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Common Core in the Districts: An Early Look at Early Implementers

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Common Core in the Districts: An Early Look at Early Implementers
Source: Thomas B. Fordham Institute

The Common Core State Standards are in place in forty-five states—and in many of those jurisdictions, educators are hard at work trying to bring them to life in their schools and classrooms.

But how is implementation going so far? That’s what this new study explores in four “early-implementer” school systems. Common Core in the Districts: An Early Look at Early Implementers provides an in-depth examination of real educators as they earnestly attempt to put higher standards into practice. This up-close look at district-level, school-level, and classroom-level implementation yields several key findings:

  1. Teachers and principals are the primary faces and voices of the Common Core standards in their communities
  2. Implementation works best when district and school leaders lock onto the Common Core standards as the linchpin of instruction, professional learning, and accountability in their buildings
  3. In the absence of externally vetted, high-quality Common Core materials, districts are striving—with mixed success—to devise their own
  4. The scramble to deliver quality CCSS-aligned professional development to all who need it is as crucial and (so far) as patchy as the quest for suitable curriculum materials
  5. The lack of aligned assessments will make effective implementation of the Common Core challenging for another year

In short, districts are in the near-impossible situation of operationalizing new standards before high-quality curriculum and tests aligned to them are finished. Yet the clock is ticking, and the new tests and truly aligned textbooks are forthcoming. Today’s implementation is a bit like spring training, a time when focusing on the fundamentals, teamwork, and steady improvement is more important than the score.

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Guidance for Schools Issued on How to Keep Parents Better Informed on the Data They Collect on Students

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Guidance for Schools Issued on How to Keep Parents Better Informed on the Data They Collect on Students
Source: U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education today announced new guidance for schools and districts on how to keep parents and students better informed about what student data is collected and how it is used.

In the guidance issued by the Department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center, schools and districts are urged to be proactive in communicating how they use student data. Information should be available to answer common questions before they are asked.

Mid- and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes

July 28, 2014 Comments off

Mid- and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes
Source: Center for American Progress

Low teacher pay is not news. Over the years, all sorts of observers have argued that skimpy teacher salaries keep highly qualified individuals out of the profession. One recent study found that a major difference between the education system in the United States and those in other nations with high-performing students is that the United States offers much lower pay to educators.

But for the most part, the conversation around teacher pay has examined entry-level teachers. The goal of this issue brief was to learn more about the salaries of mid- and late-career teachers and see if wages were high enough to attract and keep the nation’s most talented individuals. This research relied on a variety of databases, the results of which are deeply troubling. Our findings include:

  • Mid- and late-career teacher base salaries are painfully low in many states. In Colorado, teachers with a graduate degree and 10 years of experience make less than a trucker in the state. In Oklahoma, teachers with 15 years of experience and a master’s degree make less than sheet metal workers. And teachers in Georgia with 10 years of experience and a graduate degree make less than a flight attendant in the state. (See Appendix for state-by-state data on teacher salaries. We relied on “base teacher” salaries for our data, which typically does not include summer jobs or other forms of additional income.)
  • Teachers with 10 years of experience who are family breadwinners often qualify for a number of federally funded benefit programs designed for families needing financial support. We found that mid-career teachers who head families of four or more in multiple states such as Arizona and North Dakota qualify for several benefit programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the School Breakfast and Lunch Program. What’s more, teachers have fewer opportunities to grow their salaries compared to other professions.
  • To supplement their minimal salaries, large percentages of teachers work second jobs. We found that in 11 states, more than 20 percent of teachers rely on the financial support of a second job, and in some states such Maine, that number is as high as 25 percent. In these 11 states, the average base salary for a teacher with 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree is merely $39,673—less than a carpenter’s national average salary. (Note that teachers typically have summers off, and the data on teachers who work second jobs do not include any income that a teacher may have earned over the summer.)

Principal Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2012–13 Principal Follow-up Survey

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Principal Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2012–13 Principal Follow-up Survey
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

The Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS), first conducted in school year 2008-09, is a component of the 2011-12 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). The 2012-13 PFS was administered in order to provide attrition rates for principals in K-12 public and private schools. The goal was to assess how many principals in the 2011-12 school year still worked as a principal in the same school in the 2012-13 school year, how many had moved to become a principal in another school, and how many had left the principalship.

The Productivity of Public Charter Schools

July 25, 2014 Comments off

The Productivity of Public Charter Schools
Source: University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform

People often wish to know how much “bang they get for their buck.” This calculation is often referred to as productivity and is measured either as cost effectiveness or return on investment (ROI). This report represents the first-ever national study tying funding to student achievement and measuring the productivity of public charter schools relative to traditional public schools. It was crafted by six researchers with more than 70 years of collective experience in the field of public finance and school funding.

