Friday, October 31, 2014

IQ: Nature, Not Nurture: Parents Can't Make Their Kids Smarter

Reading bedtime stories, engaging in conversation and eating nightly dinners together are all positive ways in which parents interact with their children, but according to new research, none of these actions have any detectable influence on children’s intelligence later in life.
Florida State University criminology professor Kevin Beaver examined a nationally representative sample of youth alongside a sample of adopted children from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and found evidence to support the argument that IQ is not the result of parental socialization.
The study analyzed parenting behaviors and whether they had an effect on verbal intelligence as measured by the Picture Vocabulary Test (PVT). The IQ tests were administered to middle and high school students, and again when they were between the ages of 18 and 26.
“Previous research that has detected parenting-related behaviors affect intelligence is perhaps incorrect because it hasn’t taken into account genetic transmission,” Beaver said.
The subject of how much influence parents have on intelligence has long been debated. Some research that shows parents who socialize their children in accordance with certain principles like reading with them often or having nightly family dinners, have children who are smarter than children whose parents do not do those things.
There is also an argument that it’s not a parental socialization effect, but that intelligence is passed down from parent to children genetically, not socially. In order to test these two explanations, Beaver used an adoption-based research design. 
“We thought this was a very interesting set up and when we tested these two competing hypotheses in this adoptive-based research design, we found there was no association between parenting and the child’s intelligence later in life once we accounted for genetic influences,” Beaver said.
Studying children who share no DNA with adoptive parents eliminates the possibility that parental socialization is really just a marker for genetic transmission.
“In previous research, it looks as though parenting is having an effect on child intelligence, but in reality the parents who are more intelligent are doing these things and it is masking the genetic transformation of intelligence to their children,” Beaver said.
Does this mean parents can neglect or traumatize their children and it won’t affect them?
“My response is no,” Beaver said, “but the way you parent a child is not going to have a detectable effect on their IQ as long as that parenting is within normal bounds.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cyberbullying Increases Bully’s Popularity

A new (October 2014) study ( examines the reciprocal associations between cyberbullying behavior and young adolescents’ social status. For this purpose, a two-wave panel study with an 8-month time interval was conducted among an entire grade of 154 secondary school pupils (age 12-14). The survey featured items on traditional bullying and cyberbullying as well as peer-nomination questions on sociometric and perceived popularity.

Cyberbullying was related to subsequent increases in perceived popularity of the perpetrators. In contrast, traditional bullying perpetration was not longitudinally associated with social status during the studied period.

Although perceived popularity was also expected to precede cyberbullying behavior, this was not observed. Taken together, the results suggest that electronic forms of bullying, rather than traditional forms, can provide a means to acquire additional perceived popularity in early adolescence. The findings warrant future research on the factors that moderate the association between cyberbullying and social status.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are students enrolled in virtual schools different?

Michael K. Barbour of Sacred Heart University – who has been involved in K-12 online learning in several countries as a researcher, teacher, course designer and administrator – reviewed the report Virtual Schooling and Student Learning: Evidence from the Florida Virtual School. His research focuses on the effective design, delivery and support of K-12 online learning, particularly for students in rural areas. The review was conducted for the Think Twice think tank review project and is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.
The report Barbour reviewed, Virtual Schooling and Student Learning, was written by Matthew M. Chingos and Guido Schwerdt and published by the Program on Education Policy and Governance, an organization at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government that promotes school choice.
Virtual Schooling and Student Learningcompares the performance of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) students with that of students in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. The authors conclude that FLVS students perform at least as well as the comparison students on state tests, while costing less to educate.
The Florida report largely ignores a key question influencing whether the two compared groups are in fact comparable: Are the reasons why students enrolled in the virtual school rooted in differences that would create bias in the findings? If so, there could be systemic bias reflecting, e.g., the extent to which parents are engaged with their children. Any improved outcomes for the virtual students may also be due to “a lessening of the circumstances that caused the student to leave the traditional setting in the first place,” Barbour says. 

For example, if a student being bullied in a brick-and-mortar school and transferred to a cyber school, any improved performance may be completely divorced from the technology or delivery method -- but simply because the student is no longer being bullied. While that is a benefit of virtual education, it wasn’t what the authors argued or were even researching.
Barbour further explains that the report fails to account for the differing rates at which traditional and virtual students leave their respective programs, and it “fails to consider whether the virtual environment changed how the instruction was designed, delivered, or supported.”
Barbour concludes by pointing out that, given the flaws in simplistically seeking to compare virtual schooling with traditional schooling, the more useful research in the field instead focuses on how K-12 online learning, whether alone or blended with traditional modes of teaching, “can be effectively designed, delivered, and supported.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

