December 2013 Reports

Literacy and future success
A study from the Teachers College at Columbia University of 77,501 New York City public school students who were high school freshmen in 2005 finds a surprising and quite strong connection between third-grade literacy and future success. Of those students in the cohort who failed third-grade reading, only one in three ultimately graduated from high school, compared to a 90 percent graduation rate for those in the cohort who passed the third-grade reading test. The study also found that the type of diploma a student earned -- local, Regents, or Advanced Regents -- strongly predicted future success. Less than 30 percent of the students with local diplomas enrolled in college and persisted, compared to 50 percent of Regents diploma recipients, and 80 percent of Advanced Regents diploma recipients.

Online education
A report from the National Education Policy Center, “Financing Online Education and Virtual Schooling: A Guide for Policymakers and Advocates,” says that, as online education expands, school districts must find equitable and effective ways to finance it. The authors present five tenets for online education financing for policymakers’ consideration: 1) funding should be based on the number of instructional units provided to students; 2) maximum funding per unit should not be more than the funding for the same unit in a brick-and-mortar setting; 3) states should calculate the average costs for various units of brick-and-mortar courses; 4) districts providing services to full-time online students should be compensated for costs; and 5) districts should conduct studies to determine the relative effectiveness of online vs. brick-and-mortar presentation of the same course.

Preventing rural dropouts
Twenty-four percent of all public school students attend a rural school, and while the rural graduation rate of 77.5 percent exceeds the national average of 74.7 percent, 22.5 percent of rural students never complete high school. A white paper from the Inner City Fund, “Dropout Prevention: Challenges and Opportunities in Rural Settings,” says that rural dropout rates are exacerbated by limited funding, declining student populations, a lack of qualified professional staff, and extreme transportation issues. Nonetheless, the paper finds that rural communities can combat students’ dropping out by leveraging uniquely rural social and community connections that foster school-community collaboration, family engagement, active learning, opportunities for adult mentors/advocates, and close relationships with local businesses that can lead to accelerated career and technical education.

Project-based learning
The New Tech Network of schools has recently released its “Student Outcomes Report 2013.” The report finds that students from all backgrounds benefit from its instructional approach, which is centered on project-based learning. The report also states that New Tech Network’s students graduate at a 6 percent higher rate, enroll in college nine percent more frequently, persist in four-year colleges at a 17 percent higher rate and in two-year colleges at a 46 percent higher rate, and grow 75 percent more in higher-order thinking skills between freshman and senior years than the U.S. average.

Special education and charters
A study from the Center on Reinventing Public Education and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, “Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” finds that the 3 percent to 4 percent gap between the number of special education students in New York City public schools and those in charter schools exists mostly because students with disabilities are less likely to enroll in charter schools in kindergarten. The researchers further assert that 80 percent of the existing gap results from charter schools’ reluctance to classify students as needing special education services; they are more likely to declassify them, the study says.

What parents want
A study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-offs,” finds that most parents want schools that are strong in reading and math, that have solid instruction in STEM subjects, can help their children develop good study habits and critical thinking skills, and promise to give them lots of practice in verbal and written communication skills. But further analysis of the data revealed six different styles of parent, each of which wants their schools to fulfill particular and often conflicting desires. Pragmatists (36 percent) want schools to offer job-related programs. Jeffersonians (24 percent) want their schools to emphasize citizenship and leadership. Test-score Hawks (23 percent) want their schools to have high test scores. Multiculturists (22 percent) want diversity. Expressionists (15 percent) want arts instruction. Strivers (12 percent) want schools that will launch their children into a top-tier college. 

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.