Sunday, January 20, 2019

Education Week Research Center's Chance-for-Success Index

The Education Week Research Center's Chance-for-Success Index identifies strengths and weaknesses in each state's education pipeline that—taken together—capture the many factors within and outside of the pre-K-12 education system that contribute to a person's success throughout a lifetime.

The Index is based on 13 distinct factors gauging education-related opportunities in three broad stages of a person's life: early foundations, the school years, and adult outcomes.
In the early-foundations category, the index measures factors that provide support to children as they prepare to enter the formal education system, including prekindergarten. These factors include family income, parental education levels, and parents' English-language fluency.

The metrics in the school years incorporate key markers of pre-K-12 participation and performance, ranging from preschool to postsecondary. Adult outcomes are evaluated based on educational attainment, income, and steady employment.

These latest scores—updated with fresh data since the Quality Counts report issued in September—reflect the 2017 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, adjusted cohort graduation rates from 2015-16 published by the U.S. Department of Education, and the research center's analysis of 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Complete report

About 60 percent of teachers and principals report setting goals for student SEL growth.

A growing body of evidence shows that social-emotional skills predict the long-term outcomes of students, even after controlling for differences in academic achievement. Despite the evidence that social-emotional learning (SEL) contributes to student success, few studies have investigated the extent to which educators promote SEL among their students. This American Educator Panels Data Note details the extent to which a nationally representative sample of teachers and school leaders report setting goals for the social-emotional growth of their students. 

Results indicated that about 60 percent of teachers and principals report setting goals for student SEL growth. However, teachers were less likely to report that their school leadership set these goals compared with principals' self-reports. These results indicate that SEL goal setting is substantial but by no means universal. Further, the gap in perceptions of school leader goal setting indicates that as principals begin or continue to develop goals, they should aim to create a schoolwide strategy that is communicated to teachers and take into account efforts that are already underway in classrooms. One barrier to these efforts may be the lack of schoolwide systems for assessing SEL skills.

Key Findings

Educators implement social-emotional learning, but principals and teachers have different views

  • About 60 percent of teachers and principals reported setting goals for growth in student SEL.
  • Teachers were less likely to report that school leadership set SEL goals than principals were to self-report goal setting.
  • Nonurban teachers were less likely to report that their school leaders are setting goals for SEL growth, and nonurban principals were less likely to report that district leaders are setting goals for SEL growth.


  • As principals begin or continue to set goals for SEL growth, they must be sure to create a coherent schoolwide strategy and communicate that strategy more effectively to teachers.
  • School leaders must take into account efforts already underway in their classrooms as they create schoolwide strategies.
  • Setting schoolwide goals requires understanding students' strengths and weaknesses, so schoolwide systems for assessing social-emotional skills can help in that endeavor.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

'Statistics anxiety' is real

The high anxiety network formed by pair-wise correlations of the 51 items in the STARS based on the responses from students with high anxiety scores. Thicker lines indicate that the correlation coefficient was closer to +1.0 and thinner lines indicate correlation coefficients closer to +.3. All the lines are green, indicating that all the correlations were positive.
Credit: University of Kansas
Have you ever been stressed out by the idea of doing math or statistics problems? You're not alone.
Research shows that up to 80 percent of college students experience some form of statistics anxiety -- and for students majoring in psychology, this anxiety often puts obstacles in their path to graduation.

"In my psychology statistics class, I once had a student take and fail the class two or three times," said Michael Vitevitch, professor and chair of psychology at the University of Kansas. "He'd taken everything in the major, and this was the last class he needed. But he had high statistics anxiety. On one of the exams, he kind of froze and was staring at the paper. I took him into the hallway and said, 'Relax, go splash some water on your face and come back when you're OK.' He did, but at the end of class, he was still staring at the paper. I asked him to come back to my office and finish it. That extra time was enough to get him through the test. Eventually, he passed the class and graduated that semester. It took him seven or eight years to complete his bachelor's degree, and it was because of his problems in the statistics class. He went on to do occupational therapy and is really doing quite well, but it was a statistics class that was almost the barrier to having that future."

Now, Vitevitch is the co-author of a new study that uses a questionnaire and an analytical technique called "network science" to determine precisely what factors contribute to this kind of statistics anxiety among psychology majors. The paper appears in the peer-reviewed journal Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

"We teach a statistics class in the psychology department and see many students put it off until senior year because they're scared of this class," Vitevitch said. "We're interested in seeing if we could help students out of the statistics anxiety. There's not a one-size-fits-all solution to get them to overcome their fears. You need to find out what their fear is and focus on that. For people who don't think statistics are useful, you need to convince them it's not just useful for psychology but for other things as well. For people fearful of math and statistics in general, you need to help lower their anxiety so they can focus on learning. We hope this gives us some understanding of our own students and statistical anxiety in general."

