Queue News
Education Research Report
August 2008
No. 46


© 2008 AICE

Parents’ Reports of the School Readiness of Young Children from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2007


Recommendations for Assessing English Language Learners: English Language Proficiency Measures and Accommodation Uses


Reviews of Educational Research


The Reenrollment of High School Dropouts in a Large, Urban School District


The Status of Large-Scale Assessment in the Pacific Region


Fourteen States Plan to Link End-of-Course Exams To High School Graduation by 2015


College Readiness Stable for 2008 U.S. High School Grads Even as Number of Students Taking ACT® Test Climbs to New Heights



UNC study: Two-thirds of severe sports injuries to female students due to cheerleading


Many 'Failing' Schools Aren't Failing When Measured on Impact Rather Than Achievement


America’s Teens Report Technology, Science and Math as Critical to Succeeding in Global Economy


Beginning Reading Program Evaluations


New CRESST Study Reviews States’ ELL Testing: Recommendations Made


Remedial Instruction Rewires Dyslexic Brains, Provides Lasting Results, Carnegie Mellon

Study Shows; Researchers Say Findings Could Usher in New Era of Neuro-Education




Study: Verbal Aggression May Affect Children's Behavior


Lack of time on tummy shown to hinder achievement


Psychologists examine children’s mental time traveling abilities


When it comes to abstinence teens, adults aren't speaking the same language


Statistical Power for Regression Discontinuity Designs in Education Evaluations


Texas tests fitness of 2.6 million students; finds elementary students are in best shape


Confidence in Public Schools and NCLB Declining, Democrats Favored to Fix Nation's Education Problems, Education Next/PEPG National Survey Finds


Focus on the School Calendar: The Four-Day School Week


Parent and Family Involvement in Education, 2006-07 School Year, From the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2007


Urban Schools Expand Pioneering Efforts to Gauge Business Performance




Parents’ Reports of the School Readiness of Young Children from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2007


This descriptive report presents initial findings on the school readiness of young children, as reported by their parents, from the School Readiness Survey (PFI) of the 2007 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES). It also incorporates basic demographic information about the population of children ages 3 to 6 who have not yet entered kindergarten, their parents'/guardians' characteristics, and the characteristics of the households in which they live.


Topics covered include the participation of young children in preschool or other types of center-based care or education arrangements; parental plans for kindergarten enrollment and parents' beliefs about what they think they should do to prepare their children for school; children’s developmental accomplishments and difficulties, including emerging literacy and numeracy skills; family activities with children in and outside of the home; and children’s television-viewing habits.


Full report:






Recommendations for Assessing English Language Learners: English Language Proficiency Measures and Accommodation Uses


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002) has had a great impact on states’ policies in assessing English language learner (ELL) students. The legislation requires states to develop or adopt sound assessments in order to validly measure the ELL students’ English language proficiency, as well as content knowledge and skills. While states have moved rapidly to meet these requirements, they face challenges to validate their current assessment and accountability systems for ELL students, partly due to the lack of resources. Considering the significant role of assessment in guiding decisions about organizations and individuals, validity is a paramount concern. In light of this, we reviewed the current literature and policy regarding ELL assessment in order to inform practitioners of the key issues to consider in their validation process. Drawn from our review of literature and practice, we developed a set of guidelines and recommendations for practitioners to use as a resource to improve their ELL assessment systems. The present report is the last component of the series, providing recommendations for state policy and practice in assessing ELL students. It also discusses areas for future research and development.


Full report:







Reviews of Educational Research


The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance's What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), has released three new quick reviews. These reviews are designed to provide an objective assessment of the quality of research evidence from a research paper, article, or report whose public release is reported in a major national news source. Visit http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/quickreviews/ for more information.


See WWC reviews on the following studies:


*  Promoting Broad and Stable Improvements in Low-Income Children's Numerical Knowledge Through Playing Number Board Games


This study looked at whether playing number board games improved numeric skills of low-income preschoolers. Read the report at




*  The Effect of Performance-Pay in Little Rock, Arkansas on Student Achievement           

This study examined whether the Achievement Challenge Pilot Project, a performance-pay program for teachers, improved the academic achievement of elementary school students. Read the report at




*  Paying for A's: An Early Exploration of Student Reward and Incentive Programs in Charter Schools

This study investigated whether offering student reward and incentive programs in charter schools affects academic achievement. Read the report at



Charter School Performance in Los Angeles Unified School District: A District and Neighborhood Matched Comparison Analysis


This study examined whether Los Angeles charter schools have higher growth in student achievement than traditional public schools. Read the report at



Additional Reviews are here:



They include reviews of:

Board Games and Numeracy Skills Study (August 2008)

Student Incentives in Charter Schools Study (August 2008)

Arkansas Teacher Performance-Pay Study (August 2008)

Abstract Examples in Learning Math Study (July 2008)

Teach For America Study (July 2008)

Sixth Grade in Middle School Study (June 2008)

Texas Advanced Placement Incentive Program Study (June 2008)

After-School Study (May 2008)




The Reenrollment of High School Dropouts in a Large, Urban School District


This study follows a cohort of first-time 9th graders in one large urban school district, the San Bernardino (CA) Unified School District, from 2001/02 to 2005/06 and documents dropout, reenrollment, and graduation rates. For the one-third of dropouts who reenrolled in the district over that period, it reports course credit accrual and graduation outcomes as well as students’ reasons for dropping out, and the challenges districts face with reenrollment.


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







The Status of Large-Scale Assessment in the Pacific Region


This technical brief describes the large-scale assessment measures and practices used in the jurisdictions served by the Pacific Regional Educational Laboratory.  The need for effective large-scale assessment was identified as a major priority for improving student achievement in the Pacific Region jurisdictions:  American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap), the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Republic of Palau.


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


Report on Suspensions Recommends that Schools

Rethink Discipline Practices



A <a href=” http://www.ctkidslink.org/publications/edu08missingout.pdf”> report </a> by <a href=” http://www.ctkidslink.org”> Connecticut Voices for Children </a> a research-based child policy think tank, suggests that out-of-school suspensions may be overused and counterproductive.


The report finds that nearly two-thirds of suspensions were for relatively minor offenses, such as skipping school and showing disrespect.  “Students who voluntarily skip school are being ‘punished’ by being involuntarily excluded from school through a suspension,” said Shelley Geballe, President of Connecticut Voices for Children. “This is counterproductive and compounds the damage to the children’s educational progress.”


Students who are suspended are disproportionately those who need educational opportunities the most.


Students in districts with the lowest socioeconomic indicators were nearly four times as likely to be suspended as students in other school districts. Compared to white students, black students were more than four times as likely, and Hispanic students more than three times as likely, to be suspended. Special education students were more than twice as likely to be suspended than their peers. - more -


The report points to research on school discipline practices which indicates that overreliance on suspensions is not only ineffective, but can be counterproductive in terms of student behavior and educational outcomes.


 In 2007, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a law requiring that suspensions be served in school, rather than out of school, unless the student “poses such a danger to persons or property or such a disruption of the educational process that the student shall be excluded from school.” The law was original scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2008, but implementation was delayed until July 2009.


To move toward more effective disciplinary practices, Connecticut Voices for Children recommends that:


• There should be no further delays in implementation of the new law limiting out-ofschool suspensions.


• Funding should be provided to schools for preventive and alternative discipline programs to reduce the need for suspensions. Preventive discipline measures include programs that focus on positive reinforcement. Alternative punishments that to do not involve excluding children from schools include detentions and restitution (i.e., a student acts to repair the damage the student’s actions have caused through, for example, an apology or community service).


Connecticut Voices for Children (www.ctkidslink.org) is a research-based policy and advocacy organization that works to advance strategic public investment and wise public policies to benefit our state’s children, youth and families.


Full report:






Fourteen States Plan to Link End-of-Course Exams To High School Graduation by 2015


States Credit Greater Accountability and Alignment to Growing Trend;

Lack of Research Exists on Effectiveness


By 2012, 74 percent of the nation’s public school students in 26 states will be required to pass an exit exam to graduate, according to the report. In a shift from recent testing policy, however, more of these students will be required to take end-of-course exams as states move away from comprehensive and minimum competency tests, the report adds.


 The report, State High School Exit Exams: A Move Toward End-of-Course Exams, examines the new developments in the implementation of state high school exit exams in the 26 states that currently implement or plan to implement these tests. The report specifically focuses on the states’ move away from minimum-competency and comprehensive exams toward end-of-course exams.


The states covered are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington


This report found that only one state (Washington) has added a state-mandated exit exam since 2007 and three more states (Arkansas, Maryland, and Oklahoma) will do so by 2012. The impact of exit exams is most striking for students of color. Today, 75 percent of students of color attend public schools in states that require exit exams to graduate; that percentage will rise to 84 percent by 2012.


The report also documents a growing trend by states to move toward end-of-course exams, which usually are standards-based and assess mastery of specific course content. In 2002, only two states used end-of-course exams. That number rose to four states in 2007-08. By 2015, 11 states will rely on end-of-course exams and three more will implement dual testing systems that include end-of-course exams. By contrast, minimum-competency tests, which generally focus on basic skills below the high school level, are becoming less common and will be phased out in all 26 states with exit exams by 2015. The 14 states that will use end-of-course exams by 2015 are: Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.


In surveys and interviews conducted for the report, state education officials reported many reasons for adopting end-of-course exams. Almost all states that have adopted or are moving toward end-of-course exams reported that they are doing so to improve overall accountability, increase academic rigor, and to achieve alignment between state standards and curriculum.


The report notes that major challenges still exist around the adoption and implementation of end-of-course exams, such as managing the tight timelines required to develop multiple exams or figuring out how to get exam results back to school districts quickly. Other challenges reported include addressing concerns about the length and frequency of testing and offering remediation for students who do not pass the exams.


Administrators and officials say that another advantage of end-of-course exams is that they can use the results to make more informed decisions about how to deliver interventions to students and improve professional development for teachers. At the same time, most reported that they do not use the end-of-course exams – or exit exams in general – to ensure college- and work readiness.


Several lessons learned about end-of-course exams are outlined in the report. For example, both state education officials and district administrators stressed the importance of implementing end-of-course exams over time. They also encourage the inclusion of teachers and other stakeholders in the adoption process, starting with solid academic standards, and offering training and professional development to prepare for end-of-course exams.


The report also examined the legal challenges to exit exams in Arizona and California. These types of challenges, among other things, have prompted many states to expand their alternative paths to graduation. All of the 23 states that currently have state-mandated exit exams offer alternative measures for students with disabilities, but only three offer such measures specifically for English language learners. When asked for the percentages of students completing high school using alternative measures, only about half of the states reported they track and collect this data, making it difficult to know how many students are actually affected by alternative measures.


State High School Exit Exams: A Move Toward End-of-Course Exams and individual state profiles are available online at http://www.cep-dc.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=document_ext.showDocumentByID&nodeID=1&DocumentID=244






College Readiness Stable for 2008 U.S. High School Grads Even as Number of Students Taking ACT® Test Climbs to New Heights


College readiness levels remained largely steady among U.S. high school graduates in 2008 even as a rapidly expanding base of students took the ACT® college admission and placement exam.


The percentages of ACT-tested 2008 high school graduates who met or surpassed ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks in math (43%), reading (53%), and science (28%) were unchanged compared to last year and were either the same or higher than they were in 2004 to 2006. The proportion of 2008 graduates who met the benchmark in English (68%) dropped by one percentage point compared to the last two years but was equal to the percentages in 2004 and 2005.


Overall, 22 percent of graduates met or surpassed ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks in all four subject areas, down by one percentage point compared to 2007, but up by one percentage point compared to the three previous years.


The relative stability in college readiness this year occurred as the base of ACT-tested students expanded substantially. The total number of test-takers grew by 9 percent compared to last year, including the addition of thousands of Michigan students—many of whom may not have been planning to attend college—who took the ACT last year as part of the state’s new assessment program for 11th graders.


ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks are scores on the four individual subject tests (English, mathematics, reading, and science) that indicate whether students are ready to succeed (highly likely to earn a “C” or higher) in specific first-year, credit-bearing college courses in those subject areas. These indicators are more informative and important measures of college readiness than average scores because they provide more detailed information.


Pool of Test-Takers Expanding; Increase in Statewide Testing


A record 1.42 million members of the U.S. high school graduating class of 2008 took the ACT. This is a 9 percent increase from last year and a 21 percent increase compared to 2004. These test-takers represent 43 percent of all high school graduates nationally, up from 42 percent in 2007 and 40 percent in 2006. The number of ACT-tested graduates has increased in 11 of the past 12 years, including the last four years in a row.


The 2008 test-takers included nearly all graduates in three states: Colorado, Illinois and—for the first time—Michigan. These states administer the ACT to all 11th graders as part of their statewide assessment programs. Colorado and Illinois began administering the ACT to all public high school juniors in 2001, while Michigan started in the spring of 2007.


Michigan graduates accounted for more than a third of the increase in ACT-tested students this year compared to last. Much of the remaining increase in test-takers came from states along the East and West Coasts, where participation has been surging in recent years. Many of these states—including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, California, and Oregon—saw double-digit percent increases in the number of graduates taking the ACT.


Average ACT Score Down From Last Year, Equal to 2006 Results


The national average ACT composite score for 2008 graduates was 21.1, down from 21.2 last year. When the pool of ACT test-takers expands as it has this year, likely becoming more diverse in terms of academic preparation, it is not unusual for average scores to drop. Nevertheless, the national average score this year was equal to the 2006 average and higher than the 2004 and 2005 averages of 20.9.


Prior to this year, scores had been trending gradually upward over the past several years, with last year’s average score being the highest ever recorded. The test is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score.


The average score on the ACT Mathematics Test this year was unchanged at 21.0. Average scores on the ACT English Test (20.6) and Reading Test (21.4) each dropped by one-tenth of a point from last year, while the average score on the ACT Science Test (20.8) went down by two-tenths of a point.


Test-Taking Pool Will Expand Further Next Year


The pool of ACT-tested students will grow even broader next year, when, for the first time, nearly all graduates in both Kentucky and Wyoming will be included. Both states began administering the ACT to their 11th grade public school students as part of statewide assessment programs this past spring, bringing to five the total number of states providing the ACT to all students. (In Wyoming, students have the option of taking either the ACT or ACT’s WorkKeys® exams, which measure workforce-related skills.)


An increasing number of school districts in other states around the country are also implementing initiatives designed to provide the ACT to all of their 11th graders as a measure of college readiness and as a part of their efforts to increase both college preparation and college-going rates.


ACT’s research shows that students who are ready for college are more likely to stay in school and graduate. When college readiness improves, retention and completion rates increase.


Colorado and Illinois, after beginning statewide ACT testing of 11th graders in 2001, each saw their average state ACT scores drop initially, as did Michigan this year. However, each has seen steady and significant score increases in the subsequent years: Colorado’s average ACT composite score rose from 20.1 in 2002 to 20.5 this year, while Illinois’ average score improved from 20.1 in 2002 to 20.7 this year. Statewide administration of the ACT has contributed to improvements in students’ college preparation and readiness, identification of college-ready students, college enrollment and retention levels, and college graduation rates in both states.


Greater Diversity in Test-Taking Population


As the pool of ACT-tested students has expanded over the past several years, it has also become more diverse and reflective of the U.S. population. African American and Hispanic students now account for 21 percent of the total tested population, up from 18 percent in 2004. The number of 2008 African American test-takers increased by 17 percent compared to last year, while the number of Hispanic test-takers increased by 23 percent. Caucasian students, who represented 67 percent of the testing pool in 2004, now make up 63 percent of the total.


The average ACT composite score for Hispanic students remained stable this year at 18.7, despite the rising number of test-takers. The average score for African American students dropped one-tenth of a point, from 17.0 in 2007 to 16.9 this year.


Among other ethnic/racial groups, Asian American students again earned the highest average composite score at 22.9 (up 0.3 point from 2007), followed by Caucasian students at 22.1 (unchanged) and American Indian/Alaska Native students at 19.0 (up 0.1 point).


Course-Taking Key to Preparation for Success


ACT score results again demonstrate the importance of taking challenging courses in preparation for success after high school. ACT-tested graduates who took the recommended core college-preparatory curriculum in high school—four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies—were substantially more likely to be ready for college-level coursework than those who took less than the core curriculum.


For example, 50 percent of graduates who took the core curriculum met or surpassed ACT’s College Readiness Benchmark in math, compared to only 29 percent of those who took less than the core. And nearly twice as many “core” students as “non-core” students (27% to 14%, respectively) met all four College Readiness Benchmarks.


Although the benefits of taking the recommended core curriculum are well researched and documented, three in ten ACT-tested graduates still reported taking less than this core curriculum in high school.


At the same time, the data show that taking the core curriculum, in and of itself, is no guarantee of college readiness. Of the 2008 graduates who took the minimum core curriculum in English, for example, only two-thirds (68%) met ACT’s College Readiness Benchmark in English. And only 14 percent of grads who took the minimum core coursework in math—Algebra I & II and geometry—met the math benchmark.






UNC study: Two-thirds of severe sports injuries to female students due to cheerleading


A new report on severe sporting injuries among high school and college athletes shows cheerleading appears to account for a larger proportion of all such injuries than previously thought.

The latest annual report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research shows high school cheerleading accounted for 65.1 percent of all catastrophic sports injuries among high school females over the past 25 years.

Previously, the figure was believed to be 55 percent, but new data included in this year's survey indicates that the true number of cheerleading injuries appears to be higher.

The story is the same for college participants as well. At that level, the new data shows cheerleading accounted for 66.7 percent of all female sports catastrophic injuries, compared to past estimates of 59.4 percent.

The difference is due to a new partnership between the UNC center and the National Cheer Safety Foundation, a California-based not-for-profit body created to promote safety in the sport and collect data on injuries, which provided the center with previously unreported data. The addition of new information compiled by the foundation saw the inclusion of an additional 30 injury records from high schoolers and college students. Beforehand, the number of direct catastrophic injuries in all sports totaled 112.

The center's director, Frederick O. Mueller, Ph.D., professor of exercise and sports science in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences, who has authored the report since it was first published in 1982, said catastrophic injuries to female athletes have increased over the years.

"A major factor in this increase has been the change in cheerleading activity, which now involves gymnastic-type stunts," Mueller said. "If these cheerleading activities are not taught by a competent coach and keep increasing in difficulty, catastrophic injuries will continue to be a part of cheerleading."

Between 1982 and 2007, there were 103 fatal, disabling or serious injuries recorded among female high school athletes, with the vast majority (67) occurring in cheerleading. No other sports registered double-figure tallies; gymnastics (9) and track (7) had the 2nd and 3rd highest totals, respectively.

Among college athletes, there have been 39 such injuries: 26 in cheerleading, followed by three in field hockey and two each in lacrosse and gymnastics.

In 2007, two catastrophic injuries to female high school cheerleaders were reported, down from 10 in the previous season, and the lowest number since 2001. However, there were three catastrophic injuries to college-level participants, up from one in 2006.

Mueller said catastrophic sporting injuries may never be totally eliminated, but collecting and constantly analyzing reliable injury data can help reduce them dramatically.

According to the report, almost 95,200 female students take part in high school cheerleading annually, along with about 2,150 males. College participation numbers are hard to find since cheerleading is not an NCAA sport. The report also notes that according to the NCAA Insurance program, 25 percent of money spent on student athlete injuries in 2005 resulted from cheerleading.

The report is available online at: http://www.unc.edu/depts/nccsi/AllSport.htm.



Many 'Failing' Schools Aren't Failing When Measured on Impact Rather Than Achievement


      Up to three-quarters of U.S. schools deemed failing based on achievement test scores would receive passing grades if evaluated using a less biased measure, a new study suggests.

       Ohio State University researchers developed a new method of measuring school quality based on schools' actual impact on learning - how much faster students learned during the academic year than during summer vacation when they weren't in class.

       Using this impact measure, about three-quarters of the schools now rated as "failing" because of low test scores no longer would be considered substandard.

       That means that in these schools mislabeled as failing, students may have low achievement scores, but they are learning at a reasonable rate and they are learning substantially faster during the school year than they are during summer vacation.

       "Our impact measure more accurately gauges what is going on in the classroom, which is the way schools really should be evaluated if we're trying to determine their effectiveness," said Douglas Downey, co-author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

       Downey conducted the study with Paul von Hippel, a research statistician, and Melanie Hughes, a doctoral student, both in sociology at Ohio State. Their findings appear in the current issue of the journal Sociology of Education.

       Currently, most people believe that it is obvious which schools are the best - the ones with the highest achievement scores. But using achievement scores to measure school quality assumes that all schools have students with equivalent backgrounds and opportunities that will give them equal opportunities to succeed in school. And that's obviously not true, von Hippel said.

       Students from disadvantaged backgrounds often face a variety of problems at home; for example, their parents often talk and read to them less, and they are less likely to get eyeglasses for nearsightedness. The result is that they are already behind other children before they even begin school.

       "The way most states rank schools is extremely distorted," von Hippel said. "We can't evaluate schools assuming that they all serve similar kinds of children."

       The results suggest that states may have to reconsider how they evaluate schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which emphasizes holding schools accountable for student achievement.

       The study used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a national survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. The analysis focused on 4,217 children in 287 schools.

       The survey measured children's math and reading scores on four occasions: the beginning and end of their kindergarten year, and the beginning and end of first grade.

       By comparing test scores at the end of kindergarten and the beginning of first grade, the researchers could measure learning rates during summer vacation.

       Comparing test scores from the beginning and end of first grade allowed the researchers to see how much children learn during the school year.

       They then were able to calculate how much faster students learned during the first-grade school year compared to when they were on summer vacation. This was the "impact" score that showed how much schools were actually helping students learn.

       "If we evaluate schools that way, things change quite a bit as far as which ones we would identify as failing," Downey said.

       If failing schools are defined as those in the bottom 20 percent of achievement scores, about three-quarters of these schools are no longer failing when ranked on the impact measure.

       "It suggests that many schools serving disadvantaged kids are doing a good job with children who face a lot of challenges," Downey said. It also means that many teachers in these schools should be lauded for the impact they are having - and not criticized because their students are not passing the achievement tests.

       The study also found that about 17 percent of schools that are not failing when rated by achievement test scores turn out to be failing when ranked on impact.

       "These schools may be serving children from advantaged backgrounds who do well on achievement tests, but the learning rate for their students isn't dramatically faster when they are in school versus when they are not. In other words, these schools are not having much positive impact," according to Downey.

       The bottom line is that, under the current system, "we are not pressuring the schools that need to be pressured," Downey said.

       Another way to measure school effectiveness is what has been called the learning approach - simply measuring how much students learn in a year, rather than where they end up on an achievement scale. However, a major limitation to this approach is that the amount learned in a year is still not entirely under schools' control, von Hippel said.

       Students spend three months of the year on summer vacation. Even if you look at only the academic year, children spend most of their time in the home environment outside of school.

       The advantage of the impact model is that it measures the different rates of learning between summer and the academic year, giving a more accurate picture of the role of schools, according to the researchers.

       The profile of failing schools changes substantially when you use the impact measure rather than achievement scores, von Hippel noted.

       Based on achievement scores, failing schools tend to be in urban areas, serve a higher percentage of children who qualify for a free lunch, and have a high minority population.

       But if you look at impact scores, failing schools are not as concentrated in poor, urban areas with high minority populations.

       "When you shift the focus from achievement to impact, there are still schools that do very well and some that do poorly," von Hippel said. "But they are not necessarily where you think they are. There are high-impact schools in every kind of neighborhood, serving every kind of child. The same is true of low-impact schools."

       Von Hippel says the results of this study also suggest new ways to elevate achievement in students.

       "If there's a school that rates high in educational impact but low on achievement, maybe the school should have a summer program with those same teachers who are having such a positive impact," von Hippel said. "That's certainly more appropriate than saying something must be wrong with this school because of the low achievement scores."

       Downey said it is possible to use the impact model to evaluate schools without increasing the number of tests students have to take and schools have to administer.

       Right now, schools test students six times - once each year between 3rd grade and 8th grade.

       "Rather than use those six tests for low quality information, let's redistribute them differently to get quality information about the schools," he said.

       Tests could be given at the end of 3rd grade, the beginning of 4th grade and the end of 4th grade. That way student learning rates could be compared in the summer after third grade with the 4th grade school year. Another set of three tests could be given at the end of 7th grade, and the beginning and end of 8th grade.

       "We would have the same number of tests, but information that is substantially more useful," he said.




America’s Teens Report Technology, Science and Math as Critical to Succeeding in Global Economy


10th State of Our Nation’s Youth Report Provides Latest Views of Nation’s Teens


The 10th State of Our Nation’s Youth report was issued by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. The report compiles the results of the national survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. The 2008-2009 report is a comprehensive study of American high school students’ opinions, apprehensions and aspirations. Highlights from this year’s survey include:

·   Pressure on Students – Of all pressures that teens face, the need to get good grades (38%) tops all others. Students also report spending more time on their homework than in past years—to achieve the same grades. One in five (21%) students dedicates more than 10 hours each week to homework compared to 2005, when only 12% of students reported spending as much time on their homework.

·   Parents – Teens are continuing to benefit from the positive influence of family role models with 57% of teens naming a family member as their role model. Three-quarters of teenagers say that their parents would be more proud of them for receiving straight A’s on their report cards than for receiving an athletic (5%) or community service (18%) award.

·   Gap Year – Of college-bound students, 18% plan on taking time off, known as “a gap year,” before starting college. Seven out of 10 students affirm that they plan on attending a four-year college or university, and only 4% of students have no plans for continuing their education.

·   Careers – When asked directly about several possible career tracks, half (49%) of students say they have thought about becoming a teacher, 42% have thought of joining the military, 33% have thought about serving in the government and 20% have thought about running for public office.

·   Religion – Religion has a positive influence on some students’ lives. Just over half (53%) of American teens consider themselves religious. Religion is most likely to have an impact in the South, where 62% of teenagers consider themselves religious, than in the Midwest (53%), West (50%), or Northeast (44%). African-American students (62%) are more likely to say they are religious than Caucasian (53%) and Hispanic (49%) students.

·   Cyber Bullying – Of the 14.9 million American high school students, 2.4 million (16%) reported that they have been a victim of cyber bullying. A remarkable portion of teens, almost one-third (30%), view online bullying as a greater threat then traditional bullying in schools.

·   Internet – Students are using the Internet more for entertainment and social networking than for help with homework. Today’s teenagers spend an average of 11 hours a week using the Internet, 4.5 of which are spent getting online help with homework. One in three (33%) students cites the Internet as a primary news source. One in five (20%) students uses news websites and 13% use online blogs.

·   Presidential Election – 75% of teens say the election outcome will make a substantial difference in the direction of the country. Students’ biggest concerns are the economy and jobs (34%), and the war in Iraq (31%).

·   Global Warming – 72% of teens believe global warming is an urgent or serious problem. Caring about the environment is important to them, however the majority (58%) of teens do not consider themselves “environmentalists.”

·   Education in the Global Economy – To prepare themselves for the global economy, one in three teens say the most important school subjects are science and technology, and 38% wish their schools had more up-to-date technology.

·   Immigration – Teens are divided on immigration in the U.S., with 49% saying that it is more of a positive force then negative, while 40% have the opposite view. Teens’ opinions on immigration are in disagreement with their parents’ opinions, with only 39% of adults in another recent survey seeing immigration as a positive force.

The telephone survey included 1,006 students in grades nine through 12 and between ages 13 and 19. The sample of high school students was based on a compiled list provided by American Student List, the well-respected national list management firm, which specializes in maintaining lists of K-12 students. The survey sample closely matches U.S. Government (Census and Department of Education) statistics for age, area, race, and gender. The margin of error is ± 3.1 percentage points.

Full report:





Beginning Reading Program Evaluations


The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance within the Institute of Education Sciences has released two new intervention reports in the area of beginning reading, the first intervention report looks at "Reading Mastery" a full-year curriculum designed to provide explicit, systematic instruction in English language reading. The program teaches phonemic awareness, sound-letter correspondence, word and passage reading, vocabulary development, comprehension, and oral reading fluency. Read the WWC's "Reading Mastery" intervention report at



The second intervention report focuses on "Open Court Reading" an elementary basal reading program for grades K-6. The program is designed to follow a logical progression, systematically and explicitly teaching decoding, comprehension, inquiry, investigation, and writing. The WWC's "Open Court Reading" intervention report is available at






New CRESST Study Reviews States’ ELL Testing: Recommendations Made


Although states have made improvements to their English Language Learners (ELL) testing programs under NCLB, their policies and procedures still vary substantially across states, according to a new report from the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at UCLA.

“We found that state ELL testing and accommodations guidance for districts and schools was often unclear,” said CRESST senior researcher Mikyung Kim Wolf, who led the recent study, Recommendations for Assessing English Language Learners. “Ten states didn’t even have ELL testing and accommodation guidance posted on their state web site,” explained Wolf.

 The findings were based on a detailed review of all 50 state departments of educations’ web sites plus the web sites of 4 test development groups and various test development companies. States had the opportunity to review the findings, with 37 of the states providing feedback to confirm the results.

The researchers found that states were using a broad mix of different tests to measure English language proficiency (ELP), creating a complex national testing picture. States with large ELL populations such as California, New Mexico, Texas and New York tended to develop their own ELP tests, none of which was comparable to the other.

The wide variety of English language proficiency tests creates a very complex national ELP assessment environment, say CRESST researchers.

Mismatches in ELP Standards and Tests

The study results come amidst a substantial increase in ELL students, more than 60% since 1995, plus ELL achievement gaps of 20% or more on state tests. The authors credit states for making major strides since NLCB mandated testing for virtually all ELL students, but say that much work remains. The researchers also found mismatches in achievement levels between state ELP standards and its tests. For example, one state’s ELP standards had 3 achievement levels: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. But their ELP tests had 5 levels using mostly different terms: basic beginner, beginner, low intermediate, high intermediate, and advanced. The CRESST researchers found many differences in the number of achievement levels between states, with some states using as few as 3 levels and others using as many as 6.

State achievement levels for ELP standards often differ substantially to the achievement levels for ELP tests.

Variable Accommodations Practices

The CRESST team also found that test accommodations, such as allowing ELL students to use a bilingual dictionary or having test directions read aloud to them, were sometimes unclear and often differed between states. Furthermore, a substantial number of states provided so much flexibility to school districts, that schools in the same state could easily have different accommodations policies, resulting in major accuracy issues.

Number of States

Accommodations policies differ substantially between states, according to the CRESST study. For example, whereas most states (43) allow bilingual dictionaries, far fewer (18) provide simplified directions. “Most states do not have methods in place to monitor accommodations policies at school district or school levels,” said Wolf. “Does flexible test scheduling, for example, at School A, look the same as flexible test scheduling at School B, C, or D?” Wolf explained that some states have excellent accommodations guidelines on their state web sites. Alabama, for example, provides districts and schools with an ELL accommodations checklist covering scheduling, settings, administration, format, and equipment accommodations. “The challenges in meeting NCLB assessment requirements are enormous,” said CRESST director and report co-author Joan Herman. “Because ELL students are among the lowest performing groups on nearly all tests,” says Herman, “we’ve got to make improvements.” The CRESST report makes a number of recommendations, including improved state ELP testing and accommodations guidelines plus increased public information.

Full report:



Remedial Instruction Rewires Dyslexic Brains, Provides Lasting Results, Carnegie Mellon Study Shows; Researchers Say Findings Could Usher in New Era of Neuro-Education


      A new Carnegie Mellon University brain imaging study of dyslexic students and other poor readers shows that the brain can permanently rewire itself and overcome reading deficits, if students are given 100 hours of intensive remedial instruction.

       The study, published in the August issue of the journal Neuropsychologia, shows that the remedial instruction resulted in an increase in brain activity in several cortical regions associated with reading, and that neural gains became further solidified during the year following instruction.

       "This study demonstrates how remedial instruction can use the plasticity of the human brain to gain an educational improvement," said neuroscientist Marcel Just, director of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI) and senior author of the study. "Focused instruction can help underperforming brain areas to increase their proficiency."

       Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists investigated the changes in a number of cortical regions located in the parietotemporal area, which is responsible for decoding the sounds of written language and assembling them into words and phrases that make up a sentence.

       CCBI research fellows Ann Meyler and Tim Keller measured brain activity patterns by examining blood flow to all of the different parts of the brain while children were reading. Those measurements showed that prior to the remediation, the parietotemporal areas were significantly less activated among the poor readers than in the control group.

       The new findings showed that many of the poor readers' brain areas activated at near-normal levels immediately after remediation, with only a few areas still underactive. However, at the one year follow-up scan, the activation differences between good and poor readers had nearly vanished, suggesting that the neural gains were strengthened over time, probably just due to engagement in reading activities.

       These findings that point to the parietotemporal region's role in reading contradict a common perception that dyslexia is primarily caused by difficulties in the visual perception of letters, leading to confusions between letters like "p" and "d."

       Visual difficulties are only at fault in about 10 percent of dyslexia cases. The most common cause, accounting for more than 70 percent of dyslexia, is a difficulty in relating the visual form of a letter to its sound, which is not a straightforward process in the English language. The same parietotemporal areas of the brain that showed increased activity following instruction are centrally involved in this sound-based processing.

       The poor readers, 25 fifth-graders from Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities, worked in groups of three for an hour a day with a teacher specialized in administering a remedial reading program. The training included both word decoding exercises in which students were asked to recognize the word in its written form and tasks in using reading comprehension strategies.

