Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Head Start attendance leads to large and statistically significant gains in cognitive achievement during the pre-school period

This study provides the first comprehensive analysis of the distributional effects of Head Start, using the first national randomized experiment of the Head Start program (the Head Start Impact Study).  

The authors find that (the experimentally manipulated) Head Start attendance leads to large and statistically significant gains in cognitive achievement during the pre-school period and that the gains are largest at the bottom of the distribution.  Once the children enter elementary school, the cognitive gains fade out for the full population, but importantly, cognitive gains persist through 1st grade for some Spanish speakers.  These results provide strong evidence in favor of a compensatory model of the educational process. Additionally, the findings of large effects at the bottom are consistent with an interpretation that the relatively large gains in the well-studied Perry Preschool Program are in part due to the low baseline skills in the Perry study population.        

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Social class makes a difference in how children tackle classroom problems

An Indiana University study has found that social class can account for differences in how parents coach their children to manage classroom challenges. Such differences can affect a child's education by reproducing inequalities in the classroom.
"Parents have different beliefs on how to deal with challenges in the classroom," said Jessica McCrory Calarco, assistant professor in IU Bloomington's Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences. "Middle-class parents tell their children to reach out to the teacher and ask questions. Working-class parents see asking for help as disrespectful to teachers, so they teach their children to work out problems themselves."
Calarco studied four classrooms in a public school from their time in third grade through fifth grade. To isolate differences based on social class alone, she only collected interviews from Caucasian students and families, in addition to their teachers.
In general, middle-class children get more attention from their instructors because they actively seek it, while working-class children tend to stay silent through any of their educational struggles so as not to be a bother. Calarco said the differences in how parents teach their children to deal with problems in school stem primarily from parents' level of involvement in their children's schooling.
"Middle-class parents are more plugged into the school, so they know what teachers expect in the classroom. Working-class parents don't think it's their place to be involved, so they tend to be less aware of what teachers expect today," Calarco said.
With the widening gaps in educational outcomes between social classes, Calarco suggested that this study could help schools become more aware of these differences and make moves to reduce the inequalities.
"Schools can step in to alleviate these differences in kids' willingness to seek help," Calarco said. "Teachers need to be aware of social class differences that students are bringing with them into the classroom. They need to be more active in seeking out struggling students, because if we leave it up to the kids, they may not seek it themselves."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My New Education Books

I am pleased to announce my latest venture - Tsadek Press. The first four Tsadek Press books on education are now available as pdf’s:

1.   Preschool-Kindergarten Education – Latest Research

2.   Teaching Reading, Writing and Arithmetic – Latest Research

3.   School Discipline, Bullying and Violence – Latest Research

4.   Addressing Student Health  – Latest Research

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Delay Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation

Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. – and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day.

In a new policy statement published online Aug. 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “School Start Times for Adolescents,” published in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics.

“The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” Dr. Owens said. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”

Many studies have documented that the average adolescent in the U.S. is chronically sleep-deprived and pathologically sleepy. A National Sleep Foundation poll found 59 percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87 percent of high school students in the U.S. were getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights.

The policy statement is accompanied by a technical report, “Insufficient Sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults: An Update on Causes and Consequences,” also published online Aug. 25. The technical report updates a prior report on excessive sleepiness among adolescents that was published in 2005.

The reasons for teens’ lack of sleep are complex, and include homework, extracurricular activities, after-school jobs and use of technology that can keep them up late on week nights. The AAP recommends pediatricians counsel teens and parents about healthy sleep habits, including enforcing a media curfew. The AAP also advises health care professionals to educate parents, educators, athletic coaches and other stakeholders about the biological and environmental factors that contribute to insufficient sleep.

But the evidence strongly suggests that a too-early start to the school day is a critical contributor to chronic sleep deprivation among American adolescents. An estimated 40 percent of high schools in the U.S. currently have a start time before 8 a.m.; only 15 percent start at 8:30 a.m. or later. The median middle school start time is 8 a.m., and more than 20 percent of middle schools start at 7:45 a.m. or earlier.

Napping, extending sleep on weekends, and caffeine consumption can temporarily counteract sleepiness, but they do not restore optimal alertness and are not a substitute for regular, sufficient sleep, according to the AAP.

The AAP urges middle and high schools to aim for start times that allow students to receive 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night. In most cases, this will mean a school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later, though schools should also consider average commuting times and other local factors.

“The AAP is making a definitive and powerful statement about the importance of sleep to the health, safety, performance and well-being of our nation's youth,” Dr. Owens said. “By advocating for later school start times for middle and high school students, the AAP is both promoting the compelling scientific evidence that supports school start time delay as an important public health measure, and providing support and encouragement to those school districts around the country contemplating that change.”


