High Schools Called ‘Pathways to Nowhere’
Many American high schools, particularly large ones in urban areas, are “pathways to nowhere,” concludes a report by an Aspen Institute senior fellow and former Clinton education aide.
The report by Michael Cohen, “Transforming the American High School: New Directions for State and Local Policy,” lays out a number of short-term and long-term strategies for improving high schools.
Mr. Cohen, a White House adviser and an assistant secretary of education under President Clinton, says that while there is some positive news about high schools—stable graduation rates, for instance, and lower teen-pregnancy and violent-crime statistics—too few students emerge from high school ready for postsecondary education.
Grading the IDEA
The goal of ensuring access to public education for students with disabilities has largely been met, a report concludes.
The report, “Twenty-Five Years of Educating Children With Disabilities: The Good News and the Work Ahead,” highlights the achievements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which is up for reauthorization this year, but also points out areas in which it argues the law needs improvement.
Written by the American Youth Policy Forum and the Center on Education Policy, two Washington-based organizations, the report is available online.
Many states now offer signing bonuses, relocation expenses, housing subsidies, and other perks to entice teachers to work in difficult schools, but a new study has found little research on the impact of such incentive programs—and some evidence suggesting the programs are not meeting their goals.
Released by the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the policy brief suggests that more than money will be needed to attract and retain teachers in hard-to-staff schools. It recommends that states provide scholarships to prepare out-of-field teachers and paraprofessionals who already work in such schools to serve as fully licensed teachers; recruit accomplished teachers to lead reform efforts in certain schools; and improve working conditions and school building leadership in those schools.
Sizing Up Schools
On most measures, parents of students in small high schools tend to rate their schools higher than do parents of students attending large high schools, concludes a new report by Public Agenda, a nonprofit opinion-research organization based in New York City.
Read the report, ” Sizing Things Up: Attitudes on Large and Small Schools,” available online for free until March 13 to registrated users (registration is free), from Public Agenda. After March 13, only the print version will be available for $12.50.
According to the report’s survey results, small-school parents were far more likely than large-school parents to say that teachers help struggling students (75 percent, compared with 48 percent) and that students speak and write well (67 percent vs. 47 percent). Large-school parents were more likely than their small-school counterparts to report that students felt alienated (40 percent vs. 23 percent) and were likely to drop out (43 percent vs. 21 percent).
Still, the survey found that just a third of parents had given much thought to how the size of schools might be reduced.
The Manhattan Institute has released its second annual “Education Freedom Index,” an evaluation of what states the authors believe are doing the most to promote school choice.
The institute in New York City bases its 2001 ranking of all 50 states on their policies in four areas: charter schools; governmental subsidies for private education, such as tuition vouchers or tax credits; home schooling regulations and participation; and public school choice.
For the second year in a row, Arizona, with its numerous charter schools and its tax credit for donations to scholarship funds for private school costs, headed the list. Hawaii, which has just one school district and thus no opportunity for parents to turn to an adjacent district, finished last.
While a lot of money is spent on education technology hardware and software, comparatively little federal funding goes into research to figure out how schools could effectively use that technology, a study by the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists says.
Read the report, “International Review of R and D Priorities and Funding,” from the Federation of American Scientists.
According to the study, the U.S. government spent about $3 billion in fiscal 2000 on education technology, but aside from military applications, put just $33 million into technology research and development.
The report recommends a sharp increase in federal funding for that purpose, creation of a “coherent research and management plan” for such research, and improved coordination across federal agencies.
Elementary teachers spend $521 a year on average of their own money on classroom materials, and first-year teachers spend $701, according to a report by Quality Education Data.
The study by the Denver-based education market-research firm, “Teacher Buying Behavior and Attitudes 2001-2002,” found that K-8 teachers spend $853 on average on classroom materials. Forty percent of that comes from the school district, while 60 percent comes out of the teachers’ own pockets. Nationwide, teachers spend more than $1 billion of their own money each year on classroom materials, according to the study.
—Rhea R. Borja
While overall illegal-drug use by U.S. teenagers remains stable, adolescent consumption of the so-called club drug Ecstasy continues to rise, according to a national survey of 6,937 teenagers by the New York City-based Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Last year, Ecstasy use among young people jumped by 20 percent over the previous year, according to the survey. Since 1999, the group found, Ecstasy consumption among teenagers has increased by 71 percent.
Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drug with amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic properties. Taken orally, the drug accelerates the release of serotonin in the brain, producing an intense high, often characterized by extreme feelings of love and acceptance, according to the report.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Young people who do poorly in school, frequently miss class, or drop out will disproportionately wind up in the juvenile-justice system. That warning comes in a report released by the Washington-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice.
For a copy of the report “Abandoned in the Back Row: New Lessons in Education and Delinquency Prevention,” call (202) 467-0864.
Youths who drop out of school are nearly four times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested, and 82 percent of prison inmates in the adult criminal-justice system dropped out of high school, according to the report, “Abandoned in the Back Row: New Lessons in Education and Delinquency Prevention.”
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Illinois, South Dakota, and Utah tied for the top ranking in the nation for how they have used education technology to improve the lives of their residents, according to the “2001 Digital State Survey.”
This is the second year in a row South Dakota has received the top ranking, according to the Center for Digital Government, the Folsom, Calif.-based organization that conducts the study. Rankings were based on how public colleges, universities, and schools provide online teaching and learning, as well as administrative functions such as academic reports and class registration.
South Dakota was cited for its electronic services, such as classroom videoconferencing, through the Digital Dakota Network. The high-speed telecommunications system links the 127,000 K-12 students throughout the state. Students in South Dakota’s six state colleges and universities can also register, change their academic schedules, and pay for classes online.
—Rhea R. Borja
A recent report sees Vermont’s retooled system of school finance as an effective way to provide equitable spending on students.
Titled “A Reasonably Equitable Share: Update on Educational Equity in Vermont Year 2001-02,” the study was released by the Washington-based Rural School and Community Trust.
Researcher Lorna Jimerson examined state data to see if the state’s 1997 school finance law had met the goals set by the state supreme court and the legislature. Those goals addressed such concerns as student- resource equity, tax-burden equity, and equality in academic achievement.
Reducing class sizes, improving pupil-teacher ratios, and upgrading the qualifications of teachers are perhaps the most critical steps that can be taken to foster better preschool programs, concludes a report from the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta.
Read the report, “Focus on Quality: Prekindergarten Programs in SREB States,” from the Southern Regional Education Board. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)
“Focus on Quality: Prekindergarten Programs in SREB States” examines state- financed preschool programs in 14 Southern states to see if they meet quality standards recommended by early-childhood experts.
An analysis of two long-running voucher-style programs in Vermont and Maine argues that allowing parents to choose where to send their children to school results in higher test scores and taxpayer savings.
Since the late 1800s, both states have offered “tuitioning grants” to parents who live in towns that don’t have their own public schools, notes the report, “The Effects of Town Tuitioning in Maine and Vermont.” Parents can use the grants to send their children to any public school or nonreligious private school, even out-of-state schools.
The Washington-based Center for Education Reform has released its seventh annual directory of the nation’s charter schools.
Copies of the “national Charter School Directory” are available for $39.95, plus shipping, by calling (202) 822-9000.
The directory profiles 2,431 of the independent public schools in 34 states and the District of Columbia, including 374 charter schools that opened their doors this past September and 77 that are approved to open next fall. The schools serve a total of 580,000 students.
The directory also includes a ranking of state charter laws.
—Darcia Harris Bowan
A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as Report Roundup