September 2013 Reports

Achievement gap narrowing
Student achievement gaps along racial, ethnic, and gender lines have narrowed over the past 40 years, according to the latest NAEP long-term assessment, “Trends in Academic Progress.” The only gap that did not improve significantly was the white–Hispanic gap in mathematics among 9-year-olds. While girls scored higher than males in reading at all three ages tested (ages 9, 13, and 17), 9-year-old boys have made larger score gains than girls since 1971, narrowing the gender gap in reading at age 9. And while 17-year-old boys still outscored girls in math, 17-year-old girls have made math score gains since 1971, and boys did not.

Depressed mothers, obese kids
Depressed mothers are more likely to have children who are overweight or obese, according to a study appearing in Academic Pediatrics, “Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Child Obesity in Low-Income Urban Families.” Mothers in the study who exhibited moderate to severe depression were more than 2.5 times as likely to have children who were overweight or obese. Mildly depressed mothers tended to have slightly overweight children. The children in the study were more likely to skip breakfast and drink sweetened beverages, and got less sleep and outdoor play on average than other children. The mothers were less likely to model good eating habits or restrict their children’s food intake.

Early colleges raise achievement
More than 240 early college programs, which enable students to attend college while still in high school, have opened nationwide since 2002. According to a study from the American Institutes for Research, “Early College, Early Success,” these programs have led to success for many students, especially lower-income and minority students. Eighty-six percent of early college students graduated from high school, compared to 81 percent of their cohorts in traditional programs. Eighty percent of early college students enrolled in college after high school graduation, compared to 71 percent of other high school graduates, and they earned their degrees earlier than is typical.

Inclusive sex ed
A brief from the Center for American Progress says that comprehensive sex education programs that recognize and address issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) youth could lead to safer, more open-minded school environments. The brief, “LGBT-Inclusive Sex Education Means Healthier Youth and Safer Schools,” says that LGBT youth are more vulnerable than heterosexual students to pregnancy, HIV infection, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and other medical issues. The report says these students need comprehensive sex education programs, not programs that disseminate unreliable or disapproving information about sexual identity and orientation that leave LGBT students misinformed and feeling excluded.

Lower-income high achievers
A policy brief from the Brookings Institution, “Informing Students about Their College Options,” recommends the wider implementation of the Expanding College Opportunities project, which provides college application guidance, fact-based information on the net cost of attending various selective colleges, their graduation rates and instructional resources, and no-paperwork fee waivers for applying to up to eight of 236 most-selective colleges to targeted lower-income, high-achieving students.

Regular bedtime improves performance
Results of a study of 11,000 UK 7-year-olds appearing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, “Time for Bed,” show that not having a regular bedtime is related to children’s lower scores on reading, math, and spatial assessments. The connection between lack of a regular bedtime and lower test scores was present for both boys and girls, but was particularly strong in girls who had never had a scheduled bedtime. Effects were most noticeable among 3-year-olds, and while the differences in tests scores were slight, the data indicate that the negative effects of irregular bedtimes are cumulative, leading to greater cognitive lags later on among children who have had irregular bedtimes throughout childhood.

Social media and privacy
A survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Projects says that 91 percent of teens surveyed post pictures of themselves to the Internet, 71 percent post their hometown and school, 53 percent list their email address, and 20 percent list their cell phone number. Most of the teens surveyed make efforts to protect sensitive information; 60 percent of the teens surveyed who use Facebook reported that they set their profiles to private, limiting access to friends only. Fifty-six percent say it is “not difficult at all” to manage their privacy settings on Facebook. Only 9 percent of the teens said they were “very” worried about advertisers mining their personal data.

Compiled by Margaret Suslick, ASBJ’s Editorial Assistant.