teacher Center last fall to conduct an online survey of Kansas educators regarding overall working conditions, time, decision-making, professional development and facilities and resources.

 

In January, all Kansas teachers, principals, and licensed school-based educators had the opportunity to privately and anonymously provide input on issues critical to student learning. The United School Administrators of Kansas and Kansas National Education Association partnered with the Kansas State Board of Education and the Kansas State Department of Education in getting the word out to educators regarding this survey. More than 16,600 Kansas educators (42 percent) from across the state participated in the KANTeLL survey. This includes 14,868 teachers, 474 principals, 133 assistant principals and 1,179 other education professionals.

 

The results of the survey were very positive. The teachers participating expressed the opinion that others in their districts look upon them as educational experts. Teachers are involved in collaborative decision-making and many school districts have put effective processes in place so that teachers’ voices are heard.

 

 Kansas educators also believe that their schools are good places to work and learn as nine in ten teachers (89%) responding to this survey indicate that they want to continue teaching at their school.

 

 

To access the complete report, go to www.kantell.org

 

School’s Making Me Sick!

 

With summer ending and school underway, parents are transitioning from hearing their children moan about not being able to swim everyday, to their child complaining about homework, their new teachers or being in a different class than their friends. Many parents also begin to hear more complaints of tummy aches and headaches as a result of returning back to school.

The psychological term for school-induced illnesses a child may develop when he or she is trying to dodge school is School Avoidance, or School Refusal. Symptoms include nausea, fatigue, headaches and abdominal pain. According to Lori Crosby, Psy.D., Associate Professor, Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, even if children start to complain about stomach aches and other ailments, parents should still send their child to school unless they have symptoms of fever or a contagious illness. “It would probably be helpful to schedule a visit with the child’s pediatrician to rule out a ‘true’ medical problem, which may give the parent the confidence to send their child when in doubt,” said Dr. Crosby.

Approximately 1-5 percent of children in the United States suffer from School Avoidance. An article in the American Family Physician states that School Avoidance/Refusal should be considered when a student will not go to school and experiences emotional distress of physical symptoms.

Dr. Crosby says there are several reasons why a child may begin to display characteristics of School Avoidance, among them are social problems such as being bullied or isolated, having problems with learning, taking tests, giving presentations, or the child being worried about family issues such as divorce, moves, deaths, and/or a parent’s job changes/losses. Many young children experience School Avoidance when they learn that they will be spending a lot of time away from their families and their familiar settings.

Dr. Crosby suggests that while School Avoidance is not out of the ordinary, parents can seek professional counsel if they want to help their child overcome their fears associated with attending school. “Brief counseling with a psychologist or social worker may be helpful. In addition, parents should talk with school personnel. Psychologists are very familiar with such issues and can be very helpful with implementing a plan for the child,” she said.

Dr. Crosby says that children who have School Avoidance issues usually go back and forth between liking school and not liking it. “Often children with these histories wax and wane in that they have good phases and more avoidant phases,” she said. “Children usually start the year off with a great outlook about attending school, and after a brief honeymoon of high hopes and good attendance that lasts for a few days to a few months, they slide back into some School Avoidance behaviors characterized by illness complaints,” said Crosby.

Children may not outgrow their School Avoidance issues. However, Dr. Crosby says that there are some actions that parents can take to help solve the problem.

“The best approach is for parents to remain consistent with getting their child to school, setting limits, and establishing a regular routine,” she said. “The routine should be very predictable and consistent in the morning. Children benefit from having everything ready and set out before they go to sleep which reduces the morning rush,” Dr. Crosby says that this helps to reduce anxiety. She adds that parents also need to be aware of their own anxiety related to sending their child to school, because children pick up on subtle messages and may use them to their advantage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Study Assesses the Impact of Soft Drink Availability in Elementary Schools on Consumption

 

he consumption of soft drinks is generally considered to be a contributing factor in childhood obesity. Because children spend a substantial amount of time at school, the school food environment plays a central part in shaping eating behaviors. While the availability of soft drinks in middle and high schools has been investigated previously, a study published in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association systematically assesses how the availability of soft drinks in elementary schools across the United States relates to school-based and overall consumption. A broader question raised by this investigation is how limiting soft drink availability at an early age may alter eating behaviors over time.

