Thursday, March 23, 2017

Asian-American students have strong academic support -- but is it too much?

Despite having the strongest academic support from parents, teachers, and friends, second-generation Asian American adolescents benefit much less from these supports than others, finds a study by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

The findings, published in the Asian American Journal of Psychology, suggest that support may be experienced as pressure and that stereotyping Asian Americans as high achievers can be problematic.

"The tension produced from immigrant parents' high expectations and their children's efforts to fulfill these expectations might exacerbate the academic pressures experienced by second-generation Asian Americans," said Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, assistant professor of international education at NYU Steinhardt and author of the study.

Support from parents, friends, and teachers is a vital resource for adolescents when they form their own academic expectations. High academic expectations and support from others are linked with students having higher expectations for themselves and other important academic outcomes, such as getting good grades or going to college.

However, academic social support and its benefits are not necessarily uniform across students of different racial and generational backgrounds. In the case of Asian American youth, scholars have described two theories that may shape the academic expectations of Asian Americans: the Immigrant Bargain and the Model Minority Stereotype. The Immigrant Bargain explains how immigrant children, who are aware of their parents' sacrifices, feel obligated to be successful in order to justify the hardships experienced by their parents. The Model Minority Stereotype constructs Asian American identity around high academic achievement.

In this study, Cherng and his co-author, NYU Steinhardt doctoral student Jia-Lin Liu, sought to understand whether academic social support from parents, friends, and teachers actually helps Asian American students or compounds the pressure that the youth experience.

The researchers used data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, a nationally representative dataset of 15,360 high school students. They looked at information reported by the students, students' parents, and teachers during the students' sophomore year, including whether parents and teachers expected students to go to college. This information was linked to academic expectations reported by students in their senior year of high school - specifically, whether they anticipated completing a college degree. The researchers also looked at demographics, such as race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and immigration status (first-generation, second-generation, and third-generation and beyond).

They found that academic social support was an important ingredient in the formation of college-going expectations and that second-generation Asian Americans had the strongest social support. However, the influence of parents, friends, and teachers was not uniform: second-generation Asian Americans benefited less - or sometimes not at all - from academic social support despite having parents and teachers with the highest expectations and friends who were the most academically oriented.

For example, second-generation Asian Americans who had the highest level of support actually had lower probabilities of going to college, at 74 percent, compared to their peers with lower levels of support, at 83 percent. In contrast, third-generation Whites who had the highest level of support had 3 percent higher probabilities of expecting to go to college than did their peers with less support.

In addition to second-generation Asian Americans, parents of all generations of Latino students, third-generation Black students, and second-generation White students had significantly higher academic expectations compared to parents of third-generation White students.

Teacher's academic expectations also varied on students based on students' backgrounds. Both first- and second-generation Asian Americans and White students had teachers with higher expectations compared to third-generation White students. Teachers had significantly lower expectations towards Latino and Black students from all generations.

"Although sometimes thought of as a 'positive stereotype,' the Model Minority Stereotype not only can place pressure on Asian American youth to excel, but does not fully reflect the history and achievement of Asian Americans," Cherng said. "Teachers and policymakers who believe that all Asian Americans excel can overlook the educational needs of those who need assistance."

Given the negative influence the Model Minority Stereotype can have on Asian American youth, the authors conclude that more efforts should be taken to recognize and address this issue. For example, teachers can facilitate productive dialogue about Asian American stereotypes with students and families.

High schools lacking 'best practices' for athletic emergencies

A survey of Oregon high school athletic directors on their school's preparedness for a catastrophic injury or health event found that only 11 percent of those responding had implemented three primary "best-practice" recommendations for treating their student-athletes.

Multiple national sports safety organizations have defined institutional best practices, including having a plan in place for when emergencies occur and ensuring the training and accessibility to the proper equipment for those who respond.

Results of the research have been published in Sports Health, a collaborative publication of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the National Athletic Trainers' Association and the Sports Physical Therapy Section.

"We launched the survey to gauge how prepared schools are to respond to athletic-related emergencies," said Samuel Johnson, an athletic training and kinesiology specialist at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. "We also wanted to know if having an athletic trainer -- a health care professional with expertise in sports medicine -- available at the school was associated with better preparedness."

The researchers asked whether schools had venue-specific emergency action plans, had access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) for early defibrillation in the event of an emergency, and whether they required first responders -- specifically coaches -- to be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and proper use of an AED.

The OSU-led study found that 29 percent of schools responding to the survey had implemented two of the three best-practice recommendations; 32 percent had implemented one recommendation; and 27 percent had not implemented any of them. The survey received 108 responses, or about 37 percent of all Oregon high schools.

"There is definitely room for improvement in planning for medical emergencies," he said. "We are doing some things well in the state, and there are things we need to do better. For example, having an AED available on campus is a great first step, but we need to make sure it is readily available at athletic events and that people are trained to use it."

Only half of the schools in the study had an athletic trainer available, yet Johnson said having one was associated with better preparedness.

"Athletic trainers are specifically trained to prevent and respond to emergencies," Johnson noted. "We found that having an athletic trainer on staff was associated with better preparedness, particularly as it relates to emergency plans and having AEDs on hand. However, having a trainer was not associated with whether schools required coaches to have training in CPR or with a defibrillator."

Johnson pointed out that while athletic trainers likely are not in a position to mandate that coaches having training, they can take charge in making sure plans are in place and potentially life-saving equipment is available when needed.

"We understand several of the challenges associated with implementing some of the recommendations," Johnson said. "Buying AEDs, paying for coach training, or hiring an athletic trainer can be expensive. Budgets are tight and catastrophic medical situations are rare. But they do happen, and they have a devastating impact on the athlete, family and friends."

The researchers are planning to explore the challenges schools face in implementing best practices. The Oregon School Activities' Association, which governs high school sports in the state, has been proactive in promoting sports safety, Johnson said.

"I am always impressed by how well the different groups in the state come together to make sports safer," said Johnson, who along with several of the study's co-authors are members of the OSAA's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. "The OSAA has been a driving force in getting coaches, athletic directors, athletic trainers, physicians and other stakeholders talking about these issues and making changes to improve safety.

"For example, starting this year there is a requirement that schools have an emergency action plan for athletics. These collaborative efforts don't happen in every state, though they probably should."

Johnson, who is in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU, is taking the message outside of Oregon. He will address a worldwide audience of sports medicine professionals on preparedness at the International Olympic Committee's World Conference on Prevention of Injury and Illness in Sport later this year.

Report Mistakenly Suggests Easy Path for Improving Teacher Quality Through Higher Admissions Standards

A recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) advocates for a higher bar for entry into teacher preparation programs. The NCTQ report suggests, based on a review of GPA and SAT/ACT requirements at 221 institutions in 25 states, that boosting entry requirements would significantly improve teacher quality in the U.S. It argues that this higher bar should be set by states, by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and by the higher-education institutions themselves.

However, the report’s foundational claims are poorly supported, making its recommendations highly problematic.

The report, Within Our Grasp: Achieving Higher Admissions Standards in Teacher Prep, was reviewed by a group of scholars and practitioners who are members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform). The team was led by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, the Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College, along with Megina Baker, Wen-Chia Chang, M. Beatriz Fernández, & Elizabeth Stringer Keefe.

The review is published by the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

The reviewers explain that the report does not provide the needed supports for its assertions or recommendations. It makes multiple unsupported and unfounded claims about the impact on teacher diversity of raising admissions requirements for teacher candidates, about public perceptions of teaching and teacher education, and about attracting more academically able teacher candidates.

Each claim is based on one or two cherry-picked citations while ignoring the substantial body of research that either provides conflicting evidence or shows that the issues are much more complex and nuanced than the report suggests. Ultimately, the reviewers conclude, the report offers little guidance for policymakers or institutions.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Certification and Experience of U.S. Public School Teachers

At least 90 percent of the nation’s public school students were taught by state certified teachers in 2011-12 (school year), 2013, and 2015, according to a new report. It also reports, at least 75 percent of students had a teacher with more than five years of experience in 2011–12 and 2015. However, these percentages varied based on the characteristics of the school, such as its location, the demographics of the students, and among jurisdictions.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the Institute of Education Sciences, released the new report which describes the certification status and experiences of U.S. public school teachers and their variations among student subgroups. This data snapshot includes the percentage of U.S. public school students who are taught by teachers with state certification, with more than five years of experience, and with a postsecondary degree in the subject in which they teach.

Examples of variations in the percentage presented in the report for both grades 4 and 8 include:

•    The percentage of students who had a mathematics teacher with state certification was lower for students in schools located in cities than for students in suburban schools. The percentage was also lower for students in schools with high minority enrollment than for students in schools with lower minority enrollment;

•    The percentages of students who had a mathematics teacher with state certification were lower for students eligible for the National School Lunch Program than for noneligible students and lower for Black students than for White students; and

•    The percentage of students who had a mathematics teacher with state certification ranged from 59 percent to 100 percent across jurisdictions.

This report used two datasets: The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). SASS provides a comprehensive picture as it includes teachers of K–12 students in all subjects. Approximately 47,600 teachers from 9,800 public schools were sampled for the SASS conducted in 2011-12 school year. NAEP provides a picture specific to grades 4 and 8 and is directly related to teachers of two key subjects: reading and mathematics. Approximately 21,000 grade 4 teachers from about 7,000 public schools and about 13,000 grade 8 teachers from about 6,000 public schools participated in 2015 NAEP assessments of reading and mathematics.

