April 2010 Reports

Abstinence program success
Yes, Virginia, there is a successful abstinence-only program. Americans have long believed that abstinence for youth is an ideal that should be encouraged -- but they have not much believed that abstinence-only programs can succeed, and any existing research reassured them that their doubts were founded in fact. But a new study, Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention over 24 Months, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, clearly shows that an abstinence-only program attended by 662 students in grades six and seven did succeed in delaying first sex and reducing sexual activity among the sexually active students, without reducing their condom usage.

CHIPRA anniversary report
Nearly 40 million children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP from 2008-09 -- including 2.6 million new children who were not enrolled in the previous year. A new report from InsureKidsNow.gov, Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) One Year Later: Connecting Kids to Coverage, says the greatest enrollment gains (2.2 million children) were among lower income children eligible for Medicaid. More than half of states have tried to improve coverage since CHIPRA’s inception, including efforts to simplify the enrollment and renewal processes. Despite these efforts, 5 million eligible children remain uninsured.

Diversity and charter schools
Do charter schools increase or decrease segregation? A study of 968 schools from the Education and the Public Interest Center and the Education Policy Research Unit, Schools Without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System, concludes that charter schools are substantially more segregated by race, income, ability, and English language fluency than their home public school districts.

Food mapping tool
The Food Environment Atlas, a new Web-based mapping tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, allows users to assemble county-level statistics on food choices, health and well-being, and community characteristics across America. The atlas includes 90 indicators of the food environment and provides statistics on topics such as food prices, food and nutrition assistance programs, store and restaurant proximity, diabetes rates, physical activity levels, demographic composition, income, and poverty.

Girls and body image
American teenage girls have a love-hate relationship with the fashion industry and struggle with their body image. Nearly one in three of the 1,000 girls ages 13 to 17 surveyed for Beauty Redefined, a new report from Girl Scouts of America, said they have starved themselves or refused to eat in an effort to lose weight. American girls seem to be aware of the dangers of poor body image: Forty-two percent know someone who has forced themselves to vomit after eating, and more than a third know someone with an eating disorder. Nonetheless, 75 percent said that fashion is “really important” to them, and 41 percent said they prefer to see the latest fashions on “skinny models,” not on fuller-sized women. Seventeen percent of black girls are “completely satisfied” with the way their body looks, only 14 percent of Latino girls are, and a mere 10 percent of white girls are “completely satisfied” with their body. Peers (82 percent), friends (81 percent), and parents (65 percent) most influence the way teenage girls feel about their bodies.

Immigration enforcement
U.S. citizen children of illegal immigrants experience deeply damaging consequences when their parents are arrested, detained, or deported. A new report from the Urban Institute, Facing Our Future: Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement, analyzes 190 children of arrested parents in 85 families across the country. Most of the families in the study were from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Haiti. The study found that these children suffered family separation (two-parent families became single-parent families), economic hardship and insecurity, and widespread behavior changes, including changes in eating and sleeping habits, anger, and withdrawal. Behavioral changes were more common and most severe when parental arrests occurred in the home. During a very stressful time, school provided stability and a safe haven for many of the children.

Is America listening to its teachers?
Sixty-nine percent of teachers do not believe that you are listening to what they have to say about education. The new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher also says that both teachers (67 percent) and their principals (78 percent) believe that increased collaboration between teachers and school leaders would improve student achievement. Teachers (80 percent) and principals (89 percent) also believe that student achievement would increase if students felt responsible and accountable for their own education, but only 42 percent of teachers believe their students have this sense of responsibility. However, the survey also says that almost all students surveyed (96 percent) said they have the responsibility to pay attention and do the work it takes to succeed in school.

Recess and achievement
Principals say that the best opportunity to raise student achievement does not happen in the classroom: It happens on the playground at recess. A survey of 2,000 principals by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and Playworks, The State of Play, finds that virtually all principals believe recess has a positive impact on children’s social development and well-being. Four of five principals believe recess has a positive impact on academic achievement; two-thirds say children are more focused and listen better after recess. But recess is a precious commodity at most schools. Fifty percent of the principals surveyed said students receive only 16 to 30 minutes of recess a day, with one in five principals admitting to cutting recess time to meet testing requirements, and 77 percent of principals reporting taking recess away from students as a punishment for bad behavior. At the top of principals’ wish-list is more staff to monitor recess; the majority of discipline-related problems occur during recess or lunch (89 percent).

Teacher tenure reform
The No Child Left Behind Act requires that all classrooms be staffed with a “highly qualified teacher.” But dismissing an ineffective tenured teacher can be difficult and expensive in most states. A new report from the Center for American Progress, Ringing the Bell for K-12 Teacher Tenure Reform, calls for much-needed reform. The report provides a history of teacher tenure in the United States, as well as case studies of reform efforts in six states (California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia. The report recommends that the federal government continue to use funding to push states to develop meaningful teacher evaluation systems; states change their teacher licensing processes to ensure teacher effectiveness is assessed as a condition for the granting and renewal of a teaching license; states amend their tenure statutes to mandate that teacher retention and dismissal decisions incorporate teacher effectiveness data; and teachers unions embrace efforts to streamline the removal process for ineffective teachers.

Teen boys and sex
More than half of the 1,200 boys and men ages 15-22 recently surveyed by Seventeen and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy say they would rather give up sex for a month than give up their Internet connection. One-third of the respondents do not know that wearing two condoms increases the chances of condom-failure, instead of increasing effectiveness. In fact, 85 percent believe condoms to be foolproof. But the most surprising finding in That’s What He Said: What Guys Think About Sex, Love, Contraception, and Relationships surfaces when sex intersects with love and commitment: Three-quarters of the guys say they would prefer to wait for the opportunity to lose their virginity with someone they love. Additional reports about youth’s perceptions and misconceptions about sex are also available on the National Campaign’s website, including The Fog Zone and Magical Thinking.