While the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs are federally regulated, no similar standards exist for "competitive foods," that is foods and beverages sold through a la carte lines, vending machines, school stores and school fund raisers. Guidelines and legislation to fill this gap have been developing in private schools as well as at the school district- and state-level. Voluntary sales restrictions are another new development, such as the agreement reached between the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Beverage Association; Cadbury Schweppes; Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in May 2006. As a result, some school districts and even the states of California and Connecticut have already banned soft drink sales in public elementary schools.

Meenakshi M Fernandes, Pardee RAND Graduate School, Santa Monica, CA, analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study from close to 11,000 fifth graders in 2,303 schools in 40 states. The study investigated socio-demographic differences in how availability of soft drinks at elementary schools relates to consumption of soft drinks at school and overall. Fernandes found that limiting availability of soft drinks at school is associated with a 4% decrease in the rate of any consumption overall.

However, the author further reports that when soft drinks are available at school, about one out of four children consume at least one soft drink over the course of a week. For these children, school-based consumption represents about one-half their total consumption. Black non-Hispanic and low-income children tend to consume more. Furthermore, those consuming a high level of soft drinks at school, typically low-income children and children attending rural schools, are more likely to consume a higher level of soft drinks overall.

While these findings suggest that soft drink availability at school may have limited impact on overall consumption for elementary school children, a previous study found that an additional serving of a non-diet soft drink per day can increase body mass index among adolescents. Therefore, even a modest increase in daily soft drink consumption could contribute to the development of obesity over the course of adolescence, especially among vulnerable subgroups. Children in elementary school often have less free time, less pocket money and more teacher oversight regarding when and where they can go during school hours. Older children are more likely to be affected by competitive foods at school.

Writing in the article, Fernandes states, "While competitive food sales restrictions at school are an important step in decreasing the consumption of unhealthy foods, attention should also be granted to other approaches for limiting availability or attenuating the relationship between availability and consumption. Greater reductions in children's consumption of soft drinks will require policy changes that go beyond food availability at school if we aim to significantly reduce children's consumption of soft drinks."

Findings based on this analysis can serve as a benchmark for future evaluations of the effects of school food environment changes on eating behaviors. The author stresses that further research into predictors of consumption, how children respond to reduced availability, as well as food environments at home and at school, may identify next steps towards improving the diet of children.

 

Impact of school-based programs

According to recent evidence school-based intervention programmes provide the best results for reducing prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity if they are performed with involvement of stakeholders and political support. In this context physical activity education in schools, reducing television viewing and nutritional education are examples of interventions that have been successful. Reducing the consumption of sugar-added drinks has significant beneficial effects on weight development.

Introduction of school-based prevention programmes is justified for a number of reasons: First, a large number of children can be monitored because most children attend school and much of their eating and exercise takes place in school. Second, we are able to influence children's behaviour towards the desired aim of healthy living. Third, with intervention in school the peer group itself can be supportive and enhance motivation. Moreover the teachers can function as a role model and guide children's behaviour. The child itself should become part of intervention and motivate family and friends to take part. According to present evidence, all school-based interventions show some effects on either reducing the BMI, the thickness of skin folds or in changing behaviour.

Ulm Research on Metabolism, Exercise and Lifestyle in children (URMEL-ICE) is a one-year school-based programme for the prevention of obesity and cardiovascular risk factors in primary schools. The programme has been established by an interdisciplinary working group at the Ulm University also involving school teachers. The programme focuses on a reduction of TV-time, intensive motivation of physical activity and reduction of energy rich drinks as an integral part of daily education over a period of one school year. The programme has been most effectively applied and shows beneficial effects on the reduction of body fat mass. Children in the intervention group showed a mean relative reduction of body fat mass by 260 g after the one year programme.

With a further improvement in content of school-based programmes via parallel interventions on various levels we hope to reduce the escalation of childhood obesity.

 

Stereotypical image of school bully needs updating, researchers say

The stereotypical image of the school bully needs to be revised, researchers at the Institute of Education, London, have concluded.

 

Less than 1 per cent of primary school children are "true bullies", and most children who bully are themselves bullied by other pupils, the researchers say. Bullies are also more likely than their classmates to suffer from low self-esteem, depression, and behavioural problems from early childhood and through primary school. They are more likely to suffer from mental health problems later in life too.

 

Dr Leslie Gutman, lead author of the new study, believes that schools need to teach that bullying is unacceptable and hold bullies to account for their actions. However, she feels that there should also be greater awareness of the wider possible consequences and causes of bullying behaviour.

