Monday, May 21, 2018

Age-related racial disparities in suicide rates among youth ages 5 to 17 years

Suicide rates in the United States have traditionally been higher among whites than blacks across all age groups. However, a new study from researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital and collaborators published today in JAMA Pediatrics shows that racial disparities in suicide rates are age-related. Specifically, suicide rates for black children aged 5-12 were roughly two times higher than those of similarly-aged white children.

"Our findings provide further evidence of a significant age-related racial disparity in childhood suicide rates and rebut the long-held perception that suicide rates are uniformly higher in whites than blacks in the United States," says Jeff Bridge, PhD, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children's and lead author of the publication. "The large age-related racial difference in suicide rates did not change during the study period, suggesting that this disparity is not explained by recent events such as the economic recession."

For older children, the trend reverses back to the national average. For youth aged 13-17 years, suicide was roughly 50 percent lower in black children than in white children. Researchers obtained data for cases in which suicide was listed as the underlying cause of death among persons aged 5-17 years from 2001-2015 from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARSTM) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 2001-2015, for American youth aged 5-17 years, 1,661 suicide deaths in black youths and 13,341 suicide deaths in white youths occurred. During this period, the overall suicide rate was about 42 percent lower in black youth (1.26 per 100,000) than in white youth (2.16 per 100,000). However, age strongly influenced this racial difference, as seen when suicide rates among 5- to 12-year-olds and 13- to 17-year-olds were analyzed.

"The existing literature does not adequately describe the extent of age-related racial disparities in youth suicide, and understanding these differences is essential to creating targeted prevention efforts," says Dr. Bridge, also a professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

While the findings highlight an important opportunity for more targeted intervention, these data are limited and cannot point to the potential reasons for the observed differences.

"We lacked information on key factors that may underlie racial differences in suicide, including access to culturally acceptable behavioral health care or the potential role of death due to homicide among older black youth as a competing risk for suicide in this subgroup," Dr. Bridge elaborates. "Future studies should try to find out whether risk and protective factors identified in studies of primarily white adolescent suicides are associated with suicide in black youth and how these factors change throughout childhood and adolescence."

"Parents and health providers should be aware of the importance of asking children directly about suicide if there is a concern about a child," added Dr. Bridge. "Asking children directly about thoughts of suicide will not put the idea in a child's head or trigger subsequent suicidal behavior."

New study reveals prevalence of anti-gay verbal and physical bullying

Anti-gay verbal and physical harassment are pervasive public health problems found in schools, which are correlated with negative mental health and educational outcomes for students. A study published in the Florida Public Health Review, "Incidences of School-based Anti-gay and Gender-related Bullying: Differences across Levels of Education," compares anti-gay and gender-related bullying with student cohorts across public and private middle school, secondary, and post-secondary institutions in the same region.

These findings can assist researchers and practitioners in better understanding the prevalence of anti-gay verbal versus physical harassment at particular education levels.

"When I was working as a school nurse, despite my training in pediatrics in nursing school, I had no formal understanding of bullying or how it isolated kids. Had I been more aware of how bullying shows up and how children attempt to cope with it, I would have felt more empowered to recognize and address incidences of bullying - in particular when students would be 'hiding out' in the nurse's office to avoid being bullied," says lead author Evan McEwing, DNP, APHN-BC, RN, CCRP, RQAP-GCP of the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies.

The sample comprised 7,007 participants. It was found that middle school students were least comfortable with others perceived as gay or transgender and least likely to speak up against anti-gay bullying. Both middle school and high school students were more likely than college students to use anti-gay and gender-related verbal slurs. Middle school students reported the greatest prevalence of physical harassment towards peers based on perceived gender and orientation. A complementary infographic from the study dataset can be viewed here -

"The results of our study highlights the fact that bullying is pervasive and affects all of our youth, regardless of their sexual orientation or their experience of gender. This underscores the importance of supporting educational programs offered by YES Institute. Their programs break down barriers and misconceptions among students, and helps cultivate understanding and support for one another. Awareness raising and skill building are critical components to making our schools safe for everyone," says Debbiesiu L. Lee, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Miami School of Education and Human Development.

Most children experience a decline in developmentally appropriate practices between prekindergarten and kindergarten

This study explored children’s experiences of instructional alignment from prekindergarten through kindergarten. Using cluster analysis to analyze data from over 1300 children in the 2009 Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey, the study found that children have distinct and definable experiences of prekindergarten–kindergarten alignment, with Hispanic/Latino children more likely to attend Head Start programs with poor support for prekindergarten–kindergarten transitions and poor kindergarten classroom structures, and most children experiencing a decline in developmentally appropriate practices between prekindergarten and kindergarten.

