July 2011 Reports

Civics test results
Fourth-grade achievement on The Nation’s Report Card (NAEP): Civics 2010 was the highest it has been since 1998, but 12th-grade scores were down from 2006 -- especially for girls (3 points). Eighth-grade scores remained flat. The white/black achievement gap observed in previous years persisted in 2010’s assessment, but the white/ Hispanic achievement gap is closing: Average Hispanic scores for all three grades were higher than in the 1998 assessment.

Dropouts early warning
A new study from the Baltimore Education Research Consortium, Destination Graduation: Sixth Grade Early Warning Indicators for Baltimore City Schools, finds four early-warning indicators of nongraduation for sixth-graders: chronic absence; failing math, English, or both; earning a failing average for math, science, English, and social studies; being overage by at least one year; and a suspension of three days or longer.

Expanding performance measures
Expanded Measures of School Performance, a report by the RAND Corp., claims that NCLB has led the public to focus on student performance and accountability measures and to neglect the importance of schools’ role in promoting positive social and behavioral outcomes such as the preparation of students for college and the workplace and the teaching of personal responsibility, the value of teamwork, and civic-mindedness.

Growing charter leaders
A new report, Preparing for Growth: Human Capital Innovations in Charter Public Schools, by the Center for American Progress, analyzes strategies used by six charter management organizations (Green Dot Public Schools, High Tech High, IDEA Public Schools, Knowledge Is Power Program, Rocketship Education, and YES Prep Schools) to ensure an adequate number of charter school leaders in the pipeline. It finds three key strategies: standardizing recruitment and preparation processes for new hires, developing leadership in teachers and principals, and hiring highly talented outside management.

Health and education
A new report, Aligning Health & Education in the School Setting, says that schools that work to enhance the mental, social, emotional, and physical health of their students and staff experience higher student achievement, greater staff satisfaction, decreased staff turnover, greater efficiency, and a more positive school climate. The report outlines “nine levers of change” that can transform school health programs by focusing on schools’ administration, staff, students, and communities.

KIPP and college completion
A study of Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools shows that 33 percent of the graduates of the high-minority (95 percent are African-American or Latino), high-poverty (85 percent qualify for free or reduced-price meals) of KIPP have attained a bachelor’s degree within 10 years of attending the middle school program. Slightly more than 30 percent of all Americans aged 25 to 29 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and only 8.3 percent of low-income students attain a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s.

New Orleans’ population shift
The population of metropolitan New Orleans has dropped 11 percent overall since 2000, but the largest drop in the metro area’s population has occurred among children, according to Shifts in Population and Loss of Children Across the New Orleans Metro Area a report published by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. Over the last decade, the metro area has lost 7 percent of its adult population but 22 percent of its children under 18, a trend observable in the majority of the cities and towns comprising the metro area.

Rigorous math and science classes linked to high achievement
Results reported in America’s High School Graduates, the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study, show a link between high math and science scores on the 12th-grade NAEP and rigorous coursework. That is defined as three or more credits in a foreign language; completion of biology, chemistry, and physics; and pre-calculus or higher. Two-thirds of the graduates who took rigorous coursework took algebra I before high school, and they scored 31 points higher on the 12th-grade NAEP math assessment than did their cohorts.

Seniority-based teacher layoffs
Florida recently has done away with seniority-based layoff rules, and other states are considering doing the same. The Christian Science Monitor’s website offers a discussion of the arguments pro and con surrounding LIFO (last-in, first-out) teacher layoffs. Teacher Layoffs Ahead: Should Seniority Prevail? offers six considerations to readers, ranging from how such layoffs work to other options, the possibility of compromise, and discussing which side currently has momentum.

Start STEM in elementary school
A report by the Center for American Progress, Slow Off the Mark, says that early learning is crucial to later success in science, math, and technology fields. It claims many elementary teachers are ill-prepared to teach math and science, pointing out that teachers can pass the licensing exam in most states without passing the math portion of the test. The report recommends raising admission standards to elementary teacher preparation programs and pay-for-performance to attract the best candidates to elementary teaching positions.

Successful pay-for-performance
A recent review casts doubts on the conclusions of a report by Harvard University’s Program on Education and Policy Governance touting the success of international pay-for-performance efforts based on superior performance on international tests. Review of Cross-Country Evidence on Teacher Performance notes that the sample size of the study -- 28 countries -- is so small that extreme caution is required when interpreting the results. The reviewer also notes that fundamental differences in the types of performance pay systems used by the countries in the sample are not considered.

Youth outlook mixed
Only 44 percent of Americans believe today’s youth will have a brighter future than their parents had, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll. Most pessimistic about youth’s future are Americans earning $75,000 or more a year and Americans ages 50 to 64. While Republicans have their doubts (31 percent), the majority of Democrats (60 percent) believe youth can look forward to a better tomorrow, as do 57 percent of youth ages 18 to 29. 

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.