Danger Zones: University of Michigan researchers have looked at how schools facilitate violent behavior among students. Assistant professor Ron Astor and doctoral students Heather Meyer, Ronald Pitner, and William Behre went to five Midwest high schools and seven middle and elementary schools to determine when and where violence takes place. All the 166 reported acts of violence at the high schools occurred in locations where few or no adults were present, often in the hallways between class periods or in the cafeteria during lunch. High school and middle school teachers interviewed for the study said they were reluctant to intervene in disputes outside their classrooms. Elementary teachers, meanwhile, believe their responsibilities include keeping order outside their classroom and do not hesitate to get involved in hallway and cafeteria feuds. "With these studies, we targeted a context [for violence] rather than a type of kid," Astor says. "We were trying to get schools to address a simpler problem like: What do we do in those 10 minutes during the day in the halls where most of our fights occur?" The research is part of three studies: The high school study was published in the spring issue of the American Educational Research Journal; the other two are available from Astor at 1080 South University, School of Social Work, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106.
Good Sports: Two new studies offer evidence for something coaches have long known: High school sports are good for kids. The studies, which draw on data from a national sample of 25,000 high school students, were presented this spring at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Montreal. For their work, Jan Sokol-Katz and Jomills Henry Braddock II of the Center for Research on Sport in Society at the University of Miami compared behavior problems among high school athletes and nonathletes. Even when the researchers controlled the numbers to account for other factors, sports participation had a positive impact. "We are not arguing that varsity sports participation is a remedy for ending school delinquency," the researchers write, "but it may contribute to the social control of problem behavior." In a separate study, Will Jordan, an associate director of the Center for the Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University, found that sports had a "small but consistent" impact on students' academic confidence and their feelings of connection to school. Student athletes also tended to have higher grade-point averages than other students.
Recipe For Success: What makes an effective 1st grade reading and writing teacher? Researchers from the State University of New York at Albany spent the past three years examining the practices of 30 teachers nominated by school administrators in California, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin. The administrators were asked to single out two 1st grade teachers working with similar groups of students in the same district: one a superior literacy teacher and the other a more typical instructor. Teams from the university's National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement interviewed the teachers, visited classrooms, and tracked students' progress. Outstanding teachers, they found, managed their classrooms more efficiently and made sure students were academically engaged at least 90 percent of the time. They also gave students cues and strategies to help them master difficult texts. Basic word-recognition skills, such as phonics or looking at pictures or word parts to decipher meaning, were taught both explicitly and in the context of real reading and writing-what experts would call a "balanced approach" to reading instruction. The teachers also prodded individual students to read more challenging books, and they integrated reading and writing in other subjects like science and social studies. Though the techniques paid off-students who had the outstanding teachers outscored their peers-the researchers caution that their research is not an endorsement of any single approach. "Based on the analysis presented here, excellent 1st grade teaching is more complicated than rocket science," the five-member team concludes in its report, The Nature of Effective First-Grade Literacy Instruction. The full report is available online at cela.albany.edu/1stgradelit/index.html.
By The Numbers: Statistics are getting a make-over in Education Statistics Quarterly, a slick new publication from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. The journal, part of a NCES campaign to make the center's work more useful and timely, offers data on topics ranging from the age of the nation's public schools to the academic qualifications of its teachers. Each edition will carry summaries of center reports produced over the previous three months as well as two commentaries by outside authors. Look for the journal online at: nces.ed.gov/pubs99/quarterlyjul/. Or request a copy from: National Center for Education Statistics, 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20208-5574.
A Matter Of Control: An analysis of education policies in 22 nations suggests that private schools in many countries lose some autonomy when they accept government subsidies. "There's a lesson here for American private schools: Control follows money," says John Jennings, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy, which released the report in May. "If states pass vouchers, they'll have to find some way to hold private schools accountable for tax dollars." The report, researched and written by consultant Nancy Kober, analyzed private school policies and practices in most European countries as well as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The degree of government control over private schools is greatest, the study concludes, in countries that subsidize these schools the most. In Germany, Ireland, and Portugal, for example, private schools must adhere to government course syllabi. In Austria and France, teachers in certain subsidized private schools are even selected by the government, with some input from the school. And private school students in most of the nations studied must pass national exams before they move on to certain grade levels or receive a diploma. "Although the U.S. begins with a lower level of private school regulation than many other countries," the report concludes, "our current baseline of regulations sets a precedent for government involvement that could be expanded if a perceived need arose." Full text of the report is available at www.ctredpol.org/pubs/book.pdf (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader).
--Candice Furlan and Debra Viadero
Vol. 11, Issue 2, Page 21Published in Print: October 1, 1999, as Findings