February 2011 Reports

Dropouts and juvenile justice
Dropout Nation says that, for school reformers, solving problems in the juvenile justice system is as important as literacy in stemming the dropout crisis. Just 12 percent of former juvenile prison inmates ever graduate from high school or receive a GED. Only 45 percent of incarcerated youth spend six or more hours a day attending classes as do their public school cohorts. The website says an overdiagnosis of learning disabilities feeds young black, white, and Latino men into special education, making them more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.

Education stimulus funds
Two years after public education received $100 billion in stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), its effect on student achievement is still undetermined. Conflicting Missions and Unclear Results finds that most districts used ARRA funds to maintain spending levels in the face of budget cuts, and that mixed messages and delays in receiving guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education created confusion about how the funds should be used. When funds were used for more strategic ends, local leadership was responsible, not federal policy decisions.

EMOs and AYP
A new report from the National Education Policy Center says that half of the public schools run by for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under NCLB in 2009-10. Profiles of For-Profit Education Management Organizations: 2009-2010 finds that, the larger an EMO was, the worse it performed, and “virtual school” EMOs performed worst of all.

How schools keep getting better
How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better found six interventions that were common to 20 continually improving school systems: investment in building teachers’ skills and principals’ management skills; improving methods of student assessment; improving data collection systems; introducing education laws and policies that lead to improvement in student achievement; revising standards and curriculum; and establishing an appropriate reward and remuneration structure for principals and teachers (pay-for-performance).

Kids eat snacks, not meals
Key findings from the American Dietetic Association’s 2010 Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey show that breakfast is sometimes skipped by 42 percent of white and Latino children, and by 59 percent of black children. Dinner is sometimes skipped by 22 percent of white children, 34 percent of black children, and 38 percent of Latino children. Snacks often replace these meals, with 23 percent of white children, 30 percent of black children, and 24 percent of Latino children eating in front of their televisions.

Latinos and early education
Preschool enrollment in heavily Latino Illinois neighborhoods is half that of enrollment for non-Latino neighborhoods, leading to wide gaps in early learning. While this disparity is due in part to low levels of Latino maternal education and poor early-learning home practices, the central problem seems to be one of simple access: Just one in three Latino parents can find a spot in a neighborhood preschool for their child. Read Few Preschool Slots for Latino Children for more information.

Leadership succession in charters
Seventy-one percent of the 400 charter school leaders surveyed for You’re Leaving? expect to leave their schools within five years. Charter schools are particularly vulnerable when leadership turns over because charter schools may not have a pool of ready candidates (especially independent charter schools), may operate in politically antagonistic environments, or may require a leader who is a very close “fit” with the school and its mission.

Millenials would rather text
A new survey of 18- to 34-year-olds by Zipcar says that almost half (45 percent) of them already drive less than they used to do, and 64 percent would make a further reduction in driving if they had other transportation options. These young adults say the high cost of gas, parking, and maintenance (80 percent) and the option to spend time with friends online (54 percent) make car ownership less desirable.

NAEP 12th-grade test results
High school seniors made modest gains in reading and math in 2009, according to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The average high school senior scored 288 on the reading assessment, up from 286 in 2005, and 153 on the math assessment, up from 150 in 2005. But hold your applause: The scores mean that only 38 percent of U.S. seniors reached proficiency in reading, and even fewer (26 percent) reached proficiency in math.

Student performance relative to Common Core Standards
ACT’s A First Look at the Common Core and College and Career Readiness provides a research-based estimate of how U.S. students are performing relative to the Common Core State Standards. The report finds that, relative to the Common Core, 31 percent of students reached standards in understanding complex text; 35 percent reached standards when using vocabulary and language; 24 percent work with science materials at the standards’ levels; and only about one-third of students reached standards’ level for each of the Common Core mathematical practices. Latino and African-American students performed well below white students in all Common Core math domains.

Teacher evaluations
Improved longitudinal data systems and refinements to value-added models make it increasingly possible for districts to estimate teachers’ impacts on student achievement, but districts face two important challenges: making valid estimates of teachers’ contribution to students’ achievement, and including teachers who teach subjects or grades that are not tested every year in their evaluation processes. Incorporating Student Performance Measures into Teacher Evaluation Systems considers which performance measures might be used most effectively.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant