Friday, October 21, 2016

State K-12 Funding Still Lagging in Many States

At least 23 states will provide less “general” or “formula” funding — the main form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — in the current school year (2017) than when the Great Recession took hold in 2008, a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities newly updated survey of state budget documents finds.

Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period.  At the same time, five of those eight — Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin — enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.

Most states raised general funding per student this year, but 19 states imposed new cuts, even as the national economy continues to improve.  Some of these states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina, already were among the deepest-cutting states since the recession hit.

Our survey, with the most up-to-date data available on state and local funding for schools, also shows that, after adjusting for inflation:

Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold.
In 27 states, local government funding per student fell over the same period, adding to the damage from state funding cuts.  In states where local funding rose, those increases rarely made up for cuts in state support.

Junior high school best time to interest women in coding

The share of women in the U.S. computing workforce will decline from 24 percent to 22 percent by 2025, according to new research from Accenture and Girls Who Code. But interventions to encourage girls to pursue a computer science education could triple the number of women in computing to 3.9 million, growing their share of technology jobs from 24 percent today to 39 percent in the same timeframe.

Cracking the Gender Code measured how the factors influencing girls’ pursuit of computer sciences change at each stage of their education and recommends a more tailored and sequenced series of actions starting in junior high school and sustained through high school and college. These actions could not only increase the pipeline of women to 3.9 million by 2025, but also boost women’s cumulative earnings by $299 billion.

The demand for computing skills far outstrips supply, plaguing U.S. employers with a talent shortage. In 2015, there were more than 500,000 open computing jobs to be filled in the U.S. but fewer than 40,000 new computer science graduates to fill them. The untapped potential of women to fill these roles has vast implications for U.S competitiveness.

 Recommendations for Cracking the Gender Code

The research included a large-scale survey of girls aged 12–18, undergraduate college students, and key influencers to understand the state of girls’ interest in computing at each stage of their education. Using the survey findings, the research identified actions to reversing the projected decline of women in technology, including:

  • Spark interest in junior high. Today’s junior high school girls have the potential to fill 1.6 million extra computing positions by 2025—twice the potential of high school and college girls combined. Greater guidance from parents and teachers can show girls that computing is cool, fun and a means to realize their aspirations, not just a pursuit for boys. One recommendation: Boosting girls’ hands-on experience through computer games specifically designed for girls.
  • Sustain engagement in high school. The high school years tend to be a time of high risk, where girls fall into the “high school trap,” losing interest in computing and never returning. Among the interventions is summer camp where girls study computing with their female friends. The research found that 81 percent of high school girls who studied computing over the summer were interested in studying it at college, compared to 52 percent who only studied computing at school.
  • Inspire a career after college. While the college years are critical to exposing women to career opportunities, the research found that the door to computing never closes, as girls can learn computer science skills post-college even if they’ve had no previous formal education. In fact, more than half the women working in computing profiled in the research didn’t major in computer science in college. One recommendation: Offer all undergraduates, not just computing/tech majors, on-campus and summer immersion programs in computing/coding.


Accenture and Girls Who Code carried out in-depth ethnographies and focus groups to identify issues, drivers, barriers and perceptions among girls aged 12-18, undergraduates, young workers, parents and teachers. Using the findings of the qualitative study, we then interviewed more than 8,000 individuals to validate and quantify those results.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Student-police interactions disproportionately impact low-income students, students of color and students with disabilities

The Right to Remain a Student

Police presence on campus has become a troubling reality for many students throughout California. What was once a space for academics and social growth is now an environment where students feel like suspects and criminals. These realities occasionally garner public attention, most often when videos showing police violence against youth on campus shock the nation. Equally shocking—but less reported—are the circumstances surrounding these incidents, the long-term consequences of student interactions with police on campus and the general lack of district-level policies to govern police conduct on campus.

The ACLU of California’s report, The Right to Remain a Student: How California School Policies Fail to Protect and Serve, discusses these effects of increased police presence on campus and reviews school district policies on student discipline and police conduct on campus.

Key findings:

  • School districts often rely on police officers to handle minor violations, who then frequently mishandle the situation, resulting in harmful consequences for students and families;
  • Criminalization has short and long-term damage and funnels students into the school-to-prison pipeline;
  • Student-police interactions disproportionately impact low-income students, students of color and students with disabilities; and
  • Many California school districts have conflicting, vague or absent policies that provide little to no meaningful guidance to school staff on when to call police to campus and how to interact with police.

The report’s findings make one thing very clear: districts should not permanently station police on campus. However, as long as police remain on campus, districts must adopt and enforce policies that clearly guide school staff on whether and when they can request police assistance. Similarly, districts policies must establish procedures that protect students’ rights during interactions with police.

High rates of absenteeism and suspensions in California elementary schools

The fourth annual statewide report on elementary school truancy and chronic absenteeism in California, In School + On Track 2016 finds that an estimated 210,000 K-5 students in California missed 10% of the school year in 2015-2016, making up 7.3% of elementary students in the state.

The report also confirms earlier research on the disproportionately high rates of absenteeism among African American, Native American, and Pacific Islander elementary school students, special education students, and foster and homeless youth.  The report does highlight that significant progress is being made, with school districts increasingly taking action to ensure children are in school, on time, every day.

Drawing from four years of longitudinal data—a sample of almost half a million kindergarten to 5th grade students from nearly 200 school districts—In School + on Track 2016 includes the most comprehensive analysis to-date on the high rates of absenteeism among California’s elementary school students. The report finds that California continues to face an attendance crisis, with an estimated 210,000 K-5 students missing 10% of the 2015-16 school year, and that this crisis disproportionately affects African American, low-income, special education, and highly mobile students.

School suspensions also severely exacerbate the attendance crisis and have an inordinate impact on boys, low-income students, and students with special needs. In fact, 55% of students in this study who had more than one suspension were also chronically absent. Low-income students accounted for 82% of all suspensions and 30% of all suspensions involved students receiving special education services. Further, boys were suspended at three times the rate of girls, and foster children were suspended at two and a half times the rate of all other students. The report also finds that African American students, while making up just 5% of the elementary school student population, represent 22% of all suspensions.

Early attendance patterns also have a significant impact on academic achievement. The data from this year’s report revealed that three-quarters of students who were chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade did not meet the California state standards in math and English language arts in the third grade.

Despite persistently high rates of absenteeism and suspensions, however, California school districts have taken significant steps to improve elementary school attendance over the past several years:
  • 99% of districts surveyed for this study reported that they have implemented or plan to implement policies and programs to improve elementary school attendance this year.
  • In the 2012-13 school year, just over half of school districts surveyed said that they tracked student attendance data longitudinally (over time). This year, 85% of districts reported that they track attendance longitudinally, allowing teachers and administrators to understand individual student attendance patterns, craft targeted interventions, and evaluate the success of those interventions.
  • Since the 2013-14 school year, 163 school districts (34% of those surveyed) have changed their discipline policies so students do not miss as much school for suspensions, or have reduced their overall number of suspensions.
The report is available in its entirety online at:

Review of a Recent Study on the Impacts of Charter High Schools on Educational Attainment and Earnings

What is the study about?

This study (Sass, T. R., Zimmer, R. W., Gill, B. P., & Booker, T. K. (2016). Charter schools’ effects on long-term attainment and earnings. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 35(3), 683–706. doi:10.1002/pam.21913)  examined the effects of charter high school attendance on high school graduation, college enrollment and persistence, and annual earnings. The study sample included eighth-grade students who attended charter middle schools in Florida from 1997 to 2000. Within this sample, the study authors used statistical techniques to match ninth-grade charter school and non-charter public school students with similar characteristics, including prior academic achievement and socioeconomic status.

Comparing the two groups, the study measured the impact of charter high school attendance on the likelihood of receiving a high school diploma within 5 years of starting high school, enrolling in college within 6 years of starting high school, and persisting in college for at least 2 years. The study also examined the impact of charter high school attendance on maximum annual earnings for up to 12 years after enrollment in eighth grade among those with earnings. Sample sizes for these analyses ranged from 480 to 2,286 students.

What did the study report?

The study authors reported that students who attended charter high schools were more likely to receive a high school diploma, enroll in college, and persist in college. The study authors also found that annual earnings were higher for students who attended charter high schools.

How does the WWC rate this study?

This study meets WWC group design standards with reservations for the analyses of receiving a high school diploma, enrolling in college, and persisting in college, because the two groups were similar on prior academic achievement and socioeconomic status. However, the analyses for earnings do not meet WWC group design standards because larger differences in prior academic achievement and socioeconomic status required a statistical adjustment that was not performed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Students don't always do better when attending high-achieving schools

Policymakers are implementing reforms with the assumption that students do better when attending high-achieving schools. In this article, longitudinal data from Chicago Public Schools is used to test that assumption.

The  results indicate that the effects of attending a higher performing school depend on the school’s performance level.

At elite public schools with admission criteria, there are no academic benefits—test scores are not better, grades are lower—but students report better environments.

In contrast, forgoing a very low-performing school for a nonselective school with high test scores and graduation rates improves a range of academic and nonacademic outcomes.

Race influences teachers' referrals to special and gifted education

Teacher referrals for special and gifted education testing are subjective and may be swayed by a student's race, finds research published in the journal Social Science Research.

The study found that teachers are more likely to see academic challenges as disabilities when white boys exhibit them than when boys of color exhibit the same difficulties. Conversely, teachers are more likely to perceive behavioral challenges as disabilities among boys of color than when white boys have the same behavioral difficulties.

"Previous research tends to be polarized between the argument that students of color are overrepresented in special education due to racial bias in schools, and the argument that they are actually underrepresented in special education once you account for socioeconomic status and other related factors. This research finds racial bias, but it's more complicated, with both underrepresentation and overrepresentation of students of color," said Rachel Fish, assistant professor of special education at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and the study's author.

Teachers play an important role in identifying students who may benefit from special and gifted education. Earlier research found that 75 percent of referrals originate from teachers (as opposed to parents or medical professionals), and teachers' referrals are generally confirmed through additional testing.

Because students of color are overrepresented in special education and underrepresented in gifted education, it has been assumed that teachers may be making biased decisions when referring students for testing. But existing research on teacher bias has been inconclusive.

In this study, Fish examined the role of student race and ethnicity in teachers categorizing student needs as exceptional and in need of either special or gifted education services. She conducted an experiment involving 70 third grade teachers from 14 public elementary schools in one district.

Teachers were asked to read case studies that each described a fictional male student. In different versions of the case studies, Fish changed certain factors about the student: his race and ethnicity, whether he was an English learner, and factors that might suggest he was exceptional. The factors included academic challenges, suggesting a learning disability; behavioral challenges, suggesting an emotional disorder; or academic strengths with emotional sensitivity, suggesting that he is gifted and talented. After reading a case study, teachers were asked the likelihood that they would refer each student for special education or gifted testing.

When teachers read a case study of a boy with academic challenges, meant to suggest learning disabilities, they were more likely to refer white boys than black and Latino boys for testing. This suggests that teachers believe the white student is performing at a lower level than he is able to and should be referred for additional services, whereas for students of color, low academic performance is expected and seen as normal - and not a problem to remediate. This pattern held true when looking at white English learners and English learners of color, with more white English learners referred for testing.

Conversely, when case studies portrayed boys with behavioral challenges, teachers were more likely to refer black and Latino boys than white boys for testing. Here, a referral suggests that the teacher perceives the student as having social, emotional, or behavioral skills that are problematic enough to warrant outside help, reaffirming earlier research showing that teachers perceive misbehavior by black boys as more aggressive and problematic than misbehavior by white boys.

"Moreover, a referral for behavioral challenges could result in a label of an 'emotional disorder,' which carries a high degree of stigma and could put students of color at a disadvantage," said Fish.

In case studies where teachers read about boys with academic strength and emotional sensitivity, clues for good candidates for gifted education, teachers were more likely to refer white students for gifted testing. In other words, teachers may perceive high ability as a natural characteristic of white students, while they may fail to recognize high ability among students of color.

"This subjectivity has implications for inequalities in education by race and ethnicity: students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are perceived and treated differently in schools. If students are placed in special education and gifted programs differentially because of racial bias among teachers, then students are likely receiving inappropriate educational services," said Fish.

"It is important to note, however, that these findings are not about blaming teachers for being racist. Rather, this research reveals how racism in our society affects the everyday work of teachers. I believe teachers are doing their best to support all students in their classrooms, yet racial bias affects everyone, often in ways that we're unaware."