August 2011 Reports

Accessing higher education
The financial aid policies of colleges and universities, states, and the federal government do not expand, but rather limit, access to higher education for low-income youth. Priced Out, a new report from The Education Trust, says that the average low-income family will end up paying or borrowing an amount equal to 72 percent of its annual income each year that it sends one child to a four-year college. This represents the “net price” of a college education: the amount families must pay after grant aid.

Benefits and the workforce
The 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report says that 54 percent of America’s workforce would accept a new job at a lower salary if that job had better benefits, and 42 percent said that a well-communicated benefits program would make them less inclined to look for a new job. However, 66 percent said their human resources department is not or is only somewhat effective at benefits communications. Fifty-three percent of workers said they will be looking for a new job in the coming year.

Condition of Education
The National Center for Education Statistics’ Condition of Education 2011 says that 49 percent of elementary school teachers and 54 percent of high school teachers held postgraduate degrees in 2007-08, compared to 43 percent and 50 percent in 1999-2000. Dropout rates for whites, blacks, and Latinos all declined between 1980 and 2009. The percentage of white students decreased from 68 percent to 55 percent between 1989 and 2009, while the percentage of Latino students doubled from 11 to 22 percent.

Graduation rate improves
The graduation rate jumped almost three percentage points from 2007 to 2008 after declining for two years, and now stands at 72 percent, the highest it has been since the 1980s. Diplomas Count 2011, a new report from Education Week, says that graduation rates have increased by at least two percentage points for all ethnic groups; graduation rates improved most rapidly among black students. Eighty-three percent of Asian-Americans, 78 percent of whites, 58 percent of Latinos, 57 percent of blacks, and 54 percent of Native Americans graduated.

Latino graduates
U.S. Census Bureau data show a 12 percent rise in the number of Latino high school graduates from 2000 to 2008. School Enrollment in the United States: 2008 reports that in 2008 only 22 percent of Latino 18- to 24-year-olds lacked a high school diploma or its equivalent, or were not enrolled in high school, compared to 34 percent in 1998. Latino enrollment in two-year colleges was up 85 percent from 2000 levels. An enrollment record was set in 2008, with 18.6 million students enrolled in college.

Reauthorizing ESEA
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s ESEA Briefing Book identifies issues that policymakers must resolve before the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) can be reauthorized. The issues include: the definition of college and career readiness; required achievement standards, or “cut scores;” growth measures; science and history assessments; school ratings (Adequate Yearly Progress); interventions; measuring and ensuring teacher effectiveness; comparability of services; and allowing more flexibility to states and districts in adhering to the law’s requirements.

Restructuring resources to raise student achievement
Restructuring Resources for High-Performing Schools from Education Resource Strategies says that the current financial crisis and a widespread push for school reform provide a unique opportunity for state policymakers to make big changes at the local level. The report recommends that states move now to make money-saving policy changes to the organization of people and time (eliminate class size requirements and mandated staffing ratios); special education (implement early intervention and revise funding formulas); state funding systems (move to weighted student funding systems); and district data and reporting (use suggested “power metrics” to make district reporting more meaningful).

Social media’s impact on kids
More than half of all teens use a social media site at least once a day. A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families, offers a rundown on the latest social media research and advises parents and their kids on ways to navigate this new world. The report advises parents to close their own “participation gap” by learning how to use social media themselves, and recommends supervising children’s online experiences actively, rather than depending on monitoring software.

Soldiers’ deployment and student achievement
Students whose parents are deployed for 19 months or longer have modestly lower achievement scores than cohorts whose parents have been deployed for less time or have not been deployed. A new study from the Rand Corporation, Effects of Soldiers’ Deployment on Children’s Academic Performance and Behavioral Health, says that, the longer parents are deployed, the greater the negative effects on their children’s academic achievement and behavior. Elementary and middle school students are shown to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of deployment.

Talking to kids about sexting
A new tip sheet for parents from the American Academy of Pediatrics about kids and social media, Talking to Kids and Teens about Social Media and Sexting, recommends keeping the family computer in a public part of the home, finding out what platforms friends are using, checking chat logs and social networking profiles, setting time limits for Internet usage, and creating a system to monitor children’s online usage -- then following through.

Teacher quality in L.A.
Only 52 percent of students in California’s Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) graduate on time. Statewide, 70 percent of all students graduate on time. A report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in LAUSD, says that, to turn the district around, it needs to improve teacher recruitment, pre-screening, and staffing practices; evaluate teachers regularly on multiple measures, including student achievement; and make tenure more meaningful, including changing the current practice of offering it after two years of teaching.

Test-based incentive programs ineffective
A new report from the National Research Council, Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education, says programs that sanction or reward schools, teachers, or students based on test performance do not consistently or significantly raise student achievement. School-level incentives such as those used by No Child Left Behind yield the largest incentive gains, but even the largest gains measure around 0.08 standard deviations, the equivalent of moving performance from the 50th percentile to the 53rd percentile. Data also indicate that high school exit exams effectively reduce high school graduation rates.

Third-grade reading and graduation rates
Low-income students who do not read proficiently by third grade are at great risk of not graduating, or not graduating on time, according to Double Jeopardy, a new report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Twenty-six percent of low-income, low-proficiency readers fail to graduate high school by age 19, compared to 22 percent of low-income children overall, and 6 percent of children who have never experienced poverty. The statistics are most grim for black and Latino students who are not proficient readers by third grade.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.