Readings and Reports

From 21st century skills to teenage pregnancy

21st Century skills
Seven states have received the 21st Century Skills Practice of the Year Award for increasing student engagement and achievement by infusing 21st century skills into core subjects. The states honored this year are Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

After-school not recession-proof
Ninety-five percent of respondents in a recent survey of after-school program leaders say the recession is affecting their communities, and worry about future funding for their programs. Respondents say that, just when children need their programs most, they are being forced to increase program fees and reduce staffing and services.

America’s birth certificate 
An original copy of the Declaration of Independence will visit six cities, to honor exemplary schools that participated in this past year’s National Student/Parent Mock Election voter education project. Schools honored are in Carson, Calif.; Chicago; Austin, Texas; New Jersey; and Arizona. Appearances in the six selected cities will be scheduled over the next several months.

Child protection laws
First Focus has published a brief history of federal actions impacting America’s children, from Teddy Roosevelt to the Obama administration.

Dads and learning
Fathers are more involved in their children’s education than they were 10 years ago. A recent survey shows double-digit gains in the percentage of dads who take kids to school, visit their child’s classroom, or attend school events. There is room for improvement, however; 39 percent of surveyed dads have never read to their children, and 54 percent still don’t volunteer at school.

D.C.’s voucher program
The Department of Education’s recent evaluation of Washington, D.C.’s voucher program found a statistically significant improvement in reading among voucher participants. However, a new review of the data points out that an improvement of only one-sixth of a standard deviation in reading, and no statistically significant improvement in math, is at best a modest achievement -- too modest to justify the voucher program’s continuation.

Depression and teens
Two million American teenagers experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) last year, but only 38.9 percent of them ever received treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration report also shows that health insurance is an important factor in whether or not MDE sufferers receive care. Only 17.2 percent of those who did not have coverage received treatment.

Denver students who get a failing grade on their report cards, even in sixth grade, are at higher risk of becoming dropouts. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University say their findings, in Dropouts in the Denver Public Schools, clearly show “that one F is a huge, fat, hairy deal,” a serious indicator that should sound a very loud alarm for parents, teachers, and administrators.

Economy threatens gains
Virtually all the progress made in children’s economic well-being since 1975 will be wiped out by the current recession, according to a report by the Foundation for Child Development. The impact will be especially severe for low-income children of color, according to the 2009 Child Well-Being Index.

Education stimulus
For help planning how your school district can best use federal stimulus funds, check out ASCD’s new report, Planning the Possible. The digital version is highly interactive, with a blog, an extensive list of pertinent links and useful e-mail addresses, and a social networking section that includes customizable widgets and links to help you share the report with your favorite social network.

Evolution and learning
The gap between what humans can naturally learn and what they need to learn to survive in the modern world continues to widen, according to a study by University of Missouri researchers. According to the report, U.S. students are falling behind in science and math because schools are abandoning traditional practices -- where students learn by rote and repetition -- in favor of using groups and social interactions to teach difficult topics.

Latino students
Hispanic students currently trail white and Asian-American students in reading and math. The authors of a new report from the Society for Research in Child Development believe more educational opportunities for 3- to 8-year-old Hispanics, more bilingual preschool and early-elementary teachers, and more Spanish speakers to work as classroom language specialists will help close the gap.

Learning disabilities
A learning disability less well known than ADD or dyslexia may affect a much larger number of children, according to a new study, The Forgotten Learning Disability. As many as 15 percent of the students studied suffered from written-language disorder, the inability to write near the level expected based on a person’s age, intelligence, and education. Boys in the study were found to be two to three times more likely to have the disability than girls.

The Nation’s Report Card: music and visual arts
The 2008 NAEP assessment in arts is now available. There has not been significant change in the number of schools offering arts education to eighth-grade students since 1997. Female students outperformed male students in both music and art. Girls’ responding scores on average were 10 points higher than boys’ in music and 11 points higher in art.

Weight bias frequently causes overweight or obese children to be victimized, especially at school. A new website from Yale’s Rudd Center offers help for addressing weight bias in the classroom.

Pre-k leadership
Governors recognize the link between high-quality prekindergarten programs and their state’s prosperity, according to a report by PreKnow, Leadership Matters: Governors’ PreK Budget Proposals FY10. Despite challenging budgets, they continue to invest in preschool by a margin of five to one.

Principal-counselor relationship
A new two-part study of effective principal-counselor relationships from the American School Counselors Association indicates that students achieve more when their school principal and school counselor have a strong relationship. This is especially true if students are low-income or are first-generation, or come from traditionally underrepresented populations.

School choice
“You can lead them to water, but you can’t make them drink.” This ancient adage sums up Education Sector’s findings on attempts to apply free market rules to public education systems. Offering new market options such as charter schools in a school district apparently does not guarantee that consumers (parents) will make good choices or even use the new options.

School safety
Schools may be less violent than in the past, but that does not mean they are safe, according to a study released by the Departments of Education and Justice. According the report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 86 percent of public schools experienced at least one violent incident in 2005-06, and one third of all students reported being bullied.

Despite district efforts to correct the trend, data reported by The Notebook show that those Philadelphia schools with the highest concentrations of poverty still have the highest teacher turnover and the fewest highly qualified teachers. These differences are most striking in the district’s middle schools and high schools.

Teachers and integration
The best teachers -- both black and white -- tend to leave a school district when it experiences a large influx of black students, according to a recent study by a Cornell University researcher. The study followed patterns of teacher movement in North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District between 2002 and 2003, when the district stopped busing students to keep schools racially integrated.

Teenage pregnancy
A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics indicates that the recent increase in unwed mothers among older teens is only a reflection of a larger trend towards single parenthood among all young women in their 20s and 30s in the U.S., where nearly four out of every 10 births is to a single woman.