May 2013 Reports

Digital districts
A report from Education Week, “Building the Digital District,” says that educators feel that, despite their best efforts, the technological advances occurring in their classrooms still lag far behind those taking place outside of schools. The report also says that almost all states face the necessity of updating their technology so they can administer the new online Common Core State Standards assessments, and that those schools with an inadequate technology infrastructure increasingly find themselves unable to deliver curriculum to students.

Early learning
Students who don’t have a good start academically rarely do well later on, according to a report from ACT, “College and Career Readiness: The Importance of Early Learning.” Even students identified as far off track as early as eighth grade have very slim chances of recovering and reaching ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks by 12th grade: a 10 percent chance to catch up in reading, a 6 percent chance in science, and only a 3 percent chance to catch up in mathematics. The report emphasizes that, since learning takes time and is cumulative, since student interests develop early, and since it is so difficult to help students catch up in middle and high school, the earlier students get on track, the better.

Kids and psychotropic drugs
Kids in the child welfare system take psychotropic drugs (those affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior) three times more frequently than other children, and usage among such children in rural areas is much higher (20 percent) than that of similar kids in urban settings (13 percent). Overall rates of psychotropic drug usage among all children increased between two and three times from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s and rates continue to rise, according to an issue brief from the Carsey Institute, “Psychotropic Medication Use Among Children in the Child Welfare System.”

Modernizing schools
“2013 State of Our Schools,” a report from the Center for Green Schools, says that between 1995 and 2008, U.S. public schools spent $211 billion on school facilities upkeep, but that projections indicated they needed to spend $482 billion just to keep buildings in basic good condition, a short- fall of $271 billion, or $5,450 per student. To add energy-efficient heating and cooling and the electrical outlets and additional power necessary to run digital devices in all schools would require $542 billion over the next decade.

Outgrowing autism
Data in a study from the National Institutes of Health, “Optimal Outcome in Individuals with a History of Autism,” while inconclusive, indicate that 34 children in the study who had been diagnosed with autism early in childhood were later found to be indistinguishable from classroom peers on observation and on cognitive tests, as well as in reports from their schools and parents. They demonstrated no difficulties with facial recognition, communication, language, or social interaction. In early childhood, these students had had only mild social deficits, but had exhibited classic autism symptoms such as repetitive behaviors and problems with communication. It is not clear whether these individuals outgrew their autism, or somehow learned to compensate for its effects.

Parent unemployment
A study from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, “Macroeconomic Environment During Infancy as a Possible Risk Factor for Adolescent Behavioral Problems,” draws a link between a parent’s unemployment during infancy and a teen’s later bad behavior or even delinquency. The authors say the data show that a family’s 1 percent deviation from the mean regional unemployment rates at one year of age affects psychological development and can lead to behavior problems later on, such as substance abuse, arrest, gang affiliation, theft, and assault.

Teen aggression
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, Emory University, and Stanford University, “Implicit Theories of Personality and Attributions of Hostile Intent,” says that teenagers who believe people’s characters are fixed and cannot change also are those most likely to believe bad behavior is intentional and to react aggressively to it. Teens in the study who felt intentionally targeted wished to punish their aggressors -- whom they viewed as “bad people” -- and were most likely to react aggressively themselves. A subsequent eight-month intervention that taught the teens that people do have the potential to change was effective in making the teens less likely to view aggression as malicious or targeted towards them, and made the teens less likely to react aggressively themselves.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.