April 2011 Reports

Charter school funding http://nepc.colorado.edu
Adding Up the Spending, a new brief about fiscal disparities among New York City (NYC) charter schools, says that, while some NYC charters receive almost no private donations, some well-endowed charters receive plenty of additional private funding --  sometimes $10,000 per pupil more than traditional public schools have to spend. The brief also says that the city’s Board of Education gives almost half of the NYC charters a public facility to use, putting those charters ahead of the financial game even without donations. The brief points out, however, that these well-funded charter schools do not noticeably outperform traditional public schools; little or no relationship was found between spending and test scores.

NAEP science results http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard
Less than half of the students participating in the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tested at or above the “proficient” level in science. The score gap between white and black students was 36 points for fourth- and eighth-graders, and 34 points for 12th-graders. Fifty-eight percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders tested had taken biology, chemistry, and physics --  a higher percentage than for any other racial/ethnic group. Male students scored higher on average than female students at all grade levels.

Organizing communities for reform www.annenberginstitute.org
A new study finds that many school reforms fail due to the lack of trust, understanding, or cultural relevance to the community targeted by the reform, and it recommends community organizing as a strategy necessary to achieve any successful reform. The study, Strengths and Challenges of Community Organizing as an Education Reform Strategy, says that --   unlike conventional reform strategies --  community organizing addresses power relationships; develops the political will to advance equity; develops relevant, innovative solutions; looks beyond education to comprehensive reform on issues such as poverty, housing, transportation, and health care; and builds democratic capacity.

Popular kids more prone to bully www.asanet.org
Status Struggles, a survey of North Carolina eighth-, ninth-, and 10th-graders, finds that it is popular students --  not social outcasts --  who tend to be most aggressive toward other students. Students in the top 98th percentile of their school’s social hierarchy have an aggression rate 28 percent higher than students at the bottom of the hierarchy, and 40 percent higher than students at the very top of the hierarchy. Students in the top 2 percent of their hierarchy and those at the very bottom were the least aggressive.

Rehabilitating juvenile offenders www.aecf.org
Three-year outcome recidivism rates for large juvenile corrections facilities --  the model for treatment of juvenile offenders in most states for more than a century --  are uniformly high. A new model spearheaded by the state of Missouri includes a multistep treatment experience in small, regional facilities with a much lower rate of recidivism: 8.5 percent. The authors of The Missouri Model recommend limiting the use of isolation, adopting group-focused treatment, and implementing an individualized case management system as ways to reduce recidivism among youthful offenders.

Retrieval practice key to learning www.sciencemag.org
A new study finds evidence that taking tests --  retrieval learning --  is the best way to help people learn. Students in the study who read a passage and then took a test about what they had read retained 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who did not. The study says that practicing retrieval is more effective in producing meaningful learning than concept mapping, and can be an effective tool when learning science concepts. Read Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping for details.

School sanctions against nonheterosexual youth http://pediatrics.aappublications.org
A new study concludes that nonheterosexual youth suffer disproportionate punishments at the hands of schools and criminal justice systems. Criminal-Justice and School Sanctions Against Nonheterosexual Youth finds that self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers are 1.2 to 3 times more likely to receive punishment from their schools and the courts than “straight” teenagers, with nonheterosexual girls experiencing 50 percent more police stops for minor transgressions than their straight cohorts.

School turnaround www.americanprogress.org
Districts are too quick to apply one-size-fits-all interventions when attempting school turnarounds that do not take into account the individual school’s unique needs and do not fix district-level problems that may have contributed to the school’s failure. A new brief, Turning Around the Nation’s Lowest-Performing Schools, says districts can improve their chances of success by understanding what each, school needs; quantifying each school’s assets and how they are used; investing in the most important changes first; customizing the intervention strategy to the school; and changing the district, not just the school.

Teaching boys www.ascd.org
In an article, the authors of Teaching Boys: A Global Study of Effective Practices offer advice on honing a lesson specifically for boys, and suggest ways to adjust classroom content, manner of presentation, or relational style so that boys are best engaged. A practical list of “What Works with Boys” says that boys need lessons that produce products; require vigorous motor activity; are structured as games; require them to assume responsibility for the learning of others; require teamwork and competition; focus on boys’ personal realization; address “open,” unsolved problems; and introduce dramatic novelties and surprises.

Transgender students and discrimination www.thetaskforce.org
A survey of 6,000 transgender and gender nonconforming participants finds that 78 percent of those who expressed their identity while in K-12 schools reported being harassed, 35 percent were assaulted physically, and 12 percent experienced sexual violence. Injustice at Every Turn reports that 15 percent of those responding said harassment led them to leave either a K-12 or postsecondary school. Fifty-one percent of those who reported being harassed at school attempted suicide. The suicide rate for the general population is 1.6 percent.

Urban schools educate disadvantaged students best www.broadprize.org
The 2010 Broad Prize, a new analysis from the Broad Foundation based on data collected during the 2010 prize selection process, says that 30 large urban school districts do a better job than their states do, on average, of educating black, Latino, and low-income students. While 15 of these urban districts are in Texas or California, the report found that cities in 11 states and the District of Columbia routinely outperform state averages in subgroup achievement.

Value-added teacher evaluation www.americanprogress.org
A new report says that current teacher evaluations suffer from the “Lake Wobegon effect,” wherein all of the teachers are rated as “above average.” The report also says that much of the debate surrounding value-added models for teacher evaluation focuses around consequences for teachers rather than consequences for students, and is too concerned with protecting teachers from misclassification. Read When the Stakes Are High, Can We Rely on Value-Added? for more information and a framework for new teacher evaluation instruments.

Working mothers and child BMI http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com
A new study shows a link between the amount of time mothers worked in their child’s lifetime and an increase in the child’s body mass index (BMI). The study found that, for every 5.3 months a mother was employed, there was an increase in her child’s BMI of 10 percent of a standard deviation, or nearly 1 pound every five months beyond what is typically gained by a child of average height as he or she ages.

Zero tolerance http://youthunitedforchange.com
According to a new report, Zero Tolerance in Philadelphia, the city’s zero tolerance policy actually has made its schools less safe, and is responsible for the creation of a “school-to-prison pipeline” within city schools. Philadelphia’s school security force --  which the study claims has fundamentally changed the student experience in many schools --  is three times larger than the security forces of Pennsylvania’s 19 other school districts combined, despite Philadelphia’s far lower student enrollment. The report claims that Philadelphia’s charter schools have disciplinary policies as harsh as or even harsher than its traditional public schools.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant