Report Roundup

July 12, 2000 11 min read
Jump to a report:
Poor Schools Lack Qualified Teachers | Teacher Education | Voucher Questions |
Bilingual Education Critique | Child-Care Availability | Per-Pupil Spending |
Southern States | Civic Education

Poor Schools Lack Qualified Teachers: A review of federal data points out a major challenge to closing the achievement gap between rich and poor students: the lack of fully qualified teachers in schools serving high numbers of low-income children.

Commissioned by the Education Trust, a Washington research organization, the analysis shows that in high schools where three-fourths or more of the students qualify for free or reduced- price lunches, 27 percent of students are taught by teachers who lack the proper licenses in their subjects. That compares with 13 percent in schools where 10 percent or less of the student enrollment is poor.

Similar inequities were found when comparing schools with high and low concentrations of minority students, and when examining whether teachers had at least college minors in the subjects they taught. University of Georgia sociologist Richard Ingersoll completed the analysis, based on results from the federal Schools and Staffing survey.

“Honor in the Boxcar: Equalizing Teacher Quality,” $2.50, from the Education Trust, 1725 K St. N.W., Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006. Orders also can be e-mailed to

—Jeff Archer

Teacher Education: An experiment at three Georgia universities in redesigning teacher-preparation programs has yielded a list of best practices that hinge on a comprehensive alignment of colleges of education and arts and sciences, a report concludes.

The Standards-based Teacher Education Project, or STEP, a collaborative endeavor started four years ago by the Council for Basic Education and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, both based in Washington, aims to train prospective teachers in the context of new state and federal standards without compromising quality. The study documents the results.

Ingredients of success include combining academic-content knowledge traditionally taught in schools of arts and sciences with the pedagogy offered by schools of education, the report says.

“A Report on STEP and Its Pilot Program in Georgia,” $8, from the Council for Basic Education, (202) 347-4171.

—Julie Blair

Electronic Media: U.S. families increasingly are turning to electronic media for information and entertainment, and parents have growing concerns about the content their children are exposed to through television, videos, computers, and video games.

For More Information

Read the full text of the three reports:

Yet parents are relatively unaware of the educational programs available on virtually every television channel and of the “V-chip” ratings that have been created to help them guide their children’s viewing.

Those are among the main conclusions of a trio of studies by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, based at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“Media in the Home 2000" is based on telephone interviews with 1,235 parents of children ages 2 to 17 and 416 children ages 8 to 16. It found that, for the first time since the center’s first annual media survey in 1996, respondents had more online subscriptions than newspaper subscriptions, by 10 percent. The percentage of families with Internet access has more than tripled, from 15 percent in 1996 to 52 percent in 2000. And children are spending more time than ever using electronic media—from TV, averaging 147 minutes, to the Internet, averaging 14 minutes daily.

“Is the Three-Hour Rule Living Up to Its Potential?,” from an analysis of the core educational programs on 10 commercial broadcast stations in the Philadelphia area during the 1999-2000 season, found that broadcasters were “minimally” meeting their responsibility to air three hours worth of educational programming per week.

But “Public Policy, Family Rules, and Children’s Media Use in the Home,” based on 24 focus-group discussions with 87 children and 62 mothers of children in grades 3, 6, and 9, found that a majority of mothers have never noticed the special labels that television stations air to mark their educational programs, and that few resources are available to help them find such programs.

All three reports are free online at

—Andrew Trotter

Voucher Questions: Not enough information is available yet to determine whether vouchers improve student achievement or other student outcomes, says a report published by a public education advocacy group.

“The jury is still out on whether vouchers are an effective policy for improving education,” says the 40-page report, released last month by the Center on Education Policy, based in Washington.

Publicly financed tuition vouchers, which provide parents with aid to send their children to private or religious schools, have available for eligible students in Milwaukee since 1990, in Cleveland since 1995, and in Florida since last year.

The report describes conclusions that it says can be drawn from the research so far and lays out questions that it says have yet to be answered well. For example, it says, the voucher program in Milwaukee has helped strengthen the private school sector there, and voucher parents in that city and Cleveland are satisfied with their children’s educations in the schools they’ve selected. It says that studies have shown mixed results on whether students who use vouchers do better in school compared with students who don’t receive vouchers and stay in public school.

But in the realm of what isn’t known and could be known is more information about student participation, selection, attrition, achievement, and other outcomes, according to the report.

Read “School Vouchers: What We Know and Don’t Know--And How We Could Learn More,” (requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader), or order it for $1, from the center at (202) 822- 8065.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Bilingual Education Critique: A report from the Washington-based Institute for Research in English Acquisition and Development, or READ, argues that non-English-speaking students could be better off in English-immersion programs than in extended bilingual education programs.

Written by Christine Rossell, a political science professor at Boston University, the report challenges conclusions drawn by a Stanford University professor and a team of researchers who argued in a recent paper that it takes five years or longer for non-English-speakers to learn English, and that using short-term English-immersion classes is “wildly unrealistic.”

