March 2010 Reports

Expanded learning time
The traditional school calendar of 180 six-hour days is hobbling American public education and children cannot hope to achieve high standards within such an “antiquated” schedule, according to the National Center on Time and Learning’s Tracking an Emerging Movement: A Report on Expanded-Time Schools in America. “It is as if today’s schools are asking students to run a 10-mile race in the same time in which their parents ran a five-mile one,” the report says. The database used for its analysis is small (655 schools), but the report makes a convincing case for the value of expanded learning time.

Generation wired
Today’s 8- to 18-year-olds spend 7.5 hours a day consuming media -- more time than most of their parents spend at work, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, Generation M2. Because children tend to multitask while consuming media -- talking on their cell phones while listening to their MP3 players while surfing Facebook -- those 7.5 hours effectively become 10 hours and 45 minutes of media usage per day. Twenty percent of all youth media consumption now occurs on mobile devices.

Head Start
The first Head Start Impact Study, released in 2005, showed that Head Start children were better prepared for school than non-Head Start children. The Head Start Impact Study 2010, however, shows children’s gains from participation in the federal program do not last through the end of the first grade. The 2010 study showed that, at the end of one year in the program, children participating in Head Start appeared more ready for school based on several indicators of school readiness, but when they were measured again at the end of kindergarten and first grade, they performed on the same level as non-Head Start children on most measures.

High cost of dropouts
Six hundred thousand students dropped out of the high school class of 2008 in the 50 largest cities in America. A new study from the Alliance for Excellent Education, The Economic Benefits from Halving the Dropout Rate: A Boom to Businesses in the Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Areas, demonstrates the benefits to the U.S. if just half of those 600,000 had graduated. Those 300,000 would have earned more than $4.1 billion in additional income every year, and would have generated nearly $536 annually in additional state and local tax revenues to benefit their 50 cities.

Mama says
There is a father-absence crisis in America. So said 93 percent of the mothers surveyed for MAMA SAYS: A National Survey of Mothers’ Attitudes on Fathering, from the National Fatherhood Initiative. The survey found sharp differences in how married and unmarried mothers perceive fathers’ parenting abilities. Married mothers are much more positive about fathers’ performance, but most moms think dad is replaceable by single moms or by other men. Fathers of young children were viewed as doing a better job at parenting than were fathers of teens. The moms in the survey listed “work responsibilities” as the biggest obstacles to dads’ effective parenting, but moms also said that they could do a better job of balancing work and family themselves if dad helped out more.

Myths of college dropouts
The key to raising graduation rates seems to be dismantling the full-time student myth and restructuring financial aid and class schedules to help part-time students combine work and school. According to a new report from Public Agenda underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them: Myths and Realities About Why So Many Students Fail to Finish College, eight in 10 of those who dropped out believe that making part-time students eligible for more financial aid and offering more courses in the evening and on weekends would help “a lot.”

Stimulus money and schools
A new survey of state education agencies and governor’s offices in 44 participating states and the District of Columbia takes a look at the implementation of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provisions for elementary and secondary education. While most states will support the new federal priorities for education outlined in the economic stimulus package, many are worried about how their state can best meet some of the expectations for improving schools. An Early Look at the Economic Stimulus Package and the Public Schools, from the Center on Education Policy, says that the ARRA funding that helped prevent education budget cuts may only be a short-term fix for cash-strapped states. Fourteen of the 24 states responding to state budget survey questions expect their education funding to decrease in 2010. Forty-one of the responding states say they plan to apply for Race to the Top funds. More than a third of the states participating in the survey will have plans in place by 2010 to turn around low-performing schools. Most participating states report they will be using professional development to improve teaching, implement new standards, and turn around low-performing schools. “The popularity of this strategy ... suggests that states may be choosing more traditional strategies over strategies that could turn out to be more expensive, controversial, or sweeping,” the report says.

Teen mothers and diplomas
The teen birth rate climbed 5 percent between 2005 and 2007, after a 14-year decline. Teen mothers are at high risk for dropping out of school, and, statistically, children of teens have less-desirable behavioral and cognitive outcomes than do children of older mothers. A new report from Child Trends, Diploma Attainment Among Teen Mothers, shows that only 51 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22, compared with 89 percent of young women who do not give birth as teens. Moreover, the younger a teen mother is when she gives birth, the less likely she is to earn a diploma. One in three teen mothers never earns either a diploma or a GED, but of all teen mothers, black teen mothers are more likely than any other group to earn a diploma or GED by age 22.

Testing–dropout link
Too many students -- and far too many students of color -- leave school without a diploma, despite efforts to raise student achievement. A new report from the Advancement Project, Test, Punish, and Push Out: How Zero Tolerance and High-Stakes Testing Funnel Youth into the School to Prison Pipeline, tells how the implementation of policies like zero-tolerance and high-stakes testing and laws like the No Child Left Behind Act -- intended to raise student achievement -- have backfired. The report states that policies such as these have eroded trust and turned schools into a hostile environment for millions of children, who are treated as if they are disposable and routinely forced out of school and into the criminal justice system. “After years of devastation caused by these policies,” the authors say, “we should have learned that the solution is not to be ‘tough’ on crime and schools, but to be smart.”

Explored in the report are the common origins and ideological roots of zero tolerance and high-stakes testing; the current state of zero-tolerance school discipline across the country, including local, state, and national data; how high-stakes testing affects students, educators, and schools; how zero tolerance and high-stakes testing have become mutually reinforcing, combining to push huge numbers of students out of school; and successful grassroots efforts to eliminate harmful discipline and testing practices.

The world in 100 objects 
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the British Museum have joined forces to create a narrative global history told through 100 objects in the British Museum’s world collection. A History of the World in 100 Objects, written and narrated by British Museum director Neil MacGregor, will consist of 100 15-minute programs broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and over the Internet. Each program will focus on one of the 100 objects chosen to tell part of the story of the world’s history. Activities for children and lesson plans for teachers related to the project will be made available at www.bbc.co.uk/ schools/primaryhistory/worldhistory.