July 2012 Reports

Abuse hastens aging www.nature.com
A new longitudinal study published in Molecular Psychiatry finds that childhood violence affects DNA sequences called telomeres, causing abused children to age more rapidly than their cohorts. Telomeres stop DNA from fraying, and each time cells divide, telomeres get shorter. The study, Exposure to Violence during Childhood Is Associated with Telomere Erosion from 5 to 10 Years of Age, found greater telomere loss among children who had experienced at least two kinds of violence, and says that shorter telomeres are associated with a greater risk of chronic disease and poorer survival rates.

Common Core bad? http://americanprinciplesproject.org
A white paper from the Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project, Controlling Education from the Top: Why Common Core is Bad for America, says that the Common Core Standards were not created by the states but by private, Washington, D.C.-based organizations using private funding; that the standards proposed are no more rigorous than those already in place in many states, but come with a $16 billion implementation price tag; that there is no clear structure in place to govern them; that they are in violation of three federal statutes prohibiting government control of curriculum; and that the massive state student databases necessary to track individual students’ performance threaten student privacy.

Open source learning www.edxonline.org
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are creating a free, open source, online learning platform -- edX -- to enable the study of teaching methods and tools. Certificates of mastery will be awarded for demonstrated knowledge of the massively open online course (MOOC) material, but no credits can be earned at either university for successful completion. The new platform is based on MIT’s existing online learning platform, MITx. Some 120,000 students worldwide enrolled in its first class, Circuits and Electronics; 10,000 passed the recent mid-term examination.

High-quality child care benefits  http://psycnet.apa.org
New data published by the American Psychological Association from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s long-running Abecedarian Project in Adult Outcomes as a Function of an Early Childhood Educational Program show that the early child care project’s low-income participants at age 30 were four times more likely to have earned a college degree, more likely to have been consistently employed, less likely to have used public assistance, and had higher incomes than cohorts. They also delayed parenthood for two years longer than did the control group.

Juvenile ‘lifers’ http://sentencingproject.org
Juveniles sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (“lifers”) and participating in a survey for The Sentencing Project, The Lives of Juvenile Lifers, overwhelmingly experienced socioeconomic disadvantages, education failure, and abuse prior to incarceration. One third were raised in public housing. Seventy-nine percent witnessed violence in their homes, with 46.9 percent experiencing physical abuse. Female lifers experienced the most physical abuse (79.5 percent), and 77.3 percent of these reported sexual abuse. Two in five respondents received special education classes, and 84.4 percent were suspended or expelled from school. Only 46.6 percent were attending school at the time of their offense.

Minority births www.census.gov
Most children born in the U.S. are now children of color. Just-released 2011 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau say that 50.4 percent of the U.S. population under one year of age are minorities. Of the 2011 total population, 36.6 percent were minorities, and Hispanics are the most populous group. Five states or equivalents are now majority-minority: California (60.3 percent), the District of Columbia (64.7 percent), Hawaii (77.1 percent), New Mexico (59.8 percent), and Texas (55.2 percent).

Recess combats bullying www.mathematica-mpr.com
New research indicates that a healthy recess is essential to students’ academic achievement. A study from Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University, Findings from a Randomized Experiment of Playworks: Selected Results from Cohort 1, finds that because recess and organized play improve students’ behavior and ability to focus on learning, time spent in recess actually provides more time for teaching and learning, and that positive and healthy interactions during recess can reduce incidents of bullying and exclusionary behavior.

Social media  www.brookings.edu
Collaboration tools like wikis, blogs, social media, and video games allow unmediated, unfiltered communication and lower information costs -- and have fundamentally changed the way information is disseminated, particularly in classroom communication. A report from the Brookings Institution, How Blogs, Social Media, and Video Games Improve Education, says that social media now serve as trust filters for teachers and students; digital content that is recommended by online friends and acquaintances is likely to be accessed. This type of collaboration enhances education and is a new and vital part of learning.

Stretching school dollars www.edexcellencemedia.net
A policy brief from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, How School Districts Can Stretch the School Dollar, says that U.S. school districts continue to struggle financially due to lower property tax receipts and built-in contractual cost escalators for teachers’ salaries, pension systems, health insurance, and rising food and fuel costs. The brief recommends that districts create a new, leaner workforce that can implement technology to save money -- and compensate workers for productivity.

Workers lack training and skills www.ced.org
A statement by the Committee for Economic Development, Boosting Postsecondary Education Performance, says that, despite high unemployment rates, U.S. business leaders cannot find workers with the training and skills they need to fill jobs. Increasingly, people who have no training beyond high school will fail to find gainful employment. The statement urges the business community to become guiding partners with -- and advocates for -- the “broad-access” institutions (less-selective colleges, and community and technical colleges) that will have to meet the challenge of enlarging the pool of skilled American workers.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.