Monday, July 31, 2017

Using Goals to Motivate College Students

Will college students who set goals for themselves work harder and achieve better outcomes? In theory, setting goals can help present-biased students to mitigate their self-control problem. In practice, there is little credible evidence on the causal effects of goal setting for college students. 

This study reports the results of two field experiments that involved almost four thousand college students in total. One experiment asked treated students to set goals for performance in the course; the other asked treated students to set goals for a particular task (completing online practice exams). 

Task-based goals had large and robust positive effects on the level of task completion, and task-based goals also increased course performance. Further analysis indicates that the increase in task completion induced by setting task-based goals caused the increase in course performance. 

Performance-based goals had positive but small effects on course performance. 

Increasing Educator Confidence, Optimism around Digital Resources in the Classroom

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) has announced the results of the third annual Educator Confidence Report, a survey of over 1,200 teachers and school and district administrators which investigates key issues including educator sentiment, technology readiness, community engagement and the state of the teaching profession.

The survey reveals 65% of teachers are confident in their ability to effectively use educational technology resources in the classroom, a 7% increase from 2016. However, while almost all (98%) respondents use some form of digital content, they acknowledge that there are still roadblocks preventing them from realizing technology's full potential in the classroom. Among the largest barriers to effective education technology integration are lack of time to plan for implementation of digital resources into instruction (46%), a shortage of devices in the classroom (40%), and lack of access to technology-focused professional development (48%).

Additional findings from the 2017 Educator Confidence Report include:
  • Professional development and meaningful, collaborative relationships with colleagues are crucial to success:
    • 63% of educator's report that colleagues are the number one resource they turn to when it comes to learning about educational technology implementation. About half (47%) of educators rely on formal professional development from their school district, while close to two-thirds (63%) of educators report using their own money to engage in professional development opportunities. In addition, educators indicate they could use additional resources to help them more effectively implement educational technology.
  • Educators want greater family involvement:
    • More engagement from parents (52%) was the number one thing educators wanted more of in the classroom. This was followed closely by more time to collaborate with colleagues (49%).
  • Confidence in the state of education varies among job type:
    • 53% of educator's report having a positive outlook on the overall state of education, compared to 42% in 2016. Administrators, at both the school and district level, have a more positive outlook (72%) than classroom teachers (47%).
o guide education policy, instruction, improve student outcomes and support teachers."
The Educator Confidence Report is an independent study, distributed to a diverse national cross section and was conducted by the market research agency MDR, on behalf of HMH. The administrative group included school principals, superintendents, curriculum heads and chief technology and chief information officers. Teachers from across the K-12 spectrum completed the survey. Math, science, social studies, English language arts and literacy, and general classroom teachers were represented.

To learn more about the 2017 Educator Confidence Report, which examines additional topics including social media usage among educators, widely used teaching strategies used alongside technology and the future of education, please visit

Friday, July 28, 2017

Belief about the fairness of the American system =higher self-esteem, less delinquent behavior, and better classroom behavior

Scholars call for more attention to how marginalization influences the development of low-income and racial/ethnic minority youth and emphasize the importance of youth's subjective perceptions of contexts. This study examines how beliefs about the fairness of the American system (system justification) in sixth grade influence trajectories of self-esteem and behavior among 257 early adolescents (average age 11.4) from a diverse, low-income, middle school in an urban southwestern city.

System justification was associated with higher self-esteem, less delinquent behavior, and better classroom behavior in sixth grade but worse trajectories of these outcomes from sixth to eighth grade.

These findings provide novel evidence that system-justifying beliefs undermine the well-being of marginalized youth and that early adolescence is a critical developmental period for this process.

Related article

Learning from Errors

Although error avoidance during learning appears to be the rule in American classrooms, laboratory studies suggest that it may be a counterproductive strategy, at least for neurologically typical students.

Experimental investigations indicate that errorful learning followed by corrective feedback is beneficial to learning. Interestingly, the beneficial effects are particularly salient when individuals strongly believe that their error is correct: Errors committed with high confidence are corrected more readily than low-confidence errors. Corrective feedback, including analysis of the reasoning leading up to the mistake, is crucial.

Aside from the direct benefit to learners, teachers gain valuable information from errors, and error tolerance encourages students’ active, exploratory, generative engagement. If the goal is optimal performance in high-stakes situations, it may be worthwhile to allow and even encourage students to commit and correct errors while they are in low-stakes learning situations rather than to assiduously avoid errors at all costs.

Complete report

Exposure to Same-Race Teachers Reduces Exclusionary Disciplinary Outcomes for Black Students

Using student-level administrative data from North Carolina, this study explores whether exposure to same-race teachers affects the rate at which Black students receive exclusionary discipline, such as out-of-school suspensions, in-school suspensions, and expulsion.

The study finds consistent evidence that exposure to same-race teachers is associated with reduced rates of exclusionary discipline for Black students. This relationship holds for elementary, middle, and high school grade ranges for male and female students, and for students who do and do not use free and reduced-price lunch.

Although there are reductions in referrals for a number of different types of offenses, particularly consistent evidence shows that exposure to same-race teachers lowers office referrals for willful defiance across all grade levels. This suggests to the authors that teacher discretion plays a role in driving our results.

Attending a Denver charter school reduces the likelihood that a student is classified as having a specific learning disability

This study uses administrative data to measure whether attending a charter school in Denver, Colorado, reduces the likelihood that students are newly classified as having a disability in primary grades.

The study employs an observational approach that takes advantage of Denver’s Common Enrollment System, which allows us to observe each school that the student listed a preference to attend.

The study finds evidence that attending a Denver charter school reduces the likelihood that a student is classified as having a specific learning disability, which is the largest and most subjectively diagnosed disability category.

There is no evidence that charter attendance reduces the probability of being classified as having a speech or language disability or autism, which are two more objectively diagnosed classifications.

Louisiana's vouchers negatively affected both English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics achievement

The Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) offers publicly funded vouchers to students in low-performing schools with family income no greater than 250% of the poverty line, allowing them to enroll in participating private schools. Initially established in 2008 as a pilot program in New Orleans, the LSP was expanded statewide in 2012.

This article examines the experimental effects of using an LSP scholarship to enroll in one’s first-choice private school on student achievement in the first 2 years following the program’s expansion. Our results indicate that the use of an LSP scholarship has negatively affected both English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics achievement.

There are less negative effect estimates in the second year of the program, with the impacts on ELA only on the margin of statistical significance.

The Persistent Effects of English Language Arts Teachers’ Instruction

Evidence that teachers’ short-term instructional effects persist over time and predict substantial long-run impacts on students’ lives provides much of the impetus for a wide range of educational reforms focused on identifying and responding to differences in teachers’ value-added to student learning. However, relatively little research has examined how the particular types of knowledge or skills that teachers impart to students contribute to their longer-term success.

This article investigates the persistence of teachers’ value-added effects on student learning over multiple school years and across subject areas.

The study finds that, in comparison with math teachers, English language arts (ELA) teachers’ impacts on same-subject standardized achievement scores are smaller in the year of instruction, but that teacher-induced gains to ELA achievement appear to reflect more broadly applicable skills that persist in supporting student learning in the long run across disciplines.

The results highlight important variation in the quality of teacher-induced learning for long-run success, distinct from the variation across teachers in more typically measured short-term learning effects.

How pre-school lcass size and child–teacher ratio effect student ahievement

This study uses data from a comprehensive database of U.S. early childhood education program evaluations published between 1960 and 2007 to evaluate the relationship between class size, child–teacher ratio, and program effect sizes for cognitive, achievement, and socioemotional outcomes.

Both class size and child–teacher ratio showed nonlinear relationships with cognitive and achievement effect sizes. For child–teacher ratios 7.5:1 and lower, the reduction of this ratio by one child per teacher predicted an effect size of 0.22 standard deviations greater. For class sizes 15 and smaller, one child fewer predicted an effect size of 0.10 standard deviations larger. No discernible relationship was found for larger class sizes and child–teacher ratios. Results were less clear for socioemotional outcomes due to a small sample.

High-performing, high-poverty schools prioritize developing their teachers over holding them accountable.

The authors of a new report studied how six high-performing, high-poverty schools in one large Massachusetts city implemented the state’s new teacher evaluation policy. The sample includes traditional, turnaround, restart, and charter schools, each of which had received the state’s highest accountability rating. They sought to learn how these successful schools approached teacher evaluation, including classroom observations, feedback, and summative ratings.

The authors interviewed 142 teachers and administrators and analyzed data using sensemaking theory, which considers how individuals’ knowledge and beliefs, the context in which they work, and the policy stimuli they encounter affect implementation. All schools prioritized the goal of developing their teachers over holding them accountable.

Some schools much better than others at closing achievement gaps

Recent research demonstrates that the test score gap between relatively advantaged and relatively disadvantaged students is much higher in some school districts than it is in other districts. But measured school quality often varies dramatically within a school district, and therefore it is important to know whether individual schools differ in the relative success of advantaged and disadvantaged students.

A new report finds that schools vary dramatically in the relative success of advantaged and disadvantaged students, and that different schools within the same school district differ substantially in terms of their advantaged-disadvantaged success gaps. In some schools, both advantaged and disadvantaged students fare especially well; while in other schools, both fare especially poorly; while in still others, one group does relatively well and the other group does relatively poorly.

The report investigates whether these differences across schools can be explained by differences in relative kindergarten readiness of advantaged and disadvantaged students, and finds that pre-school preparation is unlikely to explain the cross-school differences that we find. Moreover, the report find that overall school advantage levels are unrelated to differences between the success levels of advantaged and disadvantaged students.

Multiracial adolescents show no test score gap with whites

The stark, stubborn race gaps in educational achievement undermine the American promise of equal opportunity. In particular, the divide between the test scores of white and black students reflects and reinforces unequal life chances.

But not all students fall into single racial category. . In 1980, only 3.2 percent of U.S. marriages were between races; by 2010, that number had grown to 8.4 percent, including 15 percent of new marriages in 2015, according to Frey. A sizable and increasing share of U.S. children will think of themselves as multiracial over the next several decades.

Despite the growing number of multiracial students, almost no attention has been given to their educational outcomes. But gaining a better understanding of how multiracial students perform may cast useful light on the causes of race gaps more generally.

A new report shows that:
  1. Students of multiracial identity are from families with lower socioeconomic status than whites;
  2. They attend schools that are far more integrated with whites and Asians compared to blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders;
  3. Multiracial students have the same average test scores as whites on math, science, and writing;
  4. For reading tests, multiracial students outperform other groups, including Asians; and
  5. These results contradict the controversial hypothesis that between group differences in IQ result from genetic differences between races.
These findings suggest that the race gaps in academic achievement in the United States are the result of inequality, especially in terms of access to educational opportunities, and therefore could be closed under fairer political, social, and economic arrangements.

Students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests

Vouchers to pay for students to attend private schools continue to command public attention. The current administration has proposed vouchers in its budget, and more than half of states are operating or have proposed voucher programs.

A new report analyzes four recent rigorous studies—in the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio. They used different research designs and reached the same result: on average, students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests than similar students that do not attend private schools.

Grade-skippers were 60% more likely to earn doctorates or patents and more than twice as likely to get a PhD in a STEM field

The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) was founded by Julian C. Stanley, on 1 September 1971, at Johns Hopkins University. Camilla P. Benbow and David Lubinski co-direct SMPY at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. They are planning to complete a 50-year longitudinal study of five cohorts, consisting of over 5,000 intellectually talented individuals, identified over a 25-year period (1972-1997). The aim of this research is to develop a better understanding of the unique needs of intellectually precocious youth and the determinants of the contrasting developmental trajectories they display over the lifespan. The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth is a bit of a misnomer, however, because verbally precocious youth have been included for longitudinal tracking, and participants are now all adults. Nevertheless, “SMPY” has been chosen to be retained to maintain consistency.
Four of SMPY’s five cohorts were identified by talent searches by age 13. These cohorts vary in ability level ranging from the top 3% to the top .01% in quantitative or verbal reasoning ability. A fifth cohort of 714 participants, identified as first- or second-year graduate students attending top U.S. math/science programs in 1992, complements the first four cohorts of talent search participants by, among other things, affording an opportunity to assess the generalizability of the talent search model for identifying scientific potential. A 10-year follow-up of these math/science graduate students is now available (Lubinski et al., 2006).

For the first three SMPY cohorts (identified in 1972-1974, 1976-1978, & 1980-1983, respectively), their 20-year follow-ups are available (Benbow et al., 2000Lubinski et al., 2006); and, more recently, some of their midlife follow-ups have appeared (Kell et al., 2013a,  2013b); Lubinski et al., 2014). SMPY either has or is planning to follow-up all four cohorts of talent search participants at ages 18, 23, 33, 50 and 65. Cohort 5, the math-science graduate students, will be followed-up at ages 35 (complete) as well as 50 and 65.

So far, seven books and over 400 articles have been based on SMPY; many recent articles are available as PDF files on Benbow and Lubinski’s individual web sites. For further and more detailed information on SMPY’s history, the selection criteria for each cohort, and major longitudinal findings (see Lubinski & Benbow, 2006).  Recent coverage in Nature (Nature 2016).

The SMPY data supported the idea of accelerating fast learners by allowing them to skip school grades. In a comparison of children who bypassed a grade with a control group of similarly smart children who didn't, the grade-skippers were 60% more likely to earn doctorates or patents and more than twice as likely to get a PhD in a STEM field.

Acceleration is common in SMPY's elite 1-in-10,000 cohort, whose intellectual diversity and rapid pace of learning make them among the most challenging to educate. Advancing these students costs little or nothing, and in some cases may save schools money.

Related article

Thursday, July 27, 2017

New report looks at student victimization

A newly released report: America's Children, 2017, shows rates of maltreatment increased the most among the youngest children, but fewer children living in poverty and more children with health insurance.

A special feature in this year's report looks at student victimization and shows that 5 percent of grade 3 students frequently teased, made fun of, or called other students names; 3 percent frequently told lies or untrue stories about other students; 2 percent frequently pushed, shoved, slapped, hit, or kicked other students; and 2 percent frequently excluded other students from play on purpose.

Higher percentages of students living below 100% poverty (5 percent) were identified as perpetrators than students at 200% above poverty, the highest income level, (1 percent). Compared to other children, a higher percentage of perpetrators reported that they were also victimized by their peers.

The overall rate of child maltreatment (defined as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect) declined from 9.3 for every 1,000 children in 2008 to 8.8 in 2011. But in 2015, the rate increased to 9.2 per 1,000 children. Rates among children under 1 year of age have increased at twice the rate of any other age group.

In addition to highlighting some areas of concern, the report shows improvements in several key measures. From 2005 to 2010, poverty rates of all children ages 0–17 had increased from 18 percent to 22 percent. Since that time, poverty rates have steadily decreased and most recently dropped from 21 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2015. The percentage of children ages 0–17 without health insurance at the time of interview decreased from 14 percent in 1993 to 5 percent in 2015.

Between 1980 and 2015, the birth rate among adolescents ages 15–17 declined from 33 live births per 1,000 females to 10 per 1,000, a record low for the country. In 2016, the percentages of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who reported smoking cigarettes daily in the past 30 days were the lowest in the history of the survey. Also, there was a decline in percentage of children living in food insecure households between 2014 and 2015.

Other key findings in the report include:
Demographic Background:
Thirty-two percent of U.S. children are projected to be Hispanic in 2050 (up from 25 percent in 2016), and 39 percent are projected to be White, non-Hispanic (down from 51 percent in 2016).
Family and Social Environment:
Twenty-two percent of children were native-born children with at least one foreign-born parent in 2016, and 3 percent were foreign-born children with at least one foreign-born parent.
Physical Environment and Safety:
In 2011–2014, the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels (at or above 5 micrograms lead per deciliter of blood) was 1 percent, compared with 26 percent in 1988–1994.
From 2015 to 2016, reports of illicit drug use in the past 30 days decreased for eighth graders from 8 to 7 percent, but remained steady for 10th- and 12th-grade students, at 16 percent and 24 percent in 2016.
In 2015, some 69 percent of high school completers enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college in the fall immediately following their graduation from high school.
Between 1983 and 2014, the infant mortality rate declined from 10.9 deaths per 1,000 live births to 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age,

Even the proudest of parents may struggle to find some semblance of meaning behind the seemingly random mish-mash of letters that often emerge from a toddler's first scribbled and scrawled attempts at putting words on paper.

