Ideas & Findings

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A new study says that you are, in effect, what you teach.

Researchers Pamela L. Grossman and Susan S. Stodolsky surveyed 399 teachers at 16 high schools about their perceptions of the subjects they taught, how much freedom they had to decide what got taught in their classes, and the extent to which they coordinated their teaching with colleagues. What they found was that teachers of different subject matters bring distinctive frames of references to their jobs.

Math and foreign-language teachers, for example, rated their subjects to be more sequential and more defined than did teachers of science, English, or social studies.

In other words, the authors write in the November issue of Educational Researcher, "teachers of French II depend on their colleagues in French I to have taught particular grammar skills and vocabulary to their students."

Such differences, the researchers point out, could have real implications for school reform. While a social-studies teacher might embrace his school's effort to detrack the curriculum and provide the same level of instruction to all students, a math teacher, worried about students not taking the proper sequence of courses, might fight it.

"If we are to be successful in restructuring high schools or reforming the nature of curriculum and instruction within secondary schools," the authors warn, "we must sharpen our understanding of how the subject matters to secondary school teachers."

Providing early and intensive educational services to poor infants and toddlers can produce improvements in IQ scores and school grades that can last as long as 15 years.

So say Frances A. Campbell of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Craig T. Ramey of Civitan International Research Center in Birmingham, Ala. Since the early '70s, the two have been tracking more than 90 black and disadvantaged children who took part in an early-intervention program known as the Abecedarian Project.

For the purposes of their study, the researchers divided the children into four groups. The first group participated in a full-day preschool program for five years and a six-week summer program aimed at easing them into kindergarten. In addition, during their first three years in elementary school, teachers visited them at home and provided their parents with educational activities they could do with their children. The teachers also referred families to social services in the small Southern town where they lived.

Two other groups of youngsters took part in either the preschool program alone or the school-age program alone. And a fourth group received no special services.

Previous studies of the project showed that, at ages 6, 8, and 12, the children in the two groups that had gone to preschool outscored the children in all the other groups on IQ tests and were generally doing better in school. The latest study, published in the December Educational Researcher, shows that the children held on to those advantages at least through age 15--longer than children in most other experiments of early-intervention programs.

The services for school-age children, in comparison, provided only a small academic boost over and above the gains made in preschool.

More than half of 6th through 12th graders say they use one or more strategies to avoid being harmed in school.

That finding comes from a new analysis of data from the 1993 National Household Education Survey, a federally sponsored telephone survey of 63,844 homes across the nation. To gather information on how students respond to violence in their schools and communities, the researchers polled a subgroup of 6,504 students in the 6th through 12th grades.

According to their responses, the most common strategies students used to avoid trouble at school were to stay in groups or to avoid certain places in school where problems were known to occur. Small percentages of students--5 percent and 7 percent, respectively--took a special route to school or skipped it altogether to stay out of harm's way.

White students attending mostly white schools were less likely to report using any kind of violence-prevention strategy than were blacks--regardless of the racial makeup of the schools they attended.

And the researchers found striking differences between public and private school students. Only 5 percent of the students in private schools reported any specific strategies to avoid harm. In comparison, 21 percent of those at assigned public schools did so.

The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics published the findings in October.

--Debra Viadero

Vol. 15, Issue 14

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