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Published in Print: August 8, 2001, as Report Roundup

Report Roundup

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Districts Raise Scores, Narrow Racial Gap

Two researchers, in a recent report from the Educational Research Service, take a probing look at how six school districts raised student test scores.

For More Information

Order the report, "High Student Achievement: How Six School Districts Changed Into High- Performance Systems," from the Educational Research Service.

For their study, researchers Gordon Cawelti and Nancy Protheroe searched nationwide for districts that had managed to improve test scores while at the same time narrowing the achievement gap between minority and white students. The districts they selected, all of which had substantial proportions of low- income students, were Barbour County, W.Va.; Brazosport, Texas; Houston; Sacramento; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Ysleta, Texas.

While each district took a different route to success, one trait all had in common was a focus on clear standards and aligning what is taught with what is tested, the report concludes. The districts also drew on test results to determine what concepts needed to be retaught and which students needed extra help.

—Debra Viadero


Girls in Math and Science

The nation has begun to narrow the achievement gap between girls and boys in mathematics and science. But the highest-achieving high school girls still lag behind their male peers, according to "Balancing the Equation: Where Are Women and Girls in Science, Engineering, and Technology?"

For More Information

Read the report "Balancing the Equation: Where Are Women and Girls in Science, Engineering and Technology?," from the National Council for Research on Women.

The solution is to change the way math and science are taught, says the report from the National Council for Research on Women, a New York City-based coalition of research institutions advocating women's advancement.

Math and science classes should promote active learning in small groups, especially in elementary schools, because girls respond well to such learning styles, the report says. In later grades, it recommends, the curriculum should emphasize "powerful ways" technology can have a "highly positive impact on society" to counter the perception that progress is bad for the environment and causes new social problems.

—David J. Hoff


Children's Welfare

The percentage of American children living in poverty is falling, the teenage- pregnancy rate is declining, and an increasing percentage of youngsters are enrolling in early-childhood education, according to "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2000," this year's report from the Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

For More Information

Read the report, "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2000," from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Also, read the report, "Births: Preliminary Data for 2000," (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader).

The report notes that the child- poverty rate dipped from 19 percent in 1997 to 18 percent in 1998. It also shows that the birthrate for U.S. girls ages 15 to 17 has dropped to the lowest level on record: 30 births for every 1,000 girls in that age range. And the report points out that between 1996 and 1999, the proportion of 3- to 5-year- olds enrolled in early-childhood-education programs rose from 55 percent to 59 percent.

A separate report, released last month by the National Center for Health Statistics, shows that the birthrate for U.S. girls ages 15 to 19 also has reached a record low: 48.7 births per 1,000 girls in that age range last year.

—Linda Jacobson


Risks in Dating

One in five teenage girls in a Massachusetts survey had been victims of physical or sexual violence in dating relationships, according to a study by researchers at Harvard University's school of public health.

In what is described as the first comprehensive look at dating violence against adolescent girls, the researchers analyzed the responses of 1,977 high school girls, ages 14 to 18, in the 1997 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and 2,186 in 1999. The survey was part of a national poll of public high school students in grades 9-12.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also shows that the girls who said they had experienced violence in connection with dating were significantly more likely than other girls to report serious health problems, including substance abuse, unhealthy weight-control measures, risky sexual behavior, pregnancy, and suicide attempts. (Read the article abstract.)

—Darcia Harris Bowman


Teen Drug Use

After a three-year trend of declining illegal-drug use among teenagers, a recent survey released suggests there has been an increase.

For More Information

Read the PRIDE survey results. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

The annual survey—conducted by PRIDE Surveys, an arm of the Atlanta-based Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education—found that use of drugs such as marijuana and heroin rose slightly among high school students during the 2000-01 school year. The results of this year's survey, which collected written questionnaires about student behavior from about 76,000 students in grades 6-12, mark the first time since the 1996-97 school year that drug-use percentages reported in the survey have risen.

But the survey also revealed some good news: Students' reports of consuming alcohol or smoking cigarettes dropped slightly between the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 school years.

—Kevin Bushweller


African-Americans' Opinions

Young adult African-Americans are more likely than older blacks to support publicly funded school vouchers.

For More Information

Read more about the report, "Diverging Generations: The Transformation of African American Policy Views," and how to order it, from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonprofit research group in Washington that specializes in minority issues.

They are also more likely to have graduated from high school than earlier generations of blacks, but less likely to have served in the military.

Those are just a few of the findings reviewed in a new publication that explores generational differences between blacks, largely through public opinion polls, on a host of social-policy issues, such as education, race relations, and civic involvement.

—Robert C. Johnston


Views of Hispanics

A majority of Hispanic adults in the United States believe the quality of education in their local public schools is "fair" or "poor," according to a survey released by the Hispanic Business Roundtable and the Latino Coalition. Sixty percent of Hispanics characterized public schooling in that way, while 38 percents said it was "excellent" or "good." The remaining respondents declined to answer the question.

Among the 1,000 Hispanics who were interviewed for the survey, "violence and drugs" was believed to be "the biggest problem facing public education today," followed by a "lack of quality teachers" and a "lack of basic reading, writing, and math skills."

Survey participants, who were interviewed both in Spanish and English, were asked if the purpose of bilingual education programs in public schools should be "to make sure that students learn English well" or "to teach immigrant children in their native language." Seventy-six percent of respondents said the purpose should be "to make sure that students learn English well."

More than half—55 percent—of survey respondents said they or members of their household use Spanish "most of the time" or "all the time" in their everyday affairs. Twenty-two percent said they use Spanish and English equally, and another 22 percent said they use English "most of the time" or "all of the time."

