Report Roundup

May 05, 2004 4 min read
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Study: Economic Forces Fuel Standards Push

The national push for rigorous, measurable standards in elementary and secondary education is no passing fad, because it is being driven by inexorable economic forces that are ratcheting up educational requirements for American workers, concludes a report released last week.

“Standards for What? The Economic Roots of K-16 Reform,” is available from ETS. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The study by researchers at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., also warns that an impending shortage of college-educated workers could undermine the United States’ place in the world unless the nation does a better job preparing young people for higher education and expanding access to it.

Current trends suggest that the shortage of employees with at least some college education could climb to 14 million by 2020, fueling a trend toward moving jobs for highly skilled workers overseas, the report says.

Tracking trends in job requirements and educational attainment for the past 45 years, the report concludes that the nation may need to spend many billions of dollars more annually to get young people ready for postsecondary education. That process should start with universal preschool, it adds, and involve intensive efforts to enable many more high school students to meet challenging academic standards.

—Caroline Hendrie

Soda Study

A health campaign aimed at discouraging British schoolchildren from drinking carbonated beverages resulted in lower obesity among those students, according to a study released last month.

“Preventing Childhood Obesity by Reducing Consumption of Carbonated Drinks: Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial,” is available from the British Medical Journal. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Published by the British Medical Journal, the study by British researchers was based on a review of 644 children in southwestern England, ages 7 to 11. Half those students were put in an intervention group in which they were advised about how cutting back on soda consumption would improve their health. The study found that one year later, those students had decreased their consumption of “fizzy” drinks by an average of 0.6 glasses, or 250 milliliters, over a three-day period. The overall percentage of obese children in that study group fell by 0.2 percent.

By contrast, the students who were not given the health-awareness training increased their soda consumption over a three-day period by 0.2 glasses. The percentage of obese children in that study group after one year rose by 7.5 percent, the study found.

–Sean Cavanagh

Parent Communication

Michigan teachers say communicating with parents is difficult because of time constraints, language and cultural barriers, and a lack of response from the parents themselves, according to a recent survey.

Read “Teacher Views on Teacher-Parent Communication,” from the Michigan Education Association. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The survey—commissioned by Your Child, a coalition of education and parent groups in Michigan—conducted an online poll of more than 1,000 K-12 teachers about parent involvement. The poll also found that teachers spend an average of two hours a week communicating with parents.

—Bess Keller

New Teachers

After one year of teaching in the Boston public school system, almost one- third of new teachers shortened their expectations for how long they planned to remain in their jobs, says a report on the city’s teachers.

“Building a Professional Teaching Corps in Boston,” is available from the Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The report, which is the first part of a study that intends to track teachers hired for the 2002-03 school year over four years, summarizes the experiences of 470 rookie teachers in the school system.

It also concluded that many talented teaching candidates may be lost every year because of the city schools’ “excessively long hiring process.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, including fixing the hiring process, having teachers interview job applicants, and making sure professional support systems are set up as close to school sites as possible.

—Bess Keller

Antidepressant Drugs

“Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in Childhood Depression: Systematic Review of Published Versus Unpublished Data,” is available from The Lancet. (Abstract requires free registration; full text requires payment.)

Although published research largely concludes that medicines currently used to treat depression in children are safe, unpublished research suggests there may be dangers, according to a study published in a British journal.

Spurred by concerns that unfavorable data on the drugs were being withheld, the authors of the report, which appeared in the April 24 issue of The Lancet, analyzed published and unpublished trials of five medicines used to treat depression in children.

—Catherine A. Carroll


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