November 2010 Reports

21st century skills
Jobs requiring postsecondary education in the U.S. will increase from 59 percent to 63 percent of all jobs over the next decade, according to a new report from Georgetown University, Help Wanted. The report finds that, as computers are increasingly used to automate repetitive tasks that lesser-skilled workers routinely perform, the value placed on non-repetitive tasks (and those who can perform them) increases accordingly, making postsecondary education and training gatekeepers to the middle class. The report includes a jobs forecast for each state.

Charter schools
Provisions of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, and positive publicity about the results of Caroline Hoxby’s recent study of a charter school in New York City, are causing district leaders to jump on the charter school bandwagon too quickly, says a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. The report, False Impression, uncovers a number of serious flaws in Hoxby’s study, and urges school leaders to wait for more conclusive data before becoming charter school disciples.

Child well-being
The percentage of preterm births declined again from 2007 (12.7 percent) to 2008 (12.3 percent). Adolescent births also declined -- to 21.7 per 1,000, down from 22.2 per 1,000 in 2007. Reading and math scores for eighth-graders also improved from 2007-08. But food insecurity rose from 17 percent to 22 percent, and child poverty increased from 18 percent to 19 percent over the same period. For more information, read America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2010.

Children’s share of the federal budget
Due to ARRA funding, an additional $50 billion will be spent on more than 180 different children’s programs this year -- a 20 percent increase over spending in 2009. But without ARRA funding, spending on kids in 2010 would account for less than 8 percent of the federal budget, less than it was in 2005. Read the First Focus report, Children’s Budget 2010, for more details.

College completion
The College Board’s College Completion Agenda 2010 Progress Report outlines a 10-part action agenda for increasing college completion rates: 1) universal, voluntary preschool for low-income families; 2) improved college counseling; 3) high school dropout prevention; 4) alignment of K-12 education with international standards and college admission requirements; 5) improved teacher quality, recruitment, and retention; 6) simplified college admission processes; 7) more need-based grants and clarified financial aid processes; 8) affordable college tuition; 9) college dropout prevention; and 10) more postsecondary educational opportunities for adults.

Exemplary high schools
A new report on 15 outstanding public high schools by Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative, How High Schools Become Exemplary, shows that student achievement rises when leadership focuses on the quality of instruction. Leaders in these schools publicly took responsibility for raising student achievement; used mission statements to keep on track; planned learning experiences for teachers; defined criteria for teaching and student work; engaged their entire faculties in the project; and continually monitored both teacher and student work.

School turnaround
The Communities for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) has developed a new approach to school intervention that it calls “Sustainable School Transformation.” It emphasizes an inclusive process involving parents and communities, research-based strategies, and taking into account schools’ and students’ individual needs. CEPS recommends that any school transformation focus on school instruction, culture, curriculum, and staffing; provide wraparound supports for students; and practice collaboration to ensure local ownership and accountability.

Teach for America
The students whom the elite college graduates from Teach for America (TFA) teach are usually low-income kids who need the most highly trained and highly skilled teachers. A new report, Teach for America: A Review of the Evidence, finds that the students taught by TFA teachers perform significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those taught by beginning credentialed teachers, and that the high turnover rate of TFA teachers is costly to districts ($70,000 per recruit).