       This brain imaging study was also the first in which children were tested on their understanding of sentences, not just on their recognition of single words. The sentences were relatively straightforward ones, which the children judged as being sensible or nonsense, such as "The girl closed the gate" and "The man fed the dress." The children's accurate sensibility judgments ensured that they were actually processing the meaning of the sentences, and not just recognizing the individual words.

       The research's implications may reach far beyond improving literacy skills. Just noted that the brain's capacity to adapt as the result of targeted instruction has the potential to influence the remedial learning process in other subject areas, as well.

       "Any kind of education is a matter of training the brain. When poor readers are learning to read, a particular brain area is not performing as well as it might, and remedial instruction helps to shape that area up," he said. "This finding shows that poor readers can be helped to develop buff brains. A similar approach should apply to other skills."

       Additionally, the concrete evidence of improvement demonstrated in this study may be valuable in evaluating the effectiveness of a teaching approach or curriculum, or could even be used to shape education policy. "We are at the beginning of a new era of neuro-education," Just said.


Wide variety of related articles available here:






Emerging Common Core in State English and Mathematics Standards Reflects Universal Demands of College and Workplace


A new report released by Achieve shows that individual state efforts to set college- and career-ready standards for high school graduates have actually led to a remarkable degree of consistency in English and mathematics requirements. This “common core” is detailed in "Out of Many, One: Toward Rigorous Common Core Standards from the Ground Up."


The report tracks the voluntary standard-setting efforts in 16 early-adopter states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas. Together, these states educate 38 percent of U.S. public school students. All of the states discussed in the report are members of Achieve's American Diploma Project (ADP) Network.


Specifically, the report found that across the board:

·   States increased the rigor of their English and mathematics standards;

·   State standards have a clear, well-defined common core in English and mathematics; and

·   The common core was a byproduct of aligning standards to real-world demands.


“The common core that emerged from this work is no surprise. All graduates must have core knowledge and that core is not bound by state lines,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is vice chair of the Achieve Board. “Setting standards is not a one-time-only exercise, and we need to make sure our state standards are not only the best in the nation, but the best in the world.”


Governor Phil Bredesen of one of the early-adopter states discussed in the report, Tennessee, explained the importance of adopting college- and career-ready standards to his state. “Not only did this effort help us to raise the bar and increase the rigor of our English and math coursework in Tennessee, it spurred other key education reforms that will help guarantee our students better lives and ultimately enhance the future competitiveness of our state and nation.”


The leadership role that the report shows states have displayed in setting common English and math standards has implications for the role of the federal government in education policymaking and has the potential to change the way education issues are viewed at the state and national levels.


Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, stated, “As this report shows, a state-led effort is the fastest, most effective way to ensure that more students graduate from high school ready for college and career, a universally accepted goal.”



For a copy of the report:






Study: Verbal Aggression May Affect Children's Behavior


    The methods mothers use to control their children during playtime and other daily activities could have a negative impact on their child's self-esteem and behavior, according to a new Purdue University study.

       "It's hard to tell parents how to interact with their children based on one study, but what we see here is that parents who have a propensity for being verbally aggressive have a tendency to try to direct and control their children during a play period," said Steven R. Wilson, a professor of communication who specializes in family issues. "As a result, these children were less cooperative, and not only are parents setting up situations that are challenging for them to handle, but they also are subtly undermining their child's self-esteem."

       Wilson and Felicia Roberts, an associate professor of communication, are lead authors of a study that appears in the July issue of Human Communication Research journal. The researchers videotaped 40 mothers as they played with one of their children, ages 3-8, during a 10- minute, unstructured play period. The mothers also completed a series of questionnaires to assess their general tendency to be verbally aggressive toward others. For example, someone who is verbally aggressive is likely to insult others as a way to motivate them to comply or behave.

       The researchers found that mothers who were high in the general tendency to be verbally aggressive often tried to take control of the play period. For example, the four mothers with the highest verbal aggression scores on average were attempting to direct their child's actions once every 12 seconds, while the four mothers with the lowest verbal aggression scores tried to do so only about half as often. In addition to verbally aggressive mothers telling a child to play with a different toy or to stop playing, they also used negative body language, such as restraining a child by the wrist or shoulder, to reinforce their commands.

       "Of course all parents direct their children, and people in general are always directing others to close a door or hand them something," said Roberts, who has a background in linguistics and is a conversational analyst. "It's something we do all the time. But there is a qualitative difference in the kinds of directing going on by these verbally aggressive mothers. By looking at how and when directives occurred, not just how often, we found that moms who scored highest on verbal aggression used directives to control the child and, ultimately, the way the game or activity was played. The aggressive action is not overt, as in a parent hitting or yelling, but these small negative maneuvers can say so much to a child."

       Parents interested in learning more about how to improve communication with their children should contact a pediatrician or seek out community family and social service programs, Wilson said.

       "We all say things to our children that we regret saying, but saying a lot of things that attack a child's self-confidence is not healthy," Wilson said. "These parents were in an unstructured, low- stress environment, and if we saw this behavior in such a brief setting, how could such negative interactions, even so subtle, affect a child over the long-term? For example, if the parents always have to control what activity they and their children are going to play - as well as for how long and how they are going to play it - you wonder if this communicates to the child that what they want to do doesn't matter."

       The researchers will be looking at how praise plays a role in these types of parent-child interactions.


Eating a Healthy Breakfast and a Nutritious Lunch Can Help a Child be His Or Her Best Academically

While parents are preparing to send their child back to school, they need to remember that nutrition plays a huge role in their child’s academic success. Mary Pat Alfaro, MS, RD, LD, education coordinator in Nutrition Therapy at Cincinnati Children’s, explains multiple studies have shown that poor nutrition adversely effects school performance and overall achievement. Improving health and nutrition in undernourished children is correlated with less absenteeism, more grades completed and better performance on tests. Good nutrition also improves mental and behavioral performance. Eating well everyday is good insurance for parents that children arrive to school ready to learn.

An article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2005 compiled the results of many studies about the benefits of breakfast. Many children of all ages skip breakfast. Children who regularly eat breakfast tend to have a more balanced diet overall than those who skip breakfast. Evidence from the report suggests that eating breakfast may improve cognitive function related to memory, test grades, and school attendance. Breakfast in combination with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle can make a positive difference in a child’s health and well-being. Parents should provide breakfast for their children or enroll them in the school breakfast program if eligible and available.

“So as we can see from this article, the evidence for providing healthy foods for children can contribute to a better school year academically, physically and socially,” says Alfaro

Alfaro says a healthy breakfast consists of a variety of foods, especially high-fiber and nutrient-rich whole grains, fruits, and dairy products. Such breakfast examples include:

• Fiber rich and whole-grain cereals with low fat milk
• Yogurt and berries
• Toast, eggs and 100% fruit juice
• Whole wheat bagels and cream cheese with low fat milk


Meanwhile,  a new study published in Pediatrics, August 2008, suggests adolescents and young adults may be less attentive in school when they skip breakfast. Moreover, the effect of missing this meal is different in boys and girls, the researchers found.





Lack of time on tummy shown to hinder achievement


The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging parents and caregivers to ensure that babies get enough "tummy time" throughout the day while they are awake and supervised, in light of a recent survey of therapists who say they've noticed an increase in motor delays in infants who spend too much time on their backs while awake.

In the national survey of 400 pediatric physical and occupational therapists, conducted on behalf of Pathways Awareness, a non-profit group dedicated to early detection of motor delays in children, two-thirds of those surveyed say they've seen an increase in early motor delays in infants over the past six years. The survey was conducted with the assistance of APTA's Section on Pediatrics and the Neuro-Development Treatment Association (NDTA).

Those physical therapists who saw an increase in motor delays said that the lack of "tummy time," or the amount of time infants spend lying on their stomachs while awake, is the number one contributor to the escalation in cases.

APTA spokesperson Judy Towne Jennings, PT, MA, a physical therapist and researcher from Fairfield, Ohio, said, "We have seen first-hand what the lack of tummy time can mean for a baby: developmental, cognitive, and organizational skills delays, eye-tracking problems, and behavioral issues, to name just some complications." She added, "New parents are told of the importance of babies sleeping on their backs to avoid SIDS, but they are not always informed about the importance of tummy time."

Jennings explains that because new parents now use car seats that also serve as infant carriers – many of which fasten directly into strollers and swings without having to remove the baby from the seat -- this generation of babies spends prolonged periods of time in one position. She recommends that awake babies be placed in a variety of positions, including on their tummies, as soon as they return home from the hospital. "Ideally, babies should be placed on their tummies after every nap, diaper change and feeding, starting with 1-2 minutes," she said. Jennings is co-author of the research, "Conveying the Message about Optimal Infant Positions," Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, Volume 25, Number 3, 2005.

