Education Vital Signs: Helping Students Learn

Curriculum and instruction -- they’re at the very heart of the school district’s mission. Helping students learn means making sure they can “read to learn” by third grade; that they move sequentially though a well-designed mathematics curriculum; that they experience a science program that is not “a mile wide and an inch deep” but an in-depth exploration of the concepts behind the facts and formulas; that they are introduced to drama, music, and the world of the visual arts. These are just a fraction of myriad examples. Other issues include the ongoing debates over topics like technology use, constructivism, phonics and whole language, the length of the school days, etc.

Below are some of the latest studies concerning this broad and important topic:

Recess and student achievement
An article appearing in Pediatrics, “The Crucial Role of Recess in School,” says that recess promotes physical health, facilitates social development, and measurably increases children’s cognitive performance. The article says that -- while physical education classes are important -- supervised, unstructured recess offers special benefits to children. Free play allows them to learn communication skills such as negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving, as well as the essential coping skills of perseverance and self-control. Students who have recess before lunch spend more time eating lunch and waste less food.
December 2012

STEM for girls
L’Oréal USA has launched a website designed to engage schoolgirls in science, and encourage their participation in STEM studies. A series of focus groups the company conducted with girls ages 13 to 18 showed that, while the girls were interested in STEM, they did not find it compelling, and they had few female STEM role models “For Girls in Science” features video of female scientists on the job, famous women’s STEM contributions, a career personality quiz, and a list of STEM career opportunities.
December 2012

Digital research
A survey of advanced placement and National Writing Project teachers finds that 77 percent of them feel that the Internet and digital search tools have had a mostly positive effect on students’ research efforts, but at the same time 87 percent of them feel that these same technologies are making their students easily distracted and shortening their attention spans. Overall, 64 percent of the teachers surveyed felt that the technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.” Additionally, 60 percent of the teachers surveyed for the Pew Research Center’s "How Teens Do Research in the Digital World" felt that modern technologies actually make it harder for their students to find credible resources.
November 2012

Helping teens become learners
A research review by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, "Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners," says that students earn higher grades when they persevere and engage in strong academic behaviors such as coming to class and participating, completing assignments on time, studying and mastering the material, investing time in challenging work, and following a task through to completion. The review says these behaviors become increasingly important to success as students leave middle school and transition to high school and then to college.
June 2012

Common Core bad?
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.
May 2012

Arts in school
Recent data on arts education released by the National Center for Education Statistics show that, for the 2009-10 school year, 94 percent of U.S. elementary schools provided music instruction to students, and 83 percent provided instruction in visual arts. Only 3 percent offered instruction in dance, and only 4 percent offered classes in drama or theater arts. Fifty-seven percent of all secondary schools required students to take arts courses of some kind before graduating.
April 2012

Reform and national security
A report from the Council on Foreign Relations says that national educational outcomes are disheartening, and that our students’ inability to compete in the global economy threatens our leadership role. The report, "U.S. Education Reform and National Security," makes three overarching policy recommendations: expand educational expectations and assessments in subjects vital to safeguarding national security; change educational structure to provide students with good choices; and launch a national security readiness audit, the results of which should be publicized.
March 2012 

Incomplete: How Middle Class Schools Aren’t Making the Grade

A report from Third Way, Incomplete: How Middle Class Schools Aren’t Making the Grade, says that, while 53 percent of public school students attend middleclass schools, those schools have been forgotten by the education debate. The report says that no one calls for their reform, yet three out of four middle-class high school graduates don’t receive their college degree, making them vulnerable to unemployment and decreasing their individual lifetime earnings by $1 million.

October 2011


Ed research enhanced

Hanover Research has acquired key assets of Educational Research Service (ERS). Hanover will supplement ERS’ services by providing its subscribers with customized education research, and plans to partner with school districts, state departments of education, and regional education agencies to collect and disseminate data and tailored research.

October 2011


Teacher Effects in Early Grades

A study confirms that good teachers do make a difference and have lasting effects on student achievement. The study by a Michigan State University researcher, Teacher Effects in Early Grades, finds that students exposed to teachers at the 85th percentile of the teacher effectiveness distribution for three consecutive grades (kindergarten through second grade) experience an increase at third grade of nearly one-third of a year’s growth in reading achievement, compared to students who were not exposed to the highly effective teachers. These results are similar to those achieved by reducing class size.

October 2011


Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude?

A new study finds that two in five students who are identified as high-performing (scoring at or above the 90th percentile on MAP assessments) in early grades lose that designation in just four years. Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? found little connection between a school’s poverty level and the academic growth of its most able students, challenging the widely held belief that the best academic performances always will come from high-achievers attending wealthy, suburban schools.

September 2011


Trends in Chicago’s Schools Across Three Eras of Reform

Graduation rates in the Windy City have improved over the past two decades, but learning gains over those years have been modest. The Consortium on Chicago School Research’s recently released report, Trends in Chicago’s Schools Across Three Eras of Reform, also showed that racial achievement gaps among city students are steadily increasing. Also, academic achievement levels for most students are far below where they need to be for college readiness.

September 2011


Nurture Affects Gender Differences in Spatial Abilities

Data from a study comparing how quickly villagers from matrilineal or patrilineal societies solved a puzzle strongly indicate that gender gaps in spatial ability are the result of nurture, not nature. The authors of Nurture Affects Gender Differences in Spatial Abilities, published by the National Academy of Sciences, argue that because none of the tested villagers had previous experience working with puzzles, because they shared the same genetic background, and because they all had the same means of subsistence, gender differences in their spatial ability are clearly shown to be the result of nurture.

August 2011


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.

June 2011


Eliminating 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.

June 2011

What Savings Are Produced by Moving to a Four-Day School Week?

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.

May 2011

Priced Out
The financial aid policies of colleges and universities, states, and the federal government do not expand, but rather limit, access to higher education for low-income youth. Priced Out, a new report from The Education Trust, says that the average low-income family will end up paying or borrowing an amount equal to 72 percent of its annual income each year that it sends one child to a four-year college. This represents the “net price” of a college education: the amount families must pay after grant aid.
June 2011

Restructuring Resources for High- Performing Schools
Restructuring Resources for High- Performing Schools from Education Resource Strategies says that the current financial crisis and a widespread push for school reform provide a unique opportunity for state policymakers to make big changes at the local level. The report recommends that states move now to make money-saving policy changes to the organization of people and time (eliminate class size requirements and mandated staffing ratios); special education (implement early intervention and revise funding formulas); state funding systems (move to weighted student funding systems); and district data and reporting (use suggested “power metrics” to make district reporting more meaningful).
June 2011

Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education
A new report from the National Research Council, Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education, says programs that sanction or reward schools, teachers, or students based on test performance do not consistently or significantly raise student achievement. School-level incentives such as those used by No Child Left Behind yield the largest incentive gains, but even the largest gains measure around 0.08 standard deviations, the equivalent of moving performance from the 50th percentile to the 53rd percentile. Data also indicate that high school exit exams effectively reduce high school graduation rates.
May 2011

ESEA Briefing Book
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s ESEA Briefing Book identifies issues that policymakers must resolve before the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) can be reauthorized. The issues include: the definition of college and career readiness; required achievement standards, or “cut scores;” growth measures; science and history assessments; school ratings (Adequate Yearly Progress); interventions; measuring and ensuring teacher effectiveness; comparability of services; and allowing more flexibility to states and districts in adhering to the law’s requirements.
April 2011

Aligning Health & Education in the School Setting
A new report, Aligning Health & Education in the School Setting, says that schools that work to enhance the mental, social, emotional, and physical health of their students and staff experience higher student achievement, greater staff satisfaction, decreased staff turnover, greater efficiency, and a more positive school climate. The report outlines “nine levers of change” that can transform school health programs, focusing on schools’ administration, staff, students, and communities.
May 2011