The READ report contends that the Stanford researchers’ study of limited-English-proficient students reached incorrect conclusions by assuming that the number of years it takes LEP students to reach the average ability of native English-speakers or to perform as well as native English- speakers on standardized tests is the number of years they need special educational services.

Ms. Rossell proposes that the best research design to answer the question of how long LEP students should remain in a structured- immersion classroom would be one that would randomly assign non-English- speaking students in each grade to a mainstream classroom and to a structured- immersion classroom.

Read the executive summary of “Different Questions, Different Answers: A critique of the Hakuta, Butler, and Witt Report, ‘How Long Does It Take English Learners To Attain Proficiency?,’” or download the full analysis. Or order the report free, from READ at (202) 639-0803.

—John Gehring

Performance-Based Pay: Many criticisms are leveled at performance-based compensation for teachers, but such obstacles can be overcome, a report says.

The report, released last month at the Milken Family Foundation’s 11th Annual National Education Conference in Los Angeles, seeks to rebut 15 objections to such plans, stating that “virtually all of the objections can be dealt with.” The Santa Monica, Calif.-based foundation supports the idea of performance-based compensation.

The view that such systems foster competition rather than collaboration among teachers is the first criticism the report addresses, arguing that collaboration could be fostered by rewarding those who embrace it.

“Although the most vocal opponents are quick to point out failed efforts of the past, there are examples of long-standing cases where teachers are paid according to their tasks, efforts, achievements, and performance,” the report says. “We are now beginning to see a few districts where teacher pay depends, in part, upon what their students learn.”

View a video of “The Pros and Cons of Performance-Based Compensation,” or read the full report (requires registration). The report is also available free, from the Milken Family Foundation, (301) 998-2800.

—Julie Blair

Child-Care Availability: The supply of regulated child care in Illinois and Maryland increased only slightly between 1996 and 1998, even though more parents entered the workforce during that time as a result of welfare reform, according to a recently released report.

Researchers from the National Center for Children in Poverty, based at Columbia University in New York City, found that in both states, communities with the highest concentrations of poor people had fewer regulated child-care slots than communities with fewer poor residents.

As ways of addressing the lack of child care in low-income areas, the authors suggest increasing Head Start and prekindergarten programs and devising financial incentives to expand existing centers.

The percentage of centers offering Head Start programs grew slightly in Maryland and dropped slightly in Illinois.

Child-care slots in family-care settings declined in Maryland and increased only slightly in Illinois during the period studied, which followed passage of the 1996 federal overhaul of the welfare system.

“Scant Increases After Welfare Reform: Regulated Child Care Supply in Illinois and Maryland, 1996-1998,” $8, from the NCCP, 154 Haven Ave., New York, NY 10032; (212) 304-7100; fax: (212) 544-4200.

—Michelle Galley

Per-Pupil Spending: Public school students in New Jersey, New York state, and Alaska saw the highest levels of per-pupil spending nationwide during the 1996-97 school year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. At the low end were Utah, Mississippi, and Arizona.

The bureau issues financial statistics annually on public elementary and secondary schools The most recent edition, released last month, includes findings for 1997.

On average, New Jersey spent $9,461 per student on its public schools, the highest amount of all the states, the study found. Utah public schools spent the lowest amount, $3,810. The nationwide average for that year was $5,873. Total public school expenditures nationwide were nearly $312 billion in 1997, the report says.

Read “Public Education Finances.”

—Erik W. Robelen

For More Information

“Student Achievement in SREB States”;
“Reducing Remedial Education”; and “Reducing Dropout Rates,” are all available from the Southern Regional Education Board. (All three reports require Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Southern States: Three new reports from the Southern Regional Education Board track achievement trends and dropout statistics among the 16 states the Atlanta-based organization studies.

“Student Achievement in the SREB States” looks at trends on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the South’s improvements in participation and performance on Advanced Placement exams.

“Reducing Remedial Education: What Progress are States Making?” found that six Southern states have lowered the number of students entering four-year colleges who need remedial education.

“Reducing Dropout Rates” looks at different ways of calculating dropout rates in the Southern states.

All three reports, $5 each, from the SREB, 592 10th St. N.W., Atlanta, GA 30318; (404) 875-9211, ext. 236.

—David J. Hoff, Jessica L. Sandham, & Bess Keller

Civic Education: Reinvigorated civic education is necessary to strengthen democracy, says a report from the Education Commission of the States. But civic education must go beyond mastering knowledge about how a government works and help students create a “democratic self” or a civic self- understanding, it argues.

Though most schools offer civics and government classes, little attention has been paid to what it means to prepare young people to participate in a democracy, the report by the Denver-based organization.

The basics of citizenship should include teaching children how to connect with and mobilize their fellow citizens in organizing and advocating on issues, it says.

It says that a curriculum that uses service learning can provide an education for citizenship that young people need in order to be engaged in their communities.

“Every Student a Citizen: Creating the Democratic Self,” $12, from the ECS Distribution Center, 707 17th St., Suite 2700, Denver, CO 80202-3427; (303) 299-3692. Ask for No. SL-00-04.

— Adrienne D. Coles

A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2000 edition of Education Week as Report Roundup