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics launched its successful "Back to Sleep" campaign, which helped reduce the number of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) cases by educating parents on the importance of putting infants to sleep on their backs, rather than on their stomachs. While putting infants to sleep on their backs is still vitally important in reducing infant deaths, according to APTA, many physical therapists believe that there should be more education to parents on the importance of "tummy time" while babies are awake and supervised.

APTA spokesperson Colleen Coulter-O'Berry, PT, MS, PCS, a physical therapist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said flattening of the baby's skull is another side effect of too much time spent on the back. "Since the early 1990s, we have seen a significant decrease in SIDS cases, while simultaneously witnessing an alarming increase in skull deformation," she said. Coulter-O'Berry cites a recent study published in Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal 45(2): 208-16, in which it was reported that several risk factors for misshapen heads were more common among babies born after the "Back to Sleep" initiative. The study, which took place at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, found that prior to 1992, the prevalence of misshapen heads among infants was reportedly 5 percent. In recent years, craniofacial centers and primary care providers reported a dramatic increase of up to 600 percent in referrals for misshapen heads.

She also points out that the combination of babies sleeping on their backs, as well as spending an inordinate amount of time in infant carriers that double as car seats, puts pressure on the head which can create a flattening of the skull. In extreme cases, babies are fitted with a custom-molded band that gently guides the baby's head into a more normal shape.

According to Coulter-O'Berry, parents can increase tummy time by incorporating exercises into routine activities such as carrying, diapering, feeding, and playing with baby. "Increasing the amount of time your baby lies on his or her tummy promotes muscle development in the neck and shoulders; helps prevent tight neck muscles and the development of flat areas on the back of the baby's head; and helps build the muscles baby needs to roll, sit and crawl," she said. Coulter-O'Berry is co-author of Tummy Time Tools, an informative brochure that provides caregivers ideas and activities to ensure that babies get enough tummy time throughout the day. The brochure is now offered on the APTA Web site, www.apta.org/consumers.

Karen Karmel-Ross, PT, PCS, LMT, pediatric clinical specialist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio and national lecturer on muscular torticollis (neck muscle imbalance), says that one way to engage in tummy time is to spend time during each diaper change encouraging the infant to find, focus and follow the caregiver's face or a toy with their eyes looking up, down, left and right. "It's important to get our infants out of devices that constrain mobility and onto their tummies so they can focus on neck muscle balance as they interact with their caregivers," she said.





Psychologists examine children’s mental time traveling abilities


Planning and anticipating occur so frequently in our everyday lives that it is hard to imagine a time when we didn’t have this capability. But just as many other capacities develop, so does this mental time traveling ability. Researchers have recently explored how children comprehend the future and ways that this understanding can be affected by, for example, their current physiological state.

In one particular study, psychologists Cristina Atance from the University of Ottawa and colleague Andrew Meltzoff from the Univeristy of Washington tested children ages three, four and five to determine the precise age that they develop the ability to plan for the future. Atance presented preschoolers with a pretend situation in the future, such as going to the mountains, and then asked them to choose from three items to take along. In the mountain scenario, the three items included a lunch, which would prepare for the possibility of hunger, and two unrelated items, such as a comb and a bowl. Results showed that four- and five-year-olds were more likely to select the correct response for future planning, such as the lunch, than the three-year-olds.

Other findings, which appear in the August 2008 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science, indicated that children found it difficult to imagine their future selves in a particular situation if they were preoccupied with their current state.

To show this, Atance and Meltzoff presented one group of preschoolers with pretzels, which would cause them to become thirsty, and did not present a second group with anything; both groups later were offered either pretzels or water. The first group of children, who already had eaten pretzels, tended to choose water while the other group selected pretzels. More importantly, two other groups of children--one who had eaten pretzels and one who had not--were asked to choose whether they would prefer pretzels or water for “tomorrow.” The psychologists found that the children who ate pretzels to the point of thirst tended to think of the pretzels as undesirable for the next day, whereas the other group did not.

These findings and others can shed light on the childhood development of this mental time-traveling ability and encourage understanding of it in various settings. As Atance said, “This research can benefit parents, teachers and other individuals working with children as it can allow them to set realistic expectations for, and better interpret, children’s everyday behavior.”




When it comes to abstinence teens, adults aren't speaking the same language


Abstinence can mean different things to adolescents than to adults. That's one reason why abstinence-only programs do not have strong effects in preventing teenage sexual activity, according to new University of Washington research.

"Interventions that have been created to encourage abstinence have treated abstinence and sexual activity as opposites. However, teenagers say they don't think of them as opposites," said Tatiana Masters, lead author of a new study and UW doctoral student in social work. "These interventions are less likely to work than more comprehensive sex-education programs because they are not meeting adolescents where they are, and they are speaking a different language."

The study showed that attitudes and intentions about sex were more powerful than attitudes and intentions about being abstinent.

"This paper demonstrates that increasing abstinence intention does not lead to less sex. In fact, when abstinence intention and sex intention interact with each other a teenager is more likely to have sex," said Masters.

Rather than being an either or choice, she said, a teenager's decision to become sexually active can be likened to getting on an escalator. At first, adolescents don't think about sex very much. Once they step on the escalator the first step is abstinence. Then as they begin to be aware of sex, there are other steps and choices to be made that eventually lead to having intercourse.

The study involved 365 adolescents – 230 girls and 135 boys – recruited from community centers, youth programs and after-school programs for a larger research project testing an intervention to reduce HIV risk behavior among young teenagers in Seattle.

The participants filled out questionnaires before starting the larger HIV intervention, eight weeks later when the intervention was completed, and then six and 12 months later. The questionnaires assessed the adolescents' attitudes and intentions about being abstinent and having sex and also asked about their sexual activity in the previous six months.

At the start of the study, 11 percent of the boys and 4 percent of the girls had had sexual intercourse. Those numbers increased to 12 percent of the boys and 8 percent of the girls six months later and 22 percent of the boys and 12 percent of the girls one year later.

Currently there is no federal funding for any comprehensive sex-education program in the country, but funding for abstinence-only programs has mushroomed, increasing from $9 million in1997 to $176 million in 2007.

In the paper, however, the researchers conclude that "our findings raise serious concerns about the abstinence-only approach as a risk-reduction method for adolescent sexual behavior."

Masters added: "The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate among developing nations, and rates of sexually transmitted diseases in this country are high. The risks are real, and if people want to keep teens safe from the negative outcomes of sex, abstinence-only programs are not the way to go. More comprehensive programs that include abstinence as one choice are much more likely to have the outcomes we want – that teenagers eventually will be in a positive and fulfilling sexual relationship."

She said the study was not an evaluation of abstinence-only programs, noting that others studies have shown they don't have an effect on delaying sexual activity. Part of the problem is the way abstinence is taught.

"Abstinence-only programs often only look at the negatives of sex, not the positive. This is especially important for young women who need to have control over having sex and having safe sex," Masters said. "With these programs you often hear 'sex just happens' and adolescents are having less safe sex. This detracts from adolescents having a choice, and this leads to more dangerous sex with more sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies."


Teacher-Student Relationship Key to Learning Health, Sex Education


When it comes to learning life-changing behaviors in high school health classes, the identity of the person teaching may be even more important than the curriculum, a new study suggests.

For years, many high schools around the country have been relying on outside experts to teach sensitive subjects such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and pregnancy prevention. But a recent study by researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Kentucky found that students learn more about such issues when taught by their regular classroom teacher.

The reason: students may be more inclined to learn life-changing behaviors from someone they know and trust.

“The actual person teaching makes a difference in how students learn. When there is a good relationship, that really facilitates learning and motivation. And we found that in almost every area, the regular classroom teachers were more effective, they were better,” said Eric Anderman, co-author of the study and professor of educational psychology at Ohio State.

The study is available online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Health Promotion Practice.

Strong student-teacher relationships have been linked to many positive outcomes, including better behavior in classrooms and improvement in learning. Because of the established relationship regular classroom teachers have with their students, it may be easier for adolescents to talk with and learn from someone who already knows them as individuals.

“The relationship between the teacher and the student, particularly during adolescence, is very important. It was easier for the kids to talk about personal stuff with someone they knew. It was easier for them to absorb the material and become more interested in what they were talking about with their regular teacher in the classroom,” Anderman said.

Nearly 700 high school students in central and northern Kentucky participated in the study. Students from seven similarly sized high schools were given the same curriculum and were taught by either their regular classroom teacher or a temporary educator.

