Report Roundup

February 07, 2001 9 min read
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‘Empowering’ Use of Technology in Schools

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Empowerment Zones and E-rate Application Rates and E-rate and American Indian-Serving Schools: Who Applies and Who Gets Funded? are available from the U.S. Department of Education. (Both require Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Schools in federal “empowerment zones"—impoverished communities targeted for economic development—have been more effective in obtaining federal aid for telecommunications services than other schools that serve similar populations but are not in such zones, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute.

The Washington-based think tank examined data from the first two years of the federal E-rate program, which began in 1998. Researchers found that 92 percent of schools in empowerment zones applied for the education-rate aid, compared with 77 percent of schools in other poor communities. Nearly all schools in poor areas that apply for E-rate funds receive them, according to the study.

One of the researchers speculated that the empowerment-zone program gave schools access to organizational resources and business partnerships that would also encourage them to draw on the E-rate program, which provides discounts to schools and libraries for telecommunication services. “The direct policy implication is that there seems to be a benefit of having some organizational structure set up to take advantage of resources that were available, if you’re thinking about a technological solution,” said Duncan D. Chaplin, a senior researcher at the institute’s education policy center. He added, however, that the connection between the two programs “wasn’t entirely clear.”

A second study, conducted by the same researchers who did the empowerment-zone study, found that the percentage of public schools managed by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs that applied for E-rate aid more than tripled—from 30 percent of those schools to nearly 100 percent—between the first and second years of the E-rate program.

“My guess is what’s happening is that the BIA schools tend to be fairly small and didn’t have the organizational capacity to do it on their own [the first year],” said Mr. Chaplin. So, in the second year, he said, the BIA helped complete the E-rate applications for many of the schools.

—Andrew Trotter

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Read “Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General.”

Youth-Violence Trends: Arrests for youth violence have declined since peaking in the mid-1990s, but self-reports by youths show troubling signs that violent behavior is still a big problem, according to a study released in January by the U.S. surgeon general.

The study, which tracked arrests and self-report data between 1983 and 1999, found that the arrest rates for 10- to 17-year-olds for serious violent crime—such as homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery—have dropped off after peaking in the middle of the last decade. For instance, arrest rates for aggravated assault dropped from nearly 300 per 100,000 youths in 1994 to about 225 per 100,000 in 1999. And arrest rates for homicide and manslaughter dropped from about 15 per 100,000 to five per 100,000 during the same period.

Still, the number of self-reported incidents of violence has not dropped off, the report says. “The leveling-off of these rates ... is troubling,” it says, “for it indicates that the rise and fall in arrest rates are set against a backdrop of ongoing violent behavior.” The report was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the surgeon general.

—Vanessa Dea

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Read the special issue of the journal The Future of Children, “Children and Computer Technology,” Fall/Winter 2000.

Children’s Computer Skills: Too many youngsters are not getting the opportunities they need to become skilled users of technology, and many teachers do not have the necessary skills to fill the void, concludes an analysis by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The report includes papers by prominent educational technology researchers, such as Henry Jay Becker of the University of California, Irvine. Among Mr. Becker’s findings are that most schools are providing greater access to computers, but that schools in wealthier communities generally use computers in more creative and sophisticated ways than schools in less affluent areas.

At schools in relatively well-off communities, teachers focused more on helping students master computer skills to solve real problems and gain a deeper understanding of a topic, the Packard Foundation analysis says. But at schools in poor communities, teachers tended to emphasize mostly word processing skills and other basic computer tasks.

The report was published last month in The Future of Children, a journal of the Packard Foundation, which is based in Los Altos, Calif.

—Andrew Trotter

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“Trends in National Spending Priorities, 1973-2000,” is available from the National Opinion Research Center.

No Longer No. 1: If Americans could choose, more of them would spend government money on health-care programs than on schools, according to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center, a University of Chicago organization.

It found that respondents were most likely to choose health- care programs from a range of 21 governmental programs. Government spending included local, state, and federal levels.

According to the survey of 2,817 people, 69 percent of Americans want more funding for health-care programs, while 66 percent prefer that the money go to education. The survey had a margin of error of 2 to 2.5 percentage points. Spending on education had been the public’s No. 1 priority in 1996 and 1998, according to the survey, “Trends in National Spending Priorities, 1973-2000,” which is conducted every two years.

