Researchers Evaluate Hand-Held Computers
Teachers whose students use hand-held computers to collect data and take notes say the devices are effective instructional tools, according to the first large-scale study of the use of such devices in U.S. classrooms.
Researchers from SRI International—an independent, nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, Calif.-evaluated more than 100 elementary and secondary classrooms that received the devices and auxiliary equipment, such as scientific probes and keyboards, through grants from Palm Inc.
The study, which was released last week, found that 89 percent of the teachers said the hand-held computers were an effective instructional tool, and 93 percent said they believed hand-helds could have a positive impact on learning.
But the study also documented problems, such as students' inappropriate use of the devices, issues of classroom integration and usability, equipment damage, and potential for loss or theft.
Charter Waiting Lists
Waiting lists at the nation's charter schools rose sharply last year, even as the schools reported major problems with securing adequate facilities and financing, according to a recently released survey by the Center for Education Reform. The Washington-based research and advocacy group strongly supports the independent public schools.
The annual survey found that charter schools enrolled an average of 242 students in the 2001-02 school year, compared with 539 for traditional public schools, and had waiting lists averaging 166 students each, up from 112 students in 2000-01.
Students ages 12 to 18 were victims of about 128,000 serious violent crimes—rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault—in 2000, according to a federal report. But they were more than twice as likely to be victims of such crimes away from school than at school.
The 2002 edition of "Indicators of School Crime and Safety," a joint report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics, also found 47 school-related violent deaths reported from July 1, 1998, to June 30, 1999, the latest years for which such data were available. Of those deaths, 38 were homicides, six were suicides, two were of people killed by a law-enforcement officer in the line of duty, and one was reported as unintentional.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
What Teachers Teach
Federal and state efforts to implement rigorous academic standards and accountability measures may be undermined by teachers' adherence to student-centered instructional strategies and their low expectations for students, concludes a recent study commissioned by the New York City-based Manhattan Institute.
"What Do Teachers Teach: A Survey of America's Fourth and Eighth Grade Teachers" was conducted by the Center for Survey Research & Analysis at the University of Connecticut.
The report expresses concern that many teachers seem indifferent to standards-based reform efforts. For instance, it says, about one-third of the 1,200 4th and 8th grade teachers surveyed did not agree that their primary role was to help students meet state and local standards in various subjects.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Nearly 60 percent of Americans ages 15 to 25 are "completely disengaged from public life," failing to vote or take up other civic activities, according to a recent survey. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at the University of Maryland College Park conducted the study.
"The Civic and Political Health of the Nation: A Generational Portrait," financed by the Pew Charitable Trusts, asked a national sample of nearly 3,500 people from various age groups about their participation in 19 civic activities, from voting to volunteerism.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Teachers in urban school districts and those who teach high proportions of minority or economically disadvantaged students are less likely to have an adequate supply of textbooks than their peers in rural or suburban schools. That finding comes from a survey by the Association of American Publishers and the National Education Association.
While 78 percent of the 1,000 teachers surveyed reported that they used textbooks regularly in their classrooms, one-sixth said they did not have enough books for each of their students. More than one-fourth of those in urban classrooms or with large numbers of students deemed at risk said they had an inadequate number of texts.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Teen Drug Use
A bipartisan group of leading physicians has released a report on adolescent substance abuse that urges policymakers and public-health officials to come up with better strategies for curbing and treating teenage drug abuse.
The 70-page report, "Adolescent Substance Abuse: A Public Health Priority," details the prevalence and causes of adolescent substance abuse and highlights the link between drug abuse and mental-health disorders. Among other recommendations, it says the health, legal, and education communities need to pool their resources more effectively to tackle the problem.
Students who are in classes with fewer students in the early grades tend to do better academically than their peers in larger classes, and that benefit becomes more noticeable the longer the students are in classes that have fewer than 20 children, according to a recent study.
The study by WestEd, a nonprofit research group based in San Francisco, also found that the extra gains students got from smaller classes in early elementary school tended to be greater for poor and minority students.
—Rhea R. Borja
Building smaller schools is cost-effective and such schools serve students better than large schools, according to a report on the educational and social benefits of smaller schools.
Those elements include effective school leadership, high-quality teachers, targeted professional development, good curriculum and instructional supports, and frequent and appropriate use of data to inform improvement. The report also concludes that targeted, intensive technical assistance is the intervention strategy that is most likely to bring about long-term improvement in school performance.
The growing availability of computers and other digital technologies in schools oblige educators and policymakers to strive to unleash the full power of those tools, argues a recent policy brief from a San Francisco-based research group WestEd.
The brief summarizes lessons from research, such as matching technology with school goals, making technology one piece of a larger strategy, providing enough professional development, offering sufficient equipment and support, making technology accessible, and integrating technology into the curriculum. A list of references directs readers to the research.
Only about one of every four elementary and middle school pupils in the United States is proficient in mathematics, and just one-sixth of high school students have reached that level, a study by the Washington-based Education Trust has found.
The report includes new data on the percent of secondary math classes taught in the United States by teachers lacking college majors or minors in the subject. It also has data on the education backgrounds of middle school math teachers.
Many states have made strides in preparing students for college, but the opportunity to attend college remains unevenly and unfairly distributed in favor of pupils from more affluent families, according to a report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, located in San Jose, Calif.
"Religious Involvement and Children's Well-Being: What the Research Tells Us (And What It Doesn't)" also says there is a connection between teenagers' religious participation and more altruistic behaviors and attitudes.
But the brief points out that most of the research on the topic is limited to Christian or Jewish adolescents.
Vol. 22, Issue 12, Page 11Published in Print: November 20, 2002, as Report Roundup