February 2010 Reports

Abolishing tracking
Research conducted over the past 25 years has pointed to the negative effects of curricular stratification, aka tracking. A new policy brief from the University of Colorado’s Education and Public Interest Center and the Arizona State University’s Education Policy Research Unit, Universal Access to a Quality Education: Research and Recommendation for the Elimination of Curricular Stratification, draws on data from three case studies (a San Diego charter school, a Long Island school district, and the nation of Finland) to show that abolishing tracking leads to higher levels of student achievement for more students. The brief’s authors provide concrete recommendations for reform and a clear process for phasing out tracking. “Detracking provides a realistic and proven pathway to academic excellence grounded in true equity,” they say.

Education appropriation
Congress has not used the supplemental American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding as a new and higher baseline for 2010 educational funding. An issue brief from the New America Foundation, the 2010 Education Appropriations Guide, provides breakdowns and analysis of the $63.7 billion education budget for 2010. The brief reports that funding for nearly all programs is virtually the same as it was in 2009, and that all major programs will be funded at fiscal year 2009 levels. Funding for two programs has been eliminated, and there is a new $50 million high school graduation initiative.

NAEP TUDA 2009 math results
Results were mostly unchanged for the 18 districts participating in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in mathematics between 2007 and 2009. However, eight of the 10 districts that began participating in 2003 made significant gains in both the fourth and eighth grades over the past six years. Participating in the 2009 TUDA math assessment were Atlanta, Austin (Texas), Boston, Charlotte (N.C.), Chicago, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego -- all since 2003 -- and Baltimore City, Detroit, Fresno (Calif.), Jefferson County (Louisville, Ky.), Miami-Dade, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia -- all participating for the first time this year.

Charlotte was the only district to score higher than the national average at grade four. Austin, New York City, and San Diego had virtually the same scores as the national average at grade four. Only Austin scored higher than the national average at grade eight. The report points out that there are large demographic differences between urban districts and the nation, and recommends they be taken into consideration when comparing scores. Nationally, 48 percent of fourth-graders and 43 percent of eighth-graders are eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch compared to 46 percent of fourth-graders and an amazing 100 percent of eighth-graders in the TUDA participating districts.

Teens and sexting
Four percent of teens ages 12-17 report that have sent nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging on their cell phone (sexting). Fifteen percent of the same group says they have received such messages, as well. These are some of the findings of a new report from the Pew Research Center, Teens and Sexting. The report also finds that these images are shared as part of sexual activity, or even as an alternative to it. Teens use the images as a way of starting or maintaining a relationship with someone else. And, sometimes, the images are used for their entertainment value among friends. “Sexually suggestive images have become a form of relationship currency,” says Amanda Lenhart, author of the report. “Teenagers have always grappled with issues around sex and relationships, but their coming-of-age mistakes and transgressions have never been so easily transmitted and archived for others to see.”

Teen drug use
Monitoring the Future’s annual survey of U.S. teenagers reveals that teen marijuana use is up, while tobacco use has declined. This year’s survey of 46,097 10th- and 12th-graders was conducted at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

Young children and the Census
More than 1 million children under age 10 and three-quarters of a million children under age 5 did not get counted in the 2000 Decennial Census, facts that do not bode well for the 2010 Census. Underreporting of children is particularly disturbing, since Census figures are used by more than 140 programs (many touching children) to distribute more than $400 billion of federal funds to states and localities. According to a new report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Why Are Young Children Missed So Often in the Census?, the undercount resulted from challenges in data collection (the census form only has space to collect information for six household members at any given residence), the fact that children are 50 percent more likely to live in hard-to-count areas, and problems defining and capturing modern families.

Young Latinos come of age
Hispanics make up 1 in 5 schoolchildren and 1 in 4 newborns, making them the largest and youngest minority group in the United States. Demography is destiny, and these young people will be a strong and shaping force on American society in the 21st century. How do these young Latinos view themselves? A new report from the Pew Research Center, Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America, shows that young Latinos are satisfied with their lives; value education, hard work, and success highly; and are optimistic about their future. The report also shows that 52 percent of Latinos ages 16 to 25 identify themselves first by their family’s country of origin. Twenty percent use the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” when describing themselves. Only 24 percent describe themselves as “American” first.