Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Availability of services to support parent involvement in K-12 schools

This report describes the availability of services to support parent involvement in K-12 schools by community type, school sector, and school classification.

Public and private school principals reported whether their schools provided various services to support parent involvement including: a staff member assignment to work on parental involvement, workshops or courses for parents or guardians, services to support parent participation such as providing child care or transportation, or a parent drop-in center or lounge.

Overall, 51 percent had a staff member assigned to work on parental involvement, 53 percent held workshops for parents, 40 percent offered services for parents to support parent involvement, and 17 percent had a drop-in center for parents.

Improved Executive Function and Science Achievement for At-Risk Middle School Girls in an Aerobic Fitness Program

This study explored the effects of a middle school physical activity intervention for adolescent girls on the executive functioning involved in science learning. The girls, ages 11 to 14, were at risk for low self-esteem, sedentary lifestyle, and poor health outcomes.

Executive function stems from interdependent cognitive control processes that influence goal setting and information processing, which complement higher order thinking required for acquiring scientific process skills.

A 20-week informal triathlon training program served as the intervention for the treatment girls (n = 29). The comparison group of girls (n = 30) was randomly drawn from a matched sample of students of a similar demographic. Mean comparisons, ANCOVA, and Roy-Bargmann stepdown analysis were used to measure outcomes.

The intervention contributed to significant improvement in several executive functions and science achievement. These results suggest that an afterschool program with a physical fitness component may improve the executive functions involved in science learning.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Young victims of cyberbullying twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm

Children and young people under 25 who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm and enact suicidal behavior, according to a study.

New research suggests that it is not just the victims of cyberbullying that are more vulnerable to suicidal behaviours, but the perpetrators themselves are also at higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

Cyberbullying is using electronic communication to bully another, for instance by sending intimidating, threatening or unpleasant messages using social media.

The systematic review study, led by Professor Ann John at Swansea University Medical School in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham looked at more than 150,000 children and young people across 30 countries, over a 21-year period.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, highlighted the significant impact that cyberbullying involvement (as bullies and victims) can have on children and young people.

The researchers say it shows an urgent need for effective prevention and intervention in bullying strategies.

Professor Ann John said: "Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene; and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users".

"Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying programme and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils".

A number of key recommendations have been made:
  • Cyberbullying involvement should be considered by policymakers who implement bullying prevention (in addition to traditional bullying) and safe Internet use programmes.
  • Clinicians working with children and young people and assessing mental health issues should routinely ask about experiences of cyberbullying and be trained to do so.
  • Children and young people involved in cyberbullying should be screened for common mental disorders and self-harm.
  • School, family, and community programmes that promote appropriate use of technology are important.
  • Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene; and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and Internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users.
  • Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying programme and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils.
The study also found a strong link between being a cyber-victim and being a perpetrator. This duality was found to particularly put males at higher risk of depression and suicidal behaviours.
The researchers highlighted that these vulnerabilities should be recognised at school so that cyberbullying behaviours would be seen as an opportunity to support vulnerable young people, rather than for discipline.

It was recommended that anti-bullying programmes and protocols should address the needs of both victims and perpetrators, as possible school exclusion might contribute to an individual's sense of isolation and lead to feelings of hopelessness, often associated with suicidal behaviours in adolescents and young people.

The research also found that students who were cyber-victimised were less likely to report and seek help than those victimised by more traditional means, thus highlighting the importance for staff in schools to encourage 'help-seeking' in relation to cyberbullying.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Flipping the classroom approach-- does student performance improve?

A study conducted at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health analyzed the traditional model of education versus an increasingly popular approach to learning in the health sciences fields -- the flipped classroom model -- where pre-recorded lectures are viewed outside of the classroom and in-person class time is devoted to interactive exercises, discussions, and group projects. The results showed there were no statistically significant differences in test scores or students' assessments of the flipped classes compared to a traditional lecture course of study. 

However, students reported that the flipped format allowed for greater flexibility and applied learning opportunities at home and during discussion sections.

The findings are published in the journal BioMed Central Medical Education.

"The use of flipped classroom approaches is growing in many health science fields, including public health," said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author. "This blended learning approach is intended to improve classroom learning by allowing students to control the timing and pace of their online learning and maximize their opportunity for active learning by engaging in class discussions and collaborative exercises in the company of their peers and instructors."

