Research and Reports
Involvement Key to
Involving girls directly in laboratory and discussion activities in the sciences plays a significant role in encouraging those students to pursue careers in science fields.
That is one of the findings of a two-year study of the factors that affect female students' retention in science courses. The research, directed by Jane Butler Kahle, professor of biology and education at Purdue University, found that teachers whose instructional methods are "disproportionately effective with young women" displayed certain instructional patterns.
In her study of eight teachers from Maine to California who were cho-sen for their "proven track record" in encouraging girls to pursue science studies, Ms. Kahle found that the teachers avoided favoring boys in science class, used nonsexist language, invited guest speakers to talk to the students, took their classes on field trips, and used weekly quizzes more often than other teachers polled in a national sample.
In addition, the teachers regularly provided students with career information and counseling, stressed basic skills, and encouraged "creativity," according to the researcher.
Of the eight teachers, all held advanced degrees, most had at least one degree in science, and most were active in community science projects. In addition, seven of the eight teachers were women, a finding that Ms. Kahle said she could not link to their proven success with female students. But she said she was pleased by the study's results.
"When everything else was coming out damning teachers," she said, ''I had very strong data ... showing that good teaching makes a difference."
Parents, Study Says
Teachers who systematically involve parents in home-learning activities for their children find that the help provided by single parents is as high in quality as that provided by married parents, according to recent research conducted by The Johns Hopkins Center for Social Organization of Schools.
But teachers who do not involve parents in children's home-learning activities rate educational assistance provided by single parents as lower in quality than that provided by married parents, the research shows.
"This study indicates that some common perceptions about the problems single parents have with the schools are not true, once school practices are accounted for," said Joyce L. Epstein, author of the report, "Single Parents and the Schools: The Effect of Marital Status on Parent and Teacher Evaluations."
Ms. Epstein concludes in the study that teacher "leadership," rather than parents' marital status, influences parents' awareness and knowledge of the school program.
"Parents' day-to-day experiences with learning activities at home, and teachers' responsiveness to children and their families--not marital status--were the important influences on whether parents knew more about their role in their child's education," the report states.
The report is based on data provided by about 3,700 teachers and 1,269 parents in Maryland.
Copies of the full report are available for $3 from the Education Research Dissemination Office, Center for Social Organization of Schools, The Johns Hopkins University, 3505 North Charles St., Baltimore, Md. 21218.
Four-Day Week for
Of the 62 school districts in 11 states that currently operate under a four-day-week plan, most have chosen to do so for financial reasons, according to a study of four-day programs and their effects on learning, attendance, curriculum, and other measures.
But those reasons might be faulty, according to Jean Pope and Russ Gillian, authors of The Four Day Week: An Alternative School Calendar.
Based on a survey of 50 states and U.S. possessions, the authors conclude that four-day-week districts report savings of only 1 percent to 3 percent in total expenditures per year. And while such savings might be helpful to districts threatened with significant program cuts or the possibility of closure, the spending reduction in one year could lead to further cuts the following year because of reduced revenues.
"A district might discover that instead of solving financial problems, the four-day week has merely postponed the most pressing ones," the authors caution.
Among other findings of the study, which was funded by the Oregon Department of Education and Jackson Education Service District:
Four-day-week districts operate a 145- to 150-day year in which students spend from 6.5 to 7.5 hours a day in school.
Some parents complained that their children experienced increased fatigue durging a longer school day and that the four-day schedule increased child-care expenses because they would have to pay for another day that children were not in school. Parents of handicapped students also were concerned that the schedule would interfere with the learning process.
Staff attendance increased in most districts under the four-day plan. Student-attendance results varied from district to district.
The effect of the four-day week on student performance, according to the study, is difficult to measure. "The most important objective of a school system ... is often inadequately addressed in an evaluation of the four-day week," the authors conclude.
For a copy of the booklet, send $10 to the Curriculum Office, Jackson Education Service District, 101 North Grape St., Medford, Ore. 97501.