Readings and Reports

ADHD meds and testing
A new study indicates a possible link between medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and higher test scores. The nationally representative study followed nearly 600 kids with ADHD from kindergarten through fifth grade, and the data show that children on medicine for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder scored higher on several standardized tests than their peers who were not medicated.

Administrators and Web 2.0
While school administrators recognize the potential of Web 2.0 applications to accelerate learning, they remain hesitant to expand their use, according to a Consortium for School Networking report. Most administrators work to control or limit their use in classrooms. The report found that administrators were willing to revise their policies, but worry that such tools may waste student’s or teacher’s time.

After-school programs for teens
Publicly funded after-school programs for high school students are one of the newest strategies in efforts to help prepare students for postsecondary education or the work-force. A publication from The Forum for Youth Investment provides a cross-country tour of innovative after-school programs for teens.

AP trade-offs
A study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Growing Pains in the Advanced Placement Program: Do Tough Trade-Offs Lie Ahead?, found that more than half of the more than 1,000 Advanced Placement (AP) teachers surveyed fear that looser enrollment requirements for AP classes will dilute course quality. But despite a more than 50 percent increase in student participation since 2002, course rigor, exam integrity, and student scores have not changed significantly.

Autism recovery
Ten percent of autistic children can actually recover from the disorder, according to research by University of Connecticut psychology professor Deborah Fein. Working for the National Institutes of Mental Health, Fein’s research involves 20 children who showed significant improvement in their condition by age 7, suggesting the possibility of recovery. Most of the children had parents who spent long hours working with them to improve behavior.

The Association of Childhood Education International’s new report on bullying, Bullying and Violence in Schools: What Teachers Should Know and Do, has practical advice to help teachers identify bullies and understand the reasons why they bully, and outlines effective steps they can take to intervene.

Community mental health programs
Coordinated networks of community-based mental health services for children with mental health challenges can dramatically improve academic, behavioral, and emotional performance while saving school districts money, according to Working Together to Help Youth Thrive in Schools and Communities, a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Districts where children with mental health challenges participated in coordinated programs saved $4.5 million, largely because more students were promoted to the next grade.

Dropout crisis easing
A new report from the America’s Promise Alliance, Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap, shows that, while only about half (53 percent) of all students in the nation’s 50 largest cities finish high school on time, some large cities are making great strides in raising graduation rates. Among them: Philadelphia (23 percent); Tucson, Ariz. (23 percent); Kansas City (20 percent); El Paso, Texas (14 percent); Portland, Ore. (13 percent); and New York City (13 percent).

Education budget
The New America Foundation has launched an online database that provides information on state and school district funding -- including the newest economic stimulus data, demographic information, and achievement statistics on school districts across the country.

Food insecurity
Feeding America’s Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2005 to 2007 states that 3.5 million children under the age of 6 in the U.S. are “food insecure.” Among young children, the rate is 33 percent higher than in adults. Data indicate a dramatic increase in food insecurity among children of all ages within the past five years in many states. The report includes a state-by-state analysis of early childhood hunger.

Gaps and economics
The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools highlights the economic and social impact of achievement gaps in U.S. public schools. The report states that “educational gaps impose on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession,” but says the gaps “can be closed. Race and poverty are not destiny.”

Local school choice
A study of precinct-level returns from three charter school ballot referenda in Washington state conducted by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at the Teachers College of Columbia University shows that while low student achievement does predict greater support for charters across school districts, the strongest predictor of support at all levels was political affiliation. Republican voters were consistently more likely to vote in favor of charter schools.

Middle school math placement
Educational inequality may be the result of course placement, student engagement, and academic achievement, especially in predominantly black, urban schools, according to an analysis of data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study by University of Illinois Assistant Professor Christy Lleras. For students in these schools, the most accurate predictor for the math they will take in high school is the level of course they took in eighth grade, according to Lleras.

Minorities and segregation
The Pew Hispanic Center released a report on striking population increases in the nation’s suburban public schools. Most of the increases are due to new Latino, black, and Asian students. Chicago Public Radio worked with Pew to crunch the numbers specifically for Chicago suburbs and found more highly segregated black and Hispanic districts in the Chicago suburbs than anywhere else in the nation. The audio discussion is available at aspx?audioID=33735.

NAEP results
The latest statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” have been released, and scores for 17-year-olds in reading and math are virtually unchanged since 1971. The new report is based on results from the Department of Education’s tests administered in early 2008.

Opportunity gaps
The Schott Foundation for Public Education’s new report, Lost Opportunity: A 50-State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America, says that only eight states provide a moderately proficient education to their students, and that only 51 percent of African-American, Latino, Native American, and low-income students have the same opportunity to learn as white students.

PTA online newsroom
The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has a new online newsroom. The site has links to the latest education news. Visitors can access a list of PTA regional contacts, news releases, an event calendar, regularly updated audio and videos, downloadable event photos, links to PTA’s social networks on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Fotki, and the PTA blog.

Teen birth rate
After declining for 14 consecutive years, the teen birth rate in the U.S. increased 5 percent between 2005 and 2007. Research indicates that children in single-parent families are more likely than children with two parents to be poor, drop out of high school, and have lower grade point averages, lower college aspirations, and poorer school attendance records.

Teacher retirements
Over the next decade, more than half of today’s veteran teachers will retire, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future forecasts. School officials are worried that they can’t rely on new teachers to fill the gap -- the percentage of new teachers who leave the profession within five years continues to climb -- but the forecast points out that the situation does present administrators with a perfect opportunity to redesign the work force.

Testing and NCLB
NCLB is failing on several fronts, according to findings from Why High Stakes Accountability Sounds Good but Doesn’t Work -- and Why We Keep on Doing It Anyway, a report from the University of California-Los Angeles Civil Rights Project. The study by researchers Gail Sunderman and Heinrich Mintrop found little evidence that the law’s high stakes accountability has improved student achievement, and that schools that need improvement are not accurately identified.