Using pre- and post-course surveys, open-ended questions, self-reports of section leader teaching practices, and classroom observations, the researchers compared student examination scores and end-of-course evaluations from 150 Masters-level candidates in the "Principles of Epidemiology" introductory course. Of these, 72 students were enrolled in the course with a traditional format -- in-person lecture and discussion section, and an at-home assignment; and 78 students were part of a flipped classroom format, comprised of at-home lectures, and in-person discussion sections and assignments.

Compared to attending scheduled in-person lectures, 57 percent of respondents to the end-of-course evaluation found watching video lectures at home to have a positive impact on their time management. Open-ended survey responses indicated a number of strengths of the flipped classroom approach, including the freedom to watch prerecorded lectures at any time and the ability of section leaders to clarify targeted concepts.

However, 27 percent of students reported the opposite. Negative comments highlighted some of the challenges of a flipped classroom, particularly loss of real-time interaction with lecturers and the perception of the model as a cost-cutting maneuver.

"The video lectures allowed for flexibility, as students could repeat sections they didn't understand for clarification and prepare questions to send to section leaders ahead of time, although the video lectures did make it difficult for students to engage directly with the lecturers," said Stephanie Shiau, PhD, a post-doctoral student in Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and co-first author. "In previous years, the in-person lecture took place right before the in-person discussion section, which didn't necessarily allow for time to process the new information."

To address students' desire to ask questions during lectures, Martins and colleagues are exploring the use of VoiceThread, an interactive software tool designed for online courses that allows for communication through text, voice recording, and video. Students will be able to annotate lecture slides with comments that are visible to section leaders, who can then respond within a short amount of time, and to other students, who may want to contribute to the discussion. Secondly, to increase the value of the recorded material, a searchable index of the lectures will be created to facilitate students' ability to review key terms and concepts. And, in addition to pre-semester section leader training, an ongoing monitoring system will be established for faculty and staff to conduct regular observations of discussion sections.

Siblings' experiences in middle childhood predict differences in college graduation status

Graduating from college has significant implications for adults' long-term success, including employment, family formation, and health. A new longitudinal study investigated whether and how siblings' experiences in middle childhood predicted differences in their educational achievement, specifically, whether they graduated from college 15 years later. The study found that when siblings in middle childhood experienced less warmth in their relationships with each other, spent different amounts of time with their fathers, or thought their parents treated them unfairly relative to their siblings, they were more likely to differ in their college graduation status (i.e., graduating versus not graduating).
The study, conducted by researchers at The Pennsylvania State University and Arizona State University, is published in Child Development, a journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.
"Our findings have implications for parenting and family dynamics," suggests Xiaoran Sun, doctoral student in Human Development and Family Studies at The Pennsylvania State University, who led the study. "Parents need to be aware of how siblings can influence one another and monitor their children's interactions, as well as how they as parents treat their children."
Researchers collected information via home interviews and telephone calls from first- and second-born children from 152 families to determine whether and how siblings' experiences during middle childhood (ages 9 to 11) predicted differences in siblings' college graduation status (i.e., whether they had graduated 15 years later). Specifically, the researchers measured siblings' warmth toward one another and their time engaging in shared activities. They also examined differences between the siblings in mothers' and fathers' warmth toward their two children and the time parents spent with each child, as well as children's perceptions of their parents' fairness in how they were treated relative to their siblings. Fifteen years later, researchers determined whether the siblings had graduated 15 years later from college.
The youth were almost exclusively from European American families living in small cities, towns, and rural areas in Pennsylvania. The families were mostly working class to middle class.
Warmth between siblings in middle childhood predicted the likelihood of siblings having the same college graduation status (i.e., both graduating or both not graduating), even after considering differences in the siblings' middle- and high-school grades, the researchers found. When warmth was greater, the siblings tended to follow a similar path (i.e., both graduated or both didn't graduate); when there was less warmth, siblings more often had different graduation outcomes (i.e., one graduated and the other didn't).
In addition, in middle childhood, both the difference in the amount of time fathers spent with the two siblings and siblings' perceptions of their parents' fairness predicted the likelihood of siblings differing in graduation status. When there was a larger discrepancy in the amount of time fathers spent with the siblings, or when the siblings perceived that they were treated more unfairly by their parents, they tended to have different graduation outcomes (i.e., one graduated from college and the other didn't).
"Parent education and family programs should move beyond a focus on mother-child relationships by including fathers, and by studying the experiences of siblings," according to Susan McHale, Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and professor of demography at The Pennsylvania State University, who coauthored the study.

National Assessment of Title I: Final Report

This two-volume report, and Summary of Key Findings, presents findings from the congressionally mandated National Assessment of Title I on the implementation and impact of the program. Volume I contains key findings on the implementation of the program under No Child Left Behind, and Volume II presents a report on follow-up findings from Closing the Reading Gap, an evaluation of the impact of supplemental remedial reading programs on achievement of 3rd and 5th grade students.

As part of NCLB, the Congress mandated a National Assessment of Title I (Section 1501) to evaluate the implementation and impact of the program. This mandate also required the establishment of an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to advise the Secretary on methodological and other issues that arise in carrying out the National Assessment and the studies that contribute to this assessment. In addition, the law specifically requires a longitudinal study of Title I schools to examine the implementation and impact of the Title I program. Results from that study are included in Volume I.

Some Key Findings 

These key findings are drawn from Volume II: Implementation  which contains a more extensive discussion of the implementation study findings.  Unless otherwise indicated, the key findings reported below describe the Title I program nationally.  All findings reported were statistically significant at the 0.05 level.  Title I Participants and Funding Title I funds go to 93 percent of the nation’s school districts and to 56 percent of all public schools.  Most Title I funds (74 percent) go to elementary schools, and nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of Title I participants in 2004-05 were in pre-kindergarten though grade 6.Minority students accounted for two-thirds of Title I participants. 

• Fueled by a growing use of Title I schoolwide programs (see Exhibit 2), the number of students counted as Title I participants has tripled over the past decade, rising from 6.7 million in 1994-95 to 20.0 million in 2004-05.  In 2004-05, 87 percent of Title I participants were in schoolwide programs. • The number of private school students participating in Title I has increased gradually over the past 20 years, to 188,000 in 2004-05, although it remains below the high of 213,500 reached in 1980-81.  Private school students typically received Title I services from district teachers who traveled to the private school to serve students.  Private school principals reported that districts usually consulted with private school representatives about Title I services, although they indicated that professional development, parent involvement, and student assessment were not always covered in those consultations. 
• Funding for Title I, Part A, has increased by 35 percent over the past seven years, after adjusting for inflation, from $9.5 billion in FY 2000 to $12.8 billion in FY 2007.
 • A majority of Title I funds were targeted to high-poverty districts and schools, but low-poverty districts and schools also received these funds.  In 2004-05, about three-fourths (76 percent) of Title I funds went to high–poverty schools (with 50 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch).   Low-poverty schools (with less than 35 percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch ) accounted for 14 percent of Title I schools and received 6 percent of Title I funds. 
• At the district level, Title I targeting has changed little since 1997-98, despite the intent of NCLB to target more funds to high-poverty school districts by allocating an increasing share of the funds through the Targeted Grants and Incentive Grants formulas.  The share of funds appropriated through the Targeted and Incentive formulas rose from 18 percent of total Title I funds in FY 2002 to 32 percent in FY 2004, while the less targeted Basic Grants formula declined from 85 percent to 57 percent of the funds.  Despite these shifts, the share of funds actually received by the highest-poverty quartile of districts in 2004-05 (52 percent) was similar to their share in 1997-98 (50 percent).
• At the school level, the share of Title I funding for the highest-poverty schools also remained virtually unchanged since 1997-98, and those schools continued to receive smaller Title I allocations per low-income student than did low-poverty schools.  The average Title I allocation in the highest-poverty Title I schools was $558 per low-income student in 2004-05, compared with $563 in 1997-98 (see Exhibit 3).  The middle two poverty groups of schools, however saw statistically significant increases in their per-pupil funding.  Low-poverty schools did not see a significant change in their share of funding, but they continued to receive larger Title I allocations per low-income student than did the highest-poverty schools ($763 vs. $558). 
• Most Title I funds were used for instruction, supporting salaries for teachers and instructional aides, providing instructional materials and computers, and supporting other instructional services and resources.  In the 2004-05 school year, nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of district and school Title I funds were spent on instruction, 16 percent were used for instructional support, and another 11 percent were used for program administration and other support costs such as facilities and transportation.  About half (49 percent) of local Title I funds were spent on teacher salaries and benefits, with an additional 11 percent going for teacher aides. 7 Student Achievement  For both state assessment and NAEP results, recent achievement trends through 2004 or 2005 are positive overall and for key subgroups, particularly in mathematics and at the elementary level.  At this early stage of NCLB implementation— states, districts, and schools began to implement the NCLB provisions in 2002-03—it is not possible to say whether the trends described below are attributable to NCLB, to other improvement initiatives that preceded it, or a combination of both.
 • In states that had three-year trend data available from 2002-03 to 2004-05, the percentage of students achieving at or above the state’s proficient level rose for most student subgroups in a majority of the states.  For example, state reading assessments administered in the 4th grade or an adjacent elementary grade show achievement gains in elementary reading for low-income students in 27 out of 35 states (77 percent) that had trend data available for this subgroup (see Exhibit 4).  Across all student subgroups examined, states showed achievement gains in 78 percent of the cases.  Results for mathematics and for 8th grade show similar patterns .
  • Recent NAEP trends showed gains for 4th-grade students in reading, mathematics, and science, overall and for minority students and students in high-poverty schools, but trends for middle and high school students were mixed.  For example, from 2000 to 2005, 4th-grade black students gained 10 points in reading and Hispanic students gained 13 points, while in mathematics, black students gained 17 points and Hispanic students gained 18 points.  Over the longer term, black and Hispanic students showed even larger gains in mathematics (33 points and 26 points, respectively, from 1990 to 2005), but somewhat smaller gains in reading (eight points and seven points, respectively, from 1992 to 2005).  
  • Neither  8th-  nor  12th-grade  students  made  gains  in  reading  or  science  achievement.  Eighth-grade students made significant gains in mathematics, but not in reading or science.  At the 12th-grade level, reading and science achievement in 2005 was unchanged from the preceding assessments  (2002  for  reading  and  2000  for  science)  and  showed  significant  declines  from  the  first years those assessments were administered (1992 for reading and 1996 for science).  Recent trend data for 12th-grade mathematics are not available. • State assessments and NAEP both provided some indications that achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and other students may be narrowing.  For example, state assessments showed a reduction in the achievement gap between low-income students and all students in most states, typically a reduction of one to three percentage points.  On the Trend NAEP, which has used a consistent set of assessment items since the 1970’s, achievement gains for black and Hispanic substantially outpaced gains made by white students, resulting in significant declines in black-white and Hispanic-white achievement gaps, but recent changes in achievement gaps often were not statistically significant. Under NCLB, high schools are held accountable for graduation rates, but methods for calculating graduation rates vary considerably across states.   