Students were surveyed prior to beginning the course and three to four weeks after completion about their experience. Students were asked about attitudes toward having sex and condom use, their goals and expectations toward the class, if they valued class material, and if they felt their health teachers were credible and likeable.

In almost every category, the regular classroom teachers had the more positive results. Students often expect to be tested more often by their regular teacher than by a temporary educator. As a result, they may be more motivated to learn the material, to achieve high grades on tests, and to appear knowledgeable during classroom discussions.

More importantly, students in classrooms led by their regular teachers valued the course material more than did others. Instead of simply hearing a lecture on sex education, students were motivated to pay attention because they felt the class offered important information.

“When you have kids who simply memorize material for the test and two weeks later don’t remember any of it, you’re not getting anywhere. But if you can get the kids to care and learn because they think it’s important, that’s something that will last a lifetime,” Anderman said.

Students who had a sexual partner also participated in more classroom discussions with the regular teacher. These students valued the discussions, reporting that the discussions were higher in quality and more frequent overall.

“Students who had a sexual partner were more likely to say that there was class discussion going on with the regular teacher than those taught by the outside person. These kids were more likely to feel like there was discussion of these issues, rather than just the teacher lecturing to them,” he said.

Regular classroom teachers were also perceived as more credible than their temporary counterparts. Students felt their regular teachers were more knowledgeable, but also liked their regular teacher more. Students felt comfortable with these teachers and were able to joke around and laugh with the teachers, but also took them more seriously, he said.

Despite the positive results, Anderman cautions that not all teachers will have the same impacts as those in the study. Every teacher in this study, both temporary and permanent, received professional training prior to entering the classroom. In reality, not all teachers will have the same training and know-how, and decisions should be made based on who is the best fit for each class.

“School is the absolute best way to get information out to adolescents, no matter who is teaching. The important thing is getting the teacher to make a connection. If the teacher can make the right connection with one kid, you’ve saved one person from getting HIV, you’ve saved one person’s life,” he said.


Cyberbullying - Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard


Teens and tweens have been bullying each other for generations. The bullies of today, however, have the advantage of utilizing technology such as computers, cell phones and other electronic devices to inflict harm on others. In their book due out this month, Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying, Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Florida Atlantic University researcher, assistant professor in the department of criminal justice in the College of Architecture, Urban and Public Affairs, and Internet safety expert, and Dr. Justin W. Patchin, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, provide a comprehensive guide to identify, prevent and respond to this increasingly serious problem. The book is primarily based on Hinduja and Patchin’s original research with thousands of adolescents, many of whom were victims of cyberbullying. In addition to providing numerous practical strategies for educators, parents and other youth-serving adults, the book includes personal stories and case scenarios, an extensive overview of terminology and legal issues, and a clear explanation of the scope and prevalence of online aggression among youth.

“We are seeing a number of common types of cyberbullying quite regularly,” said Hinduja. “These methods of bullying range from posting obscene, insulting or slanderous messages on online social networking sites to malicious text messages sent via cell phones.”

The consequences are not confined to cyberspace; Hinduja’s ongoing research has linked cyberbullying to lower self-esteem, depression, a drop in school grades, school delinquency, peer violence and suicide.

Focusing on how technology can facilitate and augment traditional bullying behaviors, "Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard" features:

• Illustrations of what cyberbullying looks like
• Tips for identifying cyberbullies or targets
• “Breakout boxes” highlighting hundreds of anti-cyberbullying strategies
• A review of current research and legal rulings
• Strategies for responsible social networking
• Follow-up reflection questions in each chapter
• Guidelines for school districts, parents and law enforcement

In 2007, Hinduja and Patchin conducted a classroom-based survey of approximately 2,000 middle-school children randomly selected from a large school district. They found that 17.3% had been cyberbullied in their lifetime, 17.6% admitted to cyberbullying others at some point in their lifetime, and 12.5% reported being both a victim and a bully. In addition, 42.9% of them had experienced at least one of the following in the last 30 days:

• Received an email that made them upset (not spam)
• Received an instant message (IM) that made them upset
• Had something posted on MySpace that made them upset
• Had been made fun of in a chat room
• Had something posted on a Web site that made them upset
• Had something posted online that they didn’t want others to see
• Were afraid to go on the computer

The types of youth most susceptible, how they felt, who they told, how they coped, and how it affected their lives are some of the many findings covered in the book which illustrates the gravity of cyberbullying and its real-world repercussions.

“This book provides timely research, best practices and personal voices from students that will go a long way toward improving student safety,” said Gail Connelly, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

For more information, visit http://www.cyberbullyingbook.com.






Statistical Power for Regression Discontinuity Designs in Education Evaluations


This study examines theoretical and empirical issues related to the statistical power of impact estimates under clustered regression discontinuity (RD) designs. The theory is grounded in the causal inference and HLM modeling literature, and the empirical work focuses on commonly-used designs in education research to test intervention effects on student test scores. The main conclusion is that three to four times larger samples are typically required under RD than experimental clustered designs to produce impacts with the same level of statistical precision. Thus, the viability of using RD designs for new impact evaluations of educational interventions may be limited, and will depend on the point of treatment assignment, the availability of pretests, and key research questions.


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Texas tests fitness of 2.6 million students; finds elementary students are in best shape


A groundbreaking physical fitness assessment of almost 2.6 million Texas students in grades 3-12 found that elementary-age children are the most physically fit. Fitness levels decline with each passing grade level. This corresponds with decreasing emphasis on physical education in upper grades.


Schools used the FITNESSGRAM®, created by The Cooper Institute of Dallas, to test students this spring. The assessment measures body composition, aerobic capacity, strength, endurance and flexibility. Texas is the first state to order a comprehensive physical assessment of its students.


In the FITNESSGRAM® program, students are considered to be in the “Healthy Fitness Zone” if they achieve certain levels on six tests, with performance targets tied to a student’s age and gender. The tests include activities such as a one-mile run, curl ups, push-ups, trunk lift, shoulder stretches and a skin fold test.


During the program’s first year, 2.6 million of the almost 3.4 million students in grades 3- 12 were tested.


Preliminary results show that about 32 percent of third-grade girls and almost 28 percent of third-grade boys reached the “Healthy Fitness Zone.”


By seventh grade, only 21 percent of the girls and 17 percent of the boys still met this achievement level. By 12th grade, just 8 percent of the girls and about 9 percent of the boys met the health standards in all six tests.


A 2007 report from Trust for America’s Health found that Texas ranked sixth among states with the highest obesity rate for children ages 10-17. The report found that 19.1 percent of Texas children in this age group were considered obese. Ranked number 1 was the District of Columbia with an obesity rate of 22.8 percent.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2003 reported a dramatic rise in overweight children. Between 1963-1970, 4.6 percent of children ages 12-19 were considered overweight. By 1999-2000, that percentage had mushroomed to 15.5 percent.


Inactive, overweight children tend to maintain that pattern into adulthood.


The Texas comptroller of public accounts found that Texas businesses spent an estimated $3.3 billion in 2005 on costs related to obesity. These costs included disability coverage, lower productivity, absenteeism and health care.


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Confidence in Public Schools and NCLB Declining, Democrats Favored to Fix Nation's Education Problems, Education Next/PEPG National Survey Finds


Public confidence in America’s public schools and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) declined in 2008, according to findings from the second annual national survey by Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University. And, with the presidential election in high gear, Education Next/PEPG survey respondents give a clear edge to Democrats as the party “more likely to improve the nation’s schools.”

Results show that the public is now split over NCLB: half support leaving it as is or renewing it with minimal changes; half think it needs a major overhaul or should be done away with. The survey also shows that Americans--especially African Americans and Hispanics--are more confident in their local police force than in their local schools.

Some surprising findings concern public opinion on hot-button topics: race- and income-based school integration, mainstreaming disabled students, and single-sex education, among others. On each issue, Americans’ views run counter to some current--and staunchly defended--practices in the nation’s public schools.

The Education Next/PEPG findings come from the most comprehensive and detailed nationwide survey of public attitudes currently available. It is the only survey that also includes a large sample of teachers.

NCLB and School Accountability

With the 2008 election cycle in full swing, and Democrats fixing their attention on President Bush’s signature education achievement, public support for NCLB is waning.

·   In 2007, the Education Next/PEPG survey results found that 57 percent of the public supported renewing NCLB as is or with minimal changes; today only 50 percent of the public do.

·   There are comparable declines in support among African Americans, Hispanics, and whites.

·   Public school teachers are especially critical of NCLB with only 26 percent supporting renewal as is or with minimal changes. By contrast, 33 percent suggest that Congress completely overhaul the act, and another 42 percent recommend that Congress not renew the act at all.

