Reading Scores Surge at Small N.Y.C. Schools: An analysis of test scores in a network of small schools in New York City has found a one-year jump of 5 percentage points in the proportion of students reading at or above grade level.
The study, made public this month, focused on schools involved in the New York Networks for School Renewal, a coalition of four groups that support the formation of small schools. The coalition received a $25 million, five-year grant in 1995 from the Annenberg Foundation, which is providing $500 million for school reform in urban and rural districts around the country.
Comparing standardized-test scores for the same students from 1996 and 1997, the study found that the percentage of pupils in grades 3-8 reading at or above national norms climbed from 36 percent to 41 percent in 80 small schools. The networks now include about 60 additional schools.
"Progress Report: Outcomes Study, January 1999," free, from the New York Networks for School Renewal; (212) 369-1288.
Assessment: Good planning and positive attitudes helped several Washington state schools post big gains on state achievement tests on their second administration, a recent report concludes.
Researchers from the University of Washington's graduate school of public affairs found many similarities when they interviewed 35 principals from schools with improved or steady test results.
Principals at almost all the schools that had improved between 1997 and last year attributed their results to a focused plan across grade levels.
"Principals and teachers assessed strengths and weaknesses, set a limited number of priorities, focused on improving instruction, and took the initiative to find the help the school needed," the report says.
And their changes were not minor. Instead of adding a new textbook or a short-term activity, the improving schools chose new curricula or teaching strategies that fit into an overall plan, said the report sponsored by Partnership For Learning, a nonprofit group working to raise public awareness of school accountability.
"Making Standards Work," free from the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education; (206) 616-5769; Read the introduction or download the entire report from: www.crpe.org/Publications/MakingStandardsWork.pdf (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader).
--Robert C. Johnston
Arts Education: Community residents, school board members, and school administrators need to work together with a district's arts coordinator to achieve a strong, districtwide arts program, according to a report released this month by Hilary Rodham Clinton for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
The study, co-sponsored by the Washington-based Arts Education Partnership, also maintainsthat many of the 91 districts studied use state or national policies and programs to advance arts education and that strong arts programs at the elementary level are the foundation for effective programs in the upper grades.
"Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons From School Districts That Value Arts Education," free, from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Suite 526, Washington, DC 20506; (202) 682-5409; fax: (202) 682-5668; Web site: www.pcah.gov/gaa/index.html.
Technology: A study of an eight-year computer initiative in West Virginia schools concludes that one-third of the gains that 5th graders made last year on a standardized test is attributable to technology.
The report, commissioned by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Milken Exchange on Education Technology, studied the state initiative, which gave elementary schools computers and a network, software to teach basic skills, and related professional development for teachers.
Researchers Dale Mann, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Charol Shakeshaft, a professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., studied 5th graders at 18 schools. Students were selected to represent a variety of achievement levels on the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition, as well as socioeconomic levels, and other factors.
The report says that computer skills should be a means of learning academics, not an end; computers are more effectively used in classrooms than in labs; and solid teacher training is essential.
"West Virginia Story: Achievement Gains From a Statewide Comprehensive Instructional Technology Program," free, from the Milken Family Foundation, Communications and Government Affairs Dept., Attn: Publication Request, 1250 4th St., 4th Floor, Santa Monica, CA 90401; Web site: www.milkenexchange.org (expected to be posted by March 23, 1999).
State Comparisons: Two publications by the Education Commission of the States offer state-by-state comparisons of various education policies.
In one, the Denver-based organization defines a complete performance-based education accountability system as one that has four components: standards and assessments; indicators, such as attendance and dropout rates; rewards; and sanctions. The report presents tables comparing what parts of such an accountability system states now have on the books.
The ECS is also offering a compilation of a wide range of comparative information on such topics as states' discipline guidelines, class-size requirements, and school choice policies.
"Education Accountability Systems in 50 States," $7.50, and "1997-1998 Collection of Clearinghouse Notes and Policy Briefs," $25, from the ECS Distribution Center, 707 17th St., Suite 2700, Denver, CO 80202-3427; (303) 299-3692.
--Jessica L. Sandham
Arizona Charters: Though parents, students, and teachers give Arizona charter schools high approval ratings, according to a report released last week, charter school students are making academic gains only at roughly the same rate as their peers in regular public schools.
