Friday, August 1, 2014

Postsecondary Tuition, Fees and Degrees

<Mail Attachment.gif>Between 2011-12 and 2013-14, the average tuition and required fees at 4-year public institutions (after adjusting for inflation) increased more for in-state students (4 percent increase) than for out-of-state students (3 percent increase). During that same time period, 4-year nonprofit institutions increased overall at 4 percent. However, for-profit institutions reported a 3 percent decrease.

This First Look presents findings from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) fall 2013 data collection, which included three survey components: institutional characteristics for 2013-14—such as degrees offered, type of program, application information, and tuition and other costs; the number and type of degrees conferred from July 2012 through June 2013; and 12-month enrollment data for the 2012-13 academic year.

Other findings include:

• In 2013-14, of the 7,397 Title IV institutions in the United States and other jurisdictions, 3,122 were classified as 4-year institutions, 2,230 were 2-year institutions, and the remaining 2,045 were less-than-2-year institutions.

• Institutions reported a 12-month unduplicated headcount enrollment totaling about 28.3 million individual students. Of these, roughly 24.5 million were undergraduates and approximately 3.8 million were graduate students.

• Of the roughly 3 million students receiving degrees at 4-year Title IV institutions, 47 percent were 18- to 24-years old

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dyscalculia: Burdened by blunders with numbers

Between 3 and 6% of schoolchildren suffer from an arithmetic-related learning disability. LMU researchers now show that these children are also more likely to exhibit deficits in reading and spelling than had been previously suspected.

Addition and subtraction, multiplication and division are the four basic operations in arithmetic. But for some children, learning these fundamental skills is particularly challenging. Studies show that they have problems grasping the concepts of number, magnitude, and quantity, and that they do poorly when asked to estimate relative amounts. In mathematics classes they consistently lag behind, although they have little difficulty in subjects. In other words, they suffer from a highly specific learning disorder, which psychologists call ‘dyscalculia’. In total, about 5% of second- to fourth-graders manifest the condition. Depending on which arithmetical operation is tested, the prevalence of the disorder varies between 3 and 6%.

These figures emerge from a new study carried out by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München - the University in Munich (LMU )researchers led by Professor Gerd Schulte-Körne, Director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, which has just been published. The data are based on tests carried out on 1633 third- and fourth-graders in schools in the Munich area.

An arithmetic-related deficit can have a drastic effect on overall scholastic achievement and on the psychological development of the children affected. They are reluctant to go to school because they are afraid of being perceived as failures and embarrassing themselves in front of their classmates. Wherever possible, they resort to the use of avoidance strategies and develop a negative self-image. In the end, their performance also suffers in subjects in which they are perfectly capable.

Their lack of mathematical skills usually precludes them from going on to the type of secondary school for which their level of intelligence would otherwise qualify them, and impedes their chances of higher education. Indeed, so long as they continue to get bad marks in mathematics, their chances of even completing secondary school remain low.

A promising training model

Schulte-Körne complains that the problems of children who suffer from dyscalculia are often overlooked in everyday classroom routine. Furthermore, unlike the situation in the case of dyslexic disorders, there is no provision in Bavarian schools for adapting the learning environment so as to alleviate the burden on these children, he adds.

“This is not an appropriate response to a disorder that has a biological basis,” he says. It would, for example, be perfectly possible to give such children more time to complete their classwork in mathematics, to give them extra help, and even to refrain altogether from assigning a formal mark to their performance in the subject.

The new study, however, also shows that developmental deficits in cognition can affect more than one learning domain. The LMU researchers found the prevalence of so-called comorbidity to be far higher than has been previously recognized. According to psychologist Dr. Kristina Moll, first author on the new report, about 57% of children who have an arithmetic-related learning disorder also suffer from a reading or spelling disability.

“These data were quite a surprise for us”, Schulte-Körne confesses. “This finding forces us to think again about diagnostic procedures for specific learning disorders but, above all, about how we can more effectively treat these conditions,” Moll adds. “These children need intensive and specific training and support. Otherwise, they are in danger of failing to achieve the scholastic success that would be compatible with their general level of intelligence.” As Schulte-Körne points out, effective approaches to the mitigation of dyscalculia are already available. These, however, require intensive, long-term training programs for the children affected.

In addition, the new study reveals that gender also appears to play a role in determining susceptibility to specific learning disorders, says Schulte-Körne: While deficits in spelling are more prevalent among boys, girls are more likely to display dyscalculia. Reading difficulties, on the other hand, appear to be equally prevalent in both sexes. The reasons for these striking findings remain unclear. Schulte-Körne suspects that biological factors are responsible, given that the learning environments experienced by both sexes are very similar.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First Grade Reading Suffers in Segregated Schools

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the students’ backgrounds likely are not the cause of the differences.
According to the Center for Civil Rights, although the United States is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, segregation is still on the rise. To better understand segregation’s impact on student performance, FPG scientists looked at nearly 4000 first graders in public schools nationwide.

“When the minority composition of schools was 75% or more, the growth in African American first graders’ reading skills lagged behind their African-American peers in more integrated schools,” said Kirsten Kainz, FPG’s director of statistics. “This alone wasn’t news. Numerous studies have shown how the performance of African American students suffers in segregated schools.”