First OECD PISA financial literacy test finds many young people confused by money matters

July 25, 2014 Comments off

First OECD PISA financial literacy test finds many young people confused by money matters
Source: OECD

Around one in seven students in the 13 OECD countries and economies that took part in the first OECD PISA international assessment of financial literacy are unable to make even simple decisions about everyday spending, and only one in ten can solve complex financial tasks.

Some 29 000 15 year-olds in 18 countries and economies* took part in the test, which assessed the knowledge and skills of teenagers in dealing with financial issues, such as understanding a bank statement, the long-term cost of a loan or knowing how insurance works.

Shanghai-China had the highest average score in financial literacy, followed by the Flemish Community of Belgium, Estonia, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The gender gap in financial literacy was much smaller than in OECD PISA tests in maths or reading, with there being no significant difference between the performance of boys and girls, except in Italy.

But the inequality gap mirrors that in key school subjects: more socio-economically advantaged students scored much higher than less-advantaged students on average across participating OECD countries and economies. Non-immigrant students also performed slightly better than immigrant students from a similar socio-economic status. The gap between the two groups is larger than the OECD average in the Flemish Community of Belgium, Estonia, France, Slovenia and Spain.

The survey also revealed that skills in mathematics and reading are very closely related to financial literacy. However, high proficiency in one of these subjects does not always signal strong performance in financial literacy.
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Return on Educational Investment: 2014 — A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Return on Educational Investment: 2014 — A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity
Source: Center for American Progress

In 2011, the Center of American Progress released the first-ever attempt to evaluate the productivity of almost every major school district in the country. That project developed a set of relatively simple productivity metrics in order to measure the achievement that a school district produces relative to its spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such the cost of living and students living in poverty.

The findings of that first report were worrisome and underscored the fact that the nation suffers from a productivity crisis. The data suggested that low productivity might cost the nation’s school system billions of dollars a year. What’s more, too few states and districts tracked the bang that they received for their education buck.

In this updated report, CAP uses these same metrics to once again examine the productivity of the nation’s school districts. We embarked on this second evaluation for a number of reasons. In many areas, education leaders continue to face difficult budget choices, and more than 300,000 education-related jobs have been lost since the start of the Great Recession. At the same time, the advent of the new, more rigorous Common Core standards will demand that far more from educators, including better, tougher exams. In short, many educators are being asked to do more with less.

But still, school productivity has not become part of the reform conversation, and with this project, our hope is to shine a light on how productivity differs across districts, as well as to identify key areas of reform. Moreover, for the first time, we conducted a special analysis of educational fiscal practices, diving deep into state budgeting approaches. We believe that if our education system had a more robust way of tracking expenditures, it could do more to increase productivity. Together with this report, we have also released analysis by CAP Senior Policy Analyst Robert Hanna on twin districts. Hanna’s analysis looks more closely at the programs and practices of more effective districts.

The Brink of Renewal: A Business Leader’s Guide to Progress in America’s Schools

July 18, 2014 Comments off

The Brink of Renewal: A Business Leader’s Guide to Progress in America’s Schools
Source: Boston Consulting Group

Major cities in the U.S. are committed to improving education, and their resolve is beginning to bear fruit. Cities such as Boston, New York, New Orleans, Dallas, and Denver have made measurable progress in student achievement and graduation rates. Denver, for example, boosted on-time graduation rates from 38.7 percent to 61.3 percent over a recent six-year period.

However, while individual examples of progress are heartening (and worth celebrating), the big picture isn’t nearly as bright.

On the whole, the nation’s preK-12 education system continues to be plagued by low overall achievement, wide achievement gaps, and uncertain prospects for the future. Consider just one indicator: the U.S. spends more on its schools than almost all other industrialized nations, and yet its students still lag behind their global peers—performing at or below average on many international measures.

It’s no surprise that pessimism prevails. In a recent Harvard Business School survey on U.S. competitiveness, the nearly 7,000 business leaders who responded named preK-12 education among the greatest weaknesses in the U.S. business environment. A significant majority also said they believe the U.S. is falling behind in preK-12 education compared with other nations.

Despite the troubling data, we believe that today can represent a historic turning point for U.S. schools. Promising trends, some decades in the making, are converging to make a transformation of the U.S. education system possible.

