May 2011 Reports

Inside charter schools
The autonomy given to charter schools puts the importance of teamwork and relationships in schools in high relief, with trust an essential component of any charter school’s viability, says a new study, Inside Charter Schools: Unlocking Doors to Student Success, by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. The study says many charter schools have used their autonomy to negotiate contracts with teachers in new ways; provide innovative programming for diverse student interests and needs; increase disadvantaged-student access to college prep programs; make school leaders “captains of their own ship”; and assemble their staffs in new and innovative ways.

Licensing relatives for foster care
A new report from Children’s Rights takes a look at recent revisions in Wisconsin law that require relatives caring for their young kin to apply for a foster home license. Ensuring High Quality Kinship Care for Children offers 17 recommendations to ensure that foster youth placed with their relatives are as safe as children placed with foster parents, and that they receive the same services and level of care. Almost one-third of Wisconsin children in foster care live with their relatives, but only 6 percent of these homes are licensed for foster care.

Millenials and marriage
For Millennials, Parenthood Trumps Marriage, a new analysis of attitudinal surveys from the Pew Research Center, finds that in the minds of the Millennial generation (18- to 29-year-olds in 2010), marriage and parenthood are no longer necessarily linked, and Millennials value parenthood far more than marriage. Fifty-two percent of Millennials say good parenting is “one of the most important things in life,” but only 30 percent of Millennials feel the same way about marriage. In fact, 44 percent of the Millennials surveyed said that marriage as an institution is becoming obsolete.

More young people delaying sex
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that young people are waiting longer to engage in sex. Twenty-seven percent of males and 29 percent of females 15 to 24 who were surveyed in 2006-08 for Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States had never had any sexual contact with another person. Only 22 percent of young men and women in this age group were still virgins at 24 in the CDC’s 2002 survey. The data also show that older age at first intercourse is associated with higher percentages of oral sex as a first sexual experience.

Pre-K makes big difference in Tenn.
Initial results of a new study of a state-funded voluntary Pre-K program in Tennessee show children in the program gained an average of 82 percent on early math and literacy skills when compared to cohorts who did not attend the program. Assessments were made at the beginning and at the end of the prekindergarten year. They revealed that the pre-K children had a 98 percent greater gain in literacy skills, a 145 percent gain in vocabulary, and a 109 percent gain in comprehension, with more moderate gains in early math skills, ranging from 33 to 63 percent higher gains than those of children who did not attend the program. Read Evaluating the Effectiveness of Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K Program for more information.

Principals and teacher development
A new paper on ways principals can influence teacher development says that principals find it easier to improve their teachers through professional development or induction than to hire, reassign, evaluate, or dismiss them. Some principals feel more constrained in these matters than others. Principals’ Approaches to Developing Teacher Quality found that principals of schools that had a strong identity, were smaller, enrolled elementary students, and were supported by their districts in key ways had the easiest time performing difficult human capital processes.

Project Exploration and STEM
A 10-year alumni study of Project Exploration -- a nonprofit, relationship-based, out-of-school time science education model for minority and female middle and high school students in Chicago Public Schools -- finds that 95 percent of alumni surveyed graduated high school or are on track to graduate  -- twice the overall rate for Chicago Public Schools. Sixty percent of alumni who are college graduates held degrees in a STEM-related field, and 32 percent of alumni held science-related employment. Eighty-eight percent of alumni credited the program for introducing them to STEM careers they had not previously considered.

Racial bias in reporting child abuse
Child abuse cases involving black children are reported to child welfare agencies at twice the rate of cases involving white children. The usual explanation for this phenomenon is racial bias on the part of the child welfare system. But Racial Bias in Child Protection? finds that, while it is not possible to preclude the possibility of such a bias, racial differences in the victimization rate data are consistent with known differences for other child outcomes, and that a reduction in the disproportion between black and white victimization rates can best be achieved by reducing underlying risk factors that affect black families more than white families.

Superintendents need authority, flexibility to lead
Just 37 percent of Ohio superintendents surveyed for Yearning to Break Free said the central problem with K-12 education is money; 52 percent said the real problem is “how and where the money is spent.” The superintendents surveyed crave autonomy, and 78 percent of them said they would gladly link their own pay to improved outcomes if only they could be given greater authority over their staffs. Fifty-seven percent believe evaluating schools and districts based on student performance on standardized tests is “mostly” a good thing. About 80 percent favor changing state law to make it easier to terminate incompetent teachers, even those who are tenured.

Teachers reject quality-blind layoffs
A new study from The New Teacher Project, The Case Against Quality-Blind Teacher Layoffs, says that 80 percent of seniority-based teacher layoffs result in better teachers leaving their classrooms, and worse teachers staying behind in schools. Fourteen states employing 40 percent of all teachers currently ban schools from basing layoffs on any factor but seniority, and most of these face severe budget shortfalls this year. The study points out that, since high-poverty schools are the most likely to have first-year teachers, seniority-based layoffs hurt poor students the most. Almost three-quarters of the teachers surveyed for the study reject quality-blind layoff rules, and say that factors other than seniority should be considered in teacher layoffs.

Women in America
Women in America, a new report from the White House Council on Women and Girls, finds that women are marrying later and having fewer children, and increasingly they are remaining childless. Women who do have children are more frequently raising them without a spouse. Women continue to outnumber men at older ages, and are more likely to live in poverty than men. Women who head single-parent households are particularly likely to live in poverty, due to the fact that women only earn 75 percent of what their male counterparts earn, at all levels of education. Women are less likely now than in the past to be victims of violent crimes, but are still more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner violence and stalking. One out of every seven adult women in America goes without routine health care.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant