December 2010 Reports

Center for Green Schools
School buildings represent the largest construction sector of the U.S., with approximately 20 percent of our population going to school every day as students, teachers, staff, or administrators, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s new website, Center for Green Schools. The website builds a case for why districts should move to green building, and offers comprehensive information about building and maintaining green schools.

Charter schools, Latinos, and ELLs
Almost 24 percent of all charter school students are Latino. Four of the five states with the highest number of charter schools are also among the five states with the highest Latino enrollments-- Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. A new report, Next Generation Charter Schools, outlines strategies that have proved effective in serving Latinos and English language learners in charter and traditional public schools, such as expanding learning time and setting high expectations for all students’ achievement.

Child care costs
Child care is expensive and continues to get more so. Costs have increased twice as fast as the median income since 2000, with prices for infant care exceeding the average annual amount families spend on food in every region of the U.S. Center-based infant care expenses now exceed the cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public college in 40 states, says a new report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care.

Community schools and rural education
Twenty percent of American school children attend rural schools, and almost 40 percent of those live in poverty. Long commutes discourage rural students from participating in extracurricular and after-school activities, and their geographic isolation makes it difficult for them to use food distribution and public health services. A new report, The Rural Solution, proposes that the services offered by community schools may be just the ticket for solving rural schools’ ills.

Cyberbullying and depression
Rates of depression are higher among the victims of cyberbullying than among victims of more traditional forms, according to a new study, Cyber and Traditional Bullying: Differential Association with Depression. The study hypothesizes that it is the lack of a face-to-face confrontation, and perhaps not being able to identify their attacker, that leads victims of cyberbullying to feel more isolated, helpless, and dehumanized than if they had suffered a more conventional attack.

Diagnosing ADHD
Being born just before a state’s kindergarten eligibility date significantly increases the chances of receiving a diagnosis of ADHD, according to a new study, Measuring Inappropriate Medical Diagnosis and Treatment in Survey Data: The Case of ADHD among School-Age Children. There can be as much as one year’s difference in children’s ages in any kindergarten class, and the study claims the younger children’s lower maturity and higher impulsiveness have lead to a misdiagnosis of ADHD in 1.1 million cases.

Eighth-grade algebra
The sooner a student successfully completes Algebra I-- a “gateway” course-- the more opportunities he or she will have to take higher-level mathematics courses, and the greater the probability that he or she will go on to college. A new report, Eighth-Grade Algebra: Findings from the Eighth-Grade Round of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, finds that the number of U.S. students taking algebra in eighth grade has risen steadily from 1986 (16 percent) to 2004 (29 percent).

Foster care
The nation’s foster care population has dropped 20 percent since 2002, and has dropped 8 percent from 2008 to 2009 alone, according to a new report from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System. The sharp decline is due to changing child welfare policies over the past decade, such as shortened stays in foster care and an emphasis on preventative support for families that helps avoid displacement of children from the family home.

Grandparent caregivers
One in 10 American children now lives with a grandparent, with a sharp 6 percent increase in the number of grandparent caregivers between 2007 and 2008 alone, says a new study from the Pew Research Center. The study also finds that, while Hispanic and black children are still more likely to be raised by their grandparents, the sharpest rise in the number of grandparent caregivers has occurred among whites (up 9 percent between 2007 and 2008). Read Since the Start of the Great Recession, More Children Raised by Grandparents.

Measuring teacher effectiveness
Measures currently used to evaluate teachers are not linked to their ability to teach, and different licensing requirements make teacher mobility across state lines impossible. The situation, says education expert Linda Darling-Hammond, has become “byzantine.” Darling-Hammond’s new report, Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness, calls for a national method of evaluation for public school teachers, and outlines ways in which uniform assessments for licensing and certification could help predict teachers’ success with children and lead to improvements in teachers’ preparation, mentoring, and professional development.

School readiness data
School readiness is critical to achieving reading proficiency by third grade. A new brief from the Urban Institute, Using Data to Promote Collaboration in Local School Readiness Systems, finds that risks to children’s readiness for school are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods, but that the best chance for improving school readiness comes when a local collaboration of stakeholders forms and makes school readiness their mission over the long term. State support of these collaborations is recommended.

Student engagement
Research shows that schools whose students have a high level of engagement (measured by attendance and truancy) also have high levels of literacy skills. Many schools have begun focusing on student engagement as a means to raise student achievement and lower dropout rates. Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the Results of the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement, highlights five schools and their efforts to increase student achievement through student engagement.

Teacher pension reform
The current economy has left state pensions with a $500 billion gap, but teachers’ pension plans are not only underfunded, but their structure negatively affects the profession and student achievement. To be eligible for a pension, teachers must stay in the classroom for a certain number of years, even if they burn out and can no longer teach effectively. For more information, read Better Benefits: Reforming Teacher Pensions for a Changing Workforce, from the Education Sector.

Teacher preparation programs
Few states require teacher preparation programs to measure their graduates’ effectiveness and impact on student achievement and growth. A new report from the Center for American Progress, Measuring What Matters, recommends that teacher preparation programs perform observational assessments of classroom teaching; use state data systems to track graduates’ teaching rates and publicly disclose the results; obtain feedback from graduates and their employers via survey; and tie K-12 learning outcomes to preparation program graduates.

Teacher quality
Policymakers must develop guidelines that ensure a valid, reliable teacher-student data link when relying on information available in statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDSs). A new report from the Data Quality Campaign, Effectively Linking Teachers and Students, recommends that states determine how the data from the SLDS will be used, that policymakers and educators own the process, that teachers make sure the correct students are on their rosters, and that states and districts work collaboratively on the teacher-student data link.

Urban schools
“Portfolio districts,” where district leaders try a variety of instructional approaches to quickly find out what works best and what doesn’t work at all, are a new trend in education reform. Several large urban districts, including Chicago, post-Katrina New Orleans, New York, and Washington, D.C., have implemented the portfolio district model in their schools. A new brief from the Education and the Public Interest Center, Urban School Decentralization and the Growth of “Portfolio Districts,” examines this model.

Young child poverty in the South
The national poverty rate for children under 6 was 21 percent in 2008, but the average poverty rate for young children in the South in 2008 was almost 24 percent, with some Southern states experiencing far higher rates. Understanding Very High Rates of Young Child Poverty in the South says that divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in the South exacerbate levels of child poverty, as do low levels of educational attainment and a history of racial discrimination.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, Editorial Assistant.