But new research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that children as young as 3 already are beginning to recognize and follow important rules and patterns governing how letters in the English language fit together to make words.

The study, published this month in the journal Child Development, provides new evidence that children start to learn about some aspects of reading and writing at a very early age.

"Our results show that children begin to learn about the statistics of written language, for example about which letters often appear together and which letters appear together less often, before they learn how letters represent the sounds of a language," said study co-author Rebecca Treiman, a professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences.

An important part of learning to read and spell is learning about how the letters in written words reflect the sounds in spoken words. Children often begin to show this knowledge around 5 or 6 years of age when they produce spellings such as BO or BLO for "blow."

We tend to think that learning to spell doesn't really begin until children start inventing spellings that reflect the sounds in spoken words -- spellings like C or KI for "climb". These early invented spellings may not represent all of the sounds in a word, but children are clearly listening to the word and trying to use letters to symbolize some of the words within it, Treiman said.

As children get older, these sound-based spellings improve. For example, children may move from something like KI for "climb" to something like KLIM.

"Many studies have examined how children's invented spellings improve as they get older, but no previous studies have asked whether children's spellings improve even before they are able to produce spellings that represent the sounds in words," Treiman said. "Our study found improvements over this period, with spellings becoming more wordlike in appearance over the preschool years in a group of children who did not yet use letters to stand for sounds."

Treiman's study analyzed the spellings of 179 children from the United States (age 3 years, 2 months to 5 years, 6 months) who were prephonological spellers. That is, when asked to try to write words, the children used letters that did not reflect the sounds in the words they were asked to spell, which is common and normal at this age.

On a variety of measures, the older prephonological spellers showed more knowledge about English letter patterns than did the younger prephonological spellers. When the researchers asked adults to rate the children's productions for how much they looked like English words, they found that the adults gave higher ratings, on average, to the productions of older prephonological spellers than to the productions of younger prephonological spellers.

The productions of older prephonological spellers also were more word-like on several objective measures, including length, use of different letters within words, and combinations of letters. For example:

A 5-year-old who writes "fepiri" when asked to write the word "touch" might seem to know nothing about spelling, but this attempt looks more like a word than "fpbczs" as produced by a 4-year-old.

"While neither spelling makes sense as an attempt to represent sounds, the older child's effort shows that he or she knows more about the appearance of English words," Treiman said.

The findings are important, Treiman said, because they show that exposure to written words during the 3-to-5-year age range may be important in getting children off to a strong start with their reading, writing and spelling skills.

"Our results show that there is change and improvement with age during this period before children produce spellings that make sense on the basis of sound." Treiman said. "In many ways, the spellings produced during this period of time are more wordlike when children are older than when they are younger. That is, even though the spellings don't represent the sounds of words, they start looking more like actual words."

"This is pretty interesting, because it suggests that children are starting to learn about one aspect of spelling - what words look like - from an earlier point than we'd given them credit for," she said. "It opens up the possibility that educators could get useful information from children's early attempts to write- information that could help to show whether a child is on track for future success or whether there might be a problem."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility

This study characterize intergenerational income mobility at each college in the United States using data for over 30 million college students from 1999-2013. The authors document four results.

First, access to colleges varies greatly by parent income. For example, children whose parents are in the top 1% of the income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college than those whose parents are in the bottom income quintile.

Second, children from low- and high-income families have similar earnings outcomes conditional on the college they attend, indicating that low-income students are not mismatched at selective colleges.

Third, rates of upward mobility – the fraction of students who come from families in the bottom income quintile and reach the top quintile – differ substantially across colleges because low-income access varies significantly across colleges with similar earnings outcomes. Rates of bottom-to-top quintile mobility are highest at certain mid-tier public universities, such as the City University of New York and California State colleges. Rates of upper-tail (bottom quintile to top 1%) mobility are highest at elite colleges, such as Ivy League universities.

Fourth, the fraction of students from low-income families did not change substantially between 2000-2011 at elite private colleges, but fell sharply at colleges with the highest rates of bottom-to-top-quintile mobility.

Democratic school board members decrease racial segregation across schools.

This paper provides the first causal evidence about how elected local school boards affect student segregation across schools. The key identification challenge is that the composition of a school board is potentially correlated with unobserved determinants of school segregation, such as the pattern of household sorting and the degree to which boards are geographically constrained in defining zones of attendance.

The study exploits a unique dataset, which combines matched information about North Carolina school board candidates (including vote shares and political affiliation) with time-varying district-level racial and economic segregation outcomes.

Focusing on the political composition of school board members, two-stage least squares estimates reveal that (relative to their non-Democratic counterparts) Democratic board members decrease racial segregation across schools. These estimates significantly differ from their ordinary least squares counterparts, indicating that the latter are biased upward (understating the effects).

These findings suggest that school boards realize such reductions in segregation by shifting attendance zones, a novel measure of which we construct without the need for exact geocoded boundaries.

While the effect of adjusting boundaries does not appear to be offset by within-district neighborhood re-sorting in the short run, the study does uncover causal evidence of “white flight” out of public schools in districts in which boards have acted to reduce segregation.

Many teachers considered to be below proficient than rated as such

This study compiles teacher performance ratings across 24 states that adopted major reforms to their teacher evaluation systems. In the vast majority of these states, the percentage of teachers rated unsatisfactory remains less than 1%. However, the full distributions of ratings vary widely across states, with 0.7% to 28.7% rated below proficient and 6% to 62% rated above proficient.

Yje study also presents original survey data from an urban district illustrating that evaluators perceive more than 3 times as many teachers in their schools to be below proficient than they rate as such. Interviews with principals reveal several potential explanations for these patterns.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Just 36 percent of new secondary science teachers are teaching only in their trained subject

Ryan Nixon spent four years studying matter, energy and the universe -- and learning how to teach those and other physics-related concepts to teens. In his first year as an eighth-grade teacher, he hit a roadblock. He was supposed to teach his students geology: something he hadn't learned a thing about since, well, eighth grade.

"As a new teacher, you don't know what you're doing, but if you let teenagers know, that's not a good thing," he said.

Nixon, now a Brigham Young University assistant professor of science education, teamed with colleagues from the University of Georgia to explore both the rates and predictors of secondary science teachers who were assigned classes out of field, focusing on teachers in their first five years on the job. Among their findings published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching: 40 percent of these new teachers taught mostly or entirely out of field, and 64 percent had at least one out of field course in their first five years.

The team focused on early career teachers, he said, because it's a group already facing myriad challenges adapting to the classroom setting: 50 percent don't make it past their fifth year. "When you're a new teacher and you want a job, you take the job the principal gives you," he said. "And if you're assigned out of field, maybe you figure it out and do a good job with it, but it makes your life hard."

Though past research has looked at various aspects of out of field teaching, this is the first study that has explored secondary science out of field teaching in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era. In 2004 NCLB mandated that teachers be "highly qualified" in their subjects, which at first, Nixon said, essentially prohibited out of field teaching. But with a loosened definition of "highly qualified," just 36 percent of new science teachers are teaching only in their trained subject.

Those numbers, Nixon said, aren't great news for students either. "Their teachers are working really hard, but they're teaching subjects they're not really prepared to teach. And the teacher can try again next year, but if you're the kid in 11th-grade chem, you don't get to try again."

But science is science is science, right? Nope.

Each of the disciplines has its own areas of focus, structures, rules, methodologies, languages. When teachers don't know the content of a particular discipline, Nixon said, their classes become more constrained, more about rote memorization and repetition than working through ideas in depth.

"If science teaching and learning is about making sense of the world and understanding how experts in these disciplines work, then that's an issue," he said.

One particularly troubling finding in the study was that urban and rural schools and schools with high English-language-learner populations are more likely to have teachers doing out of field instruction. These schools, Nixon noted, are often already underfunded and often already have more new teachers than other schools. "It's just adding to the challenges these students are already facing to be given these teachers who aren't prepared to teach the things they're teaching."

Though the problem has its root in a number of areas, including vague policy, Nixon believes important change can come when administrators are aware of the issue.

"I wonder if administrators really realize it's a problem. 'You're a science teacher: why does it matter? Teach whatever,'" he said. "But when it comes down to it, administrators need to say, my teachers need to be where they can teach best."

Causes of severe antisocial behavior may differ for boys and girls

The causes of severe antisocial behaviour may differ between boys and girls, which could pave the way for new sex-specific treatments, according to a major new study published today (Friday 21 July).

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-techniques to map the brains of over 200 teenagers aged 14 - 18 years, researchers from the University of Bath (UK) and several other European universities conducted the most comprehensive study ever to analyse differences in brain development between children with conduct disorder (CD) and a group of typically-developing children (the control group).

Findings from the study, which involved 96 young people with CD and 104 typically-developing young people, are published today in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

They show that the brain's prefrontal cortex - the region responsible for long-term planning, decision-making, and impulse control - is thinner in boys and girls with CD compared to typically-developing boys and girls, and that young people with more severe forms of the condition have more abnormal brain structure.

It also shows that specific areas of the brain differ in structure between boys and girls with antisocial behaviour - for example, some brain areas showed lower cortical thickness in boys with CD, but higher thickness in girls with CD. This highlights, for the first time, that there may be sex differences in the brain-based causes of CD.

CD as a condition is poorly understood and thought to be under-diagnosed and often untreated. Symptoms range from lying and truancy, through to physical violence and weapon use at its more extreme end. It is thought that at least 5% of school age children are affected by the disorder, and it is three times more common in boys than girls. Previous studies have shown that around half of those who develop CD in childhood go on to show serious antisocial behaviour or criminality in adulthood.

Current treatments largely depend on parenting programmes, as the condition is often attributed to poor parenting or growing up in a dysfunctional family. The researchers behind the new study were keen to point out that although sometimes useful, these programmes are not widely available and may not get to the root of the problem. No specific drug treatment exists yet for CD, although ADHD medication, such as Ritalin, is sometimes given.

Senior author from the University of Bath's Department of Psychology, Dr Graeme Fairchild, explains: "Our results indicate that the development of the brain is disrupted in boys and girls with severe antisocial behaviour. These findings suggest that the causes of severe antisocial behaviour, and particularly the biological basis of these behaviours, may differ between boys and girls. This could lead to the development of sex-specific treatments or prevention programmes for at-risk young people."

Lead author, Dr Areti Smaragdi from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, added: "We hope that our findings will prompt other researchers to consider possible sex differences in future studies of antisocial behaviour and other disorders that are more common in boys, such as ADHD. Our findings may also have practical implications for treatment or prevention programmes."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

20 Hours of SAT Practice on Khan Academy == 115-Point Average Score Gains on Redesigned SAT

Score improvements consistent across gender, family income, race, and ethnicity

New data show studying for the SAT® for 20 hours on free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the average score gain compared to students who don’t use Khan Academy. Out of nearly 250,000 test takers studied, more than 16,000 gained 200 points or more between the PSAT/NMSQT® and SAT.

Khan Academy and the College Board announced the new findings today based on data from the first full year of the new SAT.

“On the new SAT, it’s easier than ever for students to show their best work. Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is free and personalized, and we see students achieving substantial score gains,” said College Board President David Coleman. “The SAT has now become an invitation for students to practice and grow.”

In addition to the 115-point average score increase associated with 20 hours of practice, shorter practice periods also correlate with meaningful score gains. For example, 6–8 hours of practice on Official SAT Practice is associated with an average 90-point increase.

“The SAT is a strong measure of college readiness.  It is heartening to see this positive association between personalized practice on Khan Academy and growth in college readiness,” said Khan Academy founder and CEO Sal Khan. “This was only possible because of the hard work of many people, especially incredible teachers, counselors and school districts who have leveraged these practice tools for their students.”

The College Board waited for a large enough sample size and a full year of data to analyze and release these results.  Researchers confirmed that practice advanced students regardless of gender, race, income, and high school GPA. The College Board will further explore the role of motivation in producing these results as well as how best to encourage more students to practice productively.

Since its launch in June 2015, more than 3.7 million students have used Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy. Nearly 40 percent of all test takers reported using Official SAT Practice, making it the number one tool for SAT preparation.

Khan Academy and the College Board developed Official SAT Practice to create free, personalized tools so students, regardless of their income level or background, can prepare for the SAT and college-level courses.

Each student accesses a plan built just for them. By linking their College Board and Khan Academy accounts, students can use their scores from the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT™ 10, and PSAT™ 8/9 to determine what areas to focus on.

Through Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy, students access video lessons, test-taking tips and strategies, and over 10,000 interactive practice questions. And they get eight full-length, free practice tests written by the College Board test design team.

Official SAT Practice reinforces what students learn in school by letting them focus on the knowledge and skills most essential for college. Behind every story of a student succeeding is a teacher, counselor, adviser, coach, parent, or other caring adult. Approximately 28 percent of usage on Official SAT Practice happens during school hours. In the next year, Khan Academy and the College Board will continue to work with educators to support students’ SAT practice.

The redesigned SAT, first administered in March 2016, makes it easy for students to show their best work. There’s no penalty for guessing, gone are “SAT words” that no one has seen before or will likely see again, and only relevant math concepts are tested.

The class of 2017 is the largest in history to take the SAT, with nearly 1.7 million students taking the redesigned test as of April 2017.

Policy Priorities to Make Data Work for Students

New research finds that states must do more to put data in the hands of people, especially parents and teachers. While states have made progress in shifting the culture of education data use from one of compliance to one of continuous improvement, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) finds that there is more work to be done to make data work for students.

DQC’s report, Time to Act 2017: Put Data in the Hands of People, illustrates how states’ investments in data over the last decade have begun to change perceptions, policy, and practice. This marks the first report on states’ progress to realize DQC’s Four Policy Priorities to Make Data Work for Students, released last year. The report also presents specific and immediate actions state leaders and advocates can take.

The report identified significant findings about the landscape of education data, such as:
  • Data is no longer being used only as a hammer. State data collection and use have expanded beyond solely being a tool for accountability and compliance. Only 18 percent of teachers say that they believe data is used to punish teachers and schools.
  • Families and educators still don’t have all of the information they need to support students.
    • Only 38 percent of public school parents strongly agree that they have easy access to all the information they need to make sure that their child gets a great education.
    • 67 percent of teachers are not fully satisfied with the effectiveness of the data and tools they have access to on a regular basis.
  • While state and district leaders have prioritized data use, that information will not fully meet the needs of all children until people representing multiple perspectives and specific needs are at the table when important decisions are being made about what data is being collected, who has access, and how it’s being used.
    • Only seven states have evidence of a cross-agency data governance body with members who represent a diversity of perspectives and needs, especially those who have been traditionally underserved such as English language learners, students with disabilities, and military-connected students.
    • Only one state publishes student achievement data about students who are in foster care on its report card.
“After prioritizing robust education data for over a decade, states are focused on using that data to better support students,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, president and CEO of DQC. “States now have the hardest work ahead of them, which is putting data in the hands of those closest to students to serve every child. States will not realize the goal of the Every Student Succeeds Act unless they build on these efforts to shift the role of data from compliance to continuous improvement.”

“Just collecting the data is not enough,” said Kristen Amundson, president and CEO of the National Association of State Boards of Education. “Unless parents, policymakers, and educators know what to do with information, our country is missing out on a big opportunity to improve education for all students.”

With a stronger data infrastructure now in place, policymakers can and must prioritize getting teachers, families, and students the data they need to answer questions, take action, and make corresponding changes in classrooms—where it matters the most. Without this intentional focus, states will fail to maximize the investments in education data that they have made and lose a critical opportunity to make data work for all students.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Educational progress and challenges students face in the United States by race and ethnicity

The number of students finishing high school has increased over time for students in all racial/ethnic groups. However, the rate of progress has varied and racial/ethnic gaps persist.

The National Center for Education Statistics released a new report today (July 18) entitled Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups, 2017. This report provides details on the educational progress and challenges students face in the United States by race and ethnicity. The report presents 28 indicators on topics ranging from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes.

