December 2009 Reports

Achievement gap
Achievement gaps for minority and low-income students have narrowed in most cases since 2002, but in many cases, more than 20 points separate the scores of white and non-low-income students from those of African-American, Latino, and low-income students, according to a study by the Center for Education Policy. In general, the news was more positive for Latino and African-American subgroups and for students at the elementaryschool level. Fewer gaps narrowed for low-income and native-American subgroups and for students in high school.

Afterschool instruction
Structured afterschool academic instruction in reading and math for grades 2 through 5 produces limited benefits for struggling students, according to a new report on behalf of the Institute of Education Sciences at the Department of Education. The study shows students made progress in math after one year, but a second year of structured instruction produced no additional benefits. No impact was made on reading scores. Both programs were staffed and supported as planned, but problems were found with implementation.

Afterschool programs
America After 3PM, a new study conducted for the Afterschool Alliance, finds that more than a quarter of Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren are on their own in the afternoons, and another 15 percent are in the care of their siblings. Participation in after-school programs remains low -- just 9 percent -- even though statewide demand and support for the programs has increased over the last five years.

Arts education impact
New York City schools that offer the most access and resources to support arts education have the highest graduation rates in the nation’s largest school system, according to the Center for Arts Education. In schools with the lowest graduation rates, students have the fewest opportunities to participate in fine arts programs.

Children and violence
Most U.S. children are exposed to violence in their daily lives, either in the home, school, or community, according to a survey issued by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. More than 60 percent reported exposure within the past year.

Emotional, behavioral development
Improving young children’s healthy emotional and behavioral development is important in its own right, and also can be a pathway to improved academic achievement, according to a new report from MDRC. The report says teachers consistently emphasize their need for professional development and other supports to help them address children’s behavioral issues.

Latino attainment gaps
Nearly 89 percent of Latino young adults ages 16 to 25 think a college education is important for success in life, yet only about 48 percent plan to obtain one, according to the Pew Hispanic Center report, Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap. A second report by the center, The Changing Pathways of Hispanic Youths Into Adulthood, finds that young Latino adults in the United States are more likely to be in school or the work force now than their counterparts were in previous generations, yet their participation still lags behind that of their white peers.

Math principles
Helping students understand how math works -- and what it’s good for -- is at the heart of new guiding principles released by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The report includes specific tips for teachers, administrators, and parents and promotes more tightly focused curricula for elementary and middle school math.

Municipal innovations
The National League of Cities has released a report that identifies “the nation’s 32 most cutting-edge city innovations to help children and families thrive,” and features emerging and established trends in municipal leadership that promote child and family well-being. The report describes new directions in after-school programs, community wellness (measures to combat childhood obesity), early childhood care, public education, family antipoverty efforts, agency effectiveness, and programs surrounding youth civic engagement, violence prevention, and transitional services.

NAEP math results
The 2009 Nation’s Report Card in Mathematics, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, says fourth- and eighth-graders in all 50 states have made significant gains in achievement over the past two decades. However, for the first time since the assessment began in 1990, fourth-graders showed no overall increase at the national level in 2009.

School violence
Ninety percent of California students currently attend schools with reported incidents of violence, physical injuries, or weapons that resulted in disciplinary actions, according to Not as Safe as You Think, a report published by the Pacific Research Institute. The report says that the state’s definition of persistently dangerous schools -- a requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act -- is so narrow that not one of California’s more than 9,000 public schools has been deemed unsafe.

Social promotion policy
New York City fifth-graders held back under a policy that ended social promotion showed significant improvement in standardized tests over the next three years, according to a report from the RAND Corporation. More important, the study found that students had no less confidence after being retained for a year, during which time they received extra help in the form of special Saturday and summer classes.