Kainz said that researchers have long faced a difficult problem when investigating the reasons behind differences in reading development or other learning outcomes in segregated settings.

“The economic, social, and academic backgrounds of the students who attend segregated schools could be the cause of differences in achievement—and not aspects of the segregated settings themselves,” said Kainz.  The challenge, she explained, is in disentangling one group of potential causes from the other.

In order to separate student characteristics from aspects  of segregated public schools, Kainzused a statistical technique called "propensity score matching," which allows for comparison of reading growth  in segregated and non-segregated schools, while also accounting for numerous differences in the students’ backgrounds. When the analysis revealed that African American students displayed less growth in reading during first grade in segregated schools than in other public schools, Kainz realized the primary reason was the schools themselves—not the students.

“When similar groups of first graders do better in one type of school than another, then it must be some aspect of the school that accounts for the difference,” Kainz said. “This study goes further than any other in being able to say, ‘It’s not the kids.’”

Kainz, a research associate professor in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has studied effective education practices, especially for economically disadvantaged students. She said zeroing in on the precise opportunities to promote better and more even reading development for African-American students in segregated settings remains challenging.

“It may be that segregated schools affect African-American students in particular because these schools have fewer resources to devote to high-quality instruction, experience more teacher turnover, and are more likely to employ novice teachers,” Kainz explained. “In addition, the communities surrounding segregated schools may not have as many supports for reading development outside of the school day and year.”

Although segregated neighborhoods and communities persist, Kainz said some local measures can help to bring more integrated schools, such as care in residential planning—including the location and concentration of low-income housing—and in drawing attendance lines for schools. “Many communities have direct local control over processes that can ensure they don’t inadvertently promote segregation,” she said.

“Researchers and educators, in partnership, must identify the ways and means to promote adequate learning for all students,” added Kainz, who published her results in Early Childhood Research Quarterly with FPG’s Yi Pan. “Sixty years after the Brown decision, we still have plenty of work ahead of us.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

How effective are Federal student employment subsidies?

Student employment subsidies are one of the largest types of federal employment subsidies, and one of the oldest forms of student aid.  Yet it is unclear whether they help or harm students' long term outcomes.   

This paper presents a framework that decomposes overall effects into a weighted average of effects for marginal and inframarginal workers.  The authors then develop an application of propensity scores, which we call conditional-counterfactual matching, in which we estimate the overall impact, and the impact under two distinct counterfactuals:  working at an unsubsidized job, or not working at all.       

Finally, thet estimate the effects of the largest student employment subsidy program--Federal Work-Study (FWS)--for a broad range of participants and outcomes.   

The results suggest that about half of FWS participants are inframarginal workers, for whom FWS reduces hours worked and improves academic outcomes, but has little impact on future employment.  For students who would not have worked otherwise, the pattern of effects reverses.  With the exception of first-year GPA, we find scant evidence of negative effects of FWS for any outcome or subgroup.  However, positive effects are largest for lower-income and lower-SAT subgroups, suggesting there may be gains to improved targeting of funds.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Low Teacher Pay Keeps Experienced Educators Out of the Middle Class

A new report,  Mid- and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes, released  by the Center for American Progress reveals that low teacher pay is keeping experienced educators out of the middle class. The report highlights the growing problem of paltry mid- and late-career teacher salaries and proposes options to increase teacher salaries and keep talented teachers in the profession.

“Far too many teachers are working second jobs,” said Ulrich Boser, co-author of the report and a CAP Senior Fellow. “Low teacher pay keeps qualified individuals out of the profession, and as a nation, we need to come up with more creative solutions to help teachers get the pay that they deserve.”

The report found that in many states, the base salaries of mid- and late-career educators are deeply low. In some states, for example, a teacher with a master’s degree and 15 years of experience makes less than a sheet metal worker. In other states, experienced teachers make less than a flight attendant. For the report, the authors relied on base teacher salaries, which typically does not include summer jobs or other forms of additional income.and districts develop smarter career paths for teacher, and the authors believe that innovative compensation systems can help keep talented teachers in the profession.

Fourth-Grade Students Ready for Computer-Based Writing

An innovative pilot study administered as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has demonstrated that fourth-grade students can meaningfully participate in a computer-based writing assessment. The study, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), presents lessons learned that can inform educators’ and policymakers’ efforts to develop computer assessments that can measure elementary students’ writing and composition skills. 

“NAEP has studied and captured data on fourth-grade students’ ability to write using a computer, and we are excited to report that they are capable of using computer programs to type, organize and write well enough to be assessed,” said David P. Driscoll, the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP. “The Governing Board plans to transition all NAEP assessments to be computer-based, and this evidence makes us confident that it is appropriate to include fourth-grade writing along with other subjects in which students must provide written answers.”

The Web-based report, “Lessons Learned From the 2012 Grade 4 Writing Computer-Based Assessment Study,” describes specific ways the design of this writing assessment facilitates the writing process and offers information about how fourth-grade students can produce written text when using a computer. 

The findings come from two separate efforts: a usability study, which allowed NCES to improve the computer program with fourth-grade students in mind, and a pilot writing assessment on the revised program.

“As the gold standard in large-scale assessment, the National Assessment of Educational Progress plays a leadership role in identifying best practices in the field,” said Peggy G. Carr, associate commissioner of the assessments division at NCES. “Through this pilot study, NAEP shares these lessons learned to inform how large-scale assessments can use computers to accurately measure the writing skills of fourth-graders.”

The usability study asked fourth-grade students to use the same NAEP computer platform that was used to measure eighth- and 12th-graders’ writing skills. Findings from the usability study showed that fourth-grade students had difficulty with elements of the platform’s design, including reading and following long sets of instructions, using drop-down menus and understanding text-to-speech options.

The study asked students about their access to computers at home and in school. Of the 60 fourth-grade participants, 100 percent of the students reported having access to a computer at school, while 93 percent reported having access at home and 92 percent reported previously taking a computer-based assessment.

In response to the usability study findings, NAEP redesigned the writing assessment to introduce shorter, sequenced directions, more icons in place of drop-down menus and other features. The new assessment system was then used in the pilot study given to 13,000 students nationwide. Though the sample is not representative of the nation, the results provide an indication of fourth-graders’ ability to show their writing skills and use editing tools on a computer-delivered assessment. Students were able to produce writing that can be evaluated against the NAEP rubric, according to the findings: They typed enough words to allow evaluators to measure their writing skill, used the computer tools to complete the exercises and showed that they could edit text using word processing tools, such as spell-check and backspace functions.

Each student, provided with a laptop and headphones, was given two scenarios. Each scenario included text; some also included pictures, or audio or video components. The scenarios were designed to encourage students to develop and organize ideas and demonstrate a specific writing skill: to persuade, to explain or to convey experience.

Students were asked to respond to writing situations that were designed to elicit one of those three modes for writing. A sample persuasion question — which required a student to change the reader’s point of view or affect the reader’s action — asked students to write a letter to their principal convincing him or her to choose the writer’s preferred school mascot, giving reasons and examples to support their position. To explain, students had to write in ways that expanded the reader’s understanding, such as describing what lunchtime is like during their school day. Conveying experience entailed writers’ bringing a real or imaginary situation to life; for example, students were asked to respond to a photo of the Eiffel Tower by writing a story about what happens next when they are somehow transported, while sleeping, to the sidewalk beneath the tower and then wake up there. 

Students’ responses were measured on a holistic scale from 1 to 6, with 1 indicating that the student had little or no writing skill and 6 signifying that the student could write effectively. The scoring rubric includes multiple criteria, including development of ideas, organization, language use and grammar. Students were given 20- and 30-minute writing tasks. Overall, students provided more complete responses when given 30 minutes, rather than 20 minutes, to write. The majority of students (about 61 percent) who were given two 30-minute prompts scored at least a 3, meaning that they wrote enough to be assessed, included ideas that were mostly on topic and used simple organizational strategies in most of their writing.

“This study offers lessons to educators who want to support elementary students in using computers to write: Make the instructions easy to read and understand, use clearly labeled icons wherever possible and give students the time they need to complete the assignment,” said Shannon Garrison, a fourth-grade teacher in Los Angeles and Governing Board member. “Anyone looking to improve online assessment tools should learn from NAEP and share these lessons widely.”

Stronger early reading skills predict higher intelligence later

A new study of identical twins has found that early reading skill might positively affect later intellectual abilities. The study, in the journal Child Development, was conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and King's College London.

"Since reading is an ability that can be improved, our findings have implications for reading instruction," according to Stuart J. Ritchie, research fellow in psychology at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. "Early remediation of reading problems might aid not only the growth of literacy, but also more general cognitive abilities that are of critical importance across the lifespan."

Researchers looked at 1,890 identical twins who were part of the Twins Early Development Study, an ongoing longitudinal study in the United Kingdom whose participants were representative of the population as a whole. They examined scores from tests of reading and intelligence taken when the twins were 7, 9, 10, 12, and 16. Using a statistical model, they tested whether differences in reading ability between each pair of twins were linked to later differences in intelligence, taking into account earlier differences in intelligence. Because each pair of identical twins shared all their genes as well as a home environment, any differences between them had to be because of experiences that the twins didn't share, such as a particularly effective teacher or a group of friends that encouraged reading.

The researchers found that earlier differences in reading between the twins were linked to later differences in intelligence. Reading was associated not only with measures of verbal intelligence (such as vocabulary tests) but with measures of nonverbal intelligence as well (such as reasoning tests). The differences in reading that were linked to differences in later intelligence were present by age 7, which may indicate that even early reading skills affect intellectual development.

"If, as our results imply, reading causally influences intelligence, the implications for educators are clear," suggests Ritchie. "Children who don't receive enough assistance in learning to read may also be missing out on the important, intelligence-boosting properties of literacy."

Besides having implications for educational intervention, the study may address the question of why individual children from one family can score differently on intelligence tests, despite sharing genes, socioeconomic status, and the educational level and personality of parents with their siblings.