September 2010 Reports

Charters and segregation
New Orleans public schools constitute the nation’s most extensive charter school experiment, but it has not been an unqualified success. A new report from the Institute on Race and Policy, The State of Public Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans, says that charter schools have helped to create a “separate and unequal tiered system of schools,” where white students are steered into selective, higher-performing schools, and students of color are steered into lower-performing schools.

Diplomas Count 2010
Only 68.8 percent of U.S. students earned a standard diploma in four years in 2007, down from 69.2 percent in 2006, according to Diplomas Count 2010. Forty-six percent of African-American students, 44 percent of Hispanic students, and 49 percent of Native American students failed to earn a diploma in four years. One-fifth of all of the nongraduates come from 25 large school districts. These districts include New York City, Los Angeles, and Clark County, Nev.

Dropout prevention
Dropout prevention efforts in New York City, Philadelphia, and Portland, Ore., essentially fall into two categories: fixing existing high schools that aren’t performing (often by breaking them into smaller schools); and creating alternative schools/programs to meet the needs of current and potential dropouts. New York’s efforts succeeded, as did Philadelphia’s, in part; Portland’s were unsuccessful. Why didn’t they all succeed? Consistent, strong leadership and high expectations made the difference, says Fighting the Dropout Crisis, written by journalists at the Hechinger Institute at Columbia University.

Flavored milk ban
Kids aren’t the only ones who don’t want chocolate milk banned from school: 93 percent of school nutrition directors surveyed by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) agree. Nearly 70 percent of milk sold in schools is flavored, and MilkPEP’s new study shows that, when only white milk is offered, milk consumption drops by 35 percent. Replacing those lost nutrients adds back more fat and calories than found in flavored milk, plus $2,200 to $4,600 spent per 100 students annually.

Harlem Success Academy
A new study by University of Pennsylvania researchers shows that students who entered the Harlem Success Academy lottery and lost ended up performing substantially worse than those who won. Students who won the lottery and attended the Harlem Success Academy scored 16 percent higher in mathematics and 17 percent higher in English language arts in third grade than those students who lost the lottery. Those who never entered the lottery did worst of all.

Immigrant life in America
Seventy-one percent of immigrants would still come to the U.S. if they had the chance again, reports Public Agenda’s A Place to Call Home. They have found the U.S. to be a good place to earn a living (88 percent), and find our legal system trustworthy (70 percent). But, while 87 percent say they are happy here, only 34 percent are “extremely happy.” Eighty-four percent favor “guest worker” programs to draw undocumented immigrants into the mainstream.

Kindergarten readiness
The average cognitive scores of America’s most affluent children are 60 percent higher than those of America’s least affluent before kindergarten, according to A Review of School Readiness Practices in the States. The brief says only seven states -- Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, and Vermont -- conduct school readiness assessments of children entering kindergarten to monitor statewide readiness. The brief recommends that readiness assessments consider children’s physical, social, and emotional progress.

Almost one-third (32 percent) of Americans call themselves “extremely patriotic,” a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll says. The number of Americans identifying themselves as “extremely patriotic” has risen consistently and is up by 13 percent since 1999. The number of Republicans and conservatives calling themselves “extremely patriotic” has grown by 24 percent since 1999; 84 percent of Tea Party followers say they are “extremely” or “very” patriotic. Forty-three percent of Americans under 35 describe themselves as “somewhat” or “not especially” patriotic.

Risk and diabetes
Obese and overweight students enrolled in schools where longer gym classes, more nutritious food choices, and classes incorporating health and nutrition awareness were available were 21 percent less likely to be obese after three years when compared to similar students in schools without such programs. A School-based Intervention for Diabetes Risk Reduction noted that overweight and obesity decreased by 4 percent at all of the schools.

Sleep and achievement
Changing adolescents’ school start time from 8 to 8:30 a.m. leads to greater sleep satisfaction, improved motivation, and better class attendance, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, “Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior.” In addition, the Archives offers a synopsis of recent research and links for further information on adolescent sleep in its Advice for Parents website feature.

Suspension alternatives
A new report from Connecticut Voices for Children demonstrates that there are effective means other than out-of-school suspensions for improving school discipline, including support for positive behavior, mentoring, peer mediation, detention, restitutions, parent meetings, and fostering student engagement. The report, Teaching Discipline: A Toolkit for Educators on Positive Alternatives to Out-of-School Suspensions, showcases examples of alternatives to out-of-school suspensions used successfully in Connecticut schools, where the numbers have dropped from 7.1 percent in 2006-07 to 5.4 percent in 2008-09.

Teacher dismissals
Vague, outdated, and ineffective state laws make teacher dismissal very difficult, according to Devil in the Details, a new report from the Center for American Progress. Teacher dismissal is handled by local school boards and administrators, but the process is governed by state laws that rarely link evaluation to dismissal, making it very difficult to dismiss teachers. Only a few states, such as Illinois, have laws explicitly suggesting that teachers with multiple negative evaluations be made eligible for dismissal.

Teacher induction models
Teacher induction programs do not help teachers feel better prepared to teach, nor do they help school districts retain teachers, but there is some evidence that two-year induction programs raise student’s test scores. The third and final report on Mathematica Policy Research’s study of teacher induction programs for the U.S. Department of Education shows that students of teachers who participated in two-year induction programs scored 4 percentage points higher in reading and 8 percentage points in math.

Turnover in charter schools
Odds are 130 percent higher that a charter school teacher will leave the profession than will a traditional public school teacher. Turnover is worst in start-up charters, where teachers are almost twice as likely to quit teaching, and almost three times as likely to change schools, as are teachers at conversion charters. Charter school teachers tend to be younger, part-time, and uncertified, says the National Center on School Choice’s report, Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools.

Voters and high school reform
Almost three-quarters of voters believe that improving public high schools is “urgent” or “extremely urgent,” says a new survey from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Forty-nine percent feel President Obama is not paying enough attention to the situation, 58 percent feel Congressional Democrats aren’t, and 62 percent feel Congressional Republicans are ignoring the problem. Over three-quarters of voters say they want Congress to change NCLB (reauthorize ESEA) to improve public high schools this year. 

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, Editorial Assistant