September 2011 Reports

Charter schools and the achievement gap
A new white paper from the Center for Reinventing Public Education argues that partnering with high-performing charter schools can help superintendents overcome the achievement gap in their schools. Eliminating the Achievement Gap says that superintendents who adopt a “portfolio” management strategy for their districts that includes charter schools can overcome political dynamics that typically hamper reform efforts. It suggests that superintendents learn to leverage strategies frequently used in charter schools, such as focusing on school culture and parent involvement, extended school days, ongoing diagnostics and interventions, and intensive professional development.

Fast-food restaurants and food deserts
A new analysis of data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study challenges the widely held belief that “food deserts” -- areas that have no grocery stores selling healthy foods at reasonable cost -- are the primary cause of obesity in lower-income neighborhoods. The analysis, Fast Food Restaurants and Food Stores, finds that the strongest link exists between obesity and fast food availability -- especially among men who have fast food restaurants near their homes.

Florida leads nation in advanced class enrollment
Florida leads the nation in Advanced Placement and advanced math class enrollment, across all student income levels. A new ProPublica analysis of survey data from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights says that, in many states, students from wealthy districts take many advanced courses, while in poorer districts, access to such classes is limited, creating an opportunity gap. While the analysis does find a link between race and access, it also finds that poverty is really the determining factor behind who attends advanced classes. An interactive Web tool allows users to search for a school and compare its students’ advanced course participation and other characteristics with other schools in the area.

Four-day school week yields few cost savings
Moving your district to a four-day school week may not yield the cost savings your district may expect. What Savings Are Produced by Moving to a Four-Day School Week?, a report by the Education Commission of the States, finds that the maximum savings that moving to a four-day school week could yield is 5.43 percent. The average savings realized by the 120 districts nationwide that have moved to a four-day school week range from 0.4 to 2.5 percent of their budgets -- small savings, but savings nonetheless.

High school students and sugary drinks
While U.S. high school students drink water (72.4 percent), milk (42 percent), and fruit juice (30.2 percent) every day, almost 25 percent of them also drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage such as soda every day. A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Beverage Consumption Among High School Students, claims that these beverages are the largest source of added sugar in their diets, leading to weight gains that contribute to our obesity problem. Male students and black students are most likely to drink one or more of these sugary drinks a day and are therefore most at risk, according to the study.

How young men of color experience education
New data based on a study from the College Board revealed that almost 50 percent of the young men of color who graduate high school end up incarcerated or unemployed. Just 18 percent of Hispanic Americans, 24 percent of Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, and 26 percent of black Americans receive an associate degree or better. An interactive website based on the study, The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color, features 92 videos of in-depth student interviews, lists legal implications that should guide the development of policy, and makes recommendations to effect change.

Minorities account for all growth in child population
A new report, America’s Diverse Future, says that a nationwide minority white child population is “quite likely” before 2020. Minority white child populations already exist in 10 states and 35 large metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, and Phoenix. The overall child population declined during the 2000s in half of states and one-third of large cities. In the areas where the child population grew, Hispanics, Asians, and other groups accounted for almost all of that growth, with Hispanics making the largest contribution to the child population.

Obesity threatens America’s future
A new report by the Trust For America’s Health, F as in Fat, finds that more than 33 percent of U.S. children ages 10 to 17 are obese or overweight. Oregon has the lowest rate of childhood obesity/overweight (9.6 percent), and Mississippi has the highest rate (21.9 percent), followed closely by Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia, all of which have rates in excess of 20 percent. Nine out of the 10 states with the highest incidence of childhood obesity and overweight are in the South.

Opportunity gap persists
Despite our best efforts, disparities in educational resources and opportunities continue to exist in U.S. public schools. Within 7,000 school districts sampled for the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection, 3,000 individual schools do not offer algebra II classes and 7,300 schools do not offer calculus. Schools that serve large numbers of black students are twice as likely to be staffed by inexperienced teachers as are schools serving white students. Only 22 percent of the districts operate pre-k programs for low-income children.

Pass on potatoes
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds a strong link between the consumption of potatoes -- especially potato chips -- and weight gain. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men found that, over a four-year period, daily consumption of potato chips led participants to gain an average of 1.69 lbs, daily consumption of potatoes led to an extra 1.28 lbs, and drinking sugar-sweetened beverages every day added 1 lb. Participants who ate yogurt every day lost 0.82 lbs.

Positive effects of preschool shown to last
At-risk children receive long-term benefits from participating in intensive preschool programs, especially males and children of high school dropouts. A 25-year study of the Chicago-based Child-Parent Center Education Program found that 80 percent of the more than 1,400 program participants had graduated from high school, compared to 75 percent of their cohorts. School-Based Early Childhood Education and Age-28 Well-Being also found that program participants earned more. The average annual adult income for participants was $11,600, as compared to $10,800 for nonparticipants.

Programs prevent ‘summer slide’
Making Summer Count, a report by the RAND Corp., shows that summer programs effectively prevent the “summer slide” and that summer program participants do better in school. The authors say that cost is the usual barrier to implementing summer programs, and that these programs are most effective when district leaders plan early and invest in highly qualified staff, consider partnerships, think creatively about funding sources, and apply district best practices to their summer programs.  

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.