Teacher Layoffs Ahead: Should Seniority Prevail?
Florida has recently done away with seniority-based rules governing layoffs, and other states are considering doing the same. The Christian Science Monitor’s website offers a discussion of the arguments pro and con surrounding LIFO (last-in-first-out) teacher layoffs. Teacher Layoffs Ahead: Should Seniority Prevail? offers six considerations to readers, ranging from how such layoffs work to other options, the possibility of compromise, and discussing which side currently has momentum.
May 2011

America’s High School Graduates: the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study
Results reported in America’s High School Graduates, the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study, show a link between high math and science scores on the 12th-grade NAEP and rigorous coursework. That is defined as three or more credits in a foreign language; completion of biology, chemistry, and physics; and pre-calculus or higher. Two-thirds of the graduates who took rigorous coursework took algebra I before high school, and they scored 31 points higher on the 12th-grade NAEP math assessment than did their cohorts.
April 2011

Review of Cross-Country Evidence on Teacher Performance
A recent review casts doubts on the conclusions of a report by Harvard University’s Program on Education and Policy Governance touting the success of international pay-for-performance efforts based on superior performance on international tests. Review of Cross-Country Evidence on Teacher Performance notes that the sample size of the study—28 countries—is so small that extreme caution is required when interpreting results. The reviewer also notes that fundamental differences in the types of performance pay systems used by the countries in the sample are not considered.
March 2011


The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction

Class-size reduction efforts have little effect on student achievement and are not cost-effective, according to a Center for American Progress report, The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction. It says that 77 percent of Americans approve of small class sizes, and the pupil-teacher ratio in public schools has fallen almost 30 percent since 1970. However, reducing class size by one-third requires hiring 50 percent more teachers—likely inexperienced—and may require districts to build additional facilities to house the additional classes.

April 2011


State Strategies for Fixing Failing Schools and Districts

A new issue brief from the National Governors Association, State Strategies for Fixing Failing Schools and Districts, finds that the underlying causes of school failure are weak leadership, insufficient high-quality teaching materials, and not enough good teachers that know how to use them. To fix failing schools, the brief recommends: building state capacity to support school turnarounds; engaging external partners to help manage school turnarounds; setting ambitious but realistic goals for school improvement; developing human capital; and increasing state authority to intervene in failing schools if other methods fail.

March 2011

Preparing Students for College and Careers

MetLife released a new survey of Fortune 100 executive, middle and high school teacher, student, and parent views about students graduating from public schools ready for college and a career, Preparing Students for College and Careers. It finds that 84 percent of the students and 77 percent of the executives surveyed “strongly agree” that there will be no job opportunities for current students who have no education beyond high school. Seventy-five percent of the students said it was “very likely” they would go on to college, but teachers said only 51 percent of their students would ever graduate from college.

March 2011

Free Fall: Educational Opportunities in 2011

A survey of almost a quarter of California’s high school principals about learning conditions in their schools, Free Fall: Educational Opportunities in 2011, reveals that California high schools are providing less time, attention, and quality programs to their students. Staff cutbacks and reductions in professional development have caused school reform to sputter to a halt. Inequality within and across schools is growing; and the schools face increasing demands from families in economic crisis.

March 2011


Brown Center Report on Education

Part I of the 2010 Brown Center’s annual report on American education covers America’s mediocre performance on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), media reaction to it, and myths surrounding international assessments. Part II considers how states receiving federal Race to the Top funds fared on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and why some states received grants despite poor performance on that assessment. Part III examines how well the NAEP aligns with the Common Core State Standards.

February 2011


Project Exploration and STEM

A 10-year alumni study of Project Exploration -- a non-profit, relationship-based, out-of-school time science-education model for minority and female middle and high school students in Chicago Public Schools -- finds that 95 percent of alumni surveyed graduated high school or are on track to graduate – twice the overall rate for Chicago Public Schools. Sixty percent of alumni who are college graduates held degrees in a STEM-related field, and 32 percent of alumni held science-related employment. Eighty-eight percent of alumni credited the program for introducing them to STEM careers they had not previously considered.

March 2011

Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping
A new study finds evidence that taking tests—retrieval learning—is the best way to help people learn. Students in the study who read a passage and then took a test about what they had read retained 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who did not. The study says that practicing retrieval is more effective in producing meaningful learning than concept mapping, and can be an effective tool when learning science concepts. Read Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping for details.
January 2011

Turning Around the Nation’s Lowest-Performing Schools
Districts are too quick to apply one-size-fits-all interventions when attempting school-turnarounds that do not take into account the individual school’s unique needs and do not fix district-level problems that may have contributed to the school’s failure. A new brief, Turning Around the Nation’s Lowest-Performing Schools, says districts can improve their chances of success by understanding what each school needs; quantifying each schools assets and how they are used; investing in the most important changes first; customizing the intervention strategy to the school; and changing the district, not just the school.
January 2011

Teaching Boys: A Global Study of Effective Practices  
In an article, the authors of Teaching Boys: A Global Study of Effective Practices offer advice on honing a lesson specifically for boys, and suggest ways to adjust classroom content, manner of presentation, or relational style so that boys are best engaged. A practical list of “What Works with Boys” says that boys need lessons that produce products; require vigorous motor activity; are structured as games; require them to assume responsibility for the learning of others; require teamwork and competition; focus on boys’ personal realization; address “open,” unsolved problems; and introduce dramatic novelties and surprises.
December 2010

The 2010 Broad Prize 
The 2010 Broad Prize, a new analysis from the Broad Foundation based on data collected during the 2010 prize selection process, says that 30 large urban school districts do a better job, on average, than their states do of educating black, Latino, and low-income students. While fifteen of these urban districts are in Texas or California, the report found that cities in 11 states and the District of Columbia routinely outperform state averages in subgroup achievement.
December 2010

Are Bad Schools Immortal?
“Are Bad Schools Immortal?,” a study of 2,025 low-performing charter and district schools, shows that those schools stubbornly resist significant change and don’t usually close when they fail to improve -- although poorly-performing charter schools were slightly more likely to close than poorly-performing district schools. The study found that, five years after the study began, 72 percent of the original low-performing charters were still alive—and still performing poorly—as were 80 percent of the low-performing district schools. Only 1 percent of the low-performing schools made dramatic improvement in academic performance over the course of the study, suggesting that it is easier to close a low-performing school than to turn one around.
December 2010

Hear Us Out
There is no shortage of college aspirations among high school students; however, the support and resources students need to get to college are lacking. “Hear Us Out,” a new report from the Center for Youth Voice, finds that, while 68 percent of students surveyed planned to attend college right after graduation, almost a third of these (and 12 percent of seniors) had yet to speak with their high school counselor about college. Two-thirds of the students said the cost of college was their biggest hurdle, but 40 percent of them said they knew little or nothing about obtaining financial aid.
Falls 2010

How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better
How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better found six interventions that were common to twenty continually-improving school systems: investment in building teachers’ skills and principals’ management skills; improving methods of student assessment; improving data collection systems; introducing education laws and policies that lead to improvement in student achievement; revising standards and curriculum; and establishing an appropriate reward and remuneration structure for principals and teachers (pay-for-performance).
November 2010

Degree Completion Beyond Institutional Borders
Many students enter college with learning and credits earned at community colleges while still in high school, or earned on the job, or in military training -- but more often than not, institutions only recognize these credits as electives, and view learning outside of college as a “fringe activity” that does not translate into credits. A new report, Degree Completion Beyond Institutional Borders, recommends the creation of a national commission to improve articulation agreements institutions and postsecondary systems, equitable funding for nontraditional learners and programs, improving data collection on student transfers, and the creation of a national database for information about the transferability of credits.
November 2010

Easy Come, EZ-GO
Residents in multistate metropolitan areas (MSAs) travel freely across states and between cities, but students attending schools in MSAs do not enjoy the same fluidity when it comes to tuition payments and credit transfers, and may be charged steep, out-of-state fees for attending a nearby university -- in another state. Easy Come, EZ-GO suggests Congressionally-authorized Educational Zone Governance Organizations (EZ-GOs) as a solution. These organizations would ratify the boundaries of these areas, advise federal policymakers on ways to increase enrollment, and review federal policies to help improve coordination among public, private, and for-profit institutions in their areas.
October 2010

Housing Policy Is School Policy
A study of 858 public-housing students enrolled in Maryland’s affluent Montgomery County public schools says that, seven years after enrolling, these students scored 8 percent higher on standardized math tests than their cohorts in higher-poverty schools -- who had received additional services. According to Housing Policy Is School Policy, by the time the public-housing students had left elementary school, they had reduced – by 50 percent in math, and 33 percent in reading -- the achievement gap with their more affluent classmates.
October 2010

How to Fix Our Schools
A new brief from the Economic Policy Institute says that it will take a lot more than a ‘Manifesto’ and giving bad teachers the boot to turnaround public schools. How to Fix Our Schools says that social science research shows that the quality of schools accounts for only one-third of differences in student achievement, that the other two-thirds is due to out-of-school factors beyond the schools’ control, and that good teachers cannot compensate for the kinds of disadvantages many students bring to school. The brief also talks about the roles teacher collaboration and school leadership play in student achievement, and suggests that an inspired school principal may be able to get better student achievement with mediocre, or even bad, teachers, than a poor principal could produce with even the best of teachers.
October 2010

Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the Results of the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement
Research shows that schools whose students have a high level of engagement (measured by attendance and truancy) also have high levels of literacy skills. Many schools have begun focusing on student engagement as a means to raise student achievement and lower dropout rates. Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the Results of the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement, highlights five schools and their efforts to increase student achievement through student engagement.
October 2010

The Rural Solution
Twenty percent of American school children attend rural schools, and almost 40 percent of those live in poverty. Long commutes discourage rural students from participating in extracurricular and afterschool activities, and their geographic isolation makes it difficult for them to use food distribution and public health services. A new report, The Rural Solution, proposes that the services offered by community schools may be just the ticket for solving rural schools’ ills.
September 2010

How High Schools Become Exemplary
A new report on 15 outstanding public high schools by Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative, How High Schools Become Exemplary, shows that student achievement rises when leadership focuses on the quality of instruction. Leaders in these schools publicly took responsibility for raising student achievement; used mission statements to keep on track; planned learning experiences for teachers; defined criteria for teaching and student work; engaged their entire faculties in the project; and continually monitored both teacher and student work.
September 2010

Using Data to Promote Collaboration in Local School Readiness Systems
School readiness is critical to achieving reading proficiency by third grade. A new brief from the Urban Institute, Using Data to Promote Collaboration in Local School Readiness Systems, finds that risks to children’s readiness for school are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods, but that the best chance for improving school readiness comes when a local collaboration of stakeholders forms and makes school readiness their mission over the long term. State support of these collaborations is recommended.
August 2010

Sustainable School Transformation
The Communities for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) has developed a new approach to school intervention it calls “Sustainable School Transformation,” which emphasizes an inclusive process involving parents and communities, research-based strategies, and taking into account schools’ and students’ individual needs. CEPS recommends that any school transformation focus on school instruction, culture, curriculum, and staffing; provide wraparound supports for students; and practice collaboration to ensure local ownership and accountability.
July 2010

Embracing System Reform: Lessons from Five Award-Winning School Districts
A new paper on school reform suggests that focusing on the success of single schools or on stand-alone reforms such as pay-for-performance when trying to increase student achievement does not contribute to comprehensive reform; piecemeal reform seldom works. The paper, Embracing System Reform: Lessons from Five Award-Winning School Districts, recommends setting clear curriculum goals, structured interventions for struggling students and teachers, and using data to monitor student progress as key parts of any reform effort.
July 2010

The “Common Core” Standard Initiative: An Effective Reform Tool?
There is little evidence supporting the idea that national academic standards will actually improve public education, according to a new report. It also points out that school-based practitioners had little input in creating the standards, the standards have not been field tested, and it’s not clear whether tests used to judge their outcomes will be accurate enough to justify the standards’ high-stakes consequences. Read The “Common Core” Standard Initiative: An Effective Reform Tool? for more information.
July 2010

The State of State Standards and the Common Core in 2010
Are Common Core standards invariably more rigorous? The State of State Standards and the Common Core in 2010 says that for some states, it’s “too close to call,” and English standards used in California, Indiana and the District of Columbia are actually superior. But Common Core standards are stronger than English standards in 37 states and math standards in 39 states, and no state currently uses mathematics standards superior to those in the Common Core.
July 2010

Urban School Decentralization and the Growth of “Portfolio Districts”
“Portfolio Districts,” where district leaders try a variety of instructional approaches to quickly find out what works best and what doesn’t work at all, are a new trend in education reform. Several large urban districts, including Chicago, post-Katrina New Orleans, New York, and Washington, D.C., have implemented the portfolio district model in their schools. A new brief from the Education and the Public Interest Center, Urban School Decentralization and the Growth of “Portfolio Districts,” examines this model.
June 2010

Evaluation of Charter School Impacts
Evaluation of Charter School Impacts shows that, on average, 36 lottery-based charter middle schools performed the same as their traditional cohorts in raising math and reading test scores. Charter schools in urban areas, and those serving more low-income and low achieving students, were more effective in improving math test scores than other charter schools in the study. Students and their parents had higher school satisfaction, but grade promotion, attendance, and student conduct were not improved.
June 2010

Devil in the Details
Vague, outdated, and ineffective state laws make teacher dismissal very difficult, according to Devil in the Details, a new report from the Center for American Progress. While teacher dismissal is handled by local school boards and school administrators, the process is governed by state laws which rarely link evaluation to dismissal, making it very difficult to dismiss teachers. Only a few states, such as Illinois, have laws explicitly suggesting that teachers with multiple negative evaluations be made eligible for dismissal.
June 2010

Assessing teacher induction models
Teacher induction programs do not help teachers feel better prepared to teach, nor do they help school districts retain teachers, but there is some evidence that two-year induction programs raise student’s test scores. The third and final report on Mathematica Policy Research’s study of teacher induction programs for the U.S. Department of Education shows that students of teachers who participated in two-year teacher induction programs scored 4 percentage points in reading and 8 percentage points in math.
June 2010

Are We Beginning to See the Light
Parents and the American public are buying into the need to ramp up STEM education. Nine in 10 of those surveyed for Public Agenda’s new survey, Are We Beginning to See the Light, say that advanced math and science will be useful even to those students not pursuing a STEM career. Nonetheless, more than half of parents surveyed (52 percent) said the math and science their child is getting is “fine as it is.”
June 2010

Education Reform 101: A Primer on the New Elementary and Secondary Education Act
The Obama administration’s “Blueprint for Reform” outlines its proposal for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind Act). A new primer from the Center for American Progress makes it easy to compare the Blueprint’s proposed revisions to state standards, measurements of student progress, school accountability, and teacher quality with the act’s current provisions.
March 2010 

America After 3PM, Special Report on Summer
Many years of research indicates that more than half of the achievement gap between ninth-grade lower- and higher-income youth results from summer learning loss. A new report, America After 3PM, Special Report on Summer, predicts that only 25 percent of U.S. children will attend summer learning programs this year. Summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income youth and is part of the reason they are less likely to graduate high school and enter college, the report says.
May 2010

Condition of Education
According to the 2010 edition of the National Center for Education Statistics’ Condition of Education, the percentage of Hispanic public school students increased from 11 to 22 percent of the total enrollment between 1988 and 2008, and the percentage of white students decreased from 68 to 55 percent. The number of students in charter schools has nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2008, and the percentage of public schools that are charter schools increased from 2 to 5 percent.
May 2010

A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education
The staff at the Broader, Bolder Approach believe reducing social and economic disadvantages will raise student achievement. They offer six points to guide policymakers: do not hold schools and teachers accountable based primarily on student test scores; use “growth models,” not accountability models; include test scores, qualitative observation, and evaluation in accountability systems; do not sacrifice curriculum for gains in math and reading; give schools access to federal support services; and fund by formula.
May 2010

Current Challenges and Opportunities in Preparing Rural High School Students for Success in College and Careers
One in four rural students fails to graduate from high school. Only 17 percent of rural adults older than 25 have a college degree. More than one-fifth of the U.S.’s 2,000 lowest-performing high schools are in rural areas. The authors of a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, Current Challenges and Opportunities in Preparing Rural High School Students for Success in College and Careers, say that, with more than 3.4 million students attending rural high schools, these outcomes constitute a national crisis. Rural schools have shrinking local tax bases, difficulty retaining high-quality teachers, limited access to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, funding inequities, and increasingly diverse student populations -- including English-language learners, low-income, and minority students at risk of dropping out.
February 2010

The State of Play
Principals say that the best opportunity to raise student achievement does not happen in the classroom: It happens on the playground at recess. A survey of 2,000 principals by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and Playworks, The State of Play, finds that virtually all principals believe recess has a positive impact on children’s social development and well-being. Four of five principals believe recess has a positive impact on academic achievement; two-thirds say children are more focused and listen better after recess. But recess is a precious commodity at most schools. Fifty percent of the principals surveyed said students receive only 16 to 30 minutes of recess a day, with one in five principals admitting to cutting recess time to meet testing requirements, and 77 percent of principals reporting taking recess away from students as a punishment for bad behavior. At the top of principals’ wish-list is more staff to monitor recess; the majority of discipline-related problems occur during recess or lunch (89 percent).
February 2010

Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success
The strongest predictor of high educational attainment for a child is not highly-educated parents, but the presence of books in that child’s home. According to a 20-year study conducted at the University of Nevada-Reno, Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success, having as few as 20 books in the home has a significant impact on a child’s educational attainment, and the more books are added, the greater the impact.

Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters
A new report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters, finds that reading proficiently by the end of third grade is an educational marker many low-income students fail to reach. Eighty-three percent of low-income fourth-graders were not proficient on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. Inability to read proficiently is strongly linked to higher dropout rates.

Expanded Learning Time by the Numbers
Ninety percent of the expanded learning time (ELT) schools surveyed for a new Center for American Progress brief say that ELT is an essential component in meeting their educational goals. Supporters of ELT say that the standard school calendar of 180 6.5 hour days does not fit many students’ needs, especially English language learners and those beginning the school year below grade level. ELT proponents recommend that 300 additional hours be added to U.S. school calendars.

Ringing the Bell for K-12 Teacher Tenure Reform
The No Child Left Behind Act requires that all classrooms be staffed with a “highly qualified teacher.” But dismissing an ineffective tenured teacher can be difficult and expensive in most states. A new report from the Center for American Progress, Ringing the Bell for K-12 Teacher Tenure Reform, calls for much-needed reform. The report provides a history of teacher tenure in the United States, as well as case studies of reform efforts in six states (California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia. The report recommends that the federal government continue to use funding to push states to develop meaningful teacher evaluation systems; states change their teacher licensing processes to ensure teacher effectiveness is assessed as a condition for the granting and renewal of a teaching license; states amend their tenure statutes to mandate that teacher retention and dismissal decisions incorporate teacher effectiveness data; and teachers unions embrace efforts to streamline the removal process for ineffective teachers.

Common Core State Standards
The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers have released the final version of the Common Core State Standards they hope will provide appropriate benchmarks for what students are expected to learn, for all students across the nation. The standards resulted from input by 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia.

Tracking an Emerging Movement: A Report on Expanded-Time Schools in America
The traditional school calendar of 180 six-hour days is hobbling American public education and children cannot hope to achieve high standards within such an “antiquated” schedule, according to the National Center on Time and Learning’s Tracking an Emerging Movement: A Report on Expanded-Time Schools in America. “It is as if today’s schools are asking students to run a 10-mile race in the same time in which their parents ran a five-mile one,” the report says. The database used for its analysis is small (655 schools), but the report makes a convincing case for the value of expanded learning time.
December 2009

Universal Access to a Quality Education: Research and Recommendation for the Elimination of Curricular Stratification
Research conducted over the past 25 years has pointed to the negative effects of curricular stratification, aka tracking. A new policy brief from the University of Colorado’s Education and Public Interest Center and the Arizona State University’s Education Policy Research Unit, Universal Access to a Quality Education: Research and Recommendation for the Elimination of Curricular Stratification, draws on data from three case studies (a San Diego charter school, a Long Island school district, and the nation of Finland) to show that abolishing tracking leads to higher levels of student achievement for more students. The brief’s authors provide concrete recommendations for reform and a clear process for phasing out tracking. “Detracking provides a realistic and proven pathway to academic excellence grounded in true equity,” they say.
December 2009

Taking Human Capital Seriously: Talented Teachers in Every Classroom, Talented Principals in Every School
The ultimate key to student success is having an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective principal in every building. This is the premise of the Strategic Management of Human Capital’s new report, Taking Human Capital Seriously: Talented Teachers in Every Classroom, Talented Principals in Every School. But, as the authors say, “Too often the ‘people side’ of education reform is overlooked. ... The reform spotlight should be turned where it is most important -- on the people who teach and who serve as principals.” They also point out that “the opportunity afforded by the Federal fiscal stimulus package may never be repeated.” The authors recommend a number of politically charged reforms, such as instituting a tiered licensure system for teachers that includes an induction program and requires teachers to demonstrate their effectiveness before receiving tenure. The report notes that some districts now find themselves in a human capital predicament because they gave tenure to inadequate teachers. The authors state that, if these teachers “are not able to become effective instructors who can bring about measurable gains in student learning, they should be removed.”
November 2009

Staying Competitive: Patching America’s Leaky Pipeline in the Sciences
Data sources indicate that women are more likely than men to “leak” out of the “sciences pipeline” before obtaining a position at a university, according to Staying Competitive: Patching America’s Leaky Pipeline in the Sciences, a new report from the Center for American Progress and the University of California’s Berkeley Center on Health, Economics & Family Security. The report is unusual, in that it identifies when and why women (and men) with caregiving responsibilities drop out of the academic science career path, and how family affects whether or not women make it to the top of the scientific community. The study examines the effect on “leaks” of family formations (marriage, childbirth) and family responsive benefits such as paid maternity leave. The study finds that married women with children are 35 percent less likely to enter the tenure track than married men with children.
November 2009

The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education
In the 2009 edition of The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education, the late education researcher Gerald Bracey offered his assessment of three popular education reforms: high-quality schools (a reform he felt ignores the challenges urban schools face when educating children who live in poverty); mayoral control (Bracey felt there was little proof this leads to meaningful educational improvement); and higher standards (more standardized testing, i.e., more cost to districts).
November 2009

Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Innovation
The states all deserve a poor report card when it comes to educational innovation -- at least according to Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Innovation, a report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce, the Center for American Progress, and the American Enterprise Institute. Each state and the District of Columbia were evaluated in eight categories, including school management, finance, technology, and staffing. All of the states received mediocre evaluations. No state earned top grades in more than one or two areas.
November 2009

Staying in School: Arts Education and New York City High School Graduation Rates
New York City schools that offer the most access and resources to support arts education have the highest graduation rates in the nation’s largest school system, according to the Center for Arts Education. In schools with the lowest graduation rates, students have the fewest opportunities to participate in fine arts programs.
October 2009

Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap
Nearly 89 percent of Latino young adults ages 16 to 25 think a college education is important for success in life, yet only about 48 percent plan to obtain one, according to the Pew Hispanic Center report, Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap. A second report by the center, The Changing Pathways of Hispanic Youths Into Adulthood, finds that young Latino adults in the United States are more likely to be in school or the work force now than their counterparts were in previous generations, yet their participation still lags behind that of their white peers.
October 2009

State Test Score Trends Through 2007-08: Are Achievement Gaps Closing and Is Achievement Rising for All?
Achievement gaps for minority and low-income students have narrowed in most cases since 2002, but in many cases, more than 20 points separate the scores of white and non-low-income students from those of African-American, Latino, and low-income students, according to a study by the Center for Education Policy. In general, the news was more positive for Latino and African-American subgroups and for students at the elementary school level. Fewer gaps narrowed for low-income and native-American subgroups and for students in high school.
October 2009

Can Teacher Training in Classroom Management Make a Difference for Children’s Experiences in Preschool?
Improving young children’s healthy emotional and behavioral development is important in its own right, and also can be a pathway to improved academic achievement, according to a new report from MDRC. The report says teachers consistently emphasize their need for professional development and other supports to help them address children’s behavioral issues.
September 2009

Foundations for a New Science of Learning
Neuroscientists have begun to understand the brain mechanisms underlying learning, and the science of learning is on the verge of a major transformation, according to a new paper published in the journal Science. It reveals three emerging principles: learning is computational, learning is social, and learning is supported by brain circuits linking perception and action that connect people to one another. “We are not left alone to understand the world like Robinson Crusoe was on his island,” says University of Washington researcher Andrew Meltzoff. “Humans learn best from other humans.”
July 2009

On Track to Complete? A Taxonomy of Beginning Community College Students and Their Outcomes 3 Years After Enrolling: 2003-04 Through 2006
Pressure on community colleges to provide postsecondary education to the most diverse and least prepared sector of America’s population continues to grow, as does pressure on these institutions to have students complete their program of study. But, since not every student enrolls in community college intending to complete a formal program of study, how can community college “completion” be measured? A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, On Track to Complete? A Taxonomy of Beginning Community College Students and Their Outcomes 3 Years After Enrolling: 2003-04 Through 2006, proposes a classification scheme to help measure completion, based on how “directed” students are toward completing a program of study.
July 2009

Rare Copy of Declaration of Independence To Visit Six Cities
An original copy of the Declaration of Independence will visit six cities, to honor exemplary schools that participated in this past year’s National Student/Parent Mock Election voter education project. Schools honored are in Carson, Calif.; Chicago; Austin, Texas; New Jersey; and Arizona. Appearances in the six selected cities will be scheduled over the next several months.
June 2009

An Evolutionarily Informed Education Science
The gap between what humans can naturally learn and what they need to learn to survive in the modern world continues to widen, according to a study by University of Missouri researchers. According to the report, U.S. students are falling behind in science and math because schools are abandoning traditional practices -- where students learn by rote and repetition -- in favor of using groups and social interactions to teach difficult topics.
June 2009

Examining Independent Study High Schools in California
California’s high school students are enrolling more frequently in independent study programs to meet district curriculum and graduation requirements, a study by WestEd says. The report says the programs offer students individualized learning plans to complete assignments at their own pace.
June 2009

Measuring and Improving School Climate
Educators should think more broadly about the role that states and the federal government have in improving school climate, according to a new paper published in Teachers College Record. The paper, “Measuring and Improving School Climate,” includes six recommendations to close the current gap among school climate research, policy, practice guidelines, and teacher education
June 2009

Evaluation of Experience Corps: Student Reading Outcomes
Using older volunteers as tutors can significantly improve the reading skills of students in the early grades, according to a study by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis. The study examined more than 800 students in three cities in an effort to gauge the effectiveness of Experience Corps, a 14-year-old nationwide tutoring program that trains adults 55 and older to help elementary school children with their reading. The report found that the program had “statistically significant and substantively important” effects on the youngsters’ reading skills, as measured by standardized tests and teacher evaluations.
June 2009

Guiding Principles for Mathematics Curriculum and Assessment
Helping students understand how math works -- and what it’s good for -- is at the heart of new guiding principles released by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The report includes specific tips for teachers, administrators, and parents and promotes more tightly focused curricula for elementary and middle school math.
June 2009

Understanding Reading First: What We Know, What We Don’t, and What’s Next
Reading First, despite research showing that the program did not work, increased professional development for teachers, influenced teaching practice, and provided reading coaches for struggling students, according to a new report by MDRC. Its lack of impact on reading comprehension was traced to two factors: Other, similar programs were already in place, and the additional instructional time for the program was too small to result in improvements.
June 2009

Getting Beneath the Surface
A new Educational Testing Service report, National Education Standards: Getting Beneath the Surface, provides an overview of the history, risks, possibilities, and progress of the national standards movement in the U.S., a nation that has traditionally supported local control of schools.
June 2009

Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers
A new Government Accountability Office report, Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers, has found that many teachers use restraint practices to control misbehaving students -- and disproportionately, children with disabilities -- even for minor infractions such as refusing to remain seated or speaking when it is not their turn. These instances have resulted in emotional trauma, physical injury, and even death. In half of the cases studied, the teachers or school staff involved continue to work.
May 2009

Survey of Fathers’ Involvement in Children’s Learning
Fathers are more involved in their children’s education than they were 10 years ago. A recent survey shows double-digit gains in the percentage of dads who take kids to school, visit their child’s classroom, or attend school events. There is room for improvement, however; 39 percent of surveyed dads have never read to their children, and 54 percent still don’t volunteer at school.
May 2009

Building a Districtwide Small Schools Movement
Small schools in low-income communities of color are finding success because students receive more individualized academic supports, according to a six-year study by the Annenberg Institute. The case study, Building a Districtwide Movement for Small Schools Reform, describes the success of California’s Oakland Community Organizations in building a districtwide movement that’s created 48 small schools dedicated to student achievement. Both teachers and parents say school climate and safety have improved, as have parent-teacher relationships and shared faculty decision-making.
April 2009

Lessons from the Lone Star State: Designing a Sustainable Financial Model to Expand Early College High School in Texas
Now that President Obama has announced plans for a $12-billion community college stimulus, Texas’ highly successful Early College High School model should interest school districts everywhere. According to Jobs for the Future’s recent study, Lessons from the Lone Star State, Texas currently has 29 early colleges in operation. They provide high school students with an opportunity to earn as much as two years of transferrable college credit tuition free from their local community college while they earn a high school diploma.
February 2009

Accelerating the Agenda: Actions to Improve America’s High Schools
Despite efforts to restore value to the high school diploma, school districts must continue to focus on college and career readiness to help maintain U.S. competitiveness, according to Accelerating the Agenda: Actions to Improve America’s High Schools. The report was published by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, National Conference of State Legislatures, Council of Chief State School Officers, and National Association of State Boards of Education.
January 2009

International Benchmarking Toolkit
The Education Commission of the States has released the International Benchmarking Toolkit, a resource for state policymakers, school district officials, principals, and teachers looking to raise the bar in America’s classrooms. The toolkit responds to growing concerns that U.S. students may lack work force competitiveness and are lagging behind those from high-performing countries.

Ending Social Promotion Without Leaving Children Behind The Case of New York City
New York City fifth-graders held back under a policy that ended social promotion showed significant improvement in standardized tests over the next three years, according to a report from the RAND Corporation. More important, the study found that students had no less confidence after being retained for a year, during which time they received extra help in the form of special Saturday and summer classes.

The Nation’s Report Card: Music and Visual Arts
The 2008 NAEP assessment in arts is now available. There has not been significant change in the number of schools offering arts education to eighth-grade students since 1997. Female students outperformed male students in both music and art. Girls’ responding scores on average were 10 points higher than boys’ in music and 11 points higher in art.

A History of the World in 100 Objects
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the British Museum have joined forces to create a narrative global history told through 100 objects in the British Museum’s world collection. A History of the World in 100 Objects, written and narrated by British Museum director Neil MacGregor, will consist of 100 15-minute programs broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and over the Internet. Each program will focus on one of the 100 objects chosen to tell part of the story of the world’s history. Activities for children and lesson plans for teachers related to the project will be made available at schools/primaryhistory/worldhistory.

Center for Public Education
NSBA’s Center for Public Education website has been redesigned. The new site is easier to navigate and offers interactive tools and the ability to share content with social networking sites. The site also features a new blog -- The Edifier -- devoted to hot topics in public education.

Scholarship Opportunities from the Horatio Alger Association
The Horatio Alger Association has opened its scholarship application period for 2010. The association -- one of the largest privately funded, need-based programs in the country -- awards more than $6 million in scholarships each year to outstanding students who have responded with strength of character and integrity to adversity and hardship.

ExploraVision Awards Program
The Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards Program is now accepting entries for its 2010 program. ExploraVision challenges teams of two to four students to design innovative technologies that could exist 20 years in the future, stimulating them to research scientific principles and current technologies. Students on four first-place teams will each receive a $10,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond. Students on the four second-place teams will each receive a $5,000 bond. All of the winners, their families, mentors, and coaches will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in June 2010 for a gala awards weekend.

The 2009 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?
The gap between high- and low-achieving students has been shrinking in recent years, according to a recent analysis of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress by the Brown Center on Education Policy. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the same study, after reviewing 20 years of data from the California Assessment Program, found test scores to be virtually static despite reforms -- a clear demonstration of just how difficult school turnarounds can be.

Young Hispanic Children: Boosting Opportunities for Learning
Hispanic students currently trail white and Asian-American students in reading and math. The authors of a new report from the Society for Research in Child Development believe more educational opportunities for 3- to 8-year-old Hispanics, more bilingual preschool and early-elementary teachers, and more Spanish speakers to work as classroom language specialists will help close the gap.

Race, Racial Concentration, and the Dynamics of Educational Inequality Across Urban and Suburban Schools
Educational inequality may be the result of course placement, student engagement, and academic achievement, especially in predominantly black, urban schools, according to an analysis of data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study by University of Illinois Assistant Professor Christy Lleras. For students in these schools, the most accurate predictor for the math they will take in high school is the level of course they took in eighth grade, according to Lleras.
December 2008

The Minorities in Higher Education 2008 Twenty-third Annual Status Report
Generational upward mobility is at a standstill, especially for some minority groups, according to a study by the American Council on Education. The Minorities in Higher Education 2008 Twenty-third Annual Status Report revealed that lower numbers of Hispanic and Native American young adults in their 20s were earning high education degrees than their elders. For Hispanics, 18 percent of the older generation held at least an associate degree as compared with only 16 percent of young Hispanics.
October 2008

College-Ready Students, Student-Ready Colleges AND College for All?: The Labor Market for College-Educated Workers
The Center for American Progress released three reports detailing a new federal approach to ensuring student success in higher education. The three reports look at the challenges of providing accessible and effective post-secondary education: College-Ready Students, Student-Ready Colleges: Improving Degree Completion Through Student Empowerment and Systems Change; A Federal Agenda for Promoting Student Success and Degree Completion; and College for All?: The Labor Market for College-Educated Workers.
October 2008

National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies
Congress has authorized a major new research center, the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, which will bring focused, sustained research funding to technology and learning. Initial funding will come from the Department of Education, but the National Center will be able to use funds from other agencies that have an interest in education and training and from private donors.
October 2008

Accelerated Middle Schools
Accelerated middle schools were found to have potentially positive effects on staying in school and positive effects on progressing in school, according to the What Works Clearinghouse, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. Accelerated middle schools are self-contained academic programs designed to help students who are behind grade level catch up with their age peers.
September 2008

Present, Engaged, and Accounted For  The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades
One in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students will miss a month or more of school this year , with troubling impact on their short and long-term academic performance, especially if they are poor, according to a study by the National Center for Children in Poverty. Chronic early absence, reports the study, Present, Engaged, and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades, adversely affects academic successes and affects large numbers of children.
September 2008

Engineering Your Life
“Engineer Your Life” is a national campaign to give girls information about the opportunities available in the world of engineering. Headed by WGBH-Boston and members of the engineering community, the program aims to change the perceptions high school girls have about engineering and to encourage them to enroll in undergraduate engineering programs.
September 2008

Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids
Troubled children hurt their classmates' math and reading scores and worsen their behavior, according to new research by economists at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Pittsburgh. The study, Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids, was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
August 2008

Supporting Literacy Across the Sunshine State: A Study of Florida Middle School Reading Coaches
RAND Corporation researchers evaluated a statewide reading coach program in Florida middle schools in a report, Supporting Literacy Across the Sunshine State: A Study of Florida Middle School Reading Coaches. The evidence is mixed regarding the impact of coaches on student achievement, with positive effects found for two of the four groups studied. The frequency with which coaches reviewed assessment data with reading teachers was associated with better student scores in reading and mathematics.
August 2008

 Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2007-2008
America's public libraries are serving more people online and in person, according to a study by the American Library Association. More than 83 percent of the nation’s 16,543 public libraries now offer online homework resources, including live tutors and collections of reliable Web sources -- up 15 percent in one year, according to Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2007-2008.
August 2008

High-Achieving students in the Era of No Child Left Behind
A report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute suggests that gifted and high-achieving students have been given pushed aside for their lower-achieving peers in the aftermath of No Child Left Behind. High-Achieving students in the Era of No Child Left Behind reports that while the nation’s lowest-achieving youngsters made rapid gains from 2000 to 2007, the performance of top students was stagnant.
June 2008

The Kids & Family Reading Report
A new study by Scholastic finds that 75 percent of kids age 5 to 17 agree with the statement, “No matter what I can do online, I’ll always want to read books printed on paper,” and 62 percent they prefer to read books printed on paper rather than on a computer or a handheld device. The Kids & Family Reading Report, also found that children who go online to find a book or author websites or connecting with other readers are more likely to read books for fun every day. The survey also found that the time children spend reading books for fun declines after age 8 and continues to drop off through the teen years.
June 2008

A hidden cost of happiness in children
Psychologists at the University of Virginia and the U.K.’s University of Plymouth found that where attention to detail is required, happy children may be at a disadvantage. The findings experiments with both music and video clips were conclusive, with the children induced to feel a sad or neutral mood performing the task better than those induced to feel a happy state of mind.
June 2008

Has Student Achievement Increased Since 2002?: State Test Score Trends Through 2006-7
Student scores on state tests of reading and mathematics have risen since 2002, and achievement gaps between various groups of students have narrowed more than they have widened, according to the Center on Education Policy’s Has Student Achievement Increased Since 2002?: State Test Score Trends Through 2006-7. These improvements have occurred during a period when the No Child Left Behind Act, state education reforms, and local school improvement efforts have focused on raising test scores and narrowing achievement gaps.
June 2008

The Role of Schools in the English Language Learner Achievement Gap
Students designated as English language learners (ELL) tend to go to public schools with low standardized test scores, according to the Pew Hispanic Centers’ The Role of Schools in the English Language Learner Achievement Gap. However, these same schools report poor achievement by other major student groups as well. When ELL students are not isolated in these low-achieving schools, their gap in test score results is considerably narrower.
June 2008

Engaged for Success
Service-learning programs provide hands-on activities that bring relevance to classroom lessons and keep more students engaged in school longer, according to Engaged for Success, a report by the organization Civic Enterprises. The report says students who are involved in the programs are more interested in class work, more motivated, and more likely to have better attendance in school.
April 2008

Class-Size Reduction: Policy, Politics, and Implications for Equity
The success of class-size reduction strategies depends largely on the context in which they are set, according to a researcher from Teachers College, Columbia University. The report, Class-Size Reduction: Policy, Politics, and Implications for Equity, notes challenges faced in states such as California and Florida and successes in Tennessee and Wisconsin. It also says students from low-income families and minorities are more likely to benefit from smaller class sizes.
April 2008

Democracy at Risk: The Need for a New Federal Policy in Education
Federal education policy is inconsistent and shortsighted, placing the United States education system and democracy even more at risk than they were 25 years ago, a new report by the Forum for Education and Democracy says. The report, Democracy at Risk: The Need for a New Federal Policy in Education, is designed to be a guide for a new president, education secretary, and Congress as they attempt to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind Act.
April 2008

Physical Education and Academic Achievement in Elementary School: Data From the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study
Elementary school girls who spend time in physical education may improve their academic performance, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The first-of-its-kind national study, which tracked the reading and math skills of more than 5,000 students in grades K-5, says girls who received 70 to 300 minutes a week of P.E. scored consistently higher on standardized tests than those who spent less than 35 minutes a week. No significant change in achievement was found for boys.
April 2008

Beating the Odds VIII, An Analysis of Student Performance and Achievement Gaps on State Assessments, Results from the 2006-2007 School Year
Students who attend public school in the United States’ major urban school districts continue to advance in math and reading on federal and state tests, but achievement is lower on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, according to a new report from the Council on the Great City Schools. Some good news: 22 percent of urban school districts scored as high or higher than their respective states in fourth-grade math and 16 percent scored as high or higher at the eighth-grade level.
April 2008

Modifying the brain activation of poor readers during sentence comprehension with extended remedial instruction: A longitudinal study of neuroplasticity
A Carnegie Mellon University brain imaging study of dyslexic students and other poor readers shows that the brain can permanently rewire itself and overcome reading deficits, if students are given 100 hours of intensive remedial instruction. The study, published in the August issue of the journal Neuropsychologia, shows that the remedial instruction resulted in an increase in brain activity in several cortical regions associated with reading, and that neural gains became further solidified during the year following instruction.
March 2008
The Other Half of the Strategy, a new report by the St. Paul, Minn., think tank Education Evolving, says new reform models focusing on student and teacher motivation are necessary for schools to succeed. The report says system-level reforms, which include standards and accountability as well as school choice and charters, will not result in dramatic academic gains.
February 2008

Rethinking High School: Supporting All Students to be College Ready in Math
A new WestEd report, Rethinking High School: Supporting All Students to be College Ready in Math profiles three high schools supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that have successful mathematics programs that prepare all students for college. The elements these programs have in common are: they offer high-level math courses and support, continually improve teachers' skills and math content knowledge, and use student information to drive instruction.
January 2008

Good Measures for Good Schools
NSBA’s Center for Public Education has released a Web-based tool, “Good Measures for Good Schools,” to help parents and the public judge school quality. The site, which will be updated with new data, information, and research, includes state and national comparisons.
January 2008

Empowering Students: How Georgia College Early College Changes Student Aspirations
The Georgia College Early College (GCEC), which deliberately recruits students who are performing below grade level, is helping to increase the college attendance rates of low-income youths, according to a case study from Jobs for the Future. The study says GCEC’s college-going culture, small class sizes, and other support structures enable student to believe in themselves and raise their aspirations.
January 2008

How to Cultivate Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy
Policymakers have underestimated the critical role of arts learning in supporting a vibrant nonprofit cultural sector, according to a RAND Corporation study commissioned by The Wallace Foundation. The report, How to Cultivate Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy, shows that, despite decades of effort to make high-quality works of art available to Americans, demand for the arts has failed to keep pace with supply. Audiences for classical music, jazz, opera, theater, and the visual arts have declined as a percentage of the population, and the percentage of these audiences age 30 and younger has fallen even more.

Math Works Advocacy Kit
Achieve has launched a new resource to make the case that advanced mathematics coursework is central to student success and a strong U.S. economy. The Math Works tool kit features fact sheets focusing on frequently asked questions and a broader policy paper that synthesizes the current research on why math is so important to all students as well as U.S. competitiveness. PowerPoint presentations and resource information also are available as part of the toolkit.

The Impact of New York's School Libraries on Student Achievement and Motivation
School librarians in New York state say they are prevented from helping students due to poor facilities and technology and the lack of full-time staff, according to a report by a Syracuse University professor. The report is the first in a two-year study that will examine what impact certified librarians have on student achievement.

Confronting the "New" American Dilemma—Minorities in Engineering: A Data-Based look at Diversity
Participation rates for African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have flatlined, and in some cases declined, according to a new report from the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. The report also discovered that a vast pool of minority students are not prepared to take advantage of STEM fields.

Evaluating Online Learning: Challenges and Strategies for Success
The U.S. Department of Education has released its first guide to evaluating online learning strategies. Evaluating Online Learning: Challenges and Strategies for Success. This publication features seven evaluations of online learning programs to assist educators and program leaders in evaluating their online learning programs.

Passport to the Future: Ohio’s Plan for World Languages
Students should receive foreign language instruction starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school, according to Passport to the Future: Ohio’s Plan for World Languages, a report by the Ohio Foreign Language Advisory Council. The report also says graduation requirements should be based on language proficiency.
December 2007

Lifelong Learning: New Strategies for the Education of Working Adults
More than half of America's 120 million workers between the ages of 25 to 64 have no postsecondary degree or postsecondary credential of any kind, according to Lifelong Learning: New Strategies for the Education of Working Adults from the Center for American Progress. The report states that with the labor force growing slowly between now and 2040, the U.S. can no longer pursue an education policy that essentially gives up on adults.
December 2007

D is for Digital
Children ages 8 to 10 spend more than six hours a day interacting with some form of digital media, according to D is for Digital, a report by the Joan Ganz Cooney Research Center of New York City. On average, children start using digital media at age 6-1/2 and spend about a quarter of their time on some form of multitasking.
December 2007

The 2007 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?
The Brookings Institution, in its seventh edition of the Brown Center Report on American Education, says many common perceptions about student achievement "do not make sense." Among them: Low proficiency rates on national assessments are not the fault of poor instruction, but the result of cutoff scores that are set too high; more time for math instruction does not necessarily improve learning; and private school enrollment does not reflect the claims that the schools are superior compared to K-12 public schools.
December 2007

Brain Matures a Few Years Late in ADHD, But Follows Normal Pattern
The brains of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder develop more slowly than those of other children but eventually catch up, according to a government study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by the National Institute of Mental Health. The study results might help explain why many children with ADHD appear to grow out of the disorder and become less impulsive and fidgety as they mature. Brain development was slower among those with ADHD, but it followed a normal pattern, which scientists said should reassure parents. The study did not explain why some people continue to experience ADHD symptoms as adults.
November 2007

Reframing School Dropout as a Public Health Issue
Even though disparities in health and educational achievement are closely linked, public health professionals rarely pay serious attention to the dropout crisis affecting many of the nation’s schools, according to an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The article, “Reframing School Dropout as a Public Health Issue,” notes that nearly one-third of all students in the United States and half of black, Latino, and American Indian students do not graduate from high school on time.
October 2007

Education Commission of the States' High School Database
The Education Commission of the States has posted three high school databases to assist state policymakers with questions about International Baccalaureate, student accountability, and student support and remediation. Also, ECS launched an updated database on promising local reform initiatives at state and district levels.
October 2007

