August 2010 Reports

Banning junk food
Children consume 19 percent of their daily caloric intake at school during the school year, and low-income children consume 50 percent of their daily caloric intake at school, from foods made available during school mealtimes. A study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Marketing Foods and Beverages in Schools: The Effects of School Food Policy on Students’ Overweight Measures, finds that prohibiting a la carte junk food sales during school meals could reduce student obesity by 18 percent.

Child Well-Being
By 2010, the recession will have wiped out much of the progress made for children since 1975 with regard to the number of families living beneath the poverty line, median family income, health insurance coverage, and secure parental employment. The Foundation for Child Development’s Child Well-Being Index indicates that almost 22 percent of American youth will be living below the poverty line, the highest rate of poverty in 20 years; 500,000 children may be homeless.

Childhood food insecurity
A new paper from the Center for American Progress, Feeding Opportunity, says that child hunger costs the U.S. $28 billion per year, because hungry children perform less well in school and have more long-term health problems. The report recommends expanding access to school breakfasts, improving and expanding access to other school meal programs, reducing the paperwork necessary for students to participate in them, and rewarding states that reduce child hunger with cash grants.

Common Core State Standards
The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers have released the final version of the Common Core State Standards they hope will provide appropriate benchmarks for what students are expected to learn, for all students across the nation. The standards resulted from input by 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia.

Condition of Education
According to the 2010 edition of the National Center for Education Statistics’ Condition of Education, the percentage of Hispanic public school students increased from 11 to 22 percent of the total enrollment between 1988 and 2008, and the percentage of white students decreased from 68 to 55 percent. The number of students in charter schools has nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2008, and the percentage of public schools that are charter schools increased from 2 to 5.

Economic mobility
Children of divorce may be at a disadvantage. A report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Family Structure and the Economic Mobility of Children, suggests that divorce is a significant barrier to a child’s economic mobility. Among children who start in the bottom third of the income distribution, only 74 percent of children with divorced parents exceed their parents’ family income as adults, compared to 90 percent of children whose parents did not divorce.

Parenting young children
Parents are getting the message that certain activities and experiences help children’s development. Ninety-three percent of parents surveyed for Zero to Three’s new report, Parenting Infants and Toddlers Today, understand the importance of reading to young children, and 80 percent of parents believe that play with other children, comforting their child when distressed, and setting and enforcing rules will help their child’s social development.

Principles for education policy
The Economic Policy Institute’s Broader, Bolder Approach to Education Campaign believes reducing social and economic disadvantages will raise student achievement. It offers six points to guide policymakers: 1.) do not hold schools and teachers accountable based primarily on student test scores; 2.) use “growth models,” not accountability models; 3.) include test scores, qualitative observation, and evaluation in accountability systems; 4.) do not sacrifice curriculum for gains in math and reading; 5.) give schools access to federal support services; and 6.) fund by formula.

Public buys in to STEM
Parents and the American public are buying into the need to ramp up STEM education. Nine in 10 of those surveyed for Public Agenda’s new survey, Are We Beginning to See the Light?, say that advanced math and science will be useful even to those students not pursuing a STEM career. Nonetheless, more than half of parents surveyed (52 percent) said the math and science their child is getting is “fine as it is.”

Risky behavior
Only 30.9 percent of students sleep eight or more hours on school nights, and while 15.6 percent of them use tanning devices, only 9.3 percent usually wear sunscreen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The biannual survey monitors six categories of health risk behaviors among youth and young adults, including those that lead to unintentional injury and violence, tobacco use, alcohol and drug use, sexual behaviors, physical activity, and dietary behaviors.

A new downloadable brochure from The Stuttering Foundation, The Child Who Stutters at School: Notes to the Teacher, helps teachers correctly identify and support students who stutter. The brochure offers advice on how best to assist stuttering students with tasks such as reading aloud and answering in class and how to limit and assist with teasing in the classroom. The brochure includes the tip sheet, 8 Tips for Teachers, and contacts for concerned parents.

Summer learning 
Many years of research indicate that more than half of the achievement gap between ninth-grade lower- and higher-income youth results from summer learning loss. A new report, America After 3PM: Special Report on Summer, predicts that only 25 percent of U.S. children will attend summer learning programs this year. Summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income youth and is part of the reason they are less likely to graduate high school and enter college, says the report.

TAP program ineffective
The Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) has had no measurable effect on teacher retention or student test scores in Chicago, according to a new report from Mathematica Policy Research. As of March 2009, there was no evidence that the program raised test scores. TAP also had no effect on teacher retention rates, with similar percentages of TAP and non-TAP teachers returning to the same schools in fall 2009 as were there in fall 2008 or fall 2007.

Teens and sex
Most teenagers’ first sexual partners are usually somebody with whom they are “going steady.” Seventy-two percent of girls and 56 percent of boys surveyed for a new report said this was true for them. But the second most common first sexual partner was someone they had just met, with 25 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls reporting this relationship for their first experience. Read the CDC’s report, Teenagers in the United States, for more information.

Third-grade reading crucial
A new report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters, finds that reading proficiently by the end of third grade is an educational marker many low-income students fail to reach. Eighty-three percent of low-income fourth-graders were not proficient on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. The inability to read proficiently is strongly linked to higher dropout rates.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, Editorial Assistant