Thursday, October 27, 2016

Capital Spending to Build and Renovate Schools Also Down

State cuts in K-12 funding over the past decade haven’t just affected schools’ operating funding for things like teacher salaries and textbooks.  Capital spending — to build new schools, renovate and expand facilities, and equip schools with more modern technologies, for example — also fell sharply in most states.

Elementary and secondary schools nationally cut capital spending by $28 billion or 37 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2014 (the latest year available), after adjusting for inflation. 
Forty states cut capital spending over this period — in many cases drastically, as the table below shows.  Eight states cut capital spending by more than half.  Nevada, the state with the sharpest reductions, cut capital spending by 86 percent.

See charts here.

Low-income students’ access to effective teachers and teacher mobility

There are, on average, small differences in the effectiveness of teachers of high- and low-income students, according to a new study that looked at five years of data from 26 districts across the country. However, in three of the districts, there is meaningful inequity, where providing equal access to effective teachers over a five year period would narrow the math achievement gap.

The Institute of Education Sciences released a new report today (Oct. 27) entitled Do Low Income Students Have Access to Effective Teachers? Evidence from 26 Districts. The report from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) examines whether low-income students are taught by less effective teachers than high-income students, and if so, whether reducing inequity would close the student achievement gap. It also describes how the hiring of teachers and their subsequent movement in and out of schools could affect low-income students’ access to effective teachers.

The study includes fourth- to eighth-grade teachers over five school years (2008-2009 to 2012-2013) in 26 school districts across the country. Teacher effectiveness is measured using a statistical approach that estimates a teacher’s contribution to student learning controlling for students’ prior achievement and other characteristics. Key findings include:

•    There are small differences in the effectiveness of teachers of high- and low-income students, on average. The average teacher of a low-income student is just below the 50th percentile of effectiveness, while the average teacher of a high-income student is at the 51st percentile. Providing low-income students with equally effective teachers would not substantively reduce the achievement gap;

•    Teacher hiring patterns are consistent with small inequities. High-poverty schools have more new hires than low-poverty schools, but this difference is likely to have only a small influence on equity because (1) relatively few teachers are new hires (11 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools and 5 percent in low-poverty schools), and (2) new hire performance improves quickly. On average, new hires become as effective as the average teacher after one year.

•    Teacher transfer patterns are also consistent with small inequities. Teachers who transfer to schools in a higher poverty category are less effective than the average teacher (43rd percentile). Teachers who transfer to schools in a lower poverty category are nearly as effective (48th percentile). These patterns likely have a small influence on equity since just under 4 percent of all teachers transfer across poverty categories.

•    Teacher attrition patterns do not contribute to inequity. Teachers who leave a district are less effective (44th percentile) than the average teacher and more teachers leave high-poverty schools than low-poverty schools (10 percent versus 7 percent, respectively).

•    In a subset of the study districts, there is meaningful inequity in teacher effectiveness in math. In three of the 26 study districts, providing low-income students with equally effective teachers over a five year period would reduce the math achievement gap by at least a tenth of a standard deviation of student achievement, the equivalent of about 4 percentile points.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Discipline gap between black and white students is common, damaging

Black students who attend high schools where they are disproportionately suspended more so than white students feel their school is less fair and less welcoming, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Article: "A Multilevel Examination of Racial Disparities in High School Discipline: Black and White Adolescents' Perceived Equity, School Belonging, and Adjustment Problems," Jessika H. Bottiani, PhD, Catherine P. Bradshaw, PhD, University of Virginia, Tamar Mendelson, PhD, Johns Hopkins University; Journal of Educational Psychology; published online Oct. 13

The study used data from almost 20,000 students in 58 high schools across Maryland to analyze the "discipline gap," excessive out-of-school suspensions of black students that previous research has shown occurs across the country. Regardless of gender, grade level or socioeconomic status, black students at high schools in Maryland with a discipline gap perceived less fair and inclusive treatment for students by race, the study found. Black students at schools with a larger discipline gap also felt less like they belonged and less cultural inclusion. A discipline gap didn't have any of the same effects for white students. The study was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

"This is the first study that objectively characterizes schools based on excessive suspension of black students and asks what message this differential treatment sends to kids about their place in the school. This can have an impact on students whether they are suspended or not," said lead researcher Jessika Bottiani, PhD, a research fellow at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education. "Having a sense of belonging at school is linked to students' engagement in school and their academic achievement."

