Wednesday, July 18, 2018

State-level Information Available on arts education, computer-based assessments, and graduation rates

New state-level data on charter schools, arts education, computer-based assessments, and graduation rates are now available on the State Education Reforms website. The State Education Reforms website draws primarily on data collected by organizations other than the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which compiles and disseminates the information in five sections:
  • Accountability;
  • Assessment and Standards;
  • Staff Qualifications and Development;
  • State Support for School Choice and Other Options; and
  • Student Readiness and Progress through School.
One table was updated in the “Accountability” section. The “Staff Qualifications and Development” and “State Support for School Choice and Other Options” sections each had two updated tables.  One table was added in the “Assessment and Standards” section and in the “Student Readiness and Progress through School” section.  These tables may be easily located by the “Updated!” and “New!” tags next to the table title in the corresponding section.

To view the site, please visit:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Black children subjected to higher discipline rates than peers

Elementary school discipline policies that rely on expulsions or suspensions as punishment may be fostering childhood inequality, a new study shows.

These policies are not rare but can unfairly impact African-American children, says University of Michigan researcher Garrett Pace, who along with colleagues at the University of Maryland and Pennsylvania State University collaborated on the study.

The higher rate of black children suspended or expelled from school appears largely due to differences in their school characteristics rather than to differences in behavior problems, the researchers say.

"More disadvantaged schools should be provided resources and training to use more inclusive disciplinary practices," said Pace, a U-M sociology and social work doctoral student.
Previous research has documented racial disparities for discipline in middle and high school but few studies focus on the risk in elementary schools nationwide.

Many factors contribute to a child having problems in school--ranging from family instability to teacher biases--that place them at risk for suspensions and expulsions, Pace says.

The researchers used child and parent reports from the Fragile Families Study, which tracked nearly 5,000 children born in hospitals between 1998 and 2000 in 20 large cities. Parents were interviewed after the child's birth, and follow-ups were conducted at ages 1, 3, 5 and 9. Their final sample involved nearly 2,500 kids.

About one in 10 children were suspended or expelled by age 9.

Racial disparities remained high. About 40 percent of African-American boys were suspended or expelled, compared to 8 percent of white boys or from other ethnic groups. These disparities are largely due to differences in the children's school and family characteristics rather than to behavior problems.

In addition, children who were suspended or expelled displayed more aggressive behavior, like fighting, after they were disciplined than they did before their suspension or expulsion.

The study was not able to identify the cause of this increased aggression but it is possible it arises in response to negative emotions, which may become amplified if the discipline causes the student to fall behind in school or introduces stress at home because the parents' work schedules are disrupted.

The researchers also say that there are situations when exclusionary punishment may be necessary.
"However, in our opinion, schools should be provided resources and training to implement more inclusive alternatives," Pace said.
Journal: Social Forces

The study did not explore the role parents play in promoting their children's good school behavior.

As we get parched, cognition can easily sputter,

Anyone lost in a desert hallucinating mirages knows that extreme dehydration discombobulates the mind. But just two hours of vigorous yard work in the summer sun without drinking fluids could be enough to blunt concentration, according to a new study.

Cognitive functions often wilt as water departs the body, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology reported after statistically analyzing data from multiple peer-reviewed research papers on dehydration and cognitive ability. The data pointed to functions like attention, coordination and complex problem solving suffering the most, and activities like reacting quickly when prompted not diminishing much.

"The simplest reaction time tasks were least impacted, even as dehydration got worse, but tasks that require attention were quite impacted," said Mindy Millard-Stafford, a professor in Georgia Tech's School of Biological Sciences.

Less fluid, more goofs

As the bodies of test subjects in various studies lost water, the majority of participants increasingly made errors during attention-related tasks that were mostly repetitive and unexciting, such as punching a button in varying patterns for quite a few minutes. There are situations in life that challenge attentiveness in a similar manner, and when it lapses, snafus can happen.

"Maintaining focus in a long meeting, driving a car, a monotonous job in a hot factory that requires you to stay alert are some of them," said Millard-Stafford, the study's principal investigator. "Higher-order functions like doing math or applying logic also dropped off."

The researchers have been concerned that dehydration could raise the risk of an accident, particularly in scenarios that combine heavy sweating and dangerous machinery or military hardware.

Millard-Stafford and first author Matthew Wittbrodt, a former graduate research assistant at Georgia Tech and now a postdoctoral researcher at Emory University, published their meta-analysis of the studies in the latest edition of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
It can happen quickly

There's no hard and fast rule about when exactly such lapses can pop up, but the researchers examined studies with 1 to 6 percent loss of body mass due to dehydration and found more severe impairments started at 2 percent. That level has been a significant benchmark in related studies.
"There's already a lot of quantitative documentation that if you lose 2 percent in water it affects physical abilities like muscle endurance or sports tasks and your ability to regulate your body temperature," said Millard-Stafford, a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine. "We wanted to see if that was similar for cognitive function."

The researchers looked at 6,591 relevant studies for their comparison, then narrowed them down to 33 papers with scientific criteria and data comparable enough to do metadata analysis. They focused on acute dehydration, which anyone could experience during exertion, heat and/or not drinking as opposed to chronic dehydration, which can be caused by a disease or disorder.

One day to lousy

How much fluid loss adds up to 2 percent body mass loss?

"If you weigh 200 pounds and you go work out for a few of hours, you drop four pounds, and that's 2 percent body mass," Millard-Stafford said. And it can happen fast. "With an hour of moderately intense activity, with a temperature in the mid-80s, and moderate humidity, it's not uncommon to lose a little over 2 pounds of water."

"If you do 12-hour fluid restriction, nothing by mouth, for medical tests, you'll go down about 1.5 percent," she said. "Twenty-four hours fluid restriction takes most people about 3 percent down."
And that begins to affect more than cognition or athletic abilities.

"If you drop 4 or 5 percent, you're going to feel really crummy," Millard-Stafford said. "Water is the most important nutrient."

She warned that older people can dry out more easily because they often lose their sensation of thirst and also, their kidneys are less able to concentrate urine, which makes them retain less fluid. People with high body fat content also have lower relative water reserves than lean folks.

Don't overdo water

Hydration is important, but so is moderation.

"You can have too much water, something called hyponatremia," Millard-Stafford said. "Some people overly aggressively, out of a fear of dehydration, drink so much water that they dilute their blood and their brain swells."

This leads to death in rare, extreme cases, for example, when long-distance runners constantly drink but don't sweat much and end up massively overhydrating.

"Water needs to be enough, just right," Millard-Stafford said.

Also, she warned that while salt avoidance may be good for sedentary people or hypertension patients, whoever sweats needs some salt as well, or they won't retain the water they drink.

The scent of coffee appears to boost performance in math

Drinking coffee seems to have its perks. In addition to the physical boost it delivers, coffee may lessen our risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Coffee may even help us live longer. Now, there's more good news: research at Stevens Institute of Technology reveals that the scent of coffee alone may help people perform better on the analytical portion of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, or GMAT, a computer adaptive test required by many business schools.

The work, led by Stevens School of Business professor Adriana Madzharov, not only highlights the hidden force of scent and the cognitive boost it may provide on analytical tasks, but also the expectation that students will perform better on those tasks. Madzharov, with colleagues at Temple University and Baruch College, recently published their findings in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

"It's not just that the coffee-like scent helped people perform better on analytical tasks, which was already interesting," says Madzharov. "But they also thought they would do better, and we demonstrated that this expectation was at least partly responsible for their improved performance." In short, smelling a coffee-like scent, which has no caffeine in it, has an effect similar to that of drinking coffee, suggesting a placebo effect of coffee scent.

In their work, Madzharov and her team administered a 10-question GMAT algebra test in a computer lab to about 100 undergraduate business students, divided into two groups. One group took the test in the presence of an ambient coffee-like scent, while a control group took the same test - but in an unscented room. They found that the group in the coffee-smelling room scored significantly higher on the test.

Madzharov and colleagues wanted to know more. Could the first group's boost in quick thinking be explained, in part, by an expectation that a coffee scent would increase alertness and subsequently improve performance?

The team designed a follow-up survey, conducted among more than 200 new participants, quizzing them on beliefs about various scents and their perceived effects on human performance. Participants believed they would feel more alert and energetic in the presence of a coffee scent, versus a flower scent or no scent; and that exposure to coffee scent would increase their performance on mental tasks. The results suggest that expectations about performance can be explained by beliefs that coffee scent alone makes people more alert and energetic.

Madzharov, whose research focuses on sensory marketing and aesthetics, is looking to explore whether coffee-like scents can have a similar placebo effect on other types of performance, such as verbal reasoning. She also says that the finding - that coffee-like scent acts as a placebo for analytical reasoning performance - has many practical applications, including several for business.

"Olfaction is one of our most powerful senses," says Madzharov. "Employers, architects, building developers, retail space managers and others, can use subtle scents to help shape employees' or occupants' experience with their environment. It's an area of great interest and potential."

Positive results from the New Orleans school reforms

Full Report

The New Orleans school reforms represent the first time in the last century that the traditional U.S. government-driven system of K-12 schooling has been completely replaced by a market-driven one. In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the state took over almost all of the city’s public schools from the local school district and then turned them over to non-profit organizations. These charter schools had autonomy over personnel decisions and almost all other matters and were held accountable to the state through performance-based contracts. Instead of assigning students to schools based on the neighborhoods they lived in, the new system allowed families to choose schools from across the city, and schools began receiving funding based almost entirely on the number of students they attracted.

This study builds on an earlier analysis which estimated the effect of the entire package of market-based reforms on test scores through 2012. The researchers' method entails essentially subtracting the improvements in New Orleans from those in a carefully matched comparison group of students, schools, and districts elsewhere in Louisiana, and adjusting the result for any remaining demographic differences between the groups. Here, they use this method to examine a wider range of outcomes through 2014.

The researchers find that for New Orleans:
  • The reforms increased student achievement by 11-16 percentiles (depending on the subject and analysis method).
  • The reforms increased the high school graduation rate by 3-9 percentage points.
  • The reforms increased the college entry rate by 8-15 percentage points.
  • The reforms increased the college persistence rate by 4-7 percentage points.
  • The reforms increased the college graduation rate by 3-5 percentage points.
For high school graduation and college outcomes, the effects are all in the range of 10-67% over where New Orleans stood just before the reforms. The reforms also improved all outcomes for disadvantaged students and reduced educational inequities for high school and college measures. It is very unusual to see programs and policies improve all of these outcomes.

These substantial effects are unlikely to arise in most other school districts because New Orleans had several advantages over other districts in making the reforms work. Nevertheless, the fact that New Orleans improved so much, in such a short period, on so many measures means that the city’s experiences are worthy of attention.

Summer Learning Loss: What We Know and What We’re Learning

It is widely understood that on average students lose academic ground during the summer, a phenomenon frequently referred to as “summer learning loss” or “summer slide.” But there are significant gaps in our research about summer learning loss that should compel us to take fresh – and deeper – looks at the phenomenon.

The highly cited foundational research study on the topic is a comprehensive meta-analysis of summer learning loss research. However, it was published in 1996, and most of the research was conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, when summer activities likely looked very different than they do today. The most troubling finding of that meta-analysis indicates that income-based gaps in reading grow larger over the summer, with lower-income students showing drops and middle class students actually showing gains in test scores between spring and fall. This finding led to wide acceptance of the conclusion that summer time contributes directly to academic inequality.
While it is often cited that students lose an average of 2-3 months of reading skills during the summer, there is limited recent research that backs up this claim.
Most of the more recent research on summer learning loss has examined its prevalence in the very early grades – primarily K-2. A rigorous recent analysis of a national study of  Kindergartners in 2010-11 found inconsistent results, with socioeconomic achievement gaps widening during the summer in some subject/grade combinations, but not in others. Research on older students is limited due in large part to the limitations of available data. State accountability assessments are administered only in spring, and therefore, researchers cannot isolate summer impact. We are left with very little research with which to understand who is gaining or losing ground during the summer and over time in upper elementary and middle school grades.

MAP Growth assessment data gives us the ability to broaden our knowledge about summer learning loss in many ways. Because most schools administer it in the fall, winter, and spring, we have data that more precisely isolates what learning, or learning loss, is happening during the summer. Because it is taken annually by nearly 20 percent of K-12 US public school students in 50 states, we are able to examine trends longitudinally, with older students, and across racial and income groups.

Insights from MAP Growth

I’ve been analyzing what the MAP Growth data is telling us and will be sharing some interesting findings on Teach Learn Grow over these summer months. First up, does summer learning loss continue with older elementary and middle school students? If so, at what pace?
In NWEA’s research, summer learning loss was observed in math and reading across third to eighth grade, with students losing a greater proportion of their school year gains each year as they grow older – anywhere from 20 to 50 percent.
The figure below shows both school-year gains and summer loss in math and reading estimated by the 2015 NWEA RIT Scale Norms Study. To avoid capturing learning that happened at the beginning of a school year prior to testing, we calculated the predicted achievement status means within each grade at week 1 (Fall) and week 36 (Spring) of a 36-week (180 days) school calendar. The predicted means are plotted as circles within each timepoint. Additionally, each panel has three within-year and two summer line segments displayed, with the change in RIT points in each time period displayed above the line.

Figure 1. Average school year gains and summer learning loss based on the 2015 MAP Growth Norms Study
Figure 1. Average school year gains and summer learning loss based on the 2015 MAP Growth Norms Study
As you can see in the graphs, summer learning loss is clearly observed in both math and reading in each summer term between third and eighth grade. On average, students show a drop of between 3-5 RIT points, relative to gains of 4-16 RIT points during the school year. It appears that summer learning loss is fairly stable in terms of RIT points across grade levels.

But a more sobering trend is the pace of summer learning loss, which we calculated by estimating the ratio of summer loss to school-year gains for each grade. In the summer following third grade, students lose nearly 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of their school-year gains in math. By the summer after seventh grade, students lose on average 36 percent of their school-year gains in reading and a whopping 50 percent of their school-year gains in math. In other words, summer learning loss increases with age through elementary and middle school – a troubling trend that should be examined further.

Higher performing teachers are more likely to seek advice

Teachers’ on-the-job interactions with colleagues impact their effectiveness, yet little research has explored whether and how teacher performance predicts these interactions. Drawing on 5 years of social network data from one school district, this study explores the relationship between teacher performance and teachers’ instructional advice and information interactions.

Results demonstrate that higher performing teachers are not more likely to be sought out for advice; instead, higher performing teachers are more likely to seek advice. Although school staff report they can identify the “best” teachers, they generally do not rely on student test scores, instead relying on more readily accessible indicators of performance. These findings have important implications for policy and practices that seek to promote desired interactions among teachers.