The new report shows that public schools are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Between fall 2003 and fall 2013, the percentage of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools decreased for students who were White (from 59 to 50 percent) and Black (from 17 to 16 percent). In contrast, the percentage increased for students who were Hispanic (from 19 to 25 percent) and Asian/ Pacific Islander (from 4 to 5 percent) during the same time period.

Other key findings include:

  • In 2014, the percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty based on the official poverty measure was highest for Black children (37 percent), followed by Hispanic children (31 percent), and White and Asian children (12 percent each);
  • In 2014, about 4.7 million public school students participated in English language learner (ELL) programs. Hispanic students made up the majority of this group (78 percent), with around 3.6 million participating in ELL programs;
  • On the NAEP reading assessment, the White-Black gap in scale scores narrowed in Grade 4 from 32 points in 1992 to 26 points in 2015, while the White-Hispanic gap (24 points) was not measurably different from 1992. In grade 8 reading, the White-Hispanic gap narrowed from 26 points in 1992 to 21 points in 2015, while the White-Black gap (26 points) was not measurably different from 1992;
  • From 1990 to 2015, the high school status completion rate for 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 59 percent to 88 percent for Hispanic students, from 83 percent to 92 percent for Black students; and from 90 percent to 95 percent for White students. Despite this progress, the completion rates for Hispanic and Black 18- to 24-year-olds remained lower than the White rate in 2015;
  • The number of bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanic students more than doubled between 2003–04 and 2013–14. During the same period, the number of degrees awarded also increased for Black (by 46 percent), Asian/Pacific Islander (by 43 percent), and White (by 19 percent) students; and
  • In 2014, among those who had not completed high school, higher percentages of Black and American Indian/Alaska Native adults (both 22 percent) were unemployed compared to White (13 percent), Hispanic (8 percent), and Asian (7 percent) adults.

New Data on Postsecondary Tuition, Fees and Degrees

Between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the average tuition and required fees at 4-year public institutions increased more than 4 percent for both in-state and out-of-state students (after adjusting for inflation). During that same time period, tuition and required fees increased about 5 percent at 4-year nonprofit institutions and increased about 1 percent at for-profit institutions.

The National Center for Education Statistics released a new First Look report today (July 18) that presents preliminary data findings from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) fall 2016 collection. This collection included three survey components: Institutional Characteristics for the 2016-17 academic year, Completions covering the period July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016, and data on 12-Month Enrollment for the 2015-16 academic year.

Other findings include:

  • In 2016-17, there were 6,760 Title IV institutions in the United States and other U.S. jurisdictions—2,918 were classified as 4-year institutions, 1,995 were 2-year institutions, and the remaining 1,847 were less-than-2-year institutions;
  • Of the roughly 3.3 million students receiving degrees or certificates at 4-year Title IV degree-granting institutions, more than 58 percent received a bachelor's degree. This percentage varied by control of institution, with about 64 percent of the 1.9 million students at public institutions receiving a bachelor's degree, roughly 53 percent of the 1.1 million students at nonprofit institutions receiving a bachelor's degree, and about 42 percent of the 286,000 students at for-profit institutions receiving a bachelor's degree;
  • Institutions reported a 12-month unduplicated headcount enrollment of about 27.0 million individual students. Of these, roughly 23.1 million were undergraduates and approximately 3.8 million were graduate students.

Monday, July 17, 2017

More children living in high-poverty neighborhoods following Great Recession

More children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods following the Great Recession - a troubling shift because children in these neighborhoods are a year behind academically, according to new research from researchers at Rice University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Wisconsin.

"Family Poverty and Neighborhood Poverty: Links With Children's School Readiness Before and After the Great Recession" examines how neighborhood and family poverty predict children's academic skills and classroom behavior when they start school, and whether associations have changed over a period of 12 years that included the 2008 recession. The researchers used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study and examined cohorts of kindergarteners from across the U.S. in 1998 and 2010.

The research revealed that more children whose parents were not already poor were living in high-poverty neighborhoods following the Great Recession. In 1998, 36 percent of children lived in moderate-low, moderate-high and high-poverty neighborhoods. In 2010, the number rose to 43.9 percent.

The researchers defined a high-poverty neighborhood as one where 40 percent or more of residents live below the poverty line. A moderate-high-poverty neighborhood was defined as having poverty rates of 20-39.9 percent; moderate-low, 14-19.9 percent; and low, 13.9 percent or less.

When broken down by race, non-Hispanic white children had the largest change in terms of living in high-poverty neighborhoods. In 2010 they were 13.2 percentage points more likely to live in moderate-low-, moderate-high- and high-poverty neighborhoods than in 1998. In contrast, in 2010 non-Hispanic black children were only 4.1 percentage points more likely to live in a moderate-high-poverty neighborhood. Hispanic children were 5 percentage points more likely to live in a high-poverty neighborhood in 2010.

Rachel Kimbro, a professor of sociology in Rice's School of Social Sciences and founding director of the Kinder Institute's Urban Health Program, cautioned that these numbers do not mean that things got better for minority groups; it meant that things got worse for non-Hispanic whites.

"Although post-recession, more white kids were living in higher poverty neighborhoods, minority children are still significantly more likely overall to live in higher poverty neighborhoods," she said.

Kimbro said she and her fellow authors are uncertain whether this shift is because higher-income families moved into high-poverty neighborhoods due to home foreclosure or other factors, or families within moderate-poverty neighborhoods losing income and becoming poorer (thus increasing the number of poor residents). Regardless, the results are worrying, she said, because children who live in poor neighborhoods are, on average, a year behind academically, according to standardized math, reading and writing assessment tests of the students.

"Regardless of individual family income, there is something about living in a higher poverty neighborhood that negatively affects education outcomes," she said. "This is a topic that should be of great concern for educators and policymakers alike."

Kimbro hopes the research will shed light on the impact of neighborhoods on academic success and will allow educators and policymakers to design interventions to help underperforming students.

School-Based Intervention Programs Targeting Psychosocial Factors for Gifted Racial/Ethnic Minority Students

This meta-analysis of five studies examined the effect of school-based intervention programs on psychosocial well-being of gifted racial/ethnic minority students in K–12 school settings. Analyses determined the overall effect sizes for various intervention programs and compared the effect sizes for subgroups by grade (i.e., elementary vs. secondary) and program developer (i.e., local district vs. national institution).

Results indicated a significant impact of school-based intervention programs on students’ psychosocial well-being overall. The impact did not significantly differ by grade or program developer.

Remedial courses can help or hinder students

This study examines the impact of remedial and developmental courses on college students at both 2- and 4-year colleges with varying levels of academic preparedness, thus focusing on a wider range of students than previous studies.

Similar to other research, the authors find that remediation has negative effects for students on the margin of needing one developmental course. However, for students with lower levels of academic preparation, the effects of remediation are estimated to be positive in some subjects. These conclusions are largely driven by positive and negative effects observed for students at 2-year institutions.

These results suggest that remedial courses can help or hinder students differently depending on their incoming levels of academic preparedness.

Long-Term Trends in Private School Enrollments by Family Income

This paper uses data from multiple national surveys to describe trends in private elementary school enrollment by family income from 1968-2013.

Theauthors note several important trends.

First, the private school enrollment rate of middle-income families declined substantially over the last five decades, while that of high-income families remained quite stable.

Second, there are notable differences in private school enrollment trends by race/ethnicity, urbanicity, and region of the country.

Although racial/ethnic differences in private school enrollment are largely explained by income differences, the urban/suburban and regional differences in private school enrollment patterns are large even among families with similar incomes.

In particular, the 90-50 income percentile difference in private school enrollment rates in 2013 is more than three times as large in cities as in the suburbs, and these gaps are larger in the South and West than in the Northeast and Midwest. Factors contributing to these patterns may include trends in income inequality, private school costs and availability, and the perceived relative quality of local schooling options.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pre-K earns high marks for its first 15 years

North Carolina's pre-kindergarten program has supported over 350,000 children in multiple areas of learning and development, according to a new summary report from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The report says favorable outcomes from the program can last for years after children enter elementary school.