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Latino Children Make Greatest Gains in NC Pre-K

A new summary of 12 years of research on North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program for at-risk 4-year-olds shows that “dual-language learners” make the greatest academic progress in the program. According to the report from UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG), while students in NC Pre-K advance across all spheres of learning, the program is especially beneficial for the state’s dual-language learners.
“On the whole, children in NC Pre-K exceed normal expectations for the rate of developmental growth, both while in the program and afterward in kindergarten,” said Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, director of FPG’s National Pre-K and Early Learning Evaluation Center and lead author of the report. “But one of our key conclusions was that those children who enter the pre-k program with lower levels of English proficiency make gains at an even greater rate than the other students.”
Peisner-Feinberg said the report’s conclusions are consistent with FPG’s comprehensive review of research on young Latino or Spanish-speaking children, which confirmed last year that widely available public programs help dual-language learners make important academic gains. That review determined that children with lower English-language abilities than their peers benefit the most from programs like Head Start and public pre-k—but exactly how and why remained unclear.
“We know that early childhood is a critical period for children who are dual-language learners,” said Virginia Buysse, the review’s lead author and co-director of the National Pre-K and Early Learning Evaluation Center. “Many of them face the difficult task of learning a new language while acquiring essential skills to be ready for kindergarten.”
According to Peisner-Feinberg, Latino children in North Carolina, despite their rapid advances in the state’s pre-k program, typically enter it with lower skill levels and often have not caught up to their peers even by the end of kindergarten. Maximizing gains for dual-language learners is essential, therefore, because the gap usually widens as they grow older.
“In our review of research, we did find some support across several studies both for using English as the language of instruction and for incorporating the home language into strategies that focused on language and literacy,” said Buysse. She added, though, that small sample sizes and other methodological challenges necessitated more research in order to demonstrate exactly which interventions hold the most promise for dual-language learners.
Peisner-Feinberg said focusing on classroom quality—especially on the instructional environments of dual-language learners—is essential to understanding how to maximize their opportunities for learning. She headed a new review of research in order to examine several measures of the quality of early childhood education specifically for dual-language learners.
“We found that general measures capture overall instructional quality and its associations with child outcomes similarly for dual-language learners and the wider early childhood population, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all children experience learning environments in the same way,” said Peisner-Feinberg. “In fact, measures designed specifically with dual-language learners in mind do capture different dimensions of the learning environment that are especially important for these children.”
Peisner-Feinberg, who has led the FPG teams in conducting annual evaluation studies of NC Pre-K since its inception as More at Four in 2001, concluded her summary report on the program’s first dozen years with recommendations that included further improving instruction—even for the group making the largest advances in the program.
“As a group, Latinos now represent at least 1 in 12 children in about half of the states in the country,” she said. “Given the research and demographic shifts, it’s essential to carefully measure the quality of classroom experiences for dual-language learners and to optimize their learning in our state and across the country.”

Affirmative actions helps disadvantaged student without hindering advantaged students

In this study 5th through 8th grade students were paid based on their performance on a national mathematics exam relative to other competitor students. The researchers observed the use of a study website as students prepare for the exam to evaluate "investment" in the preparation process.

An affirmative action (AA) element was introduced for "disadvantaged" students by reserving prizes for lower grade students who on average have less mathematics training and practice.

The researchers found that the AA policy significantly increased both average time investment and subsequent math
achievement scores for disadvantaged students.

At the same time, they found no evidence that it weakens average human capital investment incentives for advantaged students.  They believe that this is strong evidence that AA can narrow achievement gaps while promoting greater equality of outcomes.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Teacher attendance report

This report breaks down teacher attendance for 40 districts in the nation's largest cities in the 2012-2013 school year. The report identifies districts with the greatest percentage of teachers with excellent attendance as well as those with the biggest percentages of chronically absent teachers. 
In addition to identifying districts that are leaders and laggards in school attendance, the report takes a look at the impact of school poverty levels on teacher attendance and whether or not policies to curb absences made a difference. 

District Summary Information
Atlanta Public Schools
Austin Independent School District
Baltimore City Public Schools
Buffalo Public Schools
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Cincinnati Public Schools
Cleveland Metropolitan School District
Columbus City Schools
Dallas Independent School District
Denver County School District No. 1
District of Columbia Public Schools
Duval County Public Schools (Jacksonville, FL)
Granite School District (Salt Lake City, UT)
Hartford Public Schools
Hillsborough County Public Schools (Tampa, FL)
Houston Independent School District
Indianapolis Public Schools
Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville, KY)
Kansas City Public Schools (MO)
Los Angeles Unified School District
Milwaukee Public Schools
Minneapolis Public Schools
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
New York City Department of Education
Newark Public Schools District
Northside Independent School District (San Antonio, TX)
Oklahoma City Public Schools
Orleans Parish School Board (New Orleans, LA)
Orange County Public Schools (Orlando, FL)
The School District of Philadelphia
Phoenix Union High School District
Pittsburgh Public Schools
Portland Public Schools (OR)
Providence Public School District
Sacramento City Unified School District
San Diego Unified School District
San Francisco Unified School District
San Jose Unified School District
Seattle Public Schools
St. Louis Public Schools