 

The study by the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning (WBL) found that 75 per cent of children enjoy healthy friendships. But the one in four who does not may often have suffered from issues such as language delays, conduct problems, and hyperactivity from an early age.

 

The report highlights the value of existing government initiatives, such as peer mentoring, the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning programme, and national strategies for targeting schools with bullying issues. However, Dr Gutman, Research Director at WBL, says: "Early interventions that teach children coping strategies for developmental difficulties such as hyperactivity may also alleviate the later possibility of being targeted as victims and/or engaging in bullying.

 

"We are not suggesting that schools should adopt a soft approach to bullying but simply stating that, on the basis of the evidence, bullying is a more complex issue than some people believe it to be."

 

The researchers used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to study 6,500 pupils aged 8 to 11. They also found that children with happier friendships are more likely to have married parents and more educated mothers. Girls are more likely than boys to have larger numbers of friends, while boys are more likely to be both bullies and victims.

 

Even those who had friendships with which they were happy could have problems: in particular, children who had friendships which were otherwise supportive, but characterised by a high degree of conflict, tended to feel less in control of their lives. The importance of social worlds: an investigation of peer relationships Wider Benefits of Learning Report No 29 can be found at http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResRepIntros/ResRep29intro.htm

 

Interactivity means more activity for students

The British government has invested more money in Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) in its schools than any other government in the world. But is this huge investment worth it? Have the new data projection technologies allowed students to learn more effectively? This is the subject of recent research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

'These IWBs have had a meteoric rise in popularity in schools,' says Sara Hennessy who carried out the project with Rosemary Deaney of Cambridge University. 'But, until recently, assumptions about how they have transformed teaching were not based on hard evidence.'

The system consists of a computer linked to a data projector and a large touch-sensitive board, which displays images, graphics, animations and videos. You can write captions directly onto the board and instantly convert your handwriting to type. You can create suspense by hiding and revealing text and graphics.

They can also be used with a special camera so that pupils can develop their own written ideas and images, and then share them with the class by projecting their work onto the IWB.

'We explored how teachers might use projection technology to give space, time and status to pupils' contributions to lessons. We wanted to look at the ways in which it could be used to challenge and develop pupils' thinking,' Dr Hennessy says. The research also discusses the dangers of technology-driven teaching and warns that time constraints can lead to superficial use of the technology.

In the study, English, history, mathematics and science teachers used interactive whiteboards and data projectors in various ways.

·       Circling and highlighting make complex ideas more concrete and draw attention to particular features

·       Spotlighting, enlarging and zooming can help to investigate detail and keep attention on key concepts

·       Dragging and dropping are used to classify objects.

  • A unique strength of IWB technology is that it allows teachers and students to revisit previous sessions of saved activity, which helps to reignite and build on earlier learning. The researchers also found that using IWBs can:

·       Provide new opportunities for learners to express themselves publicly, receive critical feedback and reformulate their thoughts.

·       Stimulate discussion.

·       Allow teachers to adapt to individual learning needs.

The project has provoked interest from academics, trainees and teacher educators. A series of 5 interactive CD-ROMs have been developed for teachers. These are designed to stimulate debate around key issues rather than offering models of 'best practice' and they are already proving influential in teacher education. The researchers are confident that the project will be welcomed by policymakers seeking a return on investment.

'We have shown that in the right hands the IWB can be a motivating and immensely powerful tool,' says Dr Hennessy. 'It allows teachers and pupils to build and test complex ideas together, and supports active learning in new ways.'

 

Houghton Mifflin Reading

 

The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance within The Institute of Education Sciences has released a new intervention report from the What Works Clearinghouse.  The subject of the report is the "Houghton Mifflin Reading" system, a reading program for instruction in grades K-6 that uses big books (authentic literature), anthologies, read-alouds, and audio compact discs to provide step-by-step instruction in reading.

 

To browse, download and print the report, please visit:

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/reports/beginning_reading/houghton/

 

 

 

 

High School Sports Participation Increases Again; Boys, Girls and Overall Participation Reach All-time Highs

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact: Bruce Howard or John Gillis

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (September 4, 2008) - For the 19th consecutive year, the number of student participants in high school athletics increased in 2007-08, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Based on figures from the 50 state high school athletic/activity associations, plus the District of Columbia, that are members of the NFHS, participation for the 2007-08 school year set an all-time high of 7,429,381, according to the 2007-08 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS. In addition, boys and girls participation figures reached all-time highs, with 3,057,266 girls and 4,372,115 boys participating in 2007-08. The girls figure surpassed the total of 3,021,807 set last year, while the boys figure eclipsed the former record of 4,367,442 set in 1977-78.

