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Youth Programs Affect Academic Performance

A report from the Public Education Network shows how well-designed community-based youth organizations can do much to improve students' academic performance.

The report, written by Milbrey McLaughlin, a professor of education at Stanford University who conducted research over 12 years on students ages 12 to 18, says that students don't "just want a safe place to go" after school: They want an engaging environment that fits their interests and needs.

The best youth organizations focus on learning rather than simply serving as places where young people "drop in" to do their homework, Ms. McLaughlin says. Her findings show that students who participate in the most appealing community-based programs tend to have greater self-confidence, exhibit a pronounced desire to contribute to their communities, and perform at higher academic levels.

"Community Counts," first five copies free, from the Public Education Network, 601 13th St. N.W., #900N, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 628-7460. The study can also be downloaded from the network's Web site at /pubs/cc.htm (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader).

—Jessica Portner

Leadership Standards: Education reforms in the states aimed at improving student achievement have ignored the development of school district leadership, governance, and teamwork, according to a yearlong study released at the American Association of School Administrators' recent national conference.

The report, by Richard H. Goodman and William G. Zimmerman Jr., calls for stronger superintendent and school board leadership teams, and outlines strategies for meeting that objective. The authors' recommendations include setting new standards for the training of future superintendents in graduate schools and establishing a national center for board-superintendent leadership.

It also urges states to revise their laws to create a legal foundation that fosters school board-superintendent leadership and teamwork.

"Thinking Differently: Recommendations for 21st Century School Board/Superintendent Leadership, Governance, and Teamwork for High Student Achievement," $7 plus $3.50 for shipping and handling from the Educational Research Service, 2000 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201; (800) 791-9308; fax: (800) 791-9309. The study can also available be ordered online from

—Naomi Greengrass

SAT Scores: African-American students scored an average of 103 points below whites on the SAT's mathematics section and 96 points below whites on its verbal portions, according to a state-by-state study by TheJournal of Blacks in Higher Education.

The gap ranged from as little as 14 points in New Hampshire to as high as 409 points in the District of Columbia, out of a possible 800. The percentage of students taking the college-entrance exam varies widely from state to state.

The study concludes that blacks' scores on the test are strongly influenced by whether the SAT or the other major admissions exam, the ACT, is more widely used in their state. In states where most students take the ACT, the report notes, the SAT is usually taken only by the most highly qualified high school students who wish to attend out-of-state and very selective colleges.

"Ranking the States by the Black-White SAT Scoring Gap in the Nation's 50 States," free, from The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 200 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019; (212) 399- 1084. Or read the article online.

—Mark Jennings

Racial Inequity: America's public school systems fall short when it comes to racial equity, according to a study released in March by a public-policy-research organization that examines race and social change.

Using a computerized survey administered by community organizations in several U.S. cities, the Applied Research Center concludes in the report that established inequalities "channel [students of color] away from academically challenging courses, punishes them more frequently and more harshly, and ultimately pushes them out of school without a diploma."

The report recommends that school districts end academic tracking and immediately act to correct uneven application of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions.

Read "Facing the Consequences: An Examination of Racial Discrimination in U.S. Public Schools," published by the Applied Research Center, 3781 Broadway St., Oakland, CA 94611.

—Mark Jennings

Higher Ed. Access: The nation's state and land-grant universities should strive to provide a first-rate education, high-quality research, and lifelong learning opportunities to citizens of all racial and ethnic groups in the new millennium, a report released last week urges.

"Access is an unfinished agenda," the report by the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land- Grant Universities says. About 48 percent of men and women from high-income families have graduated from college by age 24, compared with only 7 percent of young adults from low-income families, the commission points out.

Institutions also have an obligation to reach out to non-traditional students and involve people of all ages in their communities, it says.

"Renewing the Covenant: Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and Different World,"available from the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, 1307 New York Ave. N.W, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005-4701; (202) 478-6040; fax: (202) 478-6046. Download "Renewing the Covenant" (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader).

—Julie Blair

Education 'Flexibility': A joint analysis on federal aid for education asserts that more local flexibility is built into federal programs than may be immediately evident to school officials.

Using case studies and reference tables, the report from the Institute for Educational Leadership and the Center on Education Policy navigates federal rules, funding, time lines, and eligibility criteria to "help policymakers make the rules less complicated," according to Margaret Dunkle, the director of policy exchange at the IEL. "Flexibility is not the same thing as simplicity," she said.

"Understanding Flexibility in Federal Education Programs 2000," $5, from the Institute for Educational Leadership, 1001 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 310, Washington, DC 20036. The guidebook is also online at the Institute for Educational Leadership and at the Center on Education Policy: http://www.ctr (both require Adobe's Acrobat Reader).

—Patricia Lenihan

California Spending: Since the passage of various school finance changes in California in the 1970s that shifted much of the responsibility for school funding from local districts to the state, overall spending per pupil in the state has dropped more than 15 percent relative to national averages, the Public Policy Institute of California found in a recently released study.

The nonprofit research organization contends in "For Better or For Worse? School Finance Reform in California" that the relative decrease in per-pupil spending coincides with the declining performance of state students on standardized tests. The report also suggests the state would be well served to more closely align the way schools are governed with the way they are funded.

In another report, "Equal Resources, Equal Outcomes? The Distribution of School Resources and Student Achievement in California," the institute says schools serving low-income areas are more likely to have teachers with relatively low levels of education and experience.

Both reports, $20 and $25 respectively, from the Public Policy Institute of California, 500 Washington St., Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94111; (800) 232-5343; fax: 415-291-4401. Full-text copies are available for free online at

—Jessica L. Sandham

Immigrant Health: In 1997, Congress created the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, to expand coverage for low- income, uninsured children. But first-generation immigrant children are still three times more likely than children with U.S.-born parents to lack health insurance, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

One-fifth of U.S. children under age 18 either are immigrants or members of an immigrant family, and one in four uninsured children lives in a noncitizen family, the study found.

The lack of insurance means those children are less likely to receive timely care for acute conditions such as ear infections or communicable diseases; less likely to have their chronic conditions, such as asthma, diagnosed and appropriately managed; and less likely to receive preventive care, according to the report.

"SCHIP and Access Care for Children in Immigrant Families," $17, from the National Conference of State Legislatures, 1560 Broadway, Suite 700, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 830-2054.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 19, Issue 29, Page 12

Published in Print: March 29, 2000, as Report Roundup
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