—Mark Stricherz

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The Return to Seperate and Unequal: Metropolitan Milwaukee School Funding Through a Racial Lens, is available from Rethinking Schools Online. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Milwaukee Disparities: Minority students in Milwaukee’s public schools are being shortchanged by widening disparities in school funding between the city and school districts in surrounding suburbs, a report contends.

In 1980-81, when the district’s enrollment was roughly split between whites and African-Americans, Milwaukee had about $127 less per pupil than the suburban average, according to the report, published by Rethinking Schools, a Milwaukee-based, nonprofit publisher of education materials. During the 1998-99 school year, Milwaukee, which by then had a minority enrollment of about 80 percent, spent an estimated $1,254 less per pupil than the average suburban district.

“Unfortunately, the spending gulf between Milwaukee and its suburbs is only the latest twist in a long history of separate and unequal education in Milwaukee,” the 60-page report concludes.

—Robert C. Johnston

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Read “Grading Grown-Ups: American Adults Report on Their Real Relationships With Kids,” from the Search Institute. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

What Children Need: A significant gap exists between what adults believe children need and what adults are actually providing them, according to a report from the Lutheran Brotherhood, a Minneapolis-based financial-services organization, and the Search Institute, a research organization also based in Minneapolis.

Of the 1,425 adults surveyed in the nationwide study, 90 percent said that it was important for adults to encourage children’s success in school, but only 69 percent believed the adults they know actually follow through on that priority. A majority, 84 percent, also responded that adults “expect parents to set boundaries,” but only 42 percent of respondents said that parents they know enforce clear and consistent rules.

Schools can encourage more involvement between adults and children by sponsoring social events that link people of all generations, the report suggests.

—Michelle Galley

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The Roadmaps For Implementing Comprehensive School Reform are available from New American Schools.

Road Maps for Reform: A new series of free booklets that provide recipes for comprehensive school reform are now available on the Web.

New American Schools—an Arlington, Va., based group that promotes research-based strategies for schoolwide improvement—released the booklets last week. They outline a variety of ways for improving schools, including professional-development ideas for teachers and administrators; how to use federal aid to support comprehensive reform; how to match spending with specific strategies; and using independent evaluators to collect and analyze test scores.

—Kevin Bushweller

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More information about the study is available from the medical college at (717) 531- 8606.

Children’s Mental Health: Children diagnosed with serious psychiatric disorders gain more benefits—including improved academic performance—from intensive hospital-based therapy than from outpatient therapy of equal duration, according to a study published in the Jan. 12 issue of the Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research.

Researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa., found that a child’s level of functioning improved significantly during hospitalization. The researchers examined 110 children, ages 2 to 13, over a period of six months in 1998 to determine the impact of intensive hospital-based therapy on the children’s interpersonal relationships, moods and behavior, academic performance, and use of leisure time.

— Kevin Bushweller

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For more information about the report, “Expecting the Unexpected: A Comparative Study of African-American Women’s Experiences in Science During the High School Years,” call Catholic University at (202) 319-5600.

Black Girls and Science: African-American girls have better attitudes about science, and more family encouragement to pursue scientific interests, than white girls or African-American boys, according to a study by the Catholic University of America.

Using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, researchers at the university in Washington examined a host of measures for students in grades 8, 10, and 12. Among other findings, the researchers learned that more efforts and resources appeared to be aimed at encouraging black girls to pursue science learning than was true for their black make peers; that African-American mothers seemed to encourage their daughters more than their sons to pursue science learning; and that black girls, in many cases, performed as well as, and sometimes better than, white girls on science assessments.

The findings showed that interest in science was roughly even in 8th grade for all those groups of students, but became increasingly distinct in high school, with African-American girls showing more interest than white girls and African-American boys. However, according to the report, interest in science among both black and white females declined in college.

—Vanessa Dea

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A copy of the study is available from the Oregon Department of Human Resources by calling (503) 646-3642. Or, read more
the program.

Saying No to Sex: Middle school students in Oregon who participated in a five-week, state-financed course about abstaining from sexual activity were much more knowledgeable about sex and its consequences, a survey has found.

The study found that the students enrolled in the program, called Students Aren’t Ready for Sex, or STARS, were better able to resist pressures to have sex and were more aware of the negative consequences of early sexual involvement. What’s more, the study found, 69 percent of the students reported being able to say no to sexual involvement after participating in the course; before taking the course, it was 55 percent.

—Jessica Portner

A version of this article appeared in the February 07, 2001 edition of Education Week as Report Roundup


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