Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Part-time and community college enrollments decline

Complete article

As the U.S. economy improves, more high school graduates are choosing work over college.
Just under 66 percent of the class of 2013 was enrolled in college last fall, the lowest share of new graduates since 2006 and the third decline in the past four years, according to data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among all 16- to 24-year-olds, school enrollment experienced its biggest decline in at least two decades. The report echoes other recent evidence that college enrollment has begun to ebb after surging during the recession...

The drop in college attendance among recent high school graduates appears concentrated among groups most likely to be deciding between going to school and joining the labor force: Part-time and community college enrollments saw the sharpest decline. Meanwhile, the enrollment rate increased for four-year colleges, where costs have been rising the fastest...

Interestingly, the recent decline was concentrated among women. Women still attend college at a higher rate than men, as they have for decades. But the gap is narrowing: In 2013, 68.4 percent of female high school graduates enrolled in college, versus 63.5 percent of male grads. In the class of 2009, by contrast, 73.8 percent of women attended college, versus 66 percent of men...

Differentiated Instruction, Professional Development, and Teacher Efficacy

Teachers often struggle to provide all students access to specific learning activities that work best for them—and what works best for some students will not work for others. Differentiating instruction makes sense because it offers different paths to understanding content, process, and products, considering what is appropriate given a child’s profile of strengths, interests, and styles.

This study focused on teacher efficacy as a way to explain teacher willingness to differentiate instruction.

The study found that a greater number of professional development hours in differentiation of instruction was positively associated with both teacher efficacy and the teacher’s sense of efficacy beliefs. This study demonstrated that teacher efficacy is an important dimension in implementing the process of differentiation regardless of what level or what content area the teacher taught (elementary, middle, or high school).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Speed-Reading Apps May Impair Reading Comprehension by Limiting Ability to Backtrack

 To address the fact that many of us are on the go and pressed for time, app developers have devised speed-reading software that eliminates the time we supposedly waste by moving our eyes as we read. But don’t throw away your books, papers, and e-readers just yet — research suggests that the eye movements we make during reading actually play a critical role in our ability to understand what we’ve just read.

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Our findings show that eye movements are a crucial part of the reading process,” says psychological scientist Elizabeth Schotter of the University of California, San Diego, lead author of the new study. “Our ability to control the timing and sequence of how we intake information about the text is important for comprehension. Our brains control how our eyes move through the text — ensuring that we get the right information at the right time.”

Schotter and UC San Diego colleagues Keith Rayner and Randy Tran conducted a study examining the role that eye movements play in the reading process, which is rendered impossible by rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), the method used to display text in speed-reading apps like Spritz.

Studies have shown that readers make regressions, moving their eyes back to re-read bits of text, about 10 to 15% of the time; Schotter and colleagues tested the hypothesis that these regressions could be a fundamental component of reading comprehension.

The researchers recruited 40 college students to participate in the study. The students were instructed to read sentences (displayed on a computer screen) for comprehension. Sometimes the sentences were presented normally; other times, the sentences were presented such that a word was masked with Xs as soon as the participants moved their eyes away from it, making it impossible for them to get more information from the word were they to return to it.

The results showed that, during normal reading, comprehension levels were about the same whether the students did or did not make a regression. These results suggest that we only make regressions when we fail to understand something, and we can fill in the gap by going back to look again.

But, when the researchers compared data from the normal sentences and the masked sentences, they found that the students showed impaired comprehension for the masked sentences, presumably because they weren’t able to re-read when it would have been helpful.

“When readers cannot backtrack and get more information from words and phrases, their comprehension of the text is impaired,” explains Schotter.

Importantly, the students showed similar impairments in comprehension for masked sentences that were straightforward and also for more difficult, ambiguous sentences, suggesting that regressions are critical for reading comprehension across the board.

The study has clear relevance to new apps, like Spritz, that minimize eye movements and limit the amount of control readers have over the sequence of reading. But, given how integral reading is to our everyday lives, the findings also have broad relevance to our understanding of how we read any piece of text.

Schotter and colleagues are currently planning follow-up experiments that apply a similar visual manipulation to different types of sentences, in order to further investigate the reading process.

The Texas Ten Percent Plan’s Significant Impact on College Enrollment

Texas created the Texas Ten Percent Plan in 1997 as a way to maintain diversity in its public universities. The program provides students in the top 10 percent of their high school class with automatic admission to any public university in the state, including the state’s flagship colleges -- the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M.

