States Gaining Ground In Setting Standards
More states are beefing up their academic expectations for students, according to the American Federation of Teachers' fourth annual report on standards.
This year, 19 states met the AFT 's criteria for having high-quality standards, which include being clear, specific, and grounded in the core academic subjects. That number was an increase from 17 last year.
More strikingly, the report says, 24 states will have standards-based exit exams that students must pass to graduate, up from just four last year.
States also are requiring and providing funds for extra help for students having difficulty meeting the standards. Twenty states, an increase from seven last year, will require such assistance.
"Making Standards Matter," $10, from the AFT Order Department, 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20001-2079; (202) 879-4400. Cite item number 263. The report also is available on the World Wide Web at: www.aft.org/edissues/standards98/index.htm.
Accountability: With at least 43 states now creating accountability systems that focus on improving student achievement, more questions and challenges in implementing such systems are becoming evident. The National Association of State Boards of Education has written standards to help design accountability programs and a guide to ease that process.
The guide outlines 10 standards and offers suggestions for helping all schools become high-achieving organizations.
The standards include the basic elements of accountability systems, such as having clearly specified goals and strategies, and conditions that might affect their implementation.
Ultimately, the report is expected to serve as a tool for policymakers and practitioners to use in building accountable learning communities at the state and local levels.
"Public Accountability for Student Success: Standards for Education Accountability Systems," $12, from NASBE, (800) 220-5183.
School Finance: The way states and districts finance local schools must be overhauled and aligned with ongoing standards-based reforms, argues a leading school policy-research group.
Such a shift would de-emphasize the traditional focus on funding equity, according to the University of Pennsylvania-based Consortium for Policy Research in Education.
It would, however, ensure that "school finance policy can facilitate the goal of teaching students to higher standards," writes Allan Odden, the report's author and a professor of educational administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The briefing outlines a school finance plan that would require each district to determine how much it costs to enable the average student to meet state standards.
The plan also calls for districts and schools to establish how much extra is required to teach special-needs students, and to provide performance incentives for schools and teachers.
"Creating School Finance Policies That Facilitate New Goals," free, from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, (215) 573-0700.
Youth Development: Participating in positive activities outside of school and spending time with caring adults are among the "vitamins" that youths need in order to do better in life, a report by Public/Private Ventures concludes.
The report looks at 12- to 20-year-olds in three cities--Austin, Texas; Savannah, Ga.; and St. Petersburg, Fla.--to see what level of support is available for their healthy development.
The nonprofit organization found that young people with higher doses of such "vitamins" do better in school, have a higher sense of their own effectiveness, and engage in fewer risky activities.
But the study found that youths 15 and older have less adult support and that 15 percent to 25 percent of them are not engaged in any positive activities.
A book of photos on youths in those three cities and several others accompanies the report.
"Support for Youth: A Profile of Three Communities," $7.50, and "The Spirit of Change," $15, from Public/Private Ventures, 2005 Market St., 9th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103; (215) 557-4400.
Education Technology: The success of statewide technology initiatives is directly related to whether governors and legislators provide the necessary leadership and resources, a report on education technology and distance learning says.
When technology initiatives fail, the report says, it is generally because no particular department or office has made technology a priority for the state.
The 405-page report by Hezel Associates, an independent technology research firm, provides a detailed, state-by-state listing of what technology initiatives are under way. It also provides a look at the history of each state's technology efforts, as well as an analysis of its current policies and programs.
And it offers an overview of national technology trends in K-12 and higher education, including information on technology access, training, and planning.
"Educational Telecommunications and Distance Learning: The State-by-State Analysis, 1998-99" is available from Hezel Associates, 1201 E. Fayette St., Syracuse, NY 13210; (800) 466-3512.
Student Behavior: Teasing and bullying are pervasive problems in the lives of elementary students, and all students--both boys and girls--can find themselves the targets of bullies as well as the initiators of such behavior, according to a new guide for teachers.
The 121-page guide published by the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women presents a curriculum to help teachers "bully proof" their classrooms.
The report also includes sample activities, skill-building exercises, and problem-solving techniques.
Three major themes are examined: "Creating Our Rules" enables students to discuss and define the meaning of rules; "Talking About Teasing and Bullying" prompts classroom discussion about bullying; and "Exploring Courage" encourages students to discuss courage as it relates to teasing and bullying.
"Quit It!: A Teacher's Guide on Teasing and Bullying," $19.95, from the Wellesley Center for Women, 106 Central St., Wellesley, MA 02481; (781) 283-2510.
Environmental Education: Schools that use their surrounding environments as teaching tools see an increase in test scores and an improvement in student behavior, a study from a group dedicated to environmental education concludes.
The report looks at an approach called Environment as the Integrating Context, in which schools seek teaching tools in their ecosystems as well as their social and cultural milieus.
Not all of the 40 schools studied collected data from tests that could be compared from year to year. But those that did reported a rise in test scores in core subjects on a variety of exams, according to the State Education and Environment Roundtable, a San Diego-based compact of 12 state education agencies.
Teachers in all the schools reported improvements in students' enthusiasm, behavior, and critical-thinking skills, according to the three-year study, which profiles six schools applying the approach.
"Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning," $13, from the State Education and Environment Roundtable, 16486 Bernardo Center Drive, Suite 328, San Diego, CA 92128; (619) 676-0272; or read the executive summary.
Vol. 18, Issue 13, Page 10