September 2009 Readings and Reports

Administrator study
School principal positions now are equally divided between men and women, a change that reflects two decades of growing numbers of females taking over the top job, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report, based on the federal Schools and Staffing Survey, notes that men held 75 percent of principal positions in 1988. Also, NCES has released four additional reports based on data from the survey, focusing on public school districts, secondary schools, libraries/media centers, and teachers.

Charter management
Growing numbers of charter schools are operating as networks through nonprofit groups called Charter Management Organizations, or CMOs, according to a national study by the University of Southern California’s Center on Educational Governance. CMOs provide an umbrella structure under which three or more charter schools operate, and strike a balance between oversight and independence of the schools, the study says.

Florida vouchers
Students in Florida’s school voucher program are performing no better or no worse than their counterparts in public schools, according to a state-commissioned study. But the study, which reviewed changes in scores from 2006-07 to 2007-08, says at least one more year of data is needed before it can be determined whether the program is working.

GLBT students
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students are missing classes, underachieving academically, or dropping out due to bullying, harassment, or physical abuse they suffer at school, according to a new report issued by the National Education Association (NEA). The report, part of an NEA series on underserved groups in education, also shows that GLBT students experience a higher rate of homelessness because of their families’ hostility to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

How charter schools perform
More than one third of charter schools nationwide delivers learning results that are significantly worse than would have been realized by traditional public schools, according to a Stanford University study that is the first national assessment of charter school impacts. The study, which looks at more than 70 percent of the students in charter schools in the U.S., says 17 percent of them provide superior education opportunities for students, but nearly half have results that are no different from those of traditional public schools.

Independent study schools
California’s high school students are enrolling more frequently in independent study programs to meet district curriculum and graduation requirements, a study by WestEd says. The report says the programs offer students individualized learning plans to complete assignments at their own pace.

Latino assimilation
Latino adolescents are happier and healthier if both they and their parents embrace a bicultural lifestyle, according to a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Students whose families assimilate into U.S. culture while staying involved in their culture of heritage are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Merit pay survey
Fewer than half of school administrators participating said they support merit pay for some or all teachers, according to a survey by the American Association of School Administrators. More than 20 percent have no interest in the pay-for-performance plans, but 82 percent said any merit pay program should apply to all educators in the district if it is approved.

Middle grades achievement
Modest gains in reading and math achievement on state assessments and low aca-demic standards are signs that middle-grade students are not well-prepared for high school courses, according to the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) Keeping Middle Grades Students on the Path to Success in High School. The report says most of the 16 SREB states saw test scores rise from 2003 to 2007, but the scores are not increasing enough each year for states to meet the No Child Left Behind Act requirements by 2014.

NCLB not just the middle
Contrary to widespread concerns, the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) have not sacrificed the needs of the highest- and lowest-achieving students in favor of those in the middle “proficient” level, a report by the Center on Education Policy states. The organization’s 50-state analysis, which for the first time includes data about student performance at the advanced and basic-and-above levels, profiles each state, showing trends in reading and math in elementary, middle, and high school. The report finds that, even though NCLB creates incentives for schools to ensure that students reach proficiency, states saw increases at the advanced and basic-and-above levels, as well.

Obesity rates on the rise
Adult obesity rates increased in 23 states and did not decrease in a single state in the past year, according to F as in Fat, a report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In addition, the percentage of children who are obese or overweight is 30 percent or higher in 30 states. Four states (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia) now have adult obesity rates above 30 percent, and the number now exceeds 25 percent in 31 states.

Online school for girls
A consortium of independent all-girls’ schools that includes Harpeth Hall School (Tenn.), Holton-Arms School (Md.), Laurel School (Ohio), and Westover School (Conn.) is launching the new Online School for Girls. It is addressing two trends at once: single-sex education and online learning. The new school will offer two pilot courses in the fall semester and four courses in the spring semester. As Holton’s Director of Technology Brad Rathgeber says “We believe that girls inhabit online spaces differently than boys, and that this initiative can combine a powerful, transformative online learning environment for girls with a high-quality, 21st century academic experience.”

Opportunity equation
Common standards for math and science and high-quality assessments that reflect an overhaul in how the subjects are taught are needed to improve student learning, according to a report by the Carnegie Institute for Advanced Study’s Commission on Mathematics and Science Education. The Opportunity Equation report says school leaders and others “need to embrace a new understanding that the world has shifted dramatically.”

Reading First review
Reading First, despite research showing that the program did not work, increased professional development for teachers, influenced teaching practice, and provided reading coaches for struggling students, according to a new report by MDRC. Its lack of impact on reading comprehension was traced to two factors: Other, similar programs were already in place, and the additional instructional time for the program was too small to result in improvements.

Research website
NSBA’s Center for Public Education website has been redesigned. The new site is easier to navigate and offers interactive tools and the ability to share content with social networking sites. The site also features a new blog -- The Edifier -- devoted to hot topics in public education.

School climate
Educators should think more broadly about the role that states and the federal government have in improving school climate, according to a new paper published in Teachers College Record. The paper, “Measuring and Improving School Climate,” includes six recommendations to close the current gap among school climate research, policy, practice guidelines, and teacher education.

School mobility
Students who move three or more times over the course of their school careers are significantly more likely to drop out of high school, but changing schools once between kindergarten and third grade does not result in lower academic performance, according to two reports commissioned by the Board on Children, Youth, and Families at the National Academies. The reports found that children from poorer families face larger cognitive deficits when they move during kindergarten, and special education children are harmed across the board.

Special-needs students suffer from abusive restraint
A new Government Accountability Office report, Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers, has found that many teachers use restraint practices to control misbehaving students -- and disproportionately, children with disabilities -- even for minor infractions such as refusing to remain seated or speaking when it is not their turn. These instances have resulted in emotional trauma, physical injury, and even death. In half of the cases studied, the teachers or school staff involved continue to work.

Teacher effectiveness
Improved evaluation systems are needed to boost teacher quality in U.S. schools, and tenure -- while necessary to retain a strong teacher force -- needs to be strongly tied to those systems to be effective, according to two reports issued by the Center for American Progress: So Long, Lake Wobegon: Using Teacher Evaluation to Raise Teacher Quality and Fixing Tenure: A Proposal for Assuring Teacher Effectiveness and Due Process.

Teacher pensions
Teacher pension funds are faced with funding issues and are not modern enough to fit the 21st century workforce, according to But the Pension Fund Was Just Sitting There, a report by the American Enterprise Institute. The report states that public pension reform is ruled by politics, not financial or economic incentives, and uses case studies in New Jersey, Oregon, and San Diego to illustrate the problems districts face.

Technology implementation
More schools are using high-speed Internet than ever, but progress remains slow in terms of broader adoption of educational technology and using these tools to improve instruction and student learning, according to a survey by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). The SIIA Vision K-20 Survey says schools’ progress in incorporating tech-based assessment tools is hampered by tight budgets.