Friday, September 21, 2018

Suspension Disparities Greatest in Grades 7-8 for Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos and Students with Disabilities

A UCLA research study released today shows that the overuse of suspensions in California schools resulted in well over 700,000 days of lost instruction during the 2016-17 academic year. The impact is greatest in grades 7-8 where the disparities along the lines of race and disability are also the deepest.

The report, The Unequal Impact of Suspension on the Opportunity to Learn in California: What the 2016-17 Rates Tell Us about Progress, estimates instructional days lost for each school district in the state, with the first ever breakdowns by grade spans, and includes the six-year trends in lost instruction for California as a whole. It was written by Daniel J. Losen, Director of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project at the Center for Civil Rights Remedies, and Kacy Martin, a researcher at the Center.

The report highlights how instruction time for California students with disabilities, Black students, Native Americans and Latinos is profoundly impacted by suspensions.

“What jumps out the most are the huge losses and gross inequities in grades 7-8, where Black students lost over 71 days of instruction per 100 enrolled. That rate means Black students lost 52 more days than the 19 days per 100 lost by White students,” said Losen. Co-author Martin further points out “When we focus on just 156,00 of lost days attributed to minor misbehaviors, nearly a third of all the lost instruction for the disruption or defiance category resulted from suspensions meted out in just two grades, 7 and 8.”

Researchers praise the overall trend, which shows that suspensions for minor behaviors now constitute just 20% of lost instruction due to discipline, down from 40% six years ago. However, the report highlights the districts where the disparate instruction loss is greatest, finding that losses due to disruption or defiance suspensions can contribute to as much as 80% of the racial gap in some of the highest suspending districts.  As Losen points out “Community level advocates have encouraged educators to replace suspension with educationally sound responses to minor misbehaviors in many local districts, but there are still some very harsh districts with shocking inequities.”

The report also examines how students with disabilities in California lose tremendous amounts of instruction, and how there are profound differences by race among those receiving special education. Specifically, in grades k-12, among students with disabilities, Black students lost 79 days and Native Americans lost 50 days per 100 enrolled, respectively. Both are far greater than the 30 days per 100 lost by White students with disabilities.

This study reaches the public at a particularly important time. While the state law prohibiting suspensions for disruption/defiance for K-3 students has been extended permanently, the state legislature has voted to expand that prohibition to cover students in K-8. The Governor will soon decide whether the statewide reform efforts, that ensure changes help students in every district, will stall or continue to grow.

Losen and Martin believe the data support eliminating suspensions for minor behaviors at all grade levels, and see no evidence of chaos during the six years of steady declines in the use of suspensions to respond to minor behaviors.  The study also recommends that California annually and publicly report the actual days of lost instruction, that districts use their funding under LCAP to ensure training for teachers and administrators, and encourage the use of climate surveys to ensure that discipline reform efforts serve the overarching goals of improving the conditions of learning for all children.

The full report, The Unequal Impact of Suspension on the Opportunity to Learn in California: What the 2016-17 Rates Tell Us about Progress, and data supplement showing lost school days for each California district are available here, and at  Researchers estimated that the average suspension lasted for two days in duration. This estimate was based on data reported by Los Angeles Unified and Oakland Unified, as well as California data reported to the U.S. Department of Education from 2015-16.

Community Colleges: Improving Placement Using Multiple Measures

Complete report

Many incoming college students are referred to remedial programs in math or English based on scores they earn on standardized placement tests. Yet research shows that some students assigned to remediation based on test scores would likely succeed in a college -level course in the same subject area without first taking a remedial course if given that opportunity. Research also suggests that other measures of student skills and performance, and in particular high school grade point average ( GPA), may be useful in assess ing college readiness. 

The  Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness at Columbia University's Teachers College (CAPR) is conducting a random assignment study of a multiple measures placement system based on data analytics to determine whether it yields placement determinations that lead to better student outcomes than a system based on test scores alone . Seven community colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) system are participating in the study. 

The alternative placement system being evaluated uses data on prior students to weight multiple measures — including both placement test scores and high school GPAs — in predictive algorithms developed at each college that are then used to place incoming students into remedial or college-level courses. 

