October 2009 Reports

Achievement gap narrows

Mathematics and reading scores on the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress were higher for both black and white public school students than they have ever been in the history of the assessment, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. However, average scores for white students were at least 26 points higher than for black students in each subject.

Affording an education

The Horatio Alger Association has opened its scholarship application period for 2010. The association -- one of the largest privately funded, need-based programs in the country -- awards more than $6 million in scholarships each year to outstanding students who have responded with strength of character and integrity to adversity and hardship.

At-risk youth

A new study from the University of Minnesota says 15 percent of adolescents believe they will die before 35, and that youth who think they have a good chance of dying early frequently engage in behaviors that are likely to make their hunch a reality, such as illegal drug use, suicide attempts, and unprotected sex. The study, Health Status and Behavioral Outcomes for Youth Who Anticipate a High Likelihood of Early Death, says that expectations of premature death were prevalent among non-white and low-income youth.

Early college high schools 

Now that President Obama has announced plans for a $12-billion community college stimulus, Texas’ highly successful Early College High School model should interest school districts everywhere. According to Jobs for the Future’s recent study, Lessons from the Lone Star State, Texas currently has 29 early colleges in operation. They provide high school students with an opportunity to earn as much as two years of transferrable college credit tuition free from their local community college while they earn a high school diploma.

Graduation rates

The definition of “college-ready” is debatable, and schools don’t have a consistent way to measure their students’ achievement, anyway. These are two of the key findings in Diplomas Count 2009: Broader Horizons, a new report on high school completion and college readiness from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The report also points out that not all high schools are equally equipped to assist students in applying for college and financial aid processes that low-income students find difficult.

How we learn

Neuroscientists have begun to understand the brain mechanisms underlying learning, and the science of learning is on the verge of a major transformation, according to a new paper published in the journal Science. It reveals three emerging principles: learning is computational, learning is social, and learning is supported by brain circuits linking perception and action that connect people to one another. “We are not left alone to understand the world like Robinson Crusoe was on his island,” says University of Washington researcher Andrew Meltzoff. “Humans learn best from other humans.”


The 20th annual KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation offers comprehensive data on the well-being of America’s children on a state-by-state basis. The Data Book is widely recognized as a leading source of data about children in America, listing hundreds of indicators on topics such as education, employment, income, and youth risk factors. This year, the Foundation has backed the data with an extensive, easy-to-use online access system -- the Data Center -- which includes a mobile site (www.mobile.kidscount.org) where data are optimized for BlackBerry and iPhone access.

Medicaid, CHIP, and immigrant children

The July issue of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s CHIP Tips brief examines the recently enacted Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), including details for complying with CHIPRA’s new “ICHIA” provision. This provision allows states to receive federal funds for providing Medicaid and CHIP coverage to lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant women, regardless of their length of residency.

National standards

A new Educational Testing Service report, National Education Standards: Getting Beneath the Surface, provides an overview of the history, risks, possibilities, and progress of the national standards movement in the U.S., a nation that has traditionally supported local control of schools.

Online learning

K-12 Online Learning: A 2008 Follow-up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators, a new study from the Sloan Consortium, reports that 1.03 million K-12 students engaged in online courses in 2007-08, an increase of 47 percent since 2005-06. Seventy-five percent of the public school districts responding had one or more students enrolled in a fully online or blended course.

Parent volunteers

The economic downturn is having at least one positive effect: Parent volunteerism is on the rise. Fifty-three percent of all parents polled in a GreatSchools survey, The Economy’s Impact on Back to School, plan on volunteering this year at their child’s school, with 60 percent of African-American parents planning to volunteer.

Students with disabilities

Although students with disabilities make up just 13.7 percent of the total student population nationwide, they comprised 18.8 percent of the students who received corporal punishment at school in the 2006-07 school year. A report from the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Impairing Education: Corporal Punishment of Students with Disabilities in U.S. Public Schools, says that 41,972 disabled students were physically disciplined that year, a number the HRW believes may be undercounted, since not all instances of physical discipline are reported.

Teacher compensation

Implementing performance pay as a “standalone” reform without linking it to a school district’s broader improvement plans or human resources policies limits its impact and hinders its sustainability -- and ultimately dooms the effort to failure. This is the conclusion drawn by a new report on teacher compensation reform by the Center for American Progress, Aligned by Design: How Teacher Compensation Reform Can Support and Reinforce Other Educational Reforms.

Teacher retention

More than half of all teachers in the Chicago public school system leave within five years. In high-poverty, heavily African-American schools, half of all teachers leave after only three years. These are some of the disturbing statistics revealed by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research’s study, The Schools Teachers Leave. Some of the characteristics leading to the high levels of teacher turnover were lack of parent responsiveness in elementary schools and student misbehavior and safety problems in the high schools.