Report Roundup

September 11, 2002 7 min read
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Too Many Teachers Deemed Unprepared

Far too many academic classes in the nation’s secondary schools are taught by teachers without a major or minor in the subject, says a report by the Washington-based Education Trust.

Read “All Talk, No Action: Putting an End to Out-of-Field Teaching,” from the Education Trust. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Analyzing data from the recently released federal Schools and Staffing Survey, the report concludes that out-of- field teaching is a growing problem and one that is particularly acute in the nation’s middle schools and in schools that have high concentrations of poor or minority students. In secondary schools where more than half the children are poor, the report notes, classes are 77 percent more likely than those in more affluent schools to be assigned to out-of-field teachers.

The study also includes data for all 50 states on the percentages of teachers who are assigned to classes for which they are inadequately prepared.

—Debra Viadero

Single-Sex Schools

A study of students in more than 3,900 British primary and secondary schools suggests that attending an all-girls or all-boys school can improve student achievement.

“The Impact of School Size and Single-sex Education on Performance,” is available for purchase from the The National Foundation for Educational Research (U.K.). Or read the executive summary.

The researchers found that girls in single-sex secondary schools outperformed those in schools attended by both boys and girls—in science, by as much as a third of a grade. And, even though boys at the secondary level performed about the same overall in both kinds of settings, further analysis showed that the all-boys schools did provide a small academic boost to those students who started out as lower achievers.

In addition, the researchers found that students in medium-size schools—those with about 180 students in each age group— tended to fare better academically than those in either smaller or larger schools. That part of the study included a mix of coed and single-sex schools.

—Debra Viadero

Teachers With Ph.D.s

More than a third of doctoral students in science and mathematics have considered teaching in secondary schools, but less than 1 percent have actually chosen to teach in middle or high schools, according to a report from the National Research Council.

Read the report, “Attracting Ph.D.s to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology,” posted by the National Academy Press, or order it online.

The council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, is proposing a postdoctoral program that would lure people with math and science doctorates into teaching in secondary classrooms. The demonstration projects would place the new Ph.D.s in teaching jobs for two years while offering them the education courses they would need to earn state certification.

—David J. Hoff

Gun Violence

Programs that train children to stay away from guns, or to behave responsibly around their own guns, do not work, a recent report from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation concludes.

Read “Children, Youth, and Gun Violence,” from the The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. (Sections require Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The 176-page report takes a comprehensive look at youth gun violence in the United States, estimating the costs and consequences of gun-related youth homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings—and evaluating efforts to decrease that violence.

—Kevin Bushweller

School Safety

Despite increasing concerns about school safety over the past decade, more than 80 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds polled in a recent survey said their schools were doing enough to make them feel safe and secure during the school day.

Read “The State of Our Nation’s Youth 2002-2002,” from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. (Requires free registration.)

The survey, sponsored by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, based in Alexandria, Va., examined a host of other issues, including students’ level of involvement in their schools, how much homework they did, their college plans, and the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on their lives. For instance, 66 percent reported that the terrorist assault marked the “most significant event in my lifetime.”

—Kevin Bushweller

Toxic Dangers

Children are exposed to potentially toxic chemicals every day at schools, according to a report from the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice.

Read “Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABCs of Healthy Schools,” from Child Proofing Our Communities. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Carpeting, indoor wood products, vinyl floors, toilet-bowl cleaners, graffiti removers, and weedkillers all emit dangerous fumes into the air that could pose health risks to children, the report by the Falls Church, Va.-based organization says.

—Michelle Galley

College Preparation

The Southern Regional Education Board has released a survey of Southern states’ efforts to create high school programs that prepare students for college.

Read “High School to College and Careers: Aligning State Policies,” from the Southern Regional Education Board. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The report, “High School to College and Careers: Aligning State Policies,” explores several policies in precollegiate and higher education in 16 states. Those policies include high school graduation requirements; early outreach programs that encourage students in middle and high school to prepare for college; college-admissions requirements; and “feedback reports,” in which universities notify high schools on how their graduates perform in college.

—Sean Cavanagh

Unhealthy Lunches

Several of the nation’s largest school districts are not providing the kind of healthy lunches that would help decrease childhood obesity, argues the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s annual “School Lunch Report Card.”

Read the press release summarizing the report, “School Lunch Report Card,” from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The nine school districts named as not offering nutritious lunches were Clark County, Nev.; Dallas; Detroit; Fairfax County, Va.; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami-Dade County; New York City; and Philadelphia. These districts were singled out because they were among the top ten largest districts in the nation, according to the study.

—Kevin Bushweller

School Success

A child-research and -advocacy organization has conducted a review of more than 300 education studies to better understand what works to help young people succeed in school.

Read an analysis of the findings from Child Trends. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Among other points, the review of the research emphasizes the importance of parental involvement in a child’s education and student participation in school extracurricular activities.

—Kevin Bushweller

Alternative Certification

High-quality programs leading to alternative certification of teachers offer ways of fostering a broader pool of teachers while also addressing concerns about teacher development, professionalism, and retention, a report by the National Association of State Boards of Education says.

Read “Moving Past the Politics: How Alternative Certification Can Promote Comprehensive Teacher Development Reforms,” from the National Association of State Boards of Education. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Titled “Moving Past the Politics: How Alternative Certification Can Promote Comprehensive Teacher Development Reforms,” the report attempts to bridge the divide between people who support traditional teacher-licensure policies and those who propose a more open-market approach to recruitment.

—Kevin Bushweller

Brain Research

A study that used brain-imaging techniques to study the brains of 144 schoolchildren has found that youngsters diagnosed as poor readers tend to have disruptions in the neural pathways normally involved in reading. The children studied ranged in age from 7 to 18.

Led by Dr. Bennett Shaywitz of Yale University, the study builds on his earlier research of adult readers.

The newest study, which was underwritten by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, also found that children who read poorly but do not receive any extra help or training eventually compensate by using other parts of their brains as backup systems. However, they never learn to read as fluently as children who were not initially diagnosed as poor readers.

The results of the study were published in the July 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

—Debra Viadero

Principal Performance

A recent report by the Washington-based Education Writers Association examines what it takes to be a good principal.

“Searching for a Superhero: Can Principals Do It All?” is available for purchase from the Education Writers Association .

“Searching for a Super Hero: Can Principals Do It All?” takes a look at the time and energy good principals put into their jobs, what it takes to turn around a “toxic” school culture, whether there is a looming shortage of good principals, and the role of principals as instructional leaders.

—Kevin Bushweller

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