Black students have experienced more frequent and severe discipline for decades, including office referrals, suspensions and expulsions, even though misbehavior by black or white students occurs at roughly the same level, according to prior research. Despite other gains in race relations, the national rate of suspensions of black youth in high schools and middle schools has almost doubled since the 1970s (from 12 percent in 1973 to 23 percent in 2012), while the suspension rate for white students only increased from 6 percent to 7 percent over that period.

Black students were suspended up to six times more often than white students at some of the schools in the study. Latinos and students of other races weren't included in the study because of small sample sizes of those students. The study also didn't analyze any possible differences in the discipline gap between urban or rural schools, although it did analyze differences by school size, socioeconomic status and racial diversity of the schools.

Researchers analyzed state and federal data, including school reports to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, from 7,064 black students and 12,622 white students at urban, suburban and rural high schools in Maryland during the 2011-2012 school year. In schools with a larger discipline gap, black students also reported higher levels of adjustment problems, including acting impulsively, getting mad easily or threatening to hurt someone. The study didn't analyze whether those adjustment problems could increase misbehavior and lead to more suspensions, but there may be a snowball effect, Bottiani said.

"If black students are being treated as if they are more aggressive or have more adjustment problems, that may trigger a stereotype threat where they begin to see themselves that way and act that way," she said.

Only four of the 58 high schools in the study had a lower rate of out-of-school suspensions for black students than white students. Black students at schools with more racial diversity were more likely to say they felt a sense of belonging at their school, the study found. White students also benefited from racially diverse schools, with fewer of them reporting adjustment problems, possibly because increased opportunities for cross-cultural interaction helped develop empathy, Bottiani said. The study was conducted only with students in Maryland, so the findings may not be representative of the United States as a whole, although previous research has shown a persistent discipline gap across the country.

Increased training for teachers and administrators on classroom behavior management may help curb implicit bias to create more fair and inclusive school environments that respect diversity, the study stated. Mindfulness and stress management training for school staff also may help resolve classroom disputes early without resorting to suspensions, Bottiani said.

Schools also should consider discipline alternatives besides out-of-school suspensions, which have been consistently linked to many negative outcomes for students regardless of race, including a greater likelihood of juvenile delinquency and school drop-outs, the study stated. The involvement of black youth in school committees or other efforts to reform discipline practices also could increase feelings of belonging and fair treatment at school.

"Something needs to be done to disrupt the harm that is being caused by the discipline gap," Bottiani said. "Suspensions need to be the consequence of last resort, and there has been a movement toward restorative practices that should continue."\

Many kids not ready for kindergarten

Many children are still learning to control their behavior as they enter kindergarten and may need educational support to develop that critical skill, indicates one of the most conclusive studies to date of early childhood self-regulation.

The federally funded study, co-authored by Michigan State University scholars, shows major differences in how self-regulation develops in children ages 3 to 7. While some enter preschool more able to control their behavior and ready to learn, others don't develop such self-control until they get to kindergarten - or even later.

The findings come as preschool and kindergarten classrooms in the United States have shifted focus over the past few decades from social and emotional skills, such as self-regulation, to more academic skills. The researchers suggest it may be time to put some of the focus back on self-regulation, widely accepted as a marker for future success.

"If you can help children to develop this fundamental skill of behavioral self-regulation, it will allow these students to get so much more out of education," said Ryan Bowles, associate professor in MSU's Department of Human Development and Family Studies. "Self-regulation is very predictive of academic success."

Together with recent MSU graduate Janelle Montroy, Bowles and colleagues analyzed the data from three separate studies that measured the "Head, Toes, Knees and Shoulders" task, in which young children are instructed to do the opposite of what they're told. If they're told to touch their head, for example, they're supposed to touch their toes. This ability to do the opposite of what they want to do naturally and to stay focused for the entire task involves self-regulation.

A clear pattern emerged in each of the studies, with participants generally fitting into one of three trajectories: early developers, intermediate developers and later developers. On average, the later developers were 6-12 months behind intermediate developers and at least 18 months behind early developers. Overall, about a fifth of the 1,386 participants appeared to make few gains on behavioral self-regulation in preschool.