—Mary Ann Zehr


Technology and Learning

Too many states, districts, and schools are using "outdated tests" that don't accurately reflect what students should know about technology and how to use it to enhance understanding of other subjects, concludes the final report from the CEO Forum on Education & Technology, a group of business and education leaders that advocates better use of technology in schools.

For More Information

The report "Key Building Blocks for Student Achievement in the 21st Century," as well as previous reports are available from the CEO Forum. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

"Key Building Blocks for Student Achievement in the 21st Century: Assessment, Alignment, Accountability, Access, and Analysis," the last of four reports issued by the Washington-based forum over the past five years, outlines six recommendations, including focusing investments in education technology on specific school objectives, making development of 21st-century skills a "key educational goal," doing a better job aligning testing with standards, adopting so-called continuous-improvement strategies, increasing spending on research about educational technology, and ensuring access to technology for all students.

—Kevin Bushweller


School Partnerships

An increasing number of schools are setting up partnerships with business, community, and civic groups to fill gaps in services, according to the Alexandria, Va.-based National Association of Partners in Education.

For More Information

Read the report, "Partnerships 2000: A Decade of Growth and Change," from the National Association of Partners in Education. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

In an analysis titled "Partnerships 2000: A Decade of Growth and Change," the group estimates that 69 percent of school districts engaged in partnerships last year, compared with 51 percent in 1990. The report estimates that the combined value of human, financial, and in-kind resources provided by such partnerships was worth about $2.4 billion to the nation's schools.

The report includes more detailed descriptions of the kinds of partnerships schools are setting up.

—Kevin Bushweller


Values and Schools

A recent study counters the oft-heard argument that traditional values are not taught in today's schools.

Based on research conducted in 64 classrooms at 10 elementary schools in California, Steven Brint, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, suggests that both traditional and contemporary values permeate learning in public schools. Mr. Brint found that traditional values such as responsibility, honesty, and fairness—as well as more contemporary concerns such as cultural diversity—were transmitted through face-to-face interactions between teachers and students, formal lessons based on district or state curriculum requirements, and schoolwide programs.

The findings appeared in the July edition of Sociology in Education.

More information about the research is available online at www.ucr.edu/news.

—Kevin Bushweller


Juvenile Justice

Evidence exists that juvenile crime can be tackled without spending more money, concludes a report released by the Washington- based American Youth Policy Forum.

For More Information

"Less Cost, More Safety: Guiding Lights for Reform in Juvenile Justice," from the American Youth Policy Forum.(Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

"Less Cost, More Safety: Guiding Lights for Reform in Juvenile Justice" profiles eight juvenile-justice programs in California, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Washington state, and Wisconsin to make its point. For instance, in Wisconsin's Milwaukee County, a home-based counseling program is credited for lowering the arrest rates of teenage participants by 70 percent.

"Contrary to popular perceptions, we really do know how to reduce the criminality of troubled adolescents," Richard A. Mendel, author of the report, said in a statement.

—Kevin Bushweller


Use of 'Ecstasy'

University of Michigan researchers say the most alarming increase in adolescent drug use this year relates to the use of "ecstasy," a drug with stimulant and hallucinogenic properties that is popular among the night-club crowd.

For More Information

Read the overview of key findings from the report "Monitoring the Future: National Results on Adolescent Drug Use," from Monitoring the Future. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

The researchers highlight the growing concern about the drug in "Monitoring the Future: National Results on Adolescent Drug Use," a study about overall adolescent drug use that was released this summer.

Last year, the use of ecstasy increased among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders—and while a 1999 spike in use was concentrated mainly in the Northeast, this year's increase spread across other regions of the country.

According to the study, one of every 12 high school seniors reported using it at least once in 2000.

—Kevin Bushweller


Job Corps

The billion-dollar-a-year Job Corps program produces significant gains for disadvantaged youths, according to a comprehensive study of the federal program completed by Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

For More Information

Read the report, "Does Job Corps Work? Summary of the National Job Corps Study," from Mathematica Policy Research Inc. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

Since 1964, the Job Corps has been the centerpiece of the federal government's effort to help disadvantaged 16- to 24-year-olds improve their academic skills and find employment. The program includes academic education, vocational training, residential living, counseling, and job-placement help.

In "Does Job Corps Work? Summary of the National Job Corps Study," the Princeton, N.J.-based Mathematica concludes that the Job Corps program increased participants' earnings by $1,150, or 12 percent, in the fourth year after enrollment in the program; increased the education and job training that participants received by 1,000 hours, about equal to a 10-month school year; and produced gains for traditionally hard-to-reach groups such as women with children and older students without a high school diploma.

—John Gehring


Immigrant Children

A large percentage of immigrant children in the United States have been separated from at least one parent during the process of immigration, according to a study from the Harvard Immigration Project.

For More Information

Read the text of a plenary talk given to the American Family Therapy Academy, June 29, 2001: "The Transnationalization of Families: Immigrant Separations and Reunifications." (This is a Word document.)

Eighty-five percent of recent immigrant children participating in the study, conducted by researchers based at Harvard University's graduate school of education, reported they had been separated from one or both parents while their families moved to the United States. Findings from the study, which included 407 participants, are published in a paper titled "The Transnationalization of Families: Immigrant Separations and Reunifications."

The circumstances of immigration vary greatly between different ethnic groups, the researchers discovered. For example, 80 percent of Central American children reported they had been separated from both parents during their move, while only 8 percent of Chinese children reported that had been true for them. Overall, nearly half—49 percent—of all immigrant children who participated in the study said they'd been separated from both parents during the move.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 20, Issue 43, Page 18

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