Thursday, May 21, 2015

Changing How High Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men,

A new report on New York City's Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), which is designed to boost college and career readiness among Black and Latino male students, finds that the schools involved are changing the way they operate and offering students opportunities they would not otherwise have.

"There is strong evidence that these schools are doing something different as a result of ESI," says the study's lead author, Adriana Villavicencio, senior research associate at the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. "We are seeing important shifts in the tone and culture of the schools. And, compared to students in other, similar high schools without ESI, students in these schools are more likely to report engaging in a range of positive activities, including college trips and one-on-one college advising, mentoring, and counseling."

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools is conducting a four-year, independent evaluation of ESI, examining the initiative's implementation in 40 New York City public high schools, as well as its impact on student outcomes, particularly for Black and Latino males. The evaluation will continue through 2017.

A new report, Changing How High Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men, focuses on the second year of ESI, the 2013-2014 school year.

Key findings include:

  • Strong implementation: As intended, schools have implemented robust programming aligned to the initiative's four key areas: academics, youth development, a college-focused school culture, and culturally relevant education.

  • Improvements in school culture and student discipline: ESI schools are making changes that extend beyond distinct programs. For instance, educators reported that ESI has improved relationships within schools and led teachers to critically examine their own practices. They also described rethinking their approach to student discipline. And Research Alliance analyses of school discipline data show that ESI schools have, in fact, reduced suspensions for "disruptive" infractions.

  • Little impact, to date, on key student outcomes: The report also includes a preliminary assessment of ESI's impact on several academic and non-academic outcomes. These results, which were mixed, highlight the fact that it is too early to determine whether ESI is yielding positive effects on indicators of college readiness and success.

"The most important measures of success -- college readiness and enrollment -- will not be determined until students' 12th grade year or later," says Villavicencio. "At this stage, what we can say is that these schools have changed the way they serve their Black and Latino male students. Whether this will ultimately translate to measurable improvements in student outcomes is an open question."

In 2011, the New York City Mayor's Office, in partnership with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement of the Open Society Foundations and Bloomberg Philanthropies, began the Young Men's Initiative, a citywide effort to improve outcomes for Black and Latino young men in the areas of education, health, employment, and criminal justice. The Initiative's core education component, ESI, is designed to meet two related goals: increase college and career readiness among Black and Latino male students in participating schools, and identify and disseminate effective strategies that might be replicated in other schools.


Click here to access Changing How High Schools Serve Black and Latino Young Men: This report follows three past reports related to ESI, which can be downloaded here:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Suicide trends in school-aged children: higher rates among African-Americans

While suicide rates in children younger than 12 have remained steady for the past 20 years, a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics is the first to observe higher suicide rates among black children.

Led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's, the National Institute of Mental Health and The Ohio State University, the report's analysis showed that suicide ranked 14th as a cause of death among 5- to 11-year-old black children from 1993-1997 but rose to ninth from 2008-2012. For white children, suicide ranked 12th from 1993-1997 and 11th from 2008-2012. Rates have remained stable in Hispanic children and children of other races.

"Little is known about the epidemiology of suicide in this age group," said Jeff Bridge, lead researcher of the study and principal investigator at the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's. "Prior research has typically excluded children younger than 10 years old and investigated trends only within specific older age groups."

The findings highlight an emerging racial disparity in the epidemiology of childhood suicide, but why this disparity exists is not well defined. The researchers believe that factors influencing black youth, including increased exposure to violence and traumatic stress, early onset of puberty, and lower likelihood to seek help for depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, may be contributing to the disparity, but the specific impact of each of these risks is unclear, according to the study.

"These trends are alarming and signal a need for more proactive public health interventions, especially with respect to the use of hanging and suffocation as the main method of suicide in these young children," said Joel Greenhouse, professor of statistics in Carnegie Mellon's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Bridge, who also is an associate professor of pediatrics at Ohio State, points out that further studies are needed to monitor these emerging trends and identify risk, and protective and predictive factors relevant to suicide prevention efforts in children younger than 12.

"We are currently working on a follow-up study to investigate precipitants of suicide that distinguish children under the age of 12 from early adolescents," Bridge said. "We may need to tailor suicide prevention interventions for younger children if we find that the factors contributing to child suicide are different than those associated with adolescent suicide."

Preparing foster kids for school lessens impact of moves

A new study clarifies the impact of school moves experienced by children in foster care but also points to how to limit the damage, say researchers of the University of Oregon and the nonprofit Oregon Social Learning Center.

The research, published in the journal Child Development, tracked 86 foster children and compared them with 55 children from non-foster families from preschool to fifth grade, using data collected from children, caregivers, school districts and social service agencies in a mid-sized Pacific Northwest community.

Foster children were 3.28 times more likely to move schools than their peers not in foster care, and four times more likely to move and change school districts during a school year. For foster children, the moves were accompanied with academic and behavioral problems requiring special interventions as they moved through elementary school.

The data-driven findings help clarify previous studies, most of which had relied on the recall of foster children leaving the system in their late teens, said study co-author Philip A. Fisher, professor of psychology at the UO. Previous research had shown that by age 4 children in foster care already have moved an average of three times.

Policy implications for social service agencies, the courts and schools emerged as the five-member research team explored the academic and behavioral problems. Foster children who began school unprepared were the ones most likely to have troubles later.

"The sobering message of this paper is that foster children make a lot of moves, but the study also offers a ray of hope," said lead author Katherine C. Pears, an OSLC senior scientist and courtesy research associate in the UO's Department of Psychology. "For foster kids who entered kindergarten with good language and literacy skills the moves didn't have a negative effect on them. If you can start children out ready for entering the school system, you will be inoculating them to protect them against subsequent moves."

There should also be, Pears said, a concerted effort to keep foster children who move or must change families in the same schools or, at least, in the same school districts. Such an approach, she said, would provide social stability for foster children, allowing them to maintain already existing relationships with teachers and friends. Doing so, she added, would help foster children keep pace academically within existing educational frameworks within a district.

Children in the new study had been part of an earlier project in which Fisher was studying their transition into kindergarten. Researchers continued to gather data on a subset of the children as they moved toward grades 3-5.

"This gave us a real time look at what happened to these children between grades through records we gathered by following each child," Pears said. "We were able to track their movements, even when they moved to other nearby school districts, out of the county or out of state."

The new findings, Fisher said, bring together two separate streams of research -- that which seeks to promote the healthy development of children in foster care and that which focuses on school readiness functioning and success in the general population of students.

Getting youngsters ready for kindergarten can be done inexpensively through a variety of existing preschool programs, said Fisher, who acknowledged in the study that he is involved with the Kids in Transition to School Program, a program he and Pears helped create to prepare high-risk children for kindergarten. He also is a co-owner of Treatment Foster Care Consultants Inc.

When school nurses identify children with asthma and support them and their families in getting the care they need absenteeism declines

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, and it can only be managed, not cured. It affects a disproportionally higher percentage of low-income, urban minority children, and is also the most common disease-related reason for children missing school. This can have a negative effect on their academic achievement, as well as later success in life.

Initial results from a pilot study show that a new program called "Building Bridges for Asthma Care" -- an initiative that helps school nurses identify children with asthma and support them and their families in getting the care they need -- is helping reduce absenteeism. The program is a collaboration between Colorado Children's Hospital, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, the public school systems in Hartford, CT and Denver, CO, and GSK. The study specifically looked at 2,244 urban children attending three schools in Hartford: 40% were African American, 53% were Hispanic, and 7% were from other minority backgrounds.

The study will be presented at the ATS 2015 International Conference.

"Because children spend much of their time in school, a school nurse is ideally positioned to help. Through the program, school nurses work with children identified with asthma and their families, as well as their primary care providers to address asthma so the child does not miss as much school," said study lead author Jessica Hollenbach, PhD, Director of Asthma Programs, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Hartford, Ct.

The program was piloted in five public inner-city elementary schools in Denver, Colo. and three in Hartford, Ct. during the 2013-14 school year. School nurses first identified, screened and enrolled children with inadequately controlled asthma in the program. Then, they monitored asthma control, taught the children how to use rescue inhalers, and served as a liaison between physicians, parents and caregivers to obtain and support the children's asthma treatment plans.

For the study, absenteeism data were collected for the 2012-13 to 2013-14 school years for all children, including the Building Bridges participants in Hartford. They found that the absenteeism rate for the 67 children enrolled in Building Bridges decreased nearly 12%. For children who had asthma that was severe enough that they could qualify for the program, but were not in it, absenteeism increased by nearly 9%.

"Although we currently only have data from one of the two school districts, this study demonstrates that we can make a difference and help more children with asthma manage their disease and stay in school," said Hollenbach. "This is positive news for everyone involved -- children benefit, but also their parents, who do not need to miss work to stay home with their child. The healthcare system benefits too, since their asthma is better managed, and therefore they require fewer health services, such as emergency care or hospitalization."

In the 2014-15 school year, the program has expanded to include 22 new schools. Data collection for the Denver, Colorado school system is ongoing and will be used to validate the current findings.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cell phone bans lead to rise in student test scores, same benefit as extending the school year by five days

Banning cellphones in schools reaps the same benefits as extending the school year by five days, according to a study co-authored by an economist at The University of Texas at Austin.

"New technologies are typically thought of as improving productivity, however this is not always the case," said Richard Murphy, an assistant professor of economics. "When technology is multipurpose, such as cellphones, it can be both distracting and disruptive."

Murphy and Louis-Philippe Beland, an assistant professor of economics at Louisiana State University, measured the impact of mobile phones on student performance by surveying 91 schools in four English cities (Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester) before and after strict cellphone policies were implemented.

By comparing student exam records and mobile phone policies from 2001 to 2013, researchers noted a significant growth in student achievement in classrooms that banned cellphones, with student test scores improving by 6.41 percent points of a standard deviation. This made them 2 percentage points more likely to pass the required exams at the end of high school, researchers explained.

"We found the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days," Murphy said.

Low-achieving students benefited most from the ban, with test scores increasing by 14.23 percent points of a standard deviation -- a gain that was double compared with that of average students -- making them 4 percentage points more likely to pass the exams.

Likewise, the ban greatly benefitted special education needs students and those eligible for free school meals, improving exam scores 10 and 12 percent points of a standard deviation respectively.

However, researchers found that strict cellphone policies had little effect on both high-achieving students and 14-year-olds, suggesting that high achievers are less distracted by mobile phones and younger teens own and use phones less often.

"This means allowing phones into schools would be the most damaging to low-achieving and low-income students, exacerbating any existing learning inequalities," Murphy said. "Whilst we cannot test the reason why directly, it is indicative that these students are distracted by the presence of phones, and high-ability students are able to concentrate."

Though phone ownership among English teens is high -- 90.3 percent owned a mobile phone by 2012 -- results are likely to be significant in U.S. schools where 73 percent of teenagers own a mobile phone, Murphy said.

"Banning cell phones in schools would be a low-cost way for schools to reduce educational inequality," Murphy said. "However, these findings do not discount the possibility that mobile phones could be a useful learning tool if their use is properly structured. Regardless, these results show that the presence of cellphones in schools cannot be ignored."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bullying: What we know based on 40 years of research

A special issue of American Psychologist provides a comprehensive review of over 40 years of research on bullying among school age youth, documenting the current understanding of the complexity of the issue and suggesting directions for future research.

"The lore of bullies has long permeated literature and popular culture. Yet bullying as a distinct form of interpersonal aggression was not systematically studied until the 1970s. Attention to the topic has since grown exponentially," said Shelley Hymel, PhD, professor of human development, learning and culture at the University of British Columbia, a scholarly lead on the special issue along with Susan M. Swearer, PhD, professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Inspired by the 2011 U.S. White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, this collection of articles documents current understanding of school bullying."

The special issue consists of an introductory overview by Hymel and Swearer, co-directors of the Bullying Research Network, and five articles on various research areas of bullying including the long-term effects of bullying into adulthood, reasons children bully others, the effects of anti-bullying laws and ways of translating research into anti-bullying practice.

Articles in the issue:

Long-Term Adult Outcomes of Peer Victimization in Childhood and Adolescence: Pathways to Adjustment and Maladjustment by Patricia McDougall, PhD, University of Saskatchewan, and Tracy Vaillancourt, PhD, University of Ottawa

The experience of being bullied is painful and difficult. Its negative impact--on academic functioning, physical and mental health, social relationships and self-perceptions--can endure across the school years. But not every victimized child develops into a maladjusted adult. In this article, the authors provide an overview of the negative outcomes experienced by victims through childhood and adolescence and sometimes into adulthood. They then analyze findings from prospective studies to identify factors that lead to different outcomes in different people, including in their biology, timing, support systems and self-perception.

A Relational Framework for Understanding Bullying: Developmental Antecedents and Outcomes by Philip Rodkin, PhD, and Dorothy Espelage, PhD, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Laura Hanish, PhD, Arizona State University.

How do you distinguish bullying from aggression in general? In this review, the authors describe bullying from a relationship perspective. In order for bullying to be distinguished from other forms of aggression, a relationship must exist between the bully and the victim, there must be an imbalance of power between the two and it must take place over a period of time. "Bullying is perpetrated within a relationship, albeit a coercive, unequal, asymmetric relationship characterized by aggression," wrote the authors. Within that perspective, the image of bullies as socially incompetent youth who rely on physical coercion to resolve conflicts is nothing more than a stereotype. While this type of "bully-victim" does exist and is primarily male, the authors describe another type of bully who is more socially integrated and has surprisingly high levels of popularity among his or her peers. As for the gender of victims, bullying is just as likely to occur between boys and girls as it is to occur in same-gender groups.
Translating Research to Practice in Bullying Prevention by Catherine Bradshaw, PhD, University of Virginia.

This paper reviews the research and related science to develop a set of recommendations for effective bullying prevention programs. From mixed findings on existing programs, the author identifies core elements of promising prevention approaches (e.g., close playground supervision, family involvement, and consistent classroom management strategies) and recommends a three-tiered public health approach that can attend to students at all risk levels. However, the author notes, prevention efforts must be sustained and integrated to effect change.

Law and Policy on the Concept of Bullying at School by Dewey Cornell, PhD, University of Virginia, and Susan Limber, PhD, Clemson University.

Since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, all states but one have passed anti-bullying laws, and multiple court decisions have made schools more accountable for peer victimization. Unfortunately, current legal and policy approaches, which are strongly rooted in laws regarding harassment and discrimination, do not provide adequate protection for all bullied students. In this article, the authors provide a review of the legal framework underpinning many anti-bullying laws and make recommendations on best practices for legislation and school policies to effectively address the problem of bullying.

Understanding the Psychology of Bullying: Moving Toward a Social-Ecological Diathesis-Stress Model by Susan Swearer, PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Shelley Hymel, PhD, University of British Columbia.

Children's involvement in bullying varies across roles and over time. A student may be victimized by classmates but bully a sibling at home. Bullying is a complex form of interpersonal aggression that can be both a one-on-one process and a group phenomenon. It negatively affects not only the victim, but the bully and witnesses as well. In this paper, the authors suggest an integrated model for examining bullying and victimization that recognizes the complex and dynamic nature of bullying across multiple settings over time.

Study: Good results from a support program to low-income community college students in need of developmental courses.

 What is the study about?

This study examined the effects of offering a multi-faceted support program to low-income community college students in need of developmental (remedial) courses. The City University of New York's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) program included the following components: a requirement of full-time enrollment; consolidated block scheduling in the first year; a non-credit seminar covering topics such as goal-setting and academic planning; comprehensive student advising services, tutoring services, and career and employment services; a tuition waiver; free public transportation vouchers; and free textbooks for classes. The study reported the impact of the offer of the ASAP program on student enrollment in college, credit accumulation, completion of developmental requirements, degree attainment, and transfer from a 2-year to a 4-year institution. Program impacts were evaluated in a randomized controlled trial, in which 451 students were offered the ASAP program and 445 students were assigned to a comparison group.

What did the study report?

  • The study authors reported that there were no statistically significant differences in initial enrollment in college (enrollment was 97% for the intervention group and 94% for the comparison group). 
  • However, the ASAP program showed a statistically significant impact on college-level credit accumulation over the 3 years of the study, with ASAP students accumulating an average of 43 college-level credits, compared to 35 credits for comparison group students. 
  • A significantly higher proportion of ASAP students completed their developmental requirements over the course of the study (75% for ASAP students vs. 57% for comparison students). 
  • In addition, ASAP students were significantly more likely to attain a degree from any college (40% vs. 22%) or transfer to a 4-year college (25% vs. 17%) during the 3-year study period. These statistics were drawn from Tables 4.2–4.4 and from Appendix Table C.1.

How does the WWC rate this study?

This study is a randomized controlled experiment with no attrition, and as such, meets WWC group design standards without reservations.


Scrivener, S., Weiss, M. J., Ratledge, A., Rudd, T., Sommo, C., & Fresques, H. (2015). Doubling graduation rates: Three-year effects of CUNY's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for developmental education students. New York: MDRC.