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Group Calls on Employers To Stress Achievement

Employers should reinforce what schools are doing to raise the academic bar for all high school students, a report by the Committee for Economic Development says.

Employers should, for example, hire students based on high school transcripts or teacher recommendations, says the 57-page report. And if businesses hire students while they are still in school, they shouldn't allow them to work for more than 20 hours a week. Whenever possible, they should require that student workers maintain school attendance and a minimum grade point average.

The report, scheduled to be released this week, encourages employers to support organizations that link schools and employers, such as chambers of commerce and trade associations. It also suggests that employers provide learning and career-exploration opportunities for young people, such as job "shadowing" and mentoring.

The CED is a national public-policy organization of business and education leaders.

"The Employer's Role in Linking School and Work," $18, from Darcy Tucker, Committee for Economic Development, 477 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022; (212) 688-2063, ext. 212.

Exit Exams: High school exit exams given in New York state help boost SAT scores, while minimum-competency tests help students land higher-paying jobs after graduation, a recent study concludes.

The study, conducted by researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., compares the performance of students who take medium- or high-stakes tests to gauge their mastery of the curriculum with the performance of students who are not required to do so. Comparisons include a look at New York's exit-exam systems, as well as exit exams in 40 nations and nine Canadian provinces.

The report says that when student background is held constant, New York students do significantly better than students in other states on the widely used SAT college-entrance exam and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

And recent school graduates who took minimum-competency tests earned an hourly wage from 3 percent to 5 percent higher at their first jobs than graduates from school districts in states that did not offer the exams, the study shows. The findings were based on two national studies containing information on the tests.

"Do Curriculum-Based External Exit Exam Systems Enhance Student Achievement?," $12, from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education Report Series, CPRE Publications, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, 3440 Market St., Suite 560, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3325; (215) 573-0700.

State Assessments: For the sixth time, the Council of Chief State School Officers has issued the results of a survey of the 50 states' student-assessment programs.

The two-volume Annual Survey of State Student Assessment Programs, Fall 1997 chronicles the responses of state officials to questions about the assessment programs they ran in the 1996-97 school year.

The council has also issued a 36-page summary of the survey.

"Trends in State Student Assessment Programs, Fall 1997," $10.95 ($2 shipping and handling); the full 285-page survey report, priced on a sliding scale, both from the CCSSO, Publications, 1 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20001-1431; (202) 336-7016. Read the trends report and selected data.

Early Childhood: Though many states have improved efforts to create, implement, and strengthen early-childhood programs, a consistent commitment to young children and their families is lacking within states and throughout the nation, a recent report contends.

The annual state-by-state survey financed by Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty focuses on statewide strategies to improve the lives of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers through family-support programs, preschool initiatives, and community leadership.

The study released earlier this month concludes that communities have the drive to continue programs that support families, but that states are lacking the high-level leadership and financial commitment needed to sustain those efforts.

"Map and Track: State Initiatives for Young Children and Families," $19.95, from the National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia School of Public Health, 154 Haven Ave., New York, NY 10032; (212) 304-7100; fax: (212) 544-4200.

Read an abstract or state-by-state information from the report.

Child Welfare: Summarizing 25 years of research, a publication from the Children's Defense Fund gives comprehensive information on a wide range of issues affecting children. Information is available on family income, child care, child health, nutrition, juvenile crime, child-welfare systems, teenage pregnancy, and welfare reform.

The 130-page report, which is filled with charts, graphs, facts, and figures, highlights some of the Washington-based advocacy group's current priorities, including the full implementation of the new State Children's Health Insurance Program and the expansion of after-school, mentoring, and summer programs as a means of preventing youth violence.

The handbook also spotlights programs around the country that are focusing on those issues.

The State of America's Children: A Report of the Children's Defense Fund, 1998, $16.95, from the Children's Defense Fund, 25 E St. N.W., Washington, DC 20001; (202) 628-8787; fax: (202) 628-8333.

Read a progress report on "Implementing the State Children's Health Insurance Program," from the Children's Defense Fund.

Child Development: Thirty years of work by physician and educator Dr. James P. Comer to make schools more nurturing places for children through his School Development Program are summarized in a new report.

The report follows an April symposium held at Yale University to celebrate the anniversary of the program, which started in two schools in New Haven, Conn., in 1968. It is now used in more than 700 schools in 21 states, the District of Columbia, Trinidad and Tobago, and South Africa.

Included in the report is a description of the program, which organizes parents, teachers, administrators, and support-staff members into teams that coordinate all school activities, address individual student needs, and encourage parent involvement. At middle and high schools, students are included on the teams. Decisions are made by consensus, and a no-fault principle focuses on solving problems instead of placing blame.