Five years after Arizona passed its charter school law, the state has nearly one-fourth of the nation's charter schools. The taxpayer-subsidized public schools are designed to offer flexibility in exchange for greater accountability for student results.
The 55-page report analyzes two years' worth of student-achievement data. Researchers at Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy also surveyed 651 parents, students, teachers, and charter school directors and interviewed policymakers across the state.
Billed as the first systematic examination of student achievement in Arizona charter schools, the report cautions that its analysis is preliminary and that a more long-term, controlled study is needed.
"Arizona Charter School Progress Evaluation," $4.54, from the Arizona Department of Education; (602) 542-3088; Web site: www.ade.state.az.us.
Mass. Charters: The Massachusetts education department has released its second compendium of charter schools across the state.
The report provides detailed information for each school, including the pupil-teacher ratio, enrollment, grades served, number of students on waiting lists, and staff-turnover rates.
Currently, 34 charter schools are operating in Massachusetts, which first permitted them in 1993. Three additional schools are slated to open in the fall of 2000.
"The Massachusetts Charter School Initiative: Expanding the Possibilities of Public Education, 1998 Report," free, from the Massachusetts Department of Education Charter School Office, 1 Ashburton Place, Room 1403, Boston, MA 02108; (617) 727-0075.
Charter Closings: Since Minnesota passed the nation's first charter school law in 1991, an estimated 30 such schools nationwide have shut down, according to a Washington-based think tank that supports school choice.
That number represents less than 2.6 percent of the more than 1,100 charter schools up and running in 26 states and the District of Columbia, the Center for Education Reform says in a report.
Of the 30 schools that had shut their doors as of last November, 20 had their charters revoked, six were not renewed by their sponsors, and four closed voluntarily. Some revocations were for schools that never opened or that were later rechartered by other entities.
The report cites myriad reasons for the closings, including poor management, low enrollment, and parental dissatisfaction. In 16 states that are host to 223 operating charter schools, none of the schools has had its charter revoked or not renewed, or closed voluntarily, said the report.
"Charter Schools: A Progress Report, Part II: The Closures," free, from the Center for Education Reform; (202) 822-9000.
Charter Facilities: While charter school operators have found creative ways to find and pay for classroom space, a report is calling for a combination of public funding and private-sector partnerships to meet their growing facilities needs.
Finding and paying for facilities is one of the charter school movement's biggest challenges, leaving many housed in untraditional spaces, such as office buildings. Because charters generally must use operating revenue to pay for facilities, much-needed resources are being diverted from the classroom, according to the report from the Charter Friends National Network, a project of the St. Paul, Minn.-based Center for Policy Studies in cooperation with Hamline University.
The report outlines a number of initiatives under way and calls on policymakers to address the facilities issue for the independently operated public schools.
Recommendations include: creating new revenue streams for facilities, granting charter schools access to tax-exempt financing, and removing barriers to owning and renting suitable facilities.
"Paying for the Charter Schoolhouse," free, from the Charter Friends National Network; (651) 649-5479; Web site: www.charterfriends.org/facilities.html.
Leadership: A booklet by the National Institute of Standards and Technology offers educational institutions advice on improving the services they offer and their overall performance.
The guide, called a self-assessment tool, provides criteria designed to measure the performance of schools and other institutions. It focuses on improvement in seven areas: leadership, strategic planning, student and stakeholder focus, information and analysis, faculty and staff focus, educational and support-process management, and school performance results.
"Education Criteria for Performance Excellence," free, from the NIST, Baldrige National Quality Program, Administration Building, Room A635, 100 Bureau Drive, Stop 1020, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-1020; (301) 975-2036; fax: (301) 948-3716; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: www.quality.nist.gov.
--Karen L. Abercrombie
Student Travel: Nearly 16 million parents let their children miss school to take a trip in the past year, according to the Travel Industry Association of America's Travel Poll.
The Washington-based organization asked 1,200 adults about their travel habits. Thirty-one percent cited visits to relatives or friends as the main purpose of their most recent trip with children who missed school. Only 6 percent of the respondents said they included children on business trips.
A large proportion of the students, 43 percent, missed only a day from school. Only 11 percent of parents reported that their child missed more than a week of school.
TIA Travel Poll, free, fromtia, 1100 New York Ave. N.W., Suite 450, Washington, DC 20005; Web site: www.tia.org/press/022299poll.stm
--Adrienne D. Coles
Vol. 18, Issue 28, Page 8