Perceptions of District Efficiency May Vary Depending on Which Measures Are Used in Expenditure-to-Performance Ratios

Districts across the county are seeking ways to increase efficiency by maintaining, if not improving, educational outcomes using fewer resources. This report from explores expenditure-to-performance ratios (for example, a ratio of per pupil expenditures to student academic performance) as a proxy measure of district efficiency.

The report shows how conclusions about districts’ use of resources may differ depending on the measures used to calculate expenditure-to-performance ratios. Using example data from a state education department, the study created six expenditure-to-performance ratios and found that districts’ ranking among the top 25 districts in the state varied according to the expenditure and performance measures used to calculate each ratio. Almost half the 98 districts appeared in the top 25 districts under at least one of the six ratios. The 8 districts appearing in the top 25 under all six ratios did not vary systematically from the others in locale, number of students enrolled, or student poverty status.

The study suggests that policymakers investigating district efficiency should carefully consider what expenditure and performance measures are most relevant to their questions of interest.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking

Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Envisioning opposing views leads to a more comprehensive examination of the issue," says psychology researcher Julia Zavala (Teachers College, Columbia University), first author on the study. "Moreover, it impacts how people understand knowledge--constructing opposing views leads them to regard knowledge less as fact and more as information that can be scrutinized in a framework of alternatives and evidence."

Students--and many adults--often have difficulty when it comes to persuasive or expository writing, failing to consider challenges to their own perspective. Previous research has shown that peer-to-peer discussion can help students overcome these limitations, but opportunities for these kinds of discussions are not always available. Zavala and study co-author Deanna Kuhn (also at Teachers College, Columbia University) wondered whether students may be able to reap the benefits of this kind of dialogue in a solo writing assignment.

Zavala and Kuhn asked 60 undergraduates to participate in a one-hour writing activity. Some participants were randomly assigned to construct a dialogue between TV commentators discussing two mayoral candidates. They received a list of notable problems that the city was facing and a list of actions proposed by each candidate to solve these problems. Other participants received the same information about the city and the candidates but were asked to write a persuasive essay highlighting the merits of each candidate instead. Then, participants in both groups were asked to write a script for a two-minute TV spot, promoting their preferred candidate.

Examining the students' writing samples, Zavala and Kuhn found that participants who had constructed a dialogue included more discrete ideas in their writing than did participants who wrote an essay. Compared with the essays, the dialogues also included more statements that directly compared the two candidates and more statements that connected the city's problems to the candidates' proposed actions.

In the subsequent TV script, students who had written a dialogue made more references to city problems and to proposed actions, they made more statements that linked a problem with an action, they made more comparisons between the candidates, and they made more statements that were critical of the candidates' positions, compared with students who had written an essay.

Students in the dialogue group were also less likely to make claims in their TV script that lacked supporting evidence. Only 20% of students in the dialogue group made one or more unsubstantiated claims, compared with 60% of the students in the essay group.

"These results support our hypothesis that the dialogic task would lead to deeper, more comprehensive processing of the two positions and hence a richer representation of each and the differences between them," says Kuhn.  Constructing a dialogue thus helped to expand and sharpen students' thinking, Zavala and Kuhn argue.

Results from a separate task indicated that participants in the dialogue group also showed a more sophisticated understanding of knowledge. While some of the participants in the essay group seemed to approach knowledge from an absolutist perspective - interpreting knowledge as a body of certain facts that exists apart from human judgment - none of the students in the dialogue group did so.

"The dialogue task, which took no more than an hour to complete, appeared to have a strong effect on students' epistemological understanding," Zavala explains.

"Everything possible should be done to encourage and support genuine discourse on critical issues, but our findings suggest that the virtual form of interaction we examined may be a productive substitute, at a time when positions on an issue far too often lack the deep analysis to support them," Kuhn concludes.

Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI): no impact on proficiency in fractions for grade 4 students

An evaluation of Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI)professional development program for teachers found that it had no impact on proficiency in fractions among grade 4 students.

Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast, in collaboration with the Improving Mathematics Instruction Research Alliance, conducted a randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of the Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) professional development program on grade 4 students' and teachers' understanding of fractions. DMI is designed to help teachers think through major mathematical ideas and examine and reflect on how their students develop and understand the ideas. Teachers examine vignettes of classroom teaching and examples of student work. Teachers also work on fractions problems designed to promote their own understanding of fractions concepts.

The study was conducted in 84 schools in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina during the 2014-15 school year. DMI did not have an impact on student proficiency in fractions. The impact of DMI on teachers' knowledge of fractions was inconclusive; teachers who participated in DMI performed slightly better than teachers who did not participate, but the result was not statistically significant.

When combined with previous studies that have found similar results, these findings raise concerns about the effectiveness of math professional development in bringing about changes in student learning. However, several issues arising from this study may provide guidance for policy and practice and for future research. For example, teachers may need more time than was available in the study. Also, additional support may be needed beyond participating in the professional development in order to learn, understand, and internalize the fractions content and then be able to transfer it into their teaching.