Several case studies on schools using the program are described, as are the results of research conducted on the program.

One study concluded that "high implementing" schools tend to have higher student achievement than schools that implement only some of the program's principles.

"Child Development: The Foundation of Education," $11, from Sarah Mciver, Yale Child Study Center, 53 College St., New Haven, CT 06510; (203) 737-1020.

The Yale Child Study Center School Development Program has a list of books by Dr. James Comer.

Small Schools: Small schools are related to slightly higher rates of student achievement overall and have an especially powerful impact on the average achievement of poor and minority students, according to a recent report.

The report released last month by the Chicago-based Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, a coalition of school reform leaders, identifies variety as one of the strengths of small schools. It adds that good small schools share common elements, including: an enrollment of roughly 350 students for elementary schools and 500 students for high schools; a sense of belonging for students; a cohesive, self-selected faculty; a coherent curricular focus; increased parent involvement; and high expectations for all students.

A practical guide for those interested in starting or sustaining small learning communities, the report includes stories of small-school start-ups and struggles told by teachers, parents, students, and researchers; reviews the academic literature on school size; and looks at the cost-effectiveness of such schools.

"Small Schools, Big Imaginations: A Critical Look at Urban Public Schools," $15, from the Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform, 407 S. Dearborn St., Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60605; (312) 322-4880; fax: (312) 322-4885.

Math and Science: A coalition of 13 national business organizations has written a primer for business leaders about the need for improving U.S. students' performance in mathematics and science.

The 32-page guide was produced by the Business Coalition for Education Reform, which is managed by the National Alliance of Business.

It summarizes the results from 4th, 8th, and 12th graders' performance on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study. It also lists strategies for businesses to foster academic progress, including supporting rigorous teacher training and using student achievement in hiring decisions. The report was underwritten by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's office of educational research and improvement.

"The Formula for Success: A Business Leader's Guide to Supporting Math and Science Achievement," free ($5 for additional copies), from the National Alliance of Business, (800) 787-2848.

Student Aspirations: A majority of teenagers recognize that an education is essential for success and happiness, according to a recent survey by Sylvan Learning Centers, a provider of supplemental education services for students, families, and schools.

The survey, completed early this year, found that teenagers view a college education, happiness, and strong family values as symbols of success. An overwhelming majority (82 percent) of those surveyed said that having a good education enhances the opportunity to achieve success more than having a special talent, having money, knowing a trade, or capitalizing on personal contacts. Sylvan surveyed 5,000 people, including parents with children between the ages of 12 and 17 and young people in that age group.

In conjunction with the survey, Sylvan Learning Centers is offering a guide that features advice for parents on how to encourage career and life success for their children. "Visions of Success," free, from Sylvan Learning Centers, at (800) 31-SUCCESS.

New American Schools: Memphis, Tenn., schools using reform techniques that incorporate the entire school instead of focusing on a single program are showing student-achievement gains just two years after adopting whole-school designs, says a recent report.

Researchers from the University of Memphis, the University of Tennessee, and Johns Hopkins University compared students at 25 restructuring schools with students at schools not using the techniques. They took into consideration subject matter and students' socioeconomic status.

Results of the New American Schools survey, released earlier this month, show that students improved in reading, language arts, and math, and that larger gains were found in students from lower-socioeconomic schools. The report also concludes that whole-school reform has a positive effect on student performance overall. ("Memphis Study Tracks Gains in Whole-School Designs," May 27, 1998.)

"The Memphis Restructuring Initiative: Achievement Results for Years 1 and 2 on the Tennessee Values-Added Assessment System," free, from New American Schools, 1000 Wilson Blvd., Suite 2710, Arlington, VA 22209; (703) 908-9500.

Charter Schools: A Massachusetts survey has found that parents who send their children to charter schools in six urban areas of the state are more satisfied with the schools than their traditional public school counterparts.

In what is being billed as the first scientific study comparing the opinions of the two groups of parents, 78 percent of charter school parents said they would keep their children at the same school even if they could afford to pay tuition to send their children to private schools.

Given the same choice, just 50 percent of those whose children attend traditional public schools agreed.

Commissioned by the conservative Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, the survey polled a random sample of 305 charter school and 304 district school parents. The Boston-based think tank, which released the survey this month, supports school choice and charter schools.

For a free copy of the comparative survey, call the Pioneer Institute at (617) 723-2277.

Vol. 17, Issue 40, Page 15

Published in Print: June 17, 1998, as Report Roundup
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