Friday, May 18, 2018

'Undermatched' students,especialli Hispanics, less likely to graduate on time compared to peers New

Undermatching" is a term to describe when high-performing students, typically from economically-disadvantaged households, attend less competitive colleges than their qualifications permit.
A new study concerning this widespread phenomenon in the U.S. finds that it correlates with another higher education dilemma: delayed graduation.

The study, presented by University at Buffalo researchers at the American Educational Research Association's annual meeting last month, shows that students who undermatch are less likely to graduate college within four or six years compared to peers who attend colleges that align with their qualifications.

After controlling for various components, such as gender and educational background, findings of the study include:
  • Undermatching was highest for black students (49 percent), followed by white students (45 percent), Hispanic students (41 percent) and Asian students (31 percent).
  • Undermatched students were about 80 percent less likely to graduate college within four years and 70 percent less likely to graduate college within six years than non-undermatched students.
  • The graduation gap for undermatching students was widest for Hispanic students. For example, the study predicts 60 percent of non-undermatched students will graduate within four years, while only 30 percent of undermatched students will graduate on time. The gap improves, slightly, for six year graduations rates.
"The results suggest policymakers and educators need to be concerned about college completion for even highly qualified students if they are undermatched," says study co-author Chungseo Kang, a postdoctoral associate in the UB Graduate School of Education. "To improve college completion rates for students, in particular for Hispanic students, it is important to encourage them to attend a college that matches their qualifications."

Reasons behind undermatching range from students being reluctant to take out student loans or lack of confidence that they could attend more competitive schools to insufficient access to information about the higher education landscape.

Co-author Darlene Garcia Torres, a PhD candidate in the UB Graduate School of Education says the study is important because it helps shed light on structural factors that may negatively impact minority groups' educational and socioeconomic advancement.

The study is unique for three reasons, she says. First, undermatching was measured and analyzed quantitatively (with propensity score matching). Second, they used a nationally representative sample. Lastly, they explored undermatching differences by race group.

Kang and Garcia Torres used the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences' Educational Longitudinal Study to generate a sample of 4,970 students who enrolled in a four-year college within one year of high school graduation.

Child's use of vocabulary and grammar an important part of "kindergarten readiness"

Research shows that the more skills children bring with them to kindergarten - in basic math, reading, even friendship and cooperation - the more likely they will succeed in those same areas in school. Hence, "kindergarten readiness" is the goal of many preschool programs, and a motivator for many parents.

Now it's time to add language to that mix of skills, says a new University of Washington-led study. Not only does a child's use of vocabulary and grammar predict future proficiency with the spoken and written word, but it also affects performance in other subject areas.

Language, in other words, supports academic and social success, says Amy Pace, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences.

"A lot of other research focuses on math, science and literacy, and they don't even consider that language could be playing a role," she said. "But really, it emerges as a strong predictor across subject areas. Why do kids succeed in math, for example? Part of it could be having a strong math vocabulary."

The study was the first to look at a comprehensive set of school readiness skills and to try to determine which, of all of them, is the most solid predictor of a child's later success. Language -- the ability to fluidly learn words and to string them together into sentences -- was the hands-down winner, said co-author Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, director of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University.

For this study, published online April 30 in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Pace and her colleagues from Temple University, the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina examined longitudinal data from more than 1,200 children in the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development's Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. That study used several measures of academic and social skills at specific ages and grade levels, including evaluations upon entry to kindergarten and in grades 1, 3 and 5.

While there is considerable research on how children develop specific skills over time, much of that research is focused on patterns of learning within a single subject area, like math or reading.
Researchers in the UW study wanted to determine whether there are relationships between skills when considered in combination, and to think about how these combined abilities might predict gains, or growth, above what might be expected based on the skills the child demonstrates when they first enter a kindergarten classroom. The team analyzed academic and behavioral assessments,

assigned standardized scores and looked at how scores correlated in grades 1, 3, and 5. Growth curve modeling allowed the team to look at children's levels of performance across time and investigate rates of change at specific times in elementary school.

Researchers found that of the skills and milestones evaluated - social/emotional, attention, health, reading, math and language - only language skills, when a child entered school, predicted his or her performance both within that subject area and most others (math, reading and social skills) from first through fifth grade. Reading ability in kindergarten predicted reading, math and language skills later on; and math proficiency correlated with math and reading performance over time.

