Report Roundup

February 13, 2002 6 min read
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Group Cites Schools Near Toxic-Waste Sites

More than 600,000 students are at increased risk of developing asthma, cancer, learning disorders, and other diseases because their schools are built on or near toxic waste sites, according to a report from the Center for Health Environment Justice.

“Creating Safe Learning Zones: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions,” is available from the The Child Proofing Our Communities campaign.

The advocacy group, based in Falls Church, Va., investigated five states— California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York—and found that 1,185 public schools were built on or within a half-mile of such waste sites.

The group is calling for new state and federal regulations to protect students from chemical toxins. It also outlines a course of action for parents who want to prevent their children from being placed “in schools that pose unnecessary health risks.”

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Smaller Classes: Wisconsin’s 5-year-old program of class-size reduction continues to result in higher academic achievement for children living in poverty, a new evaluation concludes.

“Results of The Student Achievement Guarantee In Education (SAGE) Program Evaluation,” is available from the Education Studies Policy Laboratory at Arizona State University. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Alex Molnar, the director of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University, and researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, have followed the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education program since it began in 1996 with 30 schools. The SAGE program, which has since expanded to 600 schools, reduces pupil-teacher ratios in kindergarten through 3rd grade to 15-to-1.

In the latest study, the researchers report that children in the smaller classes outperformed those in a comparison group on a test of basic skills.

—Linda Jacobson

College Freshmen: The views college freshman have of their mental and physical health have continued to drop, according to an annual survey. The findings were released by the Higher Education Institute at the graduate school of education and information studies of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Information about the “CIRP Freshman Survey” is available in a press release from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Fifty-five percent of the respondents rated their physical health above average compared with that of others their age, which represents a 9 percent drop from 1986, when the percentage reached a record high of 64 percent. Also, 53 percent considered their emotional health as above average compared with their peers, a drop from 63 percent when the question was first included in the survey in 1985.

The survey also showed that the percent of students reporting that they frequently discussed politics rose from a record low of 16 percent last year to 20 percent in 2001. Most of the respondents completed the survey before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made world events a major concern.

The fall 2001 survey included 411,970 entering freshmen at 704 of the nation’s higher education institutions.

—John Gehring

Benefits of Desegregation: The educational impact of desegregated schooling in a Cambridge, Mass., high school has been positive and worthwhile, according to a student survey.

“The Impact of Racial and Ethnic Diversity on Educational Outcomes: Cambridge, MA School District,” is available from the Harvard University Civil Rights Project.

Conducted by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, the survey revealed the views of 379 high school seniors at Cambridge Ringe and Latin School. Most of them reported that they felt the racial diversity in their school would be beneficial in preparing them to work in careers with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. But the survey also found that lower percentages of African-American and Latino students than white students said they were encouraged to take honors or Advanced Placement classes.

—Karla Scoon Reid

United Nations History: High school history and government textbooks do an inadequate job of teaching students about the role of the United Nations and the fundamental concepts of international cooperation, a report by the American Textbook Council says.

The review, “Textbooks and the United Nations: The International System and What American Students Learn About It,” examined 17 of the most widely used high school and junior high school history and government textbooks. The report criticizes the books’ coverage of international affairs as shallow.

The report is available from the United Nations Association of the United States, which commissioned the work. Requests for copies should be sent by e-mail to Lucia Rodriguez at

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Hate Crimes: A survey released by the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes in Massachusetts suggests that high school students there significantly underreport such crimes on their campuses.

A summary of the survey results is available in a press release from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety.

The survey, conducted by Northeastern University’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, was administered to 4,059 students from 30 Massachusetts public high schools over two months in 2000.

Students were asked about vandalism, assault and battery, larceny, sexual assault, and criminal harassment. Thirty-seven percent of the students reported having been a victim of one of those crimes. About a quarter of the victims, according to the survey, believed the motivation behind the crime was hatred or bias. But only 15 percent of those respondents said they had reported those offenses to school officials, and just 3 percent reported the incidents to police.

—John Gehring

Technology and Curriculum: An overwhelming majority of Americans say schools should make technology part of the curriculum and incorporate it into high school graduation requirements, a Gallup poll commissioned by the International Technology Education Association has found.

“ITEA/Gallup Poll Reveals What Americans Think About Technology,” is available from the International Technology Education Association. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Ninety-seven percent of the 1,000 people surveyed nationwide for the Blacksburg, Va.-based group agreed that technology should be included in the school curriculum, and 61 percent said students should be evaluated for technological literacy to graduate.

But the survey also suggests that many Americans don’t understand how technology connects to other fields, such as mathematics, science, and engineering.

—Rhea R. Borja

“Beating the Odds: Teaching Middle and High School Students to Read and Write Well,” is available from the The National Research Center on English Learning & Achievement .

Reading and Writing: Successful English classrooms in secondary schools have common characteristics, such as connecting literature and tests with students’ personal experiences and using multiple teaching approaches, a scholar writing in the winter issue of the American Educational Research Journal says.

Judith A. Langer, a researcher at the State University of New York at Albany, draws her conclusions from a five-year-long study of English instruction in 25 middle and high schools in four states.

—Debra Viadero

A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2002 edition of Education Week as Report Roundup


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