"The NC Pre-K Program has enhanced children's language development, communication skills, cognitive development, and social and emotional development," said FPG senior research scientist Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, who has led annual evaluations of the program since its inception as "More at Four" in 2001. "Not only does the program benefit children while they attend it, but its positive effects persist."

NC Pre-K is a statewide educational program for eligible 4-year-olds, primarily children whose family income does not exceed 75% of the state median. The program was designed to prepare children for kindergarten by enhancing their school readiness skills.

"Our studies have shown that children who participated in NC Pre-K have made greater than expected gains in language, literacy, math, general knowledge, and social skills through pre-k and into kindergarten," said Peisner-Feinberg.

FPG's most recent evaluation compared children who did not attend NC Pre-K to those who did. At the end of kindergarten, the children who attended the program had significantly better math skills, as well as significantly better executive function skills, a group of abilities related to self-regulation that predict children's later academic performance.

Peisner-Feinberg said the FPG team's earlier evaluations have found that some of NC Pre-K's benefits endure even longer.

"One of the hallmarks of the program is that it brings some of the greatest benefits to children who have the most to gain," she said. "Our research has shown that children from low-income homes who attended the program scored higher on third-grade reading and math End-of-Grade tests than their peers who hadn't attended the program."

Peisner-Feinberg's evaluations of NC Pre-K also have revealed strong benefits for dual-language learners, whose skills improve in both English and Spanish.

"Children with lower levels of English proficiency make gains at an even faster rate than other children in NC Pre-K," she added.

The NC Pre-K Program primarily has served a diverse population of children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, including a substantial number of dual-language learners. The majority of children in NC Pre-K have not previously been enrolled in a preschool program.

"Stability has been crucial to the impact of NC Pre-K," said Peisner-Feinberg. "Over time, many of the characteristics of the program have been consistent with good quality standards for early care and education practices."

FPG's summary report of the program's first 15 years notes that classroom quality steadily has been in the medium-to-high range, and teacher qualifications have been improving regularly from year to year.

"In our most recent evaluation, more than 99% of lead teachers in the NC Pre-K Program have a BA degree or above," she said. "In addition, nearly all NC Pre-K teachers in public school settings and over three-quarters in private settings have a 'B-K' license."

Peisner-Feinberg said FPG's history of bringing researched-based recommendations to NC Pre-K has helped the program maintain its quality as it has grown.

"The state has examined our evaluation findings to ensure that all children are benefiting from the program and to consider areas where they might improve practices," she explained. "It's been very positive from our perspective to see the program make such good use of our research."

The NC Department of Health and Human Services houses the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE), which administers the NC Pre-K Program. Officials report the results of FPG's evaluations to the state legislature each year.

"The evaluation results show that NC Pre-K continues to yield a high return on investment for our state -- improving children's outcomes through third grade, which we know reduces later costs in grade retention and special education services," said Susan Perry-Manning, Deputy Secretary for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. "The Department is committed to maintaining the high quality standards that yield NC Pre-K's positive results for children, and we couldn't be more pleased that the legislature approved expansion funding for more than 1,500 additional children this school year."

Academic motivation suffers when economic mobility seems out of reach

New studies from Northwestern University show that high school and college students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds are much less motivated to overcome academic hardships when they have doubts about the likelihood of people from their backgrounds achieving upward mobility.

The new studies, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, extend previous research demonstrating that low-SES students who see education as a viable path to upward mobility are more inclined to succeed in their educational pursuits despite the numerous academic barriers facing students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Prior research has shown that students from low-SES backgrounds are motivated to persist during difficult academic experiences when they feel school can concretely contribute to future socioeconomic success," said Alexander Browman, lead author of the studies and a recent Ph.D. graduate in psychology from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. "Our new studies extend this work by showing that this motivational pathway can be affected by whether or not they feel that that goal of achieving socioeconomic mobility is ultimately possible in the society in which they live."

In three studies, the researchers either measured students' beliefs about how attainable mobility was in their society or presented them with information that suggested that mobility was more or less likely to occur in their society. They found that students from lower-SES backgrounds who had or were led to hold doubts about the likelihood of mobility were less inclined to persist when they faced academic difficulty.

The authors highlight that these findings suggest new potential intervention strategies for motivating students to persist when they experience difficulty at school.

At the same time, they emphasize that their results do not imply that low-SES students who underperform do so simply because they hold misguided beliefs about mobility that can be casually corrected.

"The belief among some low-SES youth and young adults that mobility is unrealistic in their society is likely deep-seated, resulting from a lifetime of concrete experiences that cast doubt upon the plausibility that people from their background can experience mobility in that society," Browman said. "What this implies is that in order to promote meaningful sustained academic effort, researchers, educators and policymakers should consider what sorts of systemic changes to the educational environment might provide these students with concrete routes to mobility that are viable for students from their backgrounds."

To attract more students to STEM, highlight communal aspects of STEM careers

The idea of scientists working long hours in lab by themselves is a common concept for Americans, but this idea of a "lone scientist" is not universal. Examining students in the United States, India, and China, social psychologists show not only a cultural divide in how STEM careers are viewed, but that these views can be changed to encourage more interest in STEM fields.

Elizabeth Brown, (University of North Florida), Mia Steinberg, (California State University, Long Beach), Yun Lu (University of Maryland, College Park), and Amanda Diekman (Miami University) conducted the research. The research is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

In the studies, students completed an online survey, measuring their perspectives on STEM careers and whether these types of careers offered intimacy, affiliation, and altruism, also known as communal opportunities, or power, achievement and excitement, known as agentic opportunities. The researchers also surveyed the students' perceptions on what types of opportunities stereotypically male careers, such as dentist or lawyer, and stereotypically female careers, like preschool teacher or social worker, offer.

In all five studies, participants were asked to assess their interest in various STEM careers and ranked what types of opportunities, communal and agentic, the careers might provide. In two studies they reported their own engagement with STEM by reporting how many STEM-type classes they were taking or took previously as well as how communal these experiences were.

Across four studies, the scientists found U.S. students perceived fewer communal opportunities (working with/helping/relationships with others) in STEM careers than did Asian students. They also saw this differential perception related to U.S.-Asia gaps in STEM interest. These different perceptions, according to the researchers, are related to how interested students are in STEM careers.

"U.S. participants believe that STEM fields do not provide opportunities to work with others, help others, or form bonds with others, which is associated with less interest in STEM careers," says lead author Elizabeth Brown.

In contrast, the research showed that students in Asian countries had more communal stem experiences than U.S. students. "These communal experiences," says Brown, "helped form these beliefs about STEM."

Based on the research, participants from China and India believe that STEM fields provide opportunities to work with others, help others, and form bonds with others. These beliefs about STEM help to partially explain why there is higher interest in STEM fields in China and India.

Closing the STEM gap

The view of the lone scientists and lack of communal support may explain part of the gap between the U.S. and other countries in growing STEM talent.

In a fifth study, experimentally highlighting the perceived communal opportunities in science closed the cultural gap in positivity towards a STEM career.

"Study 5 showed that experimentally elevated communal, but not agentic, opportunities in science can close the cultural gap in positivity towards a scientist career," write the researchers.

The fifth study presented participants with two versions of a scientist's day, one involved teamwork and collaboration while the other presented a scientist being independent and working on their own. Measuring the results with a follow-up survey, the use of the teamwork example increased U.S. participants' views on STEM careers.

"If the aim is to foster perceptions that might draw US students into the STEM pathway, including communal information may be one way to provide more equal footing with Asian students," writes Brown.

"One way the U.S. can address the STEM shortage is by highlighting the communion already present in STEM and integrating more communal opportunities into STEM," she continues.

From a classroom engagement view, communal activities and experiences in STEM could include working on group activities in STEM classes, participating in a study group; and thinking about how what you are learning about in a STEM class helps the broader community.

"By incorporating communal activities into STEM, we can help to change stereotypes about STEM and attract many of those individuals with high STEM ability," says Brown. "Additionally, incorporating communion into STEM is a fairly inexpensive way to increase the size of the STEM workforce."

What do high school principals know about concussion?

When it comes to helping high school student athletes recover from concussion, support is needed beyond the athletic field. It is also essential when they return to the classroom. A new study examining principals' perceptions about concussion will be released today and presented at the American Academy of Neurology's Sports Concussion Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., July 14 to 16, 2017.