Educational Databases
The Education Commission of the States has created interconnected websites that provide a comprehensive picture of various education issues, including news about what states are doing, the best publications available on particular topics and a list of other web sites with valuable information. ECS also has released briefing memos on aligning early learning, K-12, and postsecondary systems and how to benchmark education to international standards.
October 2007

Effective Schools, Common Practices
Effective Schools, Common Practices, a new report by the Education Consumers Foundation, outlines how six of Tennessee’s most effective elementary and middle schools have repeatedly turned in some of the highest value-added gains in the state. Each school shares a set of 12 common practices listed in the report.
October 2007

Teacher Quality, Opportunity Gap and National Achievement in 46 Countries
Children from low-income families in the U.S. do not have the same access to qualified teachers as do wealthier students, according to Teacher Quality, Opportunity Gap and National Achievement in 46 Countries, a University of Missouri study. When compared to 46 countries, the U.S. had the fourth largest opportunity gap, also known as the difference between students of high and low socioeconomic status in their access to qualified teachers. The report compared eighth-grade math teachers from around the world.
October 2007

Graduation Matters: Improving Accountability for High School Graduation
Despite the national focus on reforming America’s high schools, most states are setting low goals for improving graduation rates and are not setting goals for ensuring that more low income, minority, disabled, and English-language-learner students graduate, according to a study by Education Trust. Graduation Matters: Improving Accountability for High School Graduation says that state graduation rate goals for NCLB are so low that they undermine the law’s intention to significantly raise graduation rates.
August 2007

Profiles of For-Profit Education Management Organizations: 2006-2007
For-profit education companies are not forthcoming about financial information, according to a report released by the Arizona State University Commercialism in Education and Education Policy Research Units. The report, Profiles of For-Profit Education Management Organizations: 2006-2007, finds that, despite repeated requests from researchers, several large publicly funded Education Management Organizations (EMOs) failed to provide information about their schools or finances.
August 2007

Choosing More Time for Students: The What, Why, and How of Expanded Learning
The need for additional learning time for students, especially those who are disadvantaged, has broad support from academic reformers. However, expanded learning time needs to be done correctly for students to benefit from it, according to a report from the Center for American Progress. Choosing More Time for Students defines what expanded learning time means, highlights what model programs look like when used effectively, and addresses how to successfully implement such reform efforts.
August 2007

Left Behind by Design: Proficiency Counts and Test-Based Accountability
Left Behind by Design: Proficiency Counts and Test-Based Accountability, a study by University of Chicago economists Derek A. Neal and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, found that NCLB may be doing a disservice to children at opposite ends of the academic gamut: academically gifted students and those with low academic achievement. By studying children in the Chicago Public Schools, the researchers found that children in the middle or average range saw the most improvement on test scores. The students in the top 10 percent of the class made no gains, and those in the bottom 20 percent improved at a lesser rate or regressed.
July 2007

Status of Education in Rural America
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released the report Status of Education in Rural America. Some of its findings include: College enrollment rates for both 18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 29-year-olds were generally lower than in all other places in 2004; that same year, the high school status dropout rate among 16- to 24-year-olds in rural areas (11 percent) was higher than in suburban areas (9 percent), but lower than in cities (13 percent).
July 2007

Information Underload: Florida’s Flawed Special Ed Voucher Program
A lack of accountability in Florida’s McKay Scholarship program for students with disabilities is a flaw that must be addressed before the success of the program can be assessed, says  Information Underload: Florida’s Flawed Special Ed Voucher Program by the Washington-based Education Sector.
June 2007

Preparing STEM Teachers: The key to Global Competitiveness
Preparing STEM Teachers: The key to Global Competitiveness, by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, highlights different strategies being taken by teacher education programs to train math and science teachers.
June 2007

Education Finance and Policy
Florida’s five-year-old, test-based promotion policy, in which students are retained if they do not pass state exams, apparently is paying off, according to research published in Education Finance and Policy. The research by Jay Green and Marcus Winters of the University of Arkansas says that students who were retained for a year under Florida’s test-based promotion policy slightly outperformed students with similar test scores who were promoted to the next grade in previous years. The study contradicts previous research that suggests retention can have harmful academic and social effects for students. But Greene and Winters say the state’s use of an objective promotion policy, rather than one based on the recommendations of teachers and administrators, made the difference in achievement.
Fall 2007

Literacy Instruction in the Content Areas: Getting to the Core of Middle and High School Improvement
To compete successfully in a 21st century global economy, middle and high school students must be able to exceed standard reading levels, warns Literacy Instruction in the Content Areas: Getting to the Core of Middle and High School Improvement by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Gender, Obesity, and Education
Obese female high school students are about half as likely to attend college than their normal-weight peers, according to a study published in the July issue of Sociology of Education by University of Texas-Austin sociologist Robert Crosnoe. Obese girls were even less likely to enroll in college if they attended a high school where most of the population was of normal weight. Obese boys, however, were just as likely as their peers to attend college.

The Essential Guide to Pilot Schools
The Center for Collaborative Education has published the first two in a series of guides called The Essential Guide to Pilot Schools. The first guide in the series is an introduction to the Pilot/Horace Mann Schools, a group of 20 innovative schools within the Boston Public Schools that are achieving strong results. The second guide discusses the roles and operations in the shared leadership in the Boston Pilot Schools.

How to Support School Transformation
One key that enables schools to change from low to high performing is how external technical assistance providers establish close collaborations and trusting relationships with internal advocates for changes, according to an analysis by WestEd called How to Support School Transformation.

Rethinking High School: Preparing Students for Success in College, Career, and Life
A new report by WestEd, Rethinking High School: Preparing Students for Success in College, Career, and Life, features profiles of high school programs serving predominantly low-income, minority students in Oakland, Calif,; Mabton, Wash.; Houston, Texas; Bridgeton, N.J.; and Portland, Ore. Commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report highlights the programs’ innovative approaches and progress. It also underscores how they each address one or more of five common barriers facing low-income students.

Most Likely to Succeed AND To a Higher Degree
Two new publications look at the progress of low-income schools that are part of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation’s Ohio High School Transformation Initiative. The publications, Most Likely to Succeed and To a Higher Degree, show the slow, maddening pace of school reform and its effect on students, teachers, and school leaders.

Achievement Trap: How America Is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Lower-Income Families
Low-income, high-achieving students are being short-changed by No Child Left Behind, according to Achievement Trap: How America is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Low-Income Families. The report, released by Civic Enterprises and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, looks at students below the median income level who start school performing at high levels, but lose ground at every level of school and plummet in college. According to the report, the faulty assumption that these students don’t need help to achieve at high levels is causing an enormous talent drain in our schools.

Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning
Most virtual education leaders want appropriate policy oversight to ensure and maintain opportunities for students and to demonstrate quality for stakeholders, according to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, the fourth annual study of the K-12 virtual learning marketplace. Other significant findings: Most online learning programs are growing at a pace of 25 percent annually; 42 states have either significant supplemental or full-time online learning programs, or both; and new forms of online learning are emerging rapidly.
October 2006

Keeping Watch on Reading First
Reading First, the billion-dollar federal effort to improve reading skills in high-poverty, low-performing schools, has been beset by scandals involving mismanagement and misconduct at the national level. Still, a new report by the Center on Education Policy finds that the program is being implemented as intended and is widely credited by state and local officials for improving student achievement. Overall, more than three-fourths of states and two-thirds of districts with Reading First grants reported that the program’s assessment and instructional programs were important causes of gains in student achievement.
September 2006

Parents' Roles in Shaping Early Adolescents' Occupational Aspirations
Parents, fathers in particular, are more likely to provide a more supportive math and science environment for their sons than for their daughters, a study by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan concludes.
July/August 2001