Through the survey, it was also determined that 54.8 percent of students enrolled in high schools participate in athletics.

Competitive spirit squads gained the most female participants in 2007-08 with 16,130, followed by soccer with 8,913 and cross country with 6,973.

Lacrosse gained the most participants among boys sports in 2007-08 with 11,336, followed by soccer with 5,562, swimming and diving with 5,158 and cross country with 5,042.

In terms of combined participation, the emerging sports of bowling and lacrosse continued their rise in popularity with significant percentage increases. Overall participation in bowling increased 17 percent, while lacrosse participation was up 14 percent.

Basketball remained the most popular sport for girls with 449,450 participants, followed by outdoor track and field (447,520), volleyball (397,968), fast pitch softball (371,293), soccer (346,545), cross country (190,349), tennis (172,455), swimming and diving (147,197), competitive spirit squads (111,307) and golf (69,243).

In boys sports, 11-player football once again topped the list with 1,108,286 participants, followed by basketball (552,935), outdoor track and field (548,821), baseball (478,029), soccer (383,561), wrestling (259,688), cross country (221,109), golf (159,958), tennis (156,285) and swimming and diving (111,896).

Texas held its title as having the most sports participants with 779,049, followed by California (735,497), New York (380,870), Ohio (346,571), Illinois (336,646), Michigan (315,734), Pennsylvania (286,992), New Jersey (256,837), Minnesota (230,068) and Florida (227,157).

The participation survey has been compiled since 1971 by the NFHS through numbers it receives from its member associations. The complete 2007-08 Participation Survey is available here:

http://www.nfhs.org/core/contentmanager/uploads/2007-08%20Participation%20Survey.pdf

 

 

 

 

Improving Arts Education Is Key to Stemming Audience Decline, RAND Study Finds

Policymakers have underestimated the critical role of arts learning in supporting a vibrant nonprofit cultural sector, according to a RAND Corporation study.

Despite decades of effort to make high-quality works of art available to Americans, demand for the arts has failed to keep pace with supply. Audiences for classical music, jazz, opera, theater and the visual arts have declined as a percentage of the population, and the percentage of these audiences age 30 and younger has fallen even more.

Calling upon evidence that experiencing and studying the arts in childhood increase the likelihood of arts participation later in life, the study urges policymakers in both the arts and education to devote greater attention to cultivating demand for the arts by supporting more and better arts education.

Synthesizing previous studies, researchers find long-term involvement in the arts is most likely to be stimulated by arts education that develops a range of individual capacities:

       - the ability to see, hear and feel what works of art have to offer

       - the ability to create within an art form

       - the historical and cultural knowledge that enriches the understanding of works of art

       - the ability to draw meaning from works of art through reflection and discussion with others.

National and state arts content standards in music, the visual arts, theater and dance embody just such a comprehensive approach to teaching the arts. But the study finds evidence that relatively few American youth are getting this kind of education.

At the public school level, researchers note, arts content standards have been almost universally mandated by the states and are broadening teaching practices, but state, local, and district policies are not providing the resources or time in the school day to implement these standards. In fact, there is evidence that No Child Left Behind has led to reduced class time for both the arts and humanities in the past five years, according to the study.

       Arts organizations and colleges have been helpful in complementing school-based arts education, but it is not enough to fill the void. "In the past couple of decades, these programs have proliferated and improved, but they cannot substitute for strong, sequential arts education in the schools," Zakaras said.

Analyzing grantmaking data, researchers show that state arts agencies, which have historically focused on providing grants to arts organizations, have directed less than 10 percent of their grants over the last 20 years toward activities that target arts learning. In most states, the grants are not part of a comprehensive strategy to promote youth or adult arts learning.

However, some state arts agencies are bucking this trend. Rhode Island and New Jersey, for example, have forged relationships with their state departments of education, other state agencies and members of the arts community to develop a comprehensive statewide plan for improving arts education in the public schools.

In New Jersey, the state's arts agency helped develop a survey of arts education that has raised awareness of the inadequacy of its provision in the schools. Concerned residents are now pushing for the adoption of a number of new policies, including inclusion of per-pupil arts spending in New Jersey's Comparative Spending Guide for public schools. In Rhode Island, the state arts agency was instrumental in successful efforts to adopt a standards-based high school graduation requirement in the arts.