Vitevitch's collaborators on the new paper are Cynthia Siew of the University of Warwick and Marsha McCartney of the National University of Singapore. The researchers said a grasp of statistics is vital to academic achievement and a well-rounded understanding of the field of psychology.
"It's a way of communicating with numbers instead of words," Vitevitch said. "A picture is worth a thousand words. Numbers can convey a lot of information as well. Being able to compute those numbers and communicate that massive amount of information quickly and concisely is important. It's also very important knowing what those numbers mean and not skipping over them in a paper in a peer-reviewed journal article."

The team used a questionnaire called the Statistical Anxiety Rating Scale (STARS) to determine aspects of learning statistics causing the most anxiety and categorize students into groups of high- and low-anxiety students. Questions probed students' feelings about the value of statistics, self-concepts about math ability, fear of statistics teachers, interpretation anxiety, test and class anxiety, and the fear of asking for help.

"People would answer and rate questions like, 'Do you think this is a useless topic? Do you think you'll never use statistics in your life? Do you think statistics professors aren't human because they're more like robots?'" Vitevitch said. "Hopefully something like 'my statistics teacher isn't human' is something we can focus on -- and I'm saying that as a former statistics teacher who is human."
With the questionnaire results from 228 students, the KU researcher and his colleagues mapped results visually using an emerging analysis technique called network science, which puts the most important contributors or symptoms of statistical anxiety at the center of a visual diagram of connecting nodes.

"Network science maps a collection of entities that are somehow related to another," Vitevitch said.

"Most people think of a social network where the dots would be you and your friends and lines would be drawn between you and people you know. You might know someone and they might know someone, but you might not know that third person. If you sketch these friends out, you get this spider-web looking thing. People have been doing this with various psychopathologies -- looking at symptoms of depression, for example. With statistics anxiety, it's not just that you have symptoms, it's how long you have them and which ones are more important? That's not always captured by a laundry list of symptoms. But it does seem to be captured by a network approach. The most important symptoms are in the middle of that spider web."

Whereas previous studies on the topic used a scale to measure the levels of students' statistics anxiety, the application of network science to responses from the STARS questionnaire increased the researchers' understanding of the nature of the anxiety itself. For instance, network science analysis revealed high- and low-anxiety networks have different network structures.

For students high in statistics anxiety, the chief symptoms included high agreement with the statements "I can't even understand seventh- and eighth-grade math; how can I possibly do statistics?" and "statistics teachers are so abstract they seem inhuman." For low-anxiety students, main symptoms included fear of "asking a fellow student for help in understanding a printout" and anxiety "interpreting the meaning of a table in a journal article."

Vitevitch said he hoped the results would be used by instructors in university psychology departments to develop effective interventions to ease students' statistics anxiety.

"This paper is targeted at people who teach psychology," he said. "Hopefully we'll turn our science on ourselves and find a better way to make sure we're getting our points across to our students and helping those who need a little help. It might not be a matter of teaching remedial math, but more like helping them overcome fears or discomfort they have with this topic."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Student Practice in Mathematics Instruction: Exploring for Kindergartners: More is Better

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Telling stories using rhythmic gesture helps children improve their oral skills

Gesture is an inherent part of human communication and speakers of all ages tend to gesticulate when they speak. In children, gesture acquires special importance, since it is an important precursor and predictor of language and cognitive development.

Other studies led by Pilar Prieto, coordinator of the Prosodic Studies Group (GrEP) and ICREA researcher at the Department of Translation and Language Sciences (DTCL) at Pompeu Fabra University, had shown that even at early ages, rhythmic gestures (rhythmic movements of the hands/arms made together with prominent prosody) help children not only to remember the information of speech, but also to understand it.

A recent study has delved even further into this aspect of learning and investigated the relevance of gestures, specifically rhythmic ones, in the development of children's narrative discourse. The study has been published in the advanced online edition of the journal Developmental Psychology, whose authors are Ingrid Vilà-Giménez, a member of the Prosodic Studies Group, Alfonso Igualada, (a member of the Cognition and Language Research Group, UOC), and Pilar Prieto.

The results of the study show for the first time that a brief training session with rhythmic gestures has immediate positive effects for improving children's narrative abilities. The study shows that children especially improve the structure of their stories when they are told stories accompanied by rhythmic gestures.