Over 13,000 incoming students who arrived at these colleges in the fall 2016, spring 2017, and fall 2017 terms were randomly assigned to be placed using either the status quo placement system (the control group) or the alternative placement system (the program group). The three cohorts of students will be tracked through the fall 2018 term, resulting in the collection of three to five semesters of outcomes data , depending on the cohort. This interim report , the first of two, examines implementation of the alternative place ment system at the colleges and presents results on first -term impacts for 4,729 students in the fall 2016 cohort. The initial results are promising. 

The early findings show that:  

While implementing the alternative system was more complex than expected, every college developed the procedures that were required to make it work as intended. 
 Many program group students were placed differently than they would have been under the status quo placement system. In math, 14 percent of program group students placed higher than they would have under a test -only system (i.e., in college- level), while 7 percent placed lower (i.e., in remedial). In English, 41.5 percent placed higher, while 6.5 percent placed lower. 
 Program group students were 3.1 and 12.5 percentage points more likely than control group students to both enroll in and complete (with a grade of C or higher) a college-level math or English course in the first term.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

American girls read and write better than boys

As early as the fourth grade, girls perform better than boys on standardized tests in reading and writing, and as they get older that achievement gap widens even more, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"The common thinking is that boys and girls in grade school start with the same cognitive ability, but this research suggests otherwise," said David Reilly, a doctoral student at Griffith University and lead author of the study published in American Psychologist. "Our research found that girls generally exhibit better reading and writing ability than boys as early as the fourth grade."

Reilly and his colleagues analyzed information from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a nationally representative data sample of standardized test scores from more than 3.4 million students in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades in the United States over a span of 27 years.
While the tests showed that girls, in general, scored significantly higher than boys in both reading and writing in the fourth grade, that gap widened further in eighth and 12th grades, and the difference was far more substantial for writing than it was for reading.

"It appears that the gender gap for writing tasks has been greatly underestimated, and that despite our best efforts with changes in teaching methods does not appear to be reducing over time," said Reilly.
The authors offered several theories to explain the findings. For instance, boys are statistically more likely to have a learning disability and they may also face peer pressure to conform to masculine norms, which could cause them not to make reading a priority.

Another explanation could be that there are gender differences in behavioral problems, such as physical aggression and disobeying rules, as well as attention disorders, which have been associated with general reading and writing impairments, according to Reilly. "These can be disruptive in the classroom but might also point to a neurological contribution," he said.

There is also some research evidence that girls use both brain hemispheres when presented with reading and writing tasks, whereas boys are more likely to using a single hemisphere of the brain, according to Reilly.

"Bilateral language function presumably affords some benefits, which could explain the female advantage observed on such tasks," he said.

"Boys may also struggle to write as well as girls because it is an ability that requires solid reading skills, as well as competency in verbal fluency, spelling and grammar," said co-author David Neumann, PhD, also of Griffith University.

"Reading and writing sets the stage for later schooling. While we've concentrated on basic literacy, the demands on students for writing grow stronger as they progress through education. In particular, it's crucial for high school and college entry. Each year, more women than men apply for college entry, and more women than men complete their college degrees. It has a cascading effect on students, either up or down," said Reilly.

The findings don't necessarily suggest that boys and girls have radically different learning styles and should not be used to support calls for single-sex education, Reilly warned.

"All the evidence suggests that gender segregation of education reinforces negative gender stereotypes, and makes gender more salient, which could be harmful for boys with reading and writing, and for girls with math and science," he said. "Rather, it suggests that we need to better tailor our education to meet the needs of boys and really encourage in them early a love not just of reading but also writing."

Future research should closely examine reasons for gender differences in reading and writing so that educators can design new ways to improve those essential skills in school, he said.
Article: "Gender Differences in Reading and Writing Achievement: Evidence From the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)," by David Reilly, David Neumann, PhD, and Glenda Andrews, PhD, Griffith University. American Psychologist, published Sept. 20, 2018.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at

Chronic Disinvestment in K-12 Schools

Americans all over the country asking why public school teachers are not paid enough to support their families, why students are using dilapidated textbooks, and why students are attending crumbling schools. The answer to these questions is that, on the whole, far too many states have systematically disinvested in K-12 funding in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession. These cuts affect school inputs, from teacher salaries to student resources; they also have significant impacts on critical outcomes such as student achievement.