Causality: School Libraries & Student Success (CLASS) White Paper

July 1, 2014 Comments off

Causality: School Libraries & Student Success (CLASS) White Paper (PDF)
Source: American Association of School Librarians
From press release:

The white paper resulting from the “Causality: School Libraries and Student Success (CLASS)” forum, convened by the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) and funded through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), is now available for view and comment on the AASL website at http://www.ala.org/aasl/research .

In April 2014, 50 research scholars from across the nation gathered in Chicago to plan a national research agenda focused on demonstrating the positive influences of effective school librarians and quality school libraries on student learning. Leading the discussion was Dr. Thomas Cook, a professor and faculty research fellow from Northwestern (Ill.) University. Considered one of the most influential methodologists in education research, Cook’s interests include social science research methodology, program evaluation, school reform and contextual factors that influence adolescent development, particularly for urban minorities.

The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes

June 27, 2014 Comments off

The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

The school finance reforms (SFRs) that began in the early 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s caused some of the most dramatic changes in the structure of K–12 education spending in U.S. history. We analyze the effects of these reforms on the level and distribution of school district spending, as well as their effects on subsequent educational and economic outcomes.

In Part One, using a newly compiled database of school finance reforms and a recently available long panel of annual school district data on per-pupil spending that spans 1967–2010, we present an event-study analysis of the effects of different types of school finance reforms on per-pupil spending in low- and high-income school districts. We find that SFRs have been instrumental in equalizing school spending between low- and high-income districts and many reforms do so by increasing spending for poor districts. While all reforms reduce spending inequality, there are important differences by reform type: adequacy-based court-ordered reforms increase overall school spending, while equity-based court-ordered reforms reduce the variance of spending with little effect on overall levels; reforms that entail high tax prices (the amount of taxes a district must raise to increase spending by one dollar) reduce long-run spending for all districts, and those that entail low tax prices lead to increased spending growth, particularly for low-income districts.

In Part Two, we link the spending and reform data to detailed, nationally-representative data on children born between 1955 and 1985 and followed through 2011 (the Panel Study of Income Dynamics) to study the effect of the reform-induced changes in school spending on long-run adult outcomes. These birth cohorts straddle the period in which most of the major school finance reform litigation accelerated, and thus the cohorts were differentially exposed, depending on place and year of birth. We use the timing of the passage of court-mandated reforms as an exogenous shifter of school spending across cohorts within the same district. Event-study and instrumental variable models reveal that a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to eliminate between two-thirds and all of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families. We present several pieces of evidence to support a causal interpretation of the estimates.

School mental health services: signpost for out-of-school service utilization in adolescents with mental disorders? A nationally representative United States cohort

June 25, 2014 Comments off

School mental health services: signpost for out-of-school service utilization in adolescents with mental disorders? A nationally representative United States cohort
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
School mental health services are important contact points for children and adolescents with mental disorders, but their ability to provide comprehensive treatment is limited. The main objective was to estimate in mentally disordered adolescents of a nationally representative United States cohort the role of school mental health services as guide to mental health care in different out-of-school service sectors.

Methods
Analyses are based on weighted data (N = 6483) from the United States National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (participants’ age: 13–18 years). Lifetime DSM-IV mental disorders were assessed using the fully structured WHO CIDI interview, complemented by parent report. Adolescents and parents provided information on mental health service use across multiple sectors, based on the Service Assessment for Children and Adolescents.

Results
School mental health service use predicted subsequent out-of-school service utilization for mental disorders i) in the medical specialty sector, in adolescents with affective (hazard ratio (HR) = 3.01, confidence interval (CI) = 1.77–5.12), anxiety (HR = 3.87, CI = 1.97–7.64), behavior (HR = 2.49, CI = 1.62–3.82), substance use (HR = 4.12, CI = 1.87–9.04), and eating (HR = 10.72, CI = 2.31–49.70) disorders, and any mental disorder (HR = 2.97, CI = 1.94–4.54), and ii) in other service sectors, in adolescents with anxiety (HR = 3.15, CI = 2.17–4.56), behavior (HR = 1.99, CI = 1.29–3.06), and substance use (HR = 2.48, CI = 1.57–3.94) disorders, and any mental disorder (HR = 2.33, CI = 1.54–3.53), but iii) not in the mental health specialty sector.

Conclusions
Our findings indicate that in the United States, school mental health services may serve as guide to out-of-school service utilization for mental disorders especially in the medical specialty sector across various mental disorders, thereby highlighting the relevance of school mental health services in the trajectory of mental care. In light of the missing link between school mental health services and mental health specialty services, the promotion of a stronger collaboration between these sectors should be considered regarding the potential to improve and guarantee adequate mental care at early life stages.