"Many times, there are protocols in place for how a concussed student returns to their sport, but it is also important to look at how they return to the classroom," said study author Kristyn Tekulve, MD, of Indiana University in Indianapolis and member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Contrary to popular belief, returning to school - being lightly active and social - can help students as they recover. However, they may need special accommodations as they ease back into their normal school routine."

"Post-concussion symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, sensitivity to noise or light, trouble concentrating and processing information, and can hinder academics if not addressed appropriately. High school principals play a key role in creating academic policies that may help students as they recover," Tekulve said.

For the study, 157 public high school principals in Indiana completed an anonymous online survey. Of those surveyed, 42 percent reported having one to five students who had suffered a concussion in the last year. Only a third of principals - 34 percent - reported having received training in the academic management of students with concussion. However, 95 percent said they had access to a school nurse or someone who was comfortable monitoring students with concussion symptoms.

Among those surveyed, 92 percent of principals said they were willing to make academic accommodations for students recovering from concussion for as long as necessary. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of principals - 96 percent - said they were likely to allow students to take frequent breaks and avoid busy environments and 99 percent reported they were likely to limit screen time and allow concussed students to test or work in a quiet area.

Accommodations for testing depended on the type of testing, with 71 percent of principals reporting they were likely to allow for no regular testing, and 98 percent reporting they would likely grant increased testing time for concussed students. However, only 58 percent would allow no standardized testing. The majority - 52 percent - stated that a lack of communication among students, physicians and schools is the largest barrier when instituting academic accommodations.

The study also found that 74 percent of principals surveyed thought that physicians should decide when academic accommodations are no longer needed.

Programs that teach emotional intelligence in schools have lasting impact

Social and emotional learning programs for youth not only immediately improve mental health, social skills, and learning outcomes but also continue to benefit children years later, according to new research from UBC, University of Illinois at Chicago and Loyola University.

"Social-emotional learning programs teach the skills that children need to succeed and thrive in life," said Eva Oberle, an assistant professor at UBC's Human Early Learning Partnership in the school of population and public health. "We know these programs have an immediate positive effect so this study wanted to assess whether the skills stuck with students over time, making social-emotional learning programs a worthwhile investment of time and financial resources in schools."

Social-emotional learning teaches children to recognize and understand their emotions, feel empathy, make decisions and build and maintain relationships. Previous research has shown that incorporating these programs into the classroom improves learning outcomes and reduces anxiety and behavioural problems among students. Some schools have incorporated social-emotional learning programs - like MindUP and Roots of Empathy - into classrooms while other school systems, including the new B.C. curriculum, embrace it more systemically.

The new study analyzed results from 82 different programs involving more than 97,000 students from kindergarten to middle school in the U.S., Europe and the U.K. where the effects were assessed at least six months after the programs completed. The researchers found that social-emotional learning continued to have positive effects in the classroom but was also connected to longer-term positive outcomes.

Students who participated in programs graduated from college at a rate 11 per cent higher than peers who did not. Their high school graduation rate was six per cent higher. Drug use and behaviour problems were six per cent lower for program participants, arrest rates 19 per cent lower, and diagnoses of mental health disorders 13.5 per cent lower.

Oberle and her colleagues also found that all children benefitted from the programs regardless of race, socioeconomic background or school location.

"Teaching social-emotional learning in schools is a way to support individual children in their pathways to success, and it's also a way to promote better public health outcomes later in life," said Oberle. "However, these skills need to be reinforced over time and we would like to see schools embed social-emotional learning systematically into the curriculum, rather than doing programs as a 'one-off.' "

Oberle and her colleagues say schools are an ideal place to implement these interventions because they will reach almost all children, including those who are disadvantaged.

"Especially during middle-school years and early adolescence, young people shift away from their families and toward influences in peer groups and teachers," Oberle said. "Children spend 923 hours in the classroom every year; what happens in schools is very influential on child development."

Factors predicting school corporal punishment

The number of Southern natives and the average education level in a county are the most influential factors on the odds of a U.S. public school using corporal punishment, according to new Penn State research.

Sarah Font, co-funded faculty member of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network and assistant professor of sociology, found that the same factors that predict the use of parental corporal, or physical, punishment also predict the use of School Corporal Punishment (SCP). These findings were recently published in the Children and Youth Services Review.

"Since research on School Corporal Punishment is so limited, our results are vital to increasing knowledge on this form of school punishment and understanding how we can modify it," said Font.

As of 2016, 19 states legally permitted the use of SCP in public schools and three states did not formally ban or allow it. Though many schools in these states decide to not use SCP, there are still quite a few public schools that use it to some extent. Few studies have been conducted that examine SCP and its consequences, but it can be drawn from research on parental corporal punishment that SCP likely has negative impacts on children's social, behavioral and mental well-being, say the researchers.

"We know that parental corporal punishment has such a significant negative impact on children and we don't understand why schools would continue to use it despite the known consequences. Our intention with this research was to understand why some public U.S. schools continue to use SCP and to find any factors that influence its use," said Font. "This study is the first to use universal data gathered from U.S. public schools to understand SCP."

For the 2011-2012 school year, the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Data Collection conducted a mandatory survey for all U.S. public schools that included questions on the use and prevalence of SPC. This data was then correlated with its corresponding county-level data. The county-level data was acquired from the U.S. Census, the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and consisted of three sets of factors. These cultural characteristics included religious and political affiliation, socioeconomic characteristics (median income and education levels), and racial composition.

Within these factors, Font's team examined characteristics that are attributed to Southernness and rurality. "Southernness and rurality here reflect the cultural aspects rather than the geographical definition of a county and may indicate the probability that a school in that area will use SCP," Font explained. "Southern and rural cultures have been described as emphasizing tradition and order, and are more conservative in their religious and political affiliations."

Font's team found that the most influential cultural factor in predicting the use and prevalence of SCP in a school was the county's Southernness. As the percentage of Southern-born residents increased, the likelihood of a school utilizing SCP also significantly increased. A county's average education level also was a reliable predictor of SCP. As average education level increased, the chances of SCP use decreased dramatically.

Font states, "We found that the factors associated with parental use of corporal punishment also predicted the schools' use of SCP as part of its disciplinary system. The children who are most likely to be exposed to SCP are possibly the same children who are likely to receive corporal punishment at home, and consequently, are further disadvantaged."

Additionally, to the researchers' surprise, they discovered that schools receiving Title I funding were almost twice as likely to use SCP than schools who do not receive this aid. Title I funding provides financial assistance to schools with high percentages of children from low-income families to ensure that all children meet state academic standards.

According to Font, this research adds vital information to the limited collection of data on SCP. "It offers insight into why some schools continue to use SCP despite its declined use nationally and its potentially negative consequences for children, as well as aid in identifying these schools and counties that need the most help in abolishing SCP and replacing it with alternative discipline methods," she said. The findings also could inform policymakers to revise Title I qualifications to ensure schools discontinue the use of SCP to receive aid.

Economic issues are key to predicting whether students will graduate college

Economic issues play a significant role in determining whether first-time students enrolling in a four-year college will complete their degree and graduate within six years, a new study from Oregon State University has found.

The socioeconomic status of the student body and the college or university's revenue and expenditures serve as a predictors of a student's chances of success at four-year broad access colleges and universities, said Gloria Crisp, an associate professor in OSU's College of Education.

Four-year broad access institutions are colleges and universities that accept 80 percent or more of their applicants. The majority of students enrolled in four-year public and private colleges in the U.S. are enrolled in these types of institutions.

"There are a lot of variables that factor into whether a student will graduate, but many of them are economic," Crisp said. "That tells us that the way to raise graduation rates is through support, both of the student and to the institution."

The findings were published recently in the journal Research in Higher Education. Co-authors are Erin Doran of Iowa State University and Nicole Alia Salis Reyes of the University of Hawai?i at M?noa.

The study is believed to be the first to model graduation rates specifically at four-year broad access institutions. The researchers began studying graduation rate predictors at these colleges and universities in part because they are widely overlooked in research and discussion about college success.