People often confuse language with literacy, Pace said. Reading skills include the ability to decode letter and sound combinations to pronounce words, and to comprehend word meanings and contexts. Language is the ability to deploy those words and use complex syntax and grammar to communicate in speech and writing. And that's why it has such potential to affect other areas of development, Pace said. At a time when so much focus is on math and science education, it is language that deserves attention, too.

"It provides a foundation for social interaction. If you're stronger in language, you will be able to communicate with peers and teachers," she said. "Language also relates to executive functioning, the ability to understand and follow through on the four-step directions from the teacher. And it helps solve problems in math and science, because understanding terminology and abstract concepts relies on a knowledge of language."

For example, language ability at school entry not only predicted language proficiency through fifth grade as expected, but it also predicted growth in literacy between grades 1 and 3, and a similar amount of growth between grades 3 and 5. In effect, language gave children a boost to help them learn more than researchers might have predicted based on the children's performance at school entry.

Measuring the impact of one skill on another, in addition to measuring growth in the same skill, provides more of a "whole child" perspective, Pace said. A child who enters school with little exposure to number sense or spatial concepts but with strong social skills may benefit from that emotional buffer. "If we look at just a very narrow slice of a child's ability, it may be predictive of ability in that area, but it's not necessarily a good prognosticator of what's to come overall for that child," she said.

Researchers expected to find that the effects of kindergarten readiness would wear off by third grade, the time when elementary school curriculum transitions from introducing foundational skills to helping students apply those skills as they delve deeper into content areas.

But according to the study, children's performance in kindergarten continues to predict their performance in grades three through five. This was consistent for multiple skill areas, including language, math and reading, and suggests that bolstering children's development in those first five years is essential for long-term academic success.

A few findings merit further study, Pace added, especially as they relate to educational policy. For example, children who entered kindergarten with higher levels of skills appeared to make fewer developmental and academic gains than those children who started at lower levels. That is consistent with other research, but, Pace said, it's worth examining how to better serve high-performing students.

The study also represents an opportunity to rethink what skills are considered measures of kindergarten-readiness, she said.

"Language ability at school entry consistently emerges as an important predictor of student outcomes. This may be why the first three to five years are so critical for future academic and social development," Pace said. "It is the child's earliest, high-quality interactions with parents, teachers and caregivers that promote a strong communication foundation - and this foundation goes on to serve as the bedrock for future language and learning."

Measuring Educational Opportunity in Juvenile Justice Schools

Every two years, the Office for Civil Rights, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, conducts a civil rights data collection that includes information about school demographics, course enrollment, discipline, and other measures of school-based experience. In 2013, the office collected data from schools identified as juvenile justice schools for the first time. These schools serve only students placed in secure facilities by law enforcement or courts, and there are approximately 50,000 young people across the country in these on any given day.

Because of their unique position and small student populations, juvenile justice schools are historically exempt from most common state and federal measures of education achievement. In fact, this 2013 data set offers the first opportunity to establish a data baseline across states.

However, in attempting to conduct an analysis of the available data from 2013, Bellwether Education Partners discovered troubling inconsistencies in the data set that suggested inaccurate or incomplete data collection. In order to conduct a credible analysis, the researchers cross-referenced the Office for Civil Rights data with residential facility census data collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This revealed serious deficiencies in most states’ data; in fact, only 18 states provided credible data about enrollment and achievement in their juvenile justice schools.

The researchers were able to draw some conclusions about higher-level math and science course access and enrollment from the available data. However, without more accurate and more nuanced data collection from the Office for Civil Rights, these conclusions are of limited utility to policymakers and program leaders. Both the conclusions and recommendations for improved data collection practices are presented in this deck.

Download the full slide deck here,

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Gifted Adolescents’ Resistance to Report Experiences of Cyberbullying Behavior

Academically gifted adolescents frequently experience cyberbullying behavior. Successful intervention and prevention of such bullying is, to a large degree, dependent on such incidents being reported to an adult caregiver. However, research shows that adolescents who have experienced cyberbullying tend not to inform parents or teachers. Despite this fact, little attention has been paid to understanding the factors underlying such reporting resistance and consequently the reasons for nonreporting remain undetermined.

This study explored Irish gifted adolescents’ resistance to reporting their experiences of cyberbullying behavior. Key reasons for nonreporting included the framing of decisions based on the concepts of self-efficacy, control, perceived risks, the influence of prior reporting experiences, and influence of gender and age on reporting response.