The Community Eligibility Provision: Alternatives to School Meal Applications

June 23, 2014 Comments off

The Community Eligibility Provision: Alternatives to School Meal Applications
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

“Community eligibility” is a powerful new tool to ensure that low-income children in high-poverty neighborhoods have access to healthy meals at school. Established in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, community eligibility streamlines school meal operations and allows schools in high-poverty areas to offer nutritious breakfasts and lunches to all students at no charge.[1] One of the key simplifications of community eligibility is that participating schools no longer collect school meal applications. Eliminating applications reduces the administrative burden on school districts and reduces paperwork for parents struggling to put food on the table.

Without applications, schools need an alternative method to determine meal reimbursements. Under community eligibility, reimbursements are determined by a formula based on the percentage of “Identified Students” who are approved to receive free meals by means other than a household application, primarily children in households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who are “directly certified” through data matching. This simplification eliminates the numerous hours that school administrators spend processing and verifying school meal applications. When school districts implement community eligibility, however, they no longer have the individual income data from those meal applications for the students attending community eligibility schools — data that programs outside of the school meal programs often use.

States Continue Progress During Second Year of Race to the Top

June 16, 2014 Comments off

States Continue Progress During Second Year of Race to the Top
Source: U.S. Department of Education

Today the U.S. Department of Education released Race to the Top state progress reports for seven states that received grants in the third round of the program: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These reports capture the highlights of progress and obstacles that the states encountered during the second year of implementation, from January-December 2013.

It is important to note that the year two reports demonstrate a snapshot in time—the progress that states made during that year. A number of states have continued to take steps in the past few months, since the data was collected, to address the challenges that arose during that year and expand upon the progress they have made. The reports detail the progress that each state has made against the plan that its local leaders developed, and states can only be compared to the benchmarks they have committed to in their plans, not to each other.

CRS — Year-Round Schools: In Brief

June 16, 2014 Comments off

Year-Round Schools: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In general, year-round schools are schools that reorganize a traditional school year without allowing for any extended breaks in instruction (e.g., 10-week summer vacation). Rather, the days usually included in summer break are redistributed to create regular breaks throughout the year. While year-round schools have existed to some extent since the early 1900s, there was substantial growth in the number of year-round schools from the mid-1980s to 2000. In 1985, there were 410 year-round public schools, serving about 350,000 students. By 2000, the number of year-round public schools had grown to 3,059 schools, serving almost 2.2 million students in 45 states. During the 2011-2012 school year, there were 3,700 public schools across the nation operating on a year-round calendar cycle.

The research on the extent to which year-round schools affect student achievement has generally been found to be inconclusive and lacking in methodological rigor. There is some consensus that year-round schooling has no effect or a small positive effect on student performance; however, the quality of the studies that led to these findings has been questioned.

States moving from accreditation to accountability

June 13, 2014 Comments off

States moving from accreditation to accountability (PDF)
Source: Education Commission of the States

Accreditation policies vary widely among the states. Since ECS last reviewed public school accreditation policies in 1998, a number of states have seen their legislatures take a stronger role in accountability—resulting in a move from state-administered accreditation systems to outcomes-focused state accountability programs. Even in states maintaining accreditation programs, accreditation is often a component of the larger accountability system that evaluates school, district and state educational performance on a number of indicators.

See: State School Accountability “Report Card” Database

CRS — The Education of Students with Disabilities: Alignment Between the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

June 12, 2014 Comments off

The Education of Students with Disabilities: Alignment Between the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities, Georgetown University)

The largest sources of federal funding for elementary and secondary education are the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB; P.L. 107-110), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; P.L. 108-446). The ESEA provides funding and services for a broad population of students, including disadvantaged students, migrant students, neglected and delinquent students, and students with limited English proficiency. Approximately 6 million students with disabilities ages 6 through 21 attend elementary and secondary schools; however, they are not afforded special services under the ESEA due to their disability status. The IDEA provides funding and services specifically for those students with disabilities. Both the ESEA and IDEA aim to improve the educational outcomes for students with disabilities. The ways in which they do this sometimes differ, and when the laws are not fully or clearly aligned it can be difficult for educators to plan and execute an appropriate education for students with disabilities.

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance to Improve Educational Outcomes of Children and Youth in Foster Care

June 4, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance to Improve Educational Outcomes of Children and Youth in Foster Care
Source: U.S. Department of Education

Today the U.S. Department of Education is releasing resources to emphasize and support the needs of foster care students. In addition to new guidance, ED has launched a dedicated web page, Students in Foster Care, and issued a joint letter with the U.S. Department of Health Human Services to education authorities about increasing educational stability for children and youth in foster care.