  Based on these findings, the authors recommend that state arts agencies and policymakers gauge how well their states are doing by conducting surveys of arts education; developing specific high school graduation requirements in the arts; recognizing and publicizing arts learning programs considered exceptional by experts in the field; and advocating for changes in state policy that increase the amount and breadth of arts learning opportunities.

  "For policy change to happen at the state level, the entire arts community needs to get behind it. Arts educators can't do it by themselves. But if they were joined by other policymakers, including directors of arts organizations and the civic leaders who sit on their boards, who knows what they might be able to accomplish?" Zakaras said.

 According to the authors, a healthy demand for the arts is critical to a vibrant nonprofit arts sector. Policies that focus on supporting the supply of the arts and broadening access to the arts are not sufficient for building that demand.

  The full report, "Cultivating Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy," and a report summary are available at http://www.rand.org and http://www.wallacefoundation.org

 

Kids Will Eat Fruits and Vegetables at School – with a Little Help

 

Researchers at the University of Maryland have announced initial data that shows school-based intervention efforts help kids buck a national trend by increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables. To the researchers’ knowledge, these results are the first for Maryland, and on the leading edge nationally and internationally.

Dr. Bonnie Braun heads the team, which investigated the effects of school, family and community environments on the food-related behavior of elementary schoolchildren. Braun is an associate professor in Department of Family Science at the university’s School of Public Health and holds an appointment with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension (MCE), part of the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources (AGNR).

The research is part of a series of studies under Project FRESH, a school-based nutrition education program designed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption—especially of products grown by Maryland-producers - among elementary school children. The project is conducted by the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Food Stamp Nutrition Education program, with MCE educators providing the curriculum and teacher education. Funding is provided by AGNR, the Maryland Department of Human Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Fruits and vegetables are a key contributor to children’s health,” says Braun. “Unfortunately, national reports indicate that children’s consumption of these foods normally decreases from kindergarten to fifth grade. Students from low-income families are particularly at risk of inadequate intake.” Many of these children are dependent on food served by the school for one-third to two-thirds of their daily food intake. However, even if schools increase fruits and vegetables on their cafeteria lines, children must be willing to eat them.

That’s why Braun and her team focused their research on schools where 50 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. They investigated the relationship between exposure to fruits and vegetables, taste preference and actual consumption among three groups of fourth-grade students in the Baltimore-Washington Metro area. “Our hypothesis was that school-based interventions, focused on increasing children’s preference for fruits and vegetables, would be associated with an increase in consumption both in school and at home,” says Braun.

The three types of interventions involved teacher training with a tested curriculum and parent events, teacher’s use of the curriculum without events involving parents, and an Extension educator teaching in student classrooms. All three approaches produced similar results, which supported the researchers’ hypothesis. They found that repeated exposure - through taste testing - to fruits and vegetables matters, and that even moderate interventions, focused on repeated tasting, make a difference.

Prior to the interventions, more than nine out of ten students (93 percent) were not eating the recommended five fruits and vegetables a day; seven out of ten (70 percent) ate fewer than three servings of fruits and vegetables daily; and of those, more than half (56 percent) ate fewer than two servings.

After the interventions, six out of ten (60 percent) students increased their taste for fruits and vegetables, and half (50 percent) either maintained their higher-than-average intake or increased intake.

In a complementary effort, Dr. Josué López, MCE urban agriculture educator in Baltimore City, is working with Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and 4-H to conduct education programs related to vegetable gardening for city youth. Some of these programs involve the creation of vegetable gardens and the construction and maintenance of “salad tables” (large table-like containers on which lettuce and other vegetables can be grown) at schools and community centers. The salad table work stemmed from last year’s “Leveraging Extension” mini-grant program. As they cultivate their gardens, youngsters develop an appreciation for produce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Poll on Children’s Health

 

As the new school year begins, many parents with overweight and obese children are worried about how their kids will be treated by other students on the playground and in the classroom.

Bullying is a major concern among parents with overweight and obese children ages 6 to13, and these parents are much more likely than parents with healthy weight children to rate bullying as a top health issue for kids, according to a report released today by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

“We found that parents with overweight or obese children actually view bullying as a greater problem than childhood obesity,” says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children’s Health. “Since bullying is known to be a problem for children with increased weight, bullying prevention programs will need to be mindful of obesity as a potential trigger for bullying behavior, and of parents’ concerns surrounding this issue.”