This issue brief presents data on the chronic underinvestment in schools since the Great Recession.

In the decade-long recovery that has followed the recession, only a handful of states have returned to pre-recession levels of spending. The majority continue to spend less on education than they did 10 years ago.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Early Childhood Education in California

More than 24 million children ages 5 and younger live in the United States, and about one in eight of them—a little over 3 million—lives in California. Compared to the rest of the country, California has about twice as many children ages 5 and under who are first- or second-generation immigrants and live in families in which the adults are not fluent in English. About one in five of all children ages 5 and younger in California live in poverty, and nearly half of California’s children live in households that are at or near the poverty level. While their parents are at work or in school, about 1.2 million of California’s young children are cared for by relatives or attend preschool, a child-care center, family home care, Head Start, or a combination thereof.

Given the rapid brain development during a child’s first five years of life, which lays the foundation for all future learning, California has a compelling interest and responsibility to ensure that these programs provide a safe, socially supportive, and effective educational environment for young children. Considerable research shows that children attending high-quality preschool programs receive significant benefits. California has many good providers; but for a state that once led the nation in early childhood education, early childhood education today is marked by diminished investments in quality, low wages, and highly fractured oversight.


  • Early childhood education in California is a dizzying array of programs, funding sources, and regulations.
  • Children attending high-quality preschool do better in school and in life.
  • Child care is prohibitively expensive for many families and does not meet the needs of nonstandard work schedules.
  • California has a large proportion of children in care with no standards.
  • California has a poor record of identifying young children with disabilities and providing them with needed services.
  • Wages are so low that nearly 60 percent of child-care workers rely on some form of public assistance.
  • California has low and uneven teacher-training requirements for early childhood education programs.
  • The process for monitoring quality and improvement is fragmented, inconsistent, and insufficient.
  • The state has no centralized data collection system, limiting the ability to evaluate improvement efforts.

California’s PreK-12 education system: 19 research briefs

Getting Down To Facts II (GDTFII) is an in-depth research report that serves as a “state of the state"about education in California today.

The Getting Down to Facts II project distilled the findings from 36 technical reports on California’s PreK-12 education system into 19 research briefs that highlight the key findings and conclusions from the research studies.

Key Findings

What are the most important things to know about
  • California’s education system is moving in the right direction but is still in need of capacity building to support a decade of reforms. Over the past decade a multitude of reforms have resulted in some improvement. But, the system still must ensure that educators and other practitioners have the skills, information and materials they need to put major reforms more fully into practice.
  • Large achievement gaps persist in California by race, ethnicity, income, and English learner (EL) status.
  • California’s children are behind before they enter kindergarten. The system needs a continued focus on closing achievement gaps through multiple approaches including enhanced early childhood education.
  • Funding levels remain short of adequate for schools in California given the goals of state policies.
  • Untouched critical funding issues could destabilize the system. Pensions, special education, and facilities each have the potential to worsen inequities if not addressed.
  • California produces very little information on what makes an excellent education for its own students. Despite investments in data systems in California, the state still falls short of what other states have developed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Credit recovery participation in US high schools

While test-score growth has lagged recently, upward progress on graduation rates has not, and record graduation rates have been offered as proof of progress. However, the fact that rising graduation rates have not been accompanied by broad-based increases in high school test scores should raise a red flag. That pattern suggests that record graduation rates flow from additional supports that schools are providing to students who—in prior years—might not have graduated without them.

Chief among these supports are credit recovery programs, which help students who have failed a class get back on track for graduation without repeating a year of school. These programs are available in approximately three in four US high schools and serve 6 percent of high school students. Despite their broad scope, relatively little is known about these programs’ effectiveness, administration, or where they are used most liberally.

This report uses a number of data sources to describe the landscape of credit recovery programs and participation across the nation’s high schools, focusing on those with high participation. Done well, credit recovery can give students a second chance to stay on track to graduation. Done poorly, it creates a second track that threatens school cultures and lowers our expectations for our most disadvantaged students and the schools that serve them.