In a new study appearing in the Summer 2014 issue of Education Next, Lindsay Daugherty, Paco Martorell, and Isaac McFarlin Jr. examine the effects the plan has had on college enrollment.
Focusing their analysis on students in a large urban school district in Texas that historically has sent few students to college, the authors find that students who make it into the top 10 percent of their class (including underrepresented minority students) are 60% more likely than students who just missed the cutoff to enroll at a Texas flagship university.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published by American Psychological Association (APA).

"Teachers are desperately keen to motivate their students in the best possible way but may not be aware of how messages they communicate to students around the importance of performing well in exams can be interpreted in different ways," said lead author David Putwain, PhD, of Edge Hill University in Lancashire, England.

The study, published in APA's School Psychology Quarterly, involved 347 students, average age 15, of whom 174 were male. They came from two schools that offer an 18-month study program for the exam leading to a General Certificate of Secondary Education, the equivalent of a high school diploma in the U.S.

Students who said they felt threatened by their teachers' messages that frequently focused on failure reported feeling less motivated and scored worse on the exam than students who said their teacher used fewer fear tactics that they considered less threatening, the study found.

A message such as, "If you fail the exam, you will never be able to get a good job or go to college. You need to work hard in order to avoid failure," was an example of attempting to motivate by fear. Messages focusing on success might include, "The exam is really important as most jobs that pay well require that you pass and if you want to go to college you will also need to pass the exam," according to the study.

"Both messages highlight to students the importance of effort and provide a reason for striving," said Putwain. "Where these messages differ is some focus on the possibility of success while others stress the need to avoid failure."

Twice over 18 months, students responded to a teacher at the school who was provided a script of questions to ask when other information was collected for registration and administration. The teachers asking questions were not the students' exam-preparatory instructors.

The first set of questions asked how frequently their teachers attempted to motivate them with fear of failure, such as, "How often do your teachers tell you that unless you work hard you will fail your exam?" Students' level of feeling threatened was measured with questions such as, "Do you feel worried when your teachers tell you that your exam is getting nearer?" The teachers asked students to rate each item on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "never" and 5 being "most of the time."

Three months later, students completed a questionnaire with the base question, "What is the reason for doing your schoolwork?" The students had several answer options representing different types of motivation, including rising from within or from an external source. At the end of the 18-month program, researchers collected the students' final grades.

"Psychologists who work in or with schools can help teachers consider the types of messages they use in the classroom by emphasizing how their messages influence students in both positive and negative ways and by recommending they consider the messages they currently use and their possible consequences," Putwain said. "Teachers should plan what types of messages would be the most effective and how they could be incorporated into the lesson plans."


Promise Scholarship Programs as Place-Making Policy: Evidence from School Enrollment and Housing Price

 Following the example of the Kalamazoo Promise initiated in 2005, place-based "Promise'' scholarship programs have proliferated over the past 8 years.  These programs guarantee money towards the costs of attendance at selected colleges and universities provided that a student has resided and attended school within a particular public school district continuously for at least the four years prior to graduation.   

While some early programs have been studied in isolation, the impact of such programs in general is not well understood.  In addition, although there is substantial and controversial variation from the original program's design, there is no direct evidence on how outcomes vary along with these design choices.   

This study uses a difference-in-difference approach to compare the evolution of both school enrollments and residential real estate prices around the announcement of these programs within the affected Promise zone and in the surrounding area.  Taken together, these estimates suggest that these scholarships have important distributional effects that bear further examination.  In particular, while estimates indicate that public school enrollments increase in Promise zones relative to their surrounding areas following Promise announcements, schools associated with merit-based programs experience increases in white enrollment and decreases in non-white enrollment.  

Furthermore, housing price effects are larger in neighborhoods with high quality schools and in the upper half of the housing price distribution, suggesting higher valuation by high-income households.  These patterns lead to the conclusion that such scholarships are primarily affecting the behavior of households living above the median income for whom they present the greatest value and that merit-based versions disproportionately impact white households.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Latest trends show decrease in school-aged bullying and fighting

New research from the American Journal of Public Health finds a decrease in bullying and physical fighting among middle and high school students. However, the prevalence of carrying weapons increased among white students.

Using survey data from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study, researchers analyzed trends in bullying, physical fighting and carrying of weapons among sixth- through 10th-grade students between 1998 and 2010. 

Results indicated that bullying declined significantly along with physical fighting, which had a less dramatic decrease. While collectively there was no decline in weapon carrying, there was an increase in carrying weapons among white students.

“This trend is surprising when one considers that white students had the largest declines in bullying and physical fighting over the same time period,” the authors expound.

“The overall decrease in bullying and victimization may be attributed to two related factors, an increasing recognition of the need for bullying prevention programs, and the increased number of evidence-based bullying prevention programs,” the researchers suggest.