And parents aren’t taking childhood obesity lightly. The National Poll on Children’s Health recently reported that parents across the country now rank childhood obesity as their No. 1 health concern for kids.

While parents are having discussions with their children about limiting junk food, time spent watching TV and videos, and playing computer games, the latest National Poll on Children’s Health report reveals that only about two-thirds of parents with overweight or obese children actually enforce such limits. Regardless, Davis says talking with your child about making healthier diets and increased physical activity is still a very important first step in setting the stage for a healthier lifestyle.

The National Poll on Children’s Health finds:
• 30 percent of parents with overweight or obese children do not set limits on TV, video games or computer games.
• Parents of overweight or obese children were more likely to rate neightborhood safety and lack of opportunities for physical activity as top health concerns for kids
• 39 percent of families polled include one or more overweight or obese child who is between the ages of 6 and 13.
• 52 percent of families with obese children and 49 percent of families with overweight children include an obese parent. Only 26 percent of families with all healthy weight children report having an obese parent.

In addition to providing insight about health concerns and behaviors reported by parents with obese and overweight children, the National Poll on Children’s Health 
report also offers a closer look at the connection between parents’ weight and their children’s weight.

The poll shows that children who are obese or overweight are almost twice as likely to have an obese parent than heathy weight children.

“In many families, obesity is a two-generation phenomenon among parents and their children. This trend could be the the result of genetics, or behaviors such as eating habits and physical activity that are shared among parents and their children,” says Davis, associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School, and associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

For the complete report and podcast about poll results, visit the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health online at http://www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch.

 

 

 

 

School Vouchers and Student Achievement: Recent Evidence, Remaining Questions. 2008.

 

 

In this article, the authors review the empirical evidence on the impact of education vouchers on student achievement, and briefly discuss the evidence from other forms of school choice. The best research to date finds relatively small achievement gains for students offered education vouchers, most of which are not statistically different from zero. Further, what little evidence exists regarding the potential for public schools to respond to increased competitive pressure generated by vouchers suggests that one should remain wary that large improvements would result from a more comprehensive voucher system. The evidence from other forms of school choice is also consistent with this conclusion.

 

Many questions remain unanswered, however, including whether vouchers have longer-run impacts on outcomes such as graduation rates, college enrollment, or even future wages, and whether vouchers might nevertheless provide a cost neutral alternative to our current system of public education provision at the elementary and secondary school level. 

 

Prepared for publication in Annual Review of Economics , Vol. 1 (2009)

 

Complete report:

http://ncspe.org/publications_files/OP163.pdf

 

 

 

Charter Schools Supported by Public

 

Americans strongly embrace having charter school and other choice options other than their assigned schools, and believe that multiple avenues of delivery are best, according to a compendium of polling released by The Center for Education Reform. The summary of three years of national and state polling demonstrates that support grows with knowledge, and when presented with information in a clear, neutral way about various reform ideas, support is both high and deep.

For example:

·       While most Americans do not know what a charter school is, given a clear definition, 78% of Americans support "allowing communities to create new public schools – called charter schools – that would be held accountable for student results and would be required to meet the same academic standards and testing requirements as other public schools."

·       State by state, the awareness of and support for charter schools is higher in states with stronger charter laws and higher levels of media coverage.

·       Issues such as performance pay, which is growing in support among teachers and will be a major shift in union contracts in cities such as Washington, DC, is favorably viewed by 59% of those surveyed.

·       The conventional notion of zip code based assignment is rejected by a majority of adults. Fully, 69% of Americans surveyed reject requiring children to attend one public school based solely on where they live.

·       Not surprisingly, safety is of utmost concern to Americans, 78% of whom would be very or somewhat likely to remove their child from a school if the child felt unsafe.

An annual poll by the Gallup organization in partnership with a traditional education group and released last week reported much less support among Americans. "Our data, coupled with extensive analysis of polling on education reform over the years, confirm what we know from our day-to-day work in American communities – that the people want immediate opportunities for children that work, regardless of what it is called or if it is outside of what they have grown up to view as traditional public education," said CER president Jeanne Allen.

"The public supports education, and not just through one kind of system," Allen noted. "We are encouraged by increasing attention in the presidential race but are far from saturated with what should be considered the most important global issue of our time."

 

Complete report:

http://edreform.com/_upload/CST_poll2008.pdf