School Infrastructure Needs a Funding Infusion

As this week’s New York Times vignettes from teachers themselves show, school funding debates in states across the country must include an important piece of the funding puzzle: money to build new — and repair old — schools. Improving the schools in which children learn is one key to creating good jobs and promoting broadly shared economic growth.
State cuts in K-12 education funding over the past decade have affected more than schools’ operating budgets for teacher salaries, textbooks, and so on. Capital spending — funding to build new schools, renovate and expand facilities, and equip schools with more modern technologies — also fell sharply in most states (see chart).
Capital Spending for K-12 Schools Well Below 2008 Levels

The nation is $46 billion a year behind what it should spend on building and repairing K-12 schools to provide healthy and safe modern facilities, according to a 2016 report from the 21st Century School Fund, the National Council on School Facilities, and the U.S. Green Building Council.
This neglect hurts students’ health and school performance. Research has linked poor lighting, bad air quality, and noise to lower student achievement. Freezing conditions that result from aging heating systems make it hard to learn and can force unplanned school closures that disrupt studies, as Baltimore recently experienced. And this neglect disproportionately harms lower-income Americans, since a higher percentage of public schools in poor areas need repair than in wealthy areas.
This disrepair weakens the nation’s long-term prosperity. That’s why the federal government should help address this critical need. But President Trump’s infrastructure plan falls short by cutting federal investment and relying heavily on private investment, which would likely leave out school improvements. The Senate Democrats’ Jobs & Infrastructure Plan for America’s Workers, on the other hand, includes $40 billion for public schools. In addition, the plan would target funding for school buildings and other infrastructure to the areas that need it most and where there’s a lack of local resources.