June 2011 Reports

Bonuses for board-certified teachers
A study of Washington state’s four-year-old, bonus-based incentive plan for national board certified teachers, What Does Washington State Get for Its Investment in Bonuses for Board Certified Teachers?, reveals that the number of Washington’s board-certified teachers has tripled, escalating the cost of the program by $10 million per year; fewer than 1 percent of those teachers move to high-poverty schools. Board-certified teachers are no more likely to remain in challenging school assignments than other, noncertified teachers; and it is possible that, due to individual district lobbying, board-certified teacher bonuses are not being distributed equally across the state’s schools.

Brown Center report on education
Part I of the 2010 Brown Center’s annual report on American education covers America’s mediocre performance on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), media reaction to it, and myths surrounding international assessments. Part II considers how states receiving federal Race to the Top funds fared on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and why some states received grants despite poor performance on that assessment. Part III examines how well the NAEP aligns with the Common Core State Standards.

Class size and student achievement
Class-size reduction efforts have little effect on student achievement and are not cost-effective, according to Center for American Progress report, The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction. It says that 77 percent of Americans approve of small class sizes, and the pupil-teacher ratio in public schools has fallen almost 30 percent since 1970. However, reducing class size by one-third requires hiring 50 percent more teachers -- likely inexperienced -- and may require districts to build additional facilities to house the additional classes.

College and career prep
MetLife released a new survey of Fortune 100 executive, middle and high school teacher, student, and parent views about students graduating from public schools ready for college and a career, Preparing Students for College and Careers. It finds that 84 percent of the students and 77 percent of the executives surveyed “strongly agree” that there will be no job opportunities for current students who have no education beyond high school. Seventy-five percent of the students said it was “very likely” they would go on to college, but teachers said only 51 percent of their students would ever graduate from college.

Diversity in teaching 
A new report from the National Education Association, Toward Increasing Teacher Diversity, analyzed test results for the Praxis I tests -- used to screen teaching program applicants -- by race and ethnicity. It found a gap between white and black test-takers of 41.4 percent in mathematics, 40.8 percent in reading, and 35.3 percent in writing. There is also a gap between white and Hispanic test-takers of 21 percent in mathematics, 16.8 percent in reading, and 16.5 percent in writing. Gaps exist between white and Asian test-takers of 7 percent in mathematics, 24.3 percent in reading, and 16.3 percent in writing.

Dropouts and the economy
Education and the Economy, an analysis of the economies of all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine their economic benefit if 50 percent of their dropouts had finished high school, shows -- nationally -- $7.6 billion in increased earnings, $5.6 billion in increased spending, and $2 billion in increased investments. Also, the states would see $19 billion in increased home sales, $713 million in increased tax revenue, $9.6 billion in economic growth, and 54,000 new jobs.

Early education and immigrant children
Immigrant children make up 24 percent of children under age 6 nationally and 50 percent in California. However, they are more likely than native-born children to be in parental care only, and less likely than native-born children to participate in center-based care. Early Care and Education for Children in Immigrant Families recommends universal preschool and addressing language barriers and informational gaps in publicly subsidized programs’ marketing and structure as ways to reach disadvantaged immigrant children.

Eighth-grade student achievement
A new analysis of eighth-grade student achievement by the Center for Education Policy shows upward trends in state reading and math scores, which bucks conventional wisdom. There was more progress in math than in reading. Student Achievement at 8th Grade finds that, at the advanced achievement level, female students outperformed male students; and that gaps have widened in most states between black and white students, between Latino and white students, and between Native American and white students, at the advanced achievement level. Asian-American students outperformed white students by a notable margin, and other racial groups by a wide margin, at this level.

History standards
A new evaluation of state history standards, The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011, gives 28 states grades of D or below; 18 states received a grade of F. Only one state -- South Carolina -- received an A in the evaluation, but five states (Alabama, California, Indiana, Massachusetts, and New York) and the District of Columbia earned A-, and three more states (Oklahoma, Georgia, and Michigan) earned a B.

Innovative work roles for teachers
Nearly four in 10 teachers would like to combine classroom work with other roles or responsibilities within their districts, according to a new report, Beyond Classroom Walls, the results of a study on role-shifting reforms inside Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools’ Teacher Leadership Program. The report says that role-shifting is one way to recognize and retain teachers and allows the best teachers to have a positive impact on the largest number of students.

Opportunities for education declining
A survey of almost a quarter of California’s high school principals about learning conditions in their schools, Free Fall: Educational Opportunities in 2011, reveals that California high schools are providing less time, attention, and quality programs to their students. Staff cutbacks and reductions in professional development have caused school reform to sputter to a halt. Inequality within and across schools is growing, and the schools face increasing demands from families in economic crisis.

State strategies for fixing schools
A new issue brief from the National Governors Association, State Strategies for Fixing Failing Schools and Districts, finds that the underlying causes of school failure are weak leadership, insufficient high-quality teaching materials, and not enough good teachers who know how to use them. To fix failing schools, the brief recommends building state capacity to support school turnarounds; engaging external partners to help manage school turnarounds; setting ambitious but realistic goals for school improvement; developing human capital; and increasing state authority to intervene in failing schools if other methods fail.

Teacher evaluation systems
A new study from the Aspen Institute, Building Teacher Evaluation Systems: Learning from Leading Efforts, profiles teacher performance management work being done in the District of Columbia Public Schools and the Achievement First charter school network. It finds the work’s commonalities and distinctions, describes early lessons learned, suggests how teacher evaluations might be used to improve teaching and student learning, and proposes questions to guide teacher evaluations.

Youth in the adult criminal justice system
States toughened laws regulating juvenile offenders in the 1980s and 1990s, but recent research shows these tougher laws have neither deterred crime nor decreased recidivism among youthful offenders. A new report from The Campaign for Youth Justice, State Trends from 2005-2010: Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System, says that in recent years 15 states have reformed their juvenile court systems, and nine more are implementing progressive changes, indicating a trend toward a culture of active reform.  n

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.