The participants in this study were forty-four children aged 5 and 6 from the Catalan geographic area of Girona: Escola Casa Nostra (Banyoles), Escola Pública Joan Bruguera (Girona), Escola Bora Gran (Serinyà) and Escola Can Puig (Banyoles).
In the training session, six stories were shown to each participant, each lasting a minute and told by two primary school teachers under two different experimental conditions. Under the first condition, no rhythmic gestures were used with the keywords; however, under the second condition, rhythmic gestures visually marked the keywords. Before and after the training phase, the children's improved narrative structure was assessed.
The experiment consisted of three parts: a preliminary phase, a training session, and a later stage. The study materials consisted of four different cartoons (41-50 seconds long) about the story of a mouse and its friends, who were not known by the children. These cartoons had no dialogue and no narrative, in order to motivate the child to produce a narrative about the story they had seen.
The training session involved the use of 24 audiovisual narratives in which two primary school teacher told different stories. In twelve of these recordings, the narrators used rhythmic gestures to stress the keywords of the story, while in the other twelve, no such gestures were made. Each training story dealt with an animal that lived on a farm and followed a similar narrative structure to that of cartoons.
The results of the experiment showed that the children who participated in the training with rhythmic gestures produced better stories with a better narrative structure in the phase after training. This study demonstrates for the first time that a brief training session with rhythmic gestures has immediate benefits for improving the production of narrative discourse in children aged 5 and 6, especially regarding narrative structure.

Teachers as Brand Ambassadors for Private Firms


Marketing in schools has a new twist, and teachers are at the center. Corporate firms, particularly those that produce education technology products, have begun to contract teachers to become so-called brand ambassadors. This new phenomenon has been touted as a win-win-win for firms, teachers, and students. This assumption, however, neglects to balance potential benefits with potential costs, as explained in a research brief released today.

A brand ambassador is an individual who receives some form of compensation or perk in exchange for the endorsement of a product. Unlike celebrity endorsers, however, teachers can be thought of as “micro-influencers” – individuals who give firms access to their network of social influence. For teachers, this network includes school and district administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students. This “micro-influencer” strategy supplements, or in some cases outright replaces, more costly and risky forms of marketing relying on popular athletes or celebrities.
In Examining the New Phenomenon of Teachers as Brand Ambassadors, Christopher M. Saldaña, Kevin G. Welner, Susan Malcolm, and Eleanore Tisch explore the ethical, legal and policy issues associated with the recruitment and hiring of teachers as brand ambassadors. They: 
  • Consider the use of brand ambassador marketing outside of schools;
  • Reflect on the larger economic contexts – for teachers and for schools – within which the school-based micro-influencer brand ambassador strategy has grown;
  • Explain how teacher brand ambassadorships fit within broader marketing trends and within earlier instantiations of marketing in schools;
  • Note the potential benefits that these relationships provide to teachers and their students and weigh these against the potential concerns, conflicts, and costs to teachers and students; and
  • Consider the need for potential protections of students’ interests, as teacher brand ambassadors programs grow as a presence in public schools. 
The authors conclude with the following four recommendations:
  1. School districts should review current codes of ethics and conflict-of-interest policies. Where necessary, states and districts should update these policies to reflect the challenges posed by new technology – such as social media – and brand ambassador programs.
  2. Districts should include teachers and parents in this process of reviewing ethics and conflict-of-interest policies and, more broadly, in the process of purchasing and researching curriculum.
  3. These policies should provide teachers and other public employees in the school community with ample and clear guidance on the ethics of their roles.
  4. Most importantly, schools should be adequately funded, so that every student receives the necessary resources to learn and teachers receive appropriate compensation for their work without relying upon corporate sponsorships or funding.
Find Examining the New Phenomenon of Teachers as Brand Ambassadors, by Christopher M. Saldaña, Kevin G. Welner, Susan Malcolm, and Eleanore Tisch, at: 


New research brief explores ethical, legal and policy issues associated with the use of teacher-focused brand ambassador marketing in schools.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Enrollment and Staffing in Public Schools and School Districts

In the 2016-17 school year, the number of students for every full-time equivalent teacher in public schools was 16.0, unchanged from the previous school year.

The National Center for Education Statistics released a new set of data today, January 16, 2019, the 2016-17 Common Core of Data Universe files.  These files provide new data concerning public elementary and secondary education in the United States collected through NCES’ Common Core of Data program.

These data show that there were 98,331 operating public elementary and secondary schools and 18,344 operating local education agencies in 2016-17. Those schools were attended by 50.5 million public elementary and secondary school students, which is an increase of less than 0.1 percent from the student membership in School Year 2015–16.

The data files and documentation are available on the CCD website: .