Confidence in Public Schools

Americans offered lower evaluations of the nation’s schools in 2008 than the year before, according to Education Next/PEPG survey results, with some groups registering particularly sharp declines in confidence.

·   Twenty-seven percent of African Americans gave the public schools an A or a B in 2007, but in 2008 that figure fell to 20 percent.

·   The share of African Americans giving schools a D or an F rose from 22 percent to 31 percent. The share of Hispanics giving schools a similarly poor grade doubled during the period, from 16 to 32 percent.

·   In fact, the public has more faith in its local police force than it does in its local schools. This is especially pronounced among African Americans and Hispanics: Fifty-five percent of African Americans and 64 percent of Hispanics gave their police force an A or B, a significantly higher show of support than for public schools.

The 2008 Presidential Election

As support for NCLB has slipped, Education Next/PEPG survey respondents believe Democrats are “more likely to improve the nation’s schools.”

·   Sixty-one percent of respondents rate the Democrats’ record on education more favorably, and 62 percent think them more likely to improve the public schools.

·   Teachers prefer the Democrats by even larger margins, as do Hispanics and African Americans.

·   Democrats and Republicans both tend to favor members of their party when it comes to education, but they do so with varying levels of conviction. Whereas self-identified Democrats prefer their own party on education by margins of roughly 10 to 1, Republicans do so by margins of just 3 to 1. This marks a departure from the pattern observed in 2000, when polls compiled by political scientist Patrick McGuinn showed that only 44 percent of Americans thought that the Democrats would do a better job of improving education, compared with 41 percent who favored the GOP in this area. The Education Next-PEPG 2008 findings reveal a return to the patterns seen in the 1980s and 1990s, when voters consistently favored the Democrats on education by margins of 20 percentage points or more.

Race- and Income-based School Integration

 Education Next/PEPG survey results show that 63 percent of the public are opposed to assigning students to schools based on racial background in order to promote school diversity, a practice banned by the Supreme Court in 2007.

·   Only 16 percent say that districts “definitely” or “probably” should be allowed to take students’ racial background into account; 21 percent of the public are unsure.

·   Among African Americans, only 30 percent think districts should be allowed to take race into account.

·   Surprisingly, on the question of assigning students to schools based on family income--a strategy now being considered by many districts as an alternative to race-based policies--the opposition is even greater. Only 13 percent support the idea; 62 percent are opposed and the remainder uncertain.

Mainstreaming Disabled Students

 The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that disabled students be educated in the least restrictive environment possible, which has resulted in mainstreaming all but the most severely disabled students into standard classrooms. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the percentage of disabled students considered to be “fully mainstreamed” has risen from a little more than 30 percent in 1989 to over 55 percent in 2005.

·   Education Next/PEPG survey results show that neither teachers nor the general public express much support for the practice of mainstreaming emotionally or behaviorally disabled children.

·   When asked whether students “who have been diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities should be taught in regular classrooms with other students,” only 25 percent of teachers, and 28 percent of the public, favored the idea. The rest said they should be “taught in separate settings.”

Single-Sex Public Schools

There has been a resurgence of interest in single-sex public schools recently. The National Association for Single Sex Public Education projects that in fall 2008, roughly 400 public schools will offer students at least some opportunity for single-sex education, and a quarter of these schools will enroll only boys or girls.

·   According to the Education Next/PEPG survey results, 37 percent of respondents support the idea of public school districts offering parents the option of sending their child to a single-sex school; 25 percent oppose the idea; and the remainder are undecided.

·   Support is stronger among public school teachers--47 percent approve the idea.

·   When asked whether they would consider enrolling their own child in a single-sex school, 42 percent of all parents, 48 percent of public school teachers, and 53 percent of African Americans say that they would.

Home Schooling

More Americans are homeschooling than ever before--the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics estimate that, as of 2003, 1.1 million students were being educated at home, up from 850,000 in 1999.

·   According to the Education Next/PEPG survey results, 45 percent of Americans report that they know a family that home schools a child--up from 40 percent in 2007.

·   Sixty-four percent of public school teachers report knowing a home-schooling family.

Online Education

Online education is growing at a fast pace: according to the North American Council for Online Learning, enrollment in online courses in 2000 totaled 45,000. In 2007 enrollments reached 1 million, about 70 percent of which were for high school courses.

·   According to Education Next/PEPG survey results, more than two thirds of American parents say they would be willing to have their children take some of their high school courses over the Internet.

·   In most instances, the American public favors public funding for online courses that high school students take for credit over the internet. The breadth of their support, however, depends on the purpose of the online education. A majority favor funding for high schools offering advanced courses for students online and for high schools that offer rural students a broader range of courses online. A plurality of 40 percent support funding online classes that help dropouts gain credits, while only 26 percent of the public supports funding online classes for home schooled students.


The Education Next/PEPG survey was conducted by the polling firm Knowledge Networks between February 16 and March 15, 2008. The findings are based on a nationally representative stratified sample of 2,500 adults (age 18 years and older) and an oversample of 700 school teachers. The sample consists of 2,546 non-Hispanic whites, 250 non-Hispanic blacks, and 239 Hispanics. With 3,200 total respondents, the margin of error for responses given by the full sample in the Education Next/PEPG survey is roughly 1 percentage point.


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Focus on the School Calendar: The Four-Day School Week


When the economy weakens, heightened consideration is given to ways in which schools can more efficiently use financial resources. Discussions about implementing four-day school weeks — with students attending school more hours each day — are surfacing again in some states. While the need to balance the budget is real, the current emphasis on improving student achievement should continue to be central to state-level decisions affecting students and schools.


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Parent and Family Involvement in Education, 2006-07 School Year, From the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2007


This descriptive report presents initial findings on parents’ and families’ involvement in their children’s education from the Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey (PFI) of the 2007 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES). It also incorporates basic demographic information about the population of students in kindergarten through 12th grade, their parents'/guardians' characteristics, and the characteristics of the households in which they live.


Topics covered include parent reports of their involvement in activities at school, their involvement with homework, school communication practices, schools' provision of information on select topics, parent satisfaction with various school characteristics, expectations for their children's educational attainment, and family plans to help pay for postsecondary education.


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Urban Schools Expand Pioneering Efforts to Gauge Business Performance


First-of-Its-Kind Data, Trend Lines Present Tool to Compare Key School Services    


The nation’s major urban public school districts have developed new measures to gauge performance of their financial, technology and human resource operations, expanding pioneering efforts to improve the business side of the house in conjunction with their academic reforms.         


The Council of the Great City Schools has developed first-time key performance indicators and benchmarks in the areas of budget and finance, human resources and information technology, while establishing trend lines in the critical areas of school transportation, food services, maintenance and operations, procurement, and safety and security.


Launched for the first time last year, Managing for Results in America’s Great City Schools: A Report of the Performance Measurement and Benchmarking Project is being released as an expanded resource to track and document best business practices. 


The multi-year studypresents key performance indicators, modeled after those used in the private sector, to measure urban school performance on a range of operational and business functions. The study also presents comparable city-by-city data on those indicators that will enable districts to benchmark themselves against high-performing school systems and identify best practices in each of the business areas.


Managing for Results was developed during the Council’s annual meetings of its chief operating, financial, human resource and information officers over the past five years, aimed at improving operational decisions and strengthening business practices in America’s big-city school systems.   


Among new results of the multi-year study, the findings from 66 big-city school districts show that—

·              The final general fund expenditures of the average big-city school district varied only 2.8 percent from their original projections;


·             The percentage of big-city school districts with no new “material weaknesses” or audit problems increased from 79 percent in their 2005 audits to 82 percent in 2006;


·         The number of security incidents per 1,000 students dropped from 25.5 in FY05 to 17.9 in FY07;


·         The average percentage of NCLB highly qualified teachers in big-city school districts was 81.8 percent in FY07;


·         The average school custodian serviced 24,554 square feet in FY07, compared with 23,501 square feet in FY05;


·         The average length of time needed to complete the procurement process and receive goods dropped slightly from 36 days in FY05 to 35 days in FY07; 


·               The median cost of transporting students in FY07 was $1,120 a child, up from $988 two years ago or 13.3 percent;


·               The average school lunch participation rate was 61.1 percent in FY07, up from 59.6 percent in FY05; and


·         The total annual cost of telecommunications services averaged $32.71 per student in FY07.


Each of the 103 indicators in the new report includes information about why the measure is important, how it is defined and calculated, what the range of responses were, and how the indicators are affected by other school district practices.


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