"I was surprised by the consistency of the findings," said Bowles. "To replicate the same finding multiple times in a single study is remarkable."

Echoing previous research, the study also found that development of self-control was linked to several key factors: gender (boys were more likely to be later developers), language skills and mother's education levels.

"It's well known that self-regulation is crucial to helping kids get an early jump on education, from math to literacy - really all the skills they learn in school," Bowles said. "So the kids that develop later are really missing out on these great opportunities. They're already behind."

Academic Outcomes for Students Who Took Online Credit Recovery Courses

A new study finds that students who completed online credit recovery courses were less likely to graduate than students who took other types of credit recovery courses. However, those online course takers who did graduate were more likely to do so on time than their peers who took other credit recovery courses.

This report describes the results of a REL Southeast study comparing short- and longer-term student successes after completion of online credit recovery courses compared to student successes after completion of other credit recovery options, such as traditional face-to-face courses and summer school courses. Credit recovery refers to when a student fails a course and then retakes the same course to earn high school credit.

This research question was motivated by the growing importance of online learning in traditional public school settings and a desire on the part of many stakeholders to understand better how students are adjusting to that transition.

The data for this study covered eleven core high school courses (courses required for graduation) taken between 2008/09 and 2011/12 in North Carolina. The study compares the likelihood of a student: (a) succeeding on the state end-of-course test for the recovered course; (b) succeeding in the next course in a recovered course sequence (for instance, in English II after English I); (c) remaining in school after credit recovery; and (d) graduating and graduating on time.

Results suggest that there was little difference between the short-term success rates of students who completed state-supported online credit recovery and students who completed other credit recovery options. However, on measures of longer-term success, students who completed state-provided online credit recovery courses and did not subsequently drop out were more likely than other credit recovery students to graduate on time.

Among credit recovery participants in state-provided online courses, Black students were less likely to reach proficiency in their recovered courses but more likely than their peers to succeed in later coursework after their online experience.

Because of limitations in the analyses possible with available data, it is not possible to directly attribute these outcomes to participation in online credit recovery, but the results do point toward intriguing and potentially beneficial areas for future, more rigorous study.

Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates

High school status completion rates increased from 83.7 percent in 1973 to 92.0 percent in 2013 among 18- to 24-year-olds, according to a new report. In the same time period, the gap in completion rates between White youth and Black and Hispanic youth narrowed, although the gaps remain.

The National Center for Education Statistics released Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2013 today (October 25), which draws on a wide array of surveys and administrative datasets to present statistics on high school dropout and completion rates at the state and national levels.

Other key findings from this year's report are:

  • Between October 2012 and October 2013, approximately 508,000 youth (ages 15- to 24) left school without obtaining a high school credential. These "event dropouts" accounted for 4.7 percent of the 10.9 million 15- to 24-year-olds enrolled in grades 10 through 12;
  • The status dropout rate—the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential—varied by racial/ethnic group. As measured by the American Community Survey, the 2013 status dropout rate was lower for youth who were Asian (2.5 percent), White (4.7 percent), Pacific Islander (5.0 percent), and of Two or more races (5.2 percent) than it was for those who were Black (9.0 percent), Hispanic (11.8 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (12.8 percent); and
  • The gap in high school status completion rates between White and Black youth narrowed from 15.4 percentage points in 1973 to 6.5 percentage points in 1990, showed no measurable change from 1990 to 2000, and fell again from 8.1 percentage points in 2000 to 2.8 percentage points in 2013. The White-Hispanic gap in status completion rates showed no clear trend between 1973 and 2000, but fell from 27.7 percentage points in 2000 to 9.3 percentage points in 2013.

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation

The moment they earn their bachelor’s degrees, black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers ($23,400 versus $16,000, including non-borrowers in the averages). But over the next few years, the black-white debt gap more than triples to a whopping $25,000. Differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing lead to black graduates holding nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation—almost twice as much as their white counterparts.

While previous work has documented racial disparities in student borrowing, delinquencies, and defaults, this report provides new evidence that racial gaps in total debt are far larger than even recent reports have recognized, far larger now than in the past, and correlated with troubling trends in the economy and in the for-profit sector.