The guidance released today will make it easier for caseworkers, child welfare agencies and tribal organizations responsible for the placement and care of children and youth in foster care to have direct access to their education records. The guidance provides states with information to implement the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), an amendment to The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It also details the amendment’s impact on the confidentiality provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The guidance will help states improve educational and developmental outcomes for students in foster care by providing authorized agencies with access to the records they need to meet the early intervention or educational needs of the students.

School Discipline Consensus Report

June 3, 2014 Comments off

School Discipline Consensus Report
Source: Council of State Governments (Justice Center)

The School Discipline Consensus Report presents a comprehensive set of consensus-based and field-driven recommendations to improve conditions for learning for all students and educators, better support students with behavioral needs, improve police-schools partnerships, and keep students out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. More than 100 advisors representing policymakers, school administrators, teachers, behavioral health professionals, police, court leaders, probation officials, juvenile correctional leaders, parents, and youth from across the country helped develop more than two dozen policies and 60 recommendations to keep more students in productive classrooms and out of court rooms. An additional 600 individuals from various disciplines and perspectives shared examples of promising practices that are also presented in the report. The School Discipline Consensus Report draws on real-world strategies and research to promote truly multidisciplinary approaches to reducing the millions of youth suspended, expelled, and arrested each year while creating safe and supportive schools for all educators and students.

Immigrant Parents and Early Childhood Programs: Addressing Barriers of Literacy, Culture, and Systems Knowledge

June 3, 2014 Comments off

Immigrant Parents and Early Childhood Programs: Addressing Barriers of Literacy, Culture, and Systems Knowledge
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Immigrant parents face significant barriers as they try to engage with their children’s early educational experiences, including greatly restricted access for many due to limited English proficiency and functional literacy. Parental engagement is critical for young children’s early cognitive and socioemotional development, and for their participation in programs that are designed to support early learning. Reducing the barriers to parent engagement in early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs would encourage school success, and help many young children of immigrants close the gaps in kindergarten readiness with their native peers.

Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the size and share of the U.S. young-child population with at least one immigrant parent, posing challenges to policymakers and front-line programs in the early childhood arena. These demographic changes are converging with efforts in many states to expand early childhood services and improve their quality. With one in four young children in the United States living in an immigrant family, efforts to build trust and establish meaningful two-way communication with these families is an urgent priority if system expansion efforts are to realize their purpose.

Many programs face difficulties engaging with immigrant and refugee parents who often require support building U.S. cultural and systems knowledge and in overcoming English language and literacy barriers. These difficulties have been exacerbated in recent years as adult basic education and English instruction programs, which early childhood programs such as Head Start had previously relied on to support parents in need of these skills, have been significantly reduced.

Against this backdrop, this report identifies the unique needs of newcomer parents across the range of expectations for parent skill, engagement, and leadership sought by ECEC programs, and strategies undertaken to address these needs. The study is based on field research in six states, expert interviews, a literature review, and a sociodemographic analysis.

Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms

May 30, 2014 Comments off

Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms
Source: The Future of Children (Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs/Brookings Institution)
From Executive Summary (PDF)

It’s a stark fact: Despite decades of efforts to give them a leg up through preschool and other early-childhood initiatives, children from poor families still show up for kindergarten far behind children from wealthier families, and they fall further behind during the school years.

Poor children’s school problems start with the quality of the home environment. Parents and the home environment they create exert a powerful influence on children, beginning before they are born and continuing throughout childhood. Study after study has shown large differences in the home environment by income, all of them favoring children from more affluent families. For example, among many other disadvantages, poorer children spend less time reading or being read to, spend less time talking with adults, and hear far fewer words each week.

Because the home environment is so important for children’s development, many people think that “two-generation” programs, which serve parents and children simultaneously with high-quality interventions, can be more effective (and perhaps more efficient) than programs that serve them individually. The hope is that we can work through parents to make preschool interventions more effective, while helping parents at the same time. Several promising demonstration programs are under way.

This issue of Future of Children assesses past and current two-generation programs. But it goes much further than that. The editors identified six widely acknowledged mechanisms or pathways through which parents, and the home environment they create, are thought to influence children’s development: stress, education, health, income, employment, and assets. Understanding how these mechanisms of development work—and when, where, and how they harm or help—should aid us in designing interventions that boost children’s intellectual and socioemotional development, strengthen families, and help close academic gaps between students from poor and more affluent families.

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