Research And Reports

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Divorce, often implicated as a major cause of some students' poor performance in school, is a less important factor than family income and the student's gender, according to a new report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

An article in the September issue of Principal, the association's magazine, restates the group's 1980 finding that the children of divorced parents do, in general, have more difficulty in school than do children with both parents present in the home.

But "a deeper analysis" of those data showed that the 1980 study did not "adequately discriminate between cause and effect," the association says.

In one-parent and two-parent homes alike, girls tended to perform better in school than boys, and children from wealthier families tended to do better than those from lower-income families. One explanation of the new findings appears to be the relatively low average income of families headed by single women, the study says.

Noting that the school may provide much-needed stability for children whose parents are separated or divorced, an accompanying article offers principals advice on working with divorced parents and their children. Among the recommendations: arrange schedules or provide child care so that working parents can attend meetings; encourage both parents to remain involved with their children's schooling; and offer formal or informal counseling to children whose family difficulties are affecting their performance in school, but continue to hold students to a high standard of performance.

For women aspiring to advance their careers in public-school administration, two factors--appropriate job experience and the ability to express oneself clearly--appear to be strongly correlated with professional success.

That is among the conclusions of a report to the National Institute of Education based on a study of obstacles to career advancement among women school administrators. The study was conducted by the office of minority affairs of the American Association of School Administrators with a grant from the national research institute.

Based on a survey of 106 women administrators and their career progress over a four-year period, the study found that obstacles to professional advancement for women are more likely to be external than internal (that is, characteristic of the women themselves). Common external barriers included an employer's negative attitude toward women, lack of an influential sponsor for a job, and lack of a professional network, according to the report, Climbing the Career Ladder, A Research Study of Women in School Administration.

The survey of women--all of whom held appropriate credentials for superintendencies--found that successful women candidates for the top-level positions were more likely to have strong letters of recommendation and few "internal" barriers such as fear of taking risks or anxiety over combining professional and domestic roles. However, lack of geographic mobility and "confusion over life goals" inhibited aspiring women superintendents, the report stated.

Moreover, the study found that the women applied for higher-level positions less frequently than might be ex-pected--a finding "consistent with previous findings that most women ... apply for administrative jobs less often than men do."

Although this may be partly the result of geographic restrictions, the report suggested, the women themselves "do not escape part of the responsibility [for] their lack of career mobility."

The study, also compared women who had received the aasa special training aimed at fostering professional advancement with women who had not, and found that the training reduced the influence of external barriers to career advancement.

The report recommends that professional associations provide training, employment information, and other forms of support for women administrators; that career-advancement training be made available to women teachers, who may be prevented from reaching even beginning administrative jobs; that women school administrators be made aware of the applicability of their experience to careers outside of education; and that school boards and districts assess whether their hiring and promotion practices assure equity for women and other underrepresented groups.

Overall, the report states, the study "supports the contention ... that there is an abundance of well qualified, underemployed women ready to take on greater responsibilities."

Currently, about 2 percent of the superintendencies and 9 percent of the assistant, associate, and deputy superintendent positions are held by women; and "only 25 percent of all school administrators and 16 percent of principals are women," according to the association's report.

"Do as I say, not as I do" appears to be advice that teen-agers attend to, at least with respect to smoking.

A new survey of high-school and junior-high-school students, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois, found that teen-agers who believe that their parents would object are not likely to start smoking--even if the parents contradict their own advice by smoking themselves.

Thomas W. O'Rourke, a professor of health education at the university, drew his conclusions from a survey of 5,409 students in the 7th through 12th grades. "Our data show the example set by parents still has an impor-tant influence on children," Mr. O'Rourke said in a statement issued by the university, "but it is less important than communicating their disapproval of smoking to their children.

Of those students whose parents both smoked and disapproved of smoking, 10 percent reported that they were regular smokers. In the group of students whose parents smoked and did not express disapproval, 52 percent said that they were regular smokers.

The fewest smokers were found among students with nonsmoking parents who expressed disapproval of the habit. Of those students, only about 5 percent smoked.

Vol. 02, Issue 04

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