February 2012 Reports

Breakfast of champions? http://static.ewg.org
Three of the most popular children’s cereals contain more sugar per serving than a Twinkie. The worst offender, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, is 56 percent sugar by weight. Forty-four other children’s cereals have more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies. Many of the cereals studied in the Environmental Working Groups’ new report, Sugar in Children’s Cereals, were also too high in sodium and fat or did not meet federal recommendations for whole grain.

Building better principals www.americanprogress.org
The authors of a new report from the Center for American Progress, Gateways to the Principalship, argue that principals are the driving force behind sustained student achievement, since principals are responsible for hiring and developing the teachers who have the greatest impact on student learning. States hold the keys to sustained student achievement through their control of principal licensure and approval of principal preparation programs. The authors recommend that states develop a framework for principal preparation programs, and that they revoke the licenses of ineffective principals.

Charter school best practices www.mathematica-mpr.com
A new study from Mathematica Policy Research, Charter School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts, finds that increased student achievement is linked to two factors: monitoring and coaching teachers for better performance, and well-enforced schoolwide behavior policies, including signed agreements with students and parents. The study also found that CMOs have smaller class sizes, provide more instructional time, and are more likely to pay their teachers based on performance.

Concentrated poverty  www.brookings.edu
Concentrated poverty (40 percent of people living below the poverty line) in metropolitan areas almost doubled over the past decade in the Midwest, with the Great Lakes metro areas experiencing the highest rates. Concentrated poverty rose twice as fast in metropolitan suburbs as in urban areas. According to a new Brookings report, The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty, people living in extreme-poverty neighborhoods are now more likely to be native-born, white, high school or college graduates who own their homes and do not receive public assistance.

Dropouts: Early warning  www.every1graduates.org
On Track for Success, from Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center, finds three key indicators highly predictive of eventual student dropout. These three factors (the ABCs) are attendance (absent 20 days or 10 percent of the time), behavior (two or more behavior infractions), and course failures (not reading on grade level by the end of third grade; English or math failure between sixth and ninth grades; two or more ninth grade course failures; a GPA below 2.0; or not promoted to 10th grade with cohorts).

Incarceration not cost-effective www.aecf.org
A new report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, No Place for Kids, finds that incarcerating youth is not cost-effective -- or even effective. According to the report, 72 percent of America’s 60,500 incarcerated youth are re-arrested within three years of their release.

Income and achievement  http://cepa.stanford.edu
Family income is now as strong a predictor of student achievement as parental education. A new publication from the Center for Education Policy Analysis, The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich and the Poor, says that, as the income gap between high- and low-income families has widened, so has the academic achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families. The authors find that a given difference in parents’ income corresponds to a 30 percent to 60 percent greater difference in their children’s academic achievement.

Teacher diversity www.americanprogress.org
A state-by-state analysis of the nation’s teaching staff finds that, while students of color account for more than 40 percent of all students nationally, only 17 percent of their teachers are men or women of color. The analysis, Teacher Diversity Matters from the Center for American Progress, recommends expanding high-quality alternative certification programs (27 percent of black teachers and 25 percent of Hispanic teachers have alternative certifications) and working to improve the professional experiences of teachers of color as ways to increase teacher diversity.

Violence alters children’s brains www.cell.com
Children exposed to family violence demonstrate the same changes in neurological activity as those experienced by combat veterans, according to a new study appearing in Current Biology, “Heightened Neural Reactivity to Threat in Child Victims of Family Violence.” Children who have been abused show increased activity in the areas of their brains associated with detecting threat and anticipating pain when shown pictures of angry faces. The study reports that this response is positive and adaptive in the short term, but the children’s enhanced reactivity could later lead to increased anxiety or other mental health problems.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.