January 2010 Reports

21st century skills
School districts now have a practical, hands-on tool for evaluating their integration of 21st century skills into their curriculum. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ The MILE Guide: Milestones for Improving Learning & Education, includes a self-assessment tool with three benchmarks (early stage, transitional stage, and 21st century) to help measure progress in student knowledge and skills; education support systems; leading and teaching; policymaking; partnering; and continuous improvement/strategic planning.

Charter schools and market share
In 14 communities across America, charter schools now enroll more than one in five public school students. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ new report, Top 10 Charter Communities by Market Share, demand for charter schools remains strongest in urban areas. This means that, even though charter students represent a small number of America’s total student enrollment, charter “market share” is rapidly increasing in cities such as Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and their immediate suburbs. In fact, more than one-third of all public school students in Detroit (32 percent), Washington, D.C. (36 percent), and New Orleans (57 percent) are currently enrolled in those cities’ charter schools.

Children and stress 
The American Psychological Association has included children, tweens, and teens in its annual Stress in America survey for the first time this year. The results suggest that stress, worry, and financial difficulties have a much greater impact on children than their parents believe. Almost half (45 percent) of 13- to17-year-olds surveyed said they worried more this year than last year, but only 28 percent of their parents recognized that their teens’ stress had increased. Similarly, 14 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds and 28 percent of teens reported that they worried a great deal, but only 2 percent to 5 percent of parents rated their child’s stress as extreme.

Girls, STEM, and science careers
Data sources indicate that women are more likely than men to “leak” out of the “sciences pipeline” before obtaining a position at a university, according to Staying Competitive: Patching America’s Leaky Pipeline in the Sciences, a new report from the Center for American Progress and the University of California’s Berkeley Center on Health, Economics & Family Security. The report is unusual, in that it identifies when and why women (and men) with caregiving responsibilities drop out of the academic science career path, and how family affects whether or not women make it to the top of the scientific community. The study examines the effect on “leaks” of family formations (marriage, childbirth) and family responsive benefits such as paid maternity leave. The study finds that married women with children are 35 percent less likely to enter the tenure track than married men with children.

Human capital
The ultimate key to student success is having an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective principal in every building. This is the premise of the Strategic Management of Human Capital’s new report, Taking Human Capital Seriously: Talented Teachers in Every Classroom, Talented Principals in Every School. But, as the authors say, “Too often the ‘people side’ of education reform is overlooked. ... The reform spotlight should be turned where it is most important -- on the people who teach and who serve as principals.” They also point out that “the opportunity afforded by the Federal fiscal stimulus package may never be repeated.” The authors recommend a number of politically charged reforms, such as instituting a tiered licensure system for teachers that includes an induction program and requires teachers to demonstrate their effectiveness before receiving tenure. The report notes that some districts now find themselves in a human capital predicament because they gave tenure to inadequate teachers. The authors state that, if these teachers “are not able to become effective instructors who can bring about measurable gains in student learning, they should be removed.”

Online learning
Results of a national survey by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education (CDE) reveal significant growth in state and district support for online learning in K-12 education. Statewide initiatives are now in place in 27 states. CDE named Florida as the No. 1 state in online education. Nearly 125,000 students attend Florida’s Virtual School. CDE’s top 10 states in online education are Florida, South Carolina, New Mexico, Hawaii, Michigan, Louisiana, Idaho, Minnesota, Oregon, and Arkansas.

Parents and teen sex
Positive parent-teen relationships can help delay teen sex. A new brief from Child Trends, Parents Matter: The Role of Parents in Teens’ Decisions about Sex, finds that teen girls who reported they have a strong relationship with both parents were less likely to have sex before age 16 (22 percent) than are girls who reported poor relationships with their parents (37 percent). Teenagers with nosy parents also delayed sex. Forty-three percent of girls who said their parents knew “little or nothing” of their whereabouts when not at home had sex before age 16, but only 22 percent of those girls whose parents knew “everything” about where they were and whom they were with had sex before 16. Adhering to traditional dinner routines also seems to help teens delay their first sexual experience. Thirty-seven percent of teen boys who eat dinner with their family four days a week or less had sex before age 16, but only 31 percent of boys whose families had dinner together every night did.

School innovation
The states all deserve a poor report card when it comes to educational innovation -- at least according to Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Innovation, a report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce, the Center for American Progress, and the American Enterprise Institute. Each state and the District of Columbia were evaluated in eight categories, including school management, finance, technology, and staffing. All of the states received mediocre evaluations. No state earned top grades in more than one or two areas.

School reform
In the 2009 edition of The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education, the late education researcher Gerald Bracey offered his assessment of three popular education reforms: high-quality schools (a reform he felt ignores the challenges urban schools face when educating children who live in poverty); mayoral control (Bracey felt there was little proof this leads to meaningful educational improvement); and higher standards (more standardized testing, i.e., more cost to districts).

Teachers and incentive pay
Seventy-one percent of Gen Y teachers are open to incentive pay, but only 10 percent of these teachers believe their students’ performance on standardized tests is an “excellent” measure of teacher success. A new study from Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates, Supporting Teacher Effectiveness: The View from Generation Y, also says that 72 percent of Gen Y teachers believe it is unfair to tie teacher pay to student performance when many things that affect student learning are out of their control.

Despite being open to incentive pay, Gen Y teachers ranked incentive pay last among 12 proposals for improving teaching. The study also reports that 66 percent of all teachers agreed that unions sometimes protect teachers who should not be in the classroom.

Teacher preparation
The next generation of Americans must graduate from high school ready to compete in a world replete with technological change and rapidly changing labor markets, and their teachers must be ready to guide them. A policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education, Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction, proposes a new concept for secondary teacher preparation that will ensure teachers are educated and supported to instruct to higher standards. This new concept calls for a focus on teacher performance, instead of on teacher education coursework; performance-based assessments; supporting effective programs and closing ineffective programs; the creation and enhancement of robust data systems that allow teacher and student information to be linked; and an investment in research.

Teen drivers and texting
One in four American teenagers reports having texted while driving, and boys are just as likely as girls to text while driving. A new study by The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, Teens and Distracted Driving: Texting, Talking and Other Uses of the Cell Phone Behind the Wheel, also reports that virtually half (48 percent) of all teenagers say they have been the passenger of a texting driver. “Cell phones are ... devices that can make our lives more efficient,” says Mary Madden, co-author of the report, “and whether you’re a teenager or an adult, it’s tempting to think you can manage several different activities at once.”

Teen relationships 
Teens know what a good relationship looks like. They know to look for respect, trust, honesty, and good communication when seeking a partner, and realize that teen relationships will not be adult-like in every way. But the teens surveyed for a recent Child Trends research brief, Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships, have low expectations of ever being in such a relationship. Teen girls are especially pessimistic about their chances of finding a worthy partner. Many of the teens surveyed felt they had no examples of adults in healthy relationships to emulate.