May 2010 Reports

The expectations gap
An annual report on states’ progress on aligning high school graduation requirements with the demands of college and the workplace, the National Governors Association and Achieve’s Closing the Expectations Gap, 2010, has some very happy news. Nearly every state has made progress on Achieve’s agenda of five areas of reform: standards, graduation requirements, P-20 data systems, assessments, and accountability. The report’s authors attribute the progress to state leadership.

Head Start’s role in obesity
One-third of the nearly one million low-income children who enter the federal Head Start program are overweight or obese. Young children increasingly spend more time in out-of-home settings, and these settings could offer a perfect opportunity for childhood obesity intervention. But a new study from researchers at Temple University and Mathematica Policy Research, Barriers to Obesity Prevention in Head Start, finds that Head Start’s program directors lack the time, money, and knowledge they need to intervene. The study also found that staff sometimes shared parents’ cultural belief that heavier children were healthier children. The study’s authors recommend that additional federal resources be allotted to Head Start for healthy meals and snacks, training, technical assistance, and staff wellness programs designed to help teachers change their behaviors so that they can serve as positive role models.

High school counselors and college-bound students
Most students rate their high school guidance counselors as fair or even poor, according to the Public Agenda Survey, Can I Get a Little Advice Here? Nearly half feel their counselors see them as just a face in the crowd, and they say teachers and coaches are more helpful and encouraging than their counselors. Two-thirds of those surveyed say their counselor did only a fair or poor job of helping them decide on a college. Students who reported bad counseling were less likely to receive financial aid and more likely to be disappointed in their college choice. Nearly one in five delayed going to college a year or more; delayed college attendance is linked to dropping out.

Can rural schools make the grade?
One in four rural students fails to graduate from high school. Only 17 percent of rural adults older than 25 have a college degree. More than one-fifth of the U.S.’s 2,000 lowest-performing high schools are in rural areas. The authors of a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, Current Challenges and Opportunities in Preparing Rural High School Students for Success in College and Careers, say that, with more than 3.4 million students attending rural high schools, these outcomes constitute a national crisis. Rural schools have shrinking local tax bases, difficulty retaining high-quality teachers, limited access to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, funding inequities, and increasingly diverse student populations -- including English-language learners, low-income, and minority students at risk of dropping out.

Teachers’ expectations of student success
A new survey says that 84 percent of participating teachers say they have what it takes to help all of their students to achieve academically, but that only 36 percent say all of their students have the ability to succeed. Part 2 of the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, Collaborating for Student Success, reveals significant gaps in teacher and student expectations for academic success, especially in secondary schools; between schools serving large numbers of low-income students and those that do not; and between boys and girls. More than 50 percent of all teachers and 71 percent of secondary teachers say students do only enough work to “get by”; 36 percent of the students surveyed agree. More girls (85 percent) than boys (73 percent) expect to attend college, and more girls (59 percent) than boys (50 percent) believe they will achieve their goals.

Working women and families
Women now make up one-half of the nation’s work force. Four in 10 mothers are either their family’s sole breadwinner or make as much or more money than their spouse. Most families no longer have someone at home full-time to deal with emergencies or daily household details. Nonetheless, the school day still ends long before the workday ends, and schools close for three months every summer. The majority of workers must negotiate family responsibilities with their spouses, but most workers -- especially in nonunion settings -- are powerless when negotiating their schedule with their employer. The authors of a new report from the Center for American Progress, Our Working Nation: How Working Women Are Reshaping America’s Families and Economy and What It Means for Policymakers, say that recognizing and incorporating new realities of workplace and family dynamics into our domestic and economic policies is essential to stabilizing the middle class and improving our economy.