Much of the focus on college student populations, their needs, their graduation rates and their overall success is centered on elite colleges and universities. Elite colleges are those that are very difficult to gain entry to, draw high achieving students, tend to have large fundraising endowments to support scholarships and other services and may also serve fewer students overall.

"The elite universities are considered the best even though they predominately serve the most academically prepared students who are likely to successful wherever they enroll," Crisp said. "There's a disconnect between the expectations of those top tier schools, which garner much of the attention, and the broad access institutions, which are serving students who may not be academically prepared for college work upon entering college and are underserved throughout the K-20 educational system including low-income, African American and Latina/o students. Holding them to the same standard doesn't work."

Researchers reviewed publicly available student data for more than 400 broad access institutions for the 2008-09 school year and the 2014-15 school year, using Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS.

The findings also indicated that universities with a religious affiliation, a higher percentage of full-time students and large enrollments were likely to have higher graduation rates.

However, when the researchers examined underserved populations, including African American and Latino students, on their own, they found that it was predominately socioeconomic factors that affected graduation rates among those groups.

"For those students, resources really matter, in a way that is different from the population as a whole," Crisp said. "That finding is consistent with the persistent inequities in college completion rates for these underserved populations."

The new insights about broad access institutions and their students can help education leaders and policymakers better understand how the needs of those institutions may differ from those of elite schools.

"It's about understanding these institutions, making them part of the conversation, and in some ways, changing the conversation to better reflect the experience of most college students and their universities," she said. "What are their experiences? What can we do to support them?"

That issue is of particular importance right now as policymakers across the U.S. are being asked to increase college graduation rates, and are also considering in some cases, implementing policies that tie funding for public colleges and universities to performance measures, such as six-year graduation rates, Crisp said.

"This research indicates that approach may be counter-productive if the goal is to see more students complete college," she said. "More research is needed to better understand how resources should be allocated effectively and efficiently while working toward the goal of higher and more equitable college graduation rates."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Insights on Personalized Learning Implementation and Effects

The basic concept of personalized learning (PL) — instruction that is focused on meeting students' individual learning needs while incorporating their interests and preferences — has been a longstanding practice in U.S. K–12 education. Options for personalization have increased as personal computing devices have become increasingly affordable and available in schools and developers created software to support individual student learning. In recent years, it has become more common for schools to embrace schoolwide models of PL.

This study collected data from schools in the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC)'s Breakthrough School Models program. Our study seeks to describe the practices and strategies these schools used to implement PL, understand some of the challenges and facilitators, and consider these alongside achievement findings to discern patterns that may be informative.

Teachers and students reported higher levels of many aspects of personalization than their counterparts in a national sample. These included time for one-on-one tailored support for learning; using up-to-date information on student progress to personalize instruction and group students; students tracking their own progress; competency-based practices; and flexible use of staff, space, and time. However, some more-difficult-to-implement aspects did not appear to differ from practices in schools nationally, such as student discussions with teachers on progress and goals; keeping up-to-date documentation of student strengths, weaknesses, and goals; and student choice of topics and materials.

The authors estimate study students gained about 3 percentile points in mathematics relative to a comparison group of similar students. In reading, there was a similar trend, though it was not statistically significant. Low-performing and high-performing students appeared to benefit.

Key Findings

  • Schools in the NGLC sample were pursuing a wide variety of practices to focus on the learning needs of each individual student in a supportive and flexible way.
  • Schools were implementing specific PL approaches to varying degrees, with none of the schools looking as radically different from traditional schools as theory might predict.
  • There is suggestive evidence that greater implementation of PL practices may be related to more-positive effects on achievement; however, this finding requires confirmation through further research.

Teachers’ Readiness to Change Instructional Practices is Top Challenge to Implementing Educational Technology

Motivating teachers to change their traditional instructional practices remains the top challenge cited by school technology leaders to implementing digital learning or expanding technology use in schools, according to a new report released today by Blackboard and" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Project Tomorrow.

More than 38,000 teachers, 29,000 parents of school-aged children, and 4,500 administrators from K-12 districts across the nation shared their views on these issues as part of the Speak Up 2016 Research Project for Digital Learning. The new report from Blackboard on the findings, Trends in Digital Learning:  Building teachers’ capacity and competency to create new learning experiences for students, was released at ISTE 2017.

Key findings from this year’s digital learning trends report:    

  • Two-thirds of parents in all types of communities (urban, rural and suburban) say that the effective use of technology within the classroom provides a significant way for their child to develop college and career ready skills.  
  • Technology leaders (67%) say that the greatest challenge they face in implementing digital learning or expanding technology use is motivating teachers to change their traditional instructional practices to use technology more meaningfully with students. 
  • Teachers in blended learning classrooms are setting a new bar for transforming learning using technology. For example, 68% report that with the use of technology in their classroom they are better able to differentiate instruction for their students.
  • Teachers who have experienced online and blended classes for their own professional learning demonstrate advanced uses of technology with their own students, have stronger valuations on the role of technology within learning, and higher aspirations for leveraging technology to support transformed learning environments.
  • Teachers identified five essential elements that they need to effectively and efficiently integrate digital content, tools and resources into daily instruction in their classroom:  planning time, access to technology in the classroom, technology support, professional development and consistent, high quality Internet connectivity. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Is teacher burnout contagious?

Burnout among young teachers appears to be contagious, indicates a new study led by Michigan State University education scholars.

The study found a significant link between burnout among early-career teachers and exposure to both a school-wide culture of burnout and burnout among the young teachers' closest circle of colleagues.

Surprisingly, the link was stronger to the school-wide culture of burnout than it was to burnout among close colleagues.

"If you are surrounded by people who are downcast or walking around under a pall of burnout, then it has a high chance of spilling over, even if you don't have direct contact with these folks," said Kenneth Frank, professor of measurement and quantitative methods in MSU's College of Education.

"This study," Frank added, "is one of the first to provide evidence that the organizational culture in schools can make a notable difference for early-career teachers' burnout levels."

Frank co-authored the study with Jihyun Kim, an MSU doctoral student, and Peter Youngs, a former MSU scholar who's now an associate professor at the University of Virginia. Their findings appear in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education.

The researchers analyzed the survey data on burnout of 171 teachers who were in their first four years in the profession and 289 experienced teachers who served as the young teachers' mentors or close colleagues.

Kim, lead author on the paper, said she was interested in investigating teacher burnout based on her experiences as an early-career teacher in her native Korea, where she worked long days and weekends.

Early-career teachers are particularly vulnerable to stress and burnout as they adjust to working full-time and respond to school and district expectations, she said. Further, schools often fail to provide teachers with enough resources, including the appropriate teaching materials, assistant teachers, professional development and preparation time.

"These resources are critical not only for reducing teacher burnout, but also for closing gaps in students' learning," said Kim, who will begin work in the fall as an assistant professor of education at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

Frank said teacher burnout is also tied to the current education policy environment. Controversial policies such as evaluating teachers based primarily on student test scores, merit pay for teachers and lack of voice in assignment of students to teachers can bring added pressure.

"We know that early career teachers are susceptible to burnout because of the significant demands placed on them. It is also clear that the introduction of new reforms in K-12 education on a frequent basis adds to the pressures they experience," Frank said.

"If school administrators and policymakers are serious about promoting retention and reducing burnout among novice teachers, they should be aware not just of the curriculum they are advocating, or their rules and policies for teachers. They should also attend to how the organizational culture in their schools can have direct effects on burnout levels of their faculty."

Friday, July 7, 2017

What factors contribute to academic success in students living in poverty?

High-achieving, low-income 12- and 13-year-old students report that several protective factors contribute to their academic success despite the presence of adversity: reciprocal peer relationships, teachers who care, family and community assets, and multiple sources of motivation.

The study's findings on how students are able to succeed in school despite adversity can be used to in the design of programs, practices, and services that provide support to students who are failing or at risk of academic failure due to poverty.

"In the national discussion about how to promote academic success among poor students at risk of school failure, one voice has gone unheard: the students them,selves," said Dr. Joseph Williams, lead author of the Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development study. "While many studies have collected the opinions of parents, educators, and school administrators, few have explored students' perceptions of what they need to succeed academically despite exposure to adversity. This is a serious oversight."