A blueprint for building effective teacher leadership programs

As school districts across the country confront the challenges of recruiting and retaining great teachers while trying to close persistent achievement gaps, two prominent nonprofit organizations today released a blueprint for building effective teacher leadership programs. The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program and Leading Educators, which partners with school districts to accelerate the impact of teachers in leadership positions, unveiled Leading from the Front of the Classroom: A Roadmap for Teacher Leadership that Works at the Education Writers Association seminar in Detroit Monday.
The paper provides school districts with concrete strategies for maximizing the potential of highly effective teachers to influence their colleagues, shift school culture and advance teaching, learning, and student achievement. The good news is that school districts across America increasingly are investing in the development of new career pathways for their best teachers as a reward and retention strategy. Unfortunately, they often do so without regard for the impact they want these teachers to have or how this can reinforce and strengthen other reforms. As a result, these initiatives have yet to stem attrition or improve achievement in any consistent or widespread fashion.
"I’ve heard from so many teachers who are tired of the heartbreaking choice between serving their students and serving their profession. Teacher leadership must be a force for changing education—not a result of it," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.
Leading Educators Founder and CEO Jonas Chartock said, "What principal hasn't wished she could harness the talent of her best teachers and spread it to every classroom in her school? We know from our own experience this is possible and with this paper, Leading Educators hopes to point districts in the direction of creating high-impact leadership programs that address their many challenges around talent retention, achievement, and administrator burnout. In the areas where Leading Educators works directly with schools on developing these types of programs, we have seen higher teacher satisfaction and more collaborative, less stressful learning environments."
Aspen Institute Vice President Ross Wiener said, "Done right, teacher leadership elevates the profession while advancing other reforms. For example, it's overwhelming for principals alone to give every teacher the feedback and guidance they need and deserve – and it's not how any other profession is structured. Teacher leadership leverages talent within the teaching corps, makes the job more attractive to ambitious and accomplished teachers – and can make education reform more sustainable at the same time."
The paper cites several examples of effective teacher leadership initiatives at the state, school district, and school levels, including programs in Tennessee, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and Denver, among others. Standalone profiles also were released today of teacher leaders as Common Core coaches in Tennessee, team leaders in Denver Public Schools, and school-culture leads in the Noble Street Network of charter schools in Chicago.
These approaches share common attributes that have the potential to improve retention and student achievement:
They are designed for impact: This means aligning teacher leadership programs with key school priorities rather than just using leadership as an opportunity to recognize successful educators.
They know their context: Successful teacher leadership is predicated on having strong and well-defined systems in place to identify effective educators. School communities must have trust and confidence in their teacher leaders and not question the process by which they achieved their elevated position within a school.
They have defined measures of success: It is critical that districts and schools build a broad understanding of the long term and leading indicators of success. Vision must be clear and well-communicated.
They are built strategically: Effective teacher leadership programs cannot be a burden on principals or other educators, but must actually redistribute some responsibility in ways that make the principal job more manageable. Schools must commit to designing roles that make sense for their communities, train teachers in the management skills they need to be successful leaders, and recognize these leaders for their impact.
"By investing in the creation of a thoughtful teacher leadership program we've seen our schools in a position to hold all students to high expectations," said Michael Milkie, Superintendent of Noble Network of Charter Schools. "This paper captures a critical piece of our success and hope it serves as a model for other school organizations and districts looking to maximize the impact of the talent in their classrooms."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation’s youth, according to a report by researchers from Clemson University and Professional Data Analysts Inc., and published by the Hazelden Foundation.

“Bullying continues to affect a great number of children in all age groups, with the highest prevalence observed in third and fourth grades, where roughly 22 percent of schoolchildren report that they are bullied two or three times or more per month,” said Sue Limber, co-author of the report and professor in the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life at Clemson.

Research shows that bullying affects individuals across ethnicity, gender, grade and socioeconomic status, whether they live in urban, suburban or rural communities. Bullying can have serious effects during the school years and into adulthood.

Using data collected from the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire, they analyzed a representative sample of more than 200,000 questionnaires administered to students at schools that intended to, but had not yet implemented, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, an internationally respected anti-bullying program.

The sample included 1,000 girls and 1,000 boys from each grade between third and 12th — and the results were broken down by grade level and gender.

“We found that 18 percent of all students surveyed were involved in bullying others, were bullied by others or both, and that cyberbullying was one of the least common forms of bullying experienced,” Limber said.

A substantial proportion of bullied students did not confide in anyone about being bullied, and boys were less likely to confide in others than girls. Although more than 90 percent of girls and 80 percent of boys said they felt sorry for students who are bullied, far fewer reached out to help them.

“Many students also lacked confidence in the administrative and teaching staff to address bullying and, by high school, less than one-third of bullied students had reported bullying to adults at school,” she said. “Although half of students in grades three to five believed that school staff often tried to put a stop to it when a student was being bullied, this percentage dropped to just 36 percent by high school.”

The researchers say that one of the best tools that schools have for decreasing the problems associated with bullying behavior is to implement evidence-based prevention programs.

“We hope that this report helps teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers and concerned citizens raise national awareness about bullying and improve school environments so every child can feel safe at school,” said Limber.

Children in high-quality early childhood education are buffered from changes in family income

While losses in family income predict increases in behavior problems for many children, attending high-quality early childhood education and care centers offers some protection against families' economic declines, according to a new study out of Norway. In Norway, publicly subsidized high-quality early childhood education and care is available to all children, from low-income to affluent, starting at age 1. The study found that children who don't take part in such programs have more early behavior problems when their families' income drops.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development, and Boston College. It appears in the journal Child Development.
"Our study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the potential power of universal access to high-quality early childhood education and care for improving children's well-being and growth," according to Henrik Daae Zachrisson, senior researcher at the Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development, who was with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health at the time of the study, and Eric Dearing, associate professor at Boston College and senior researcher at the Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development, who conducted the study.

When families' incomes (adjusted for family size and yearly median income in Norway) decreased, their children's behavior problems increased, the study found. Conversely, when families' incomes increased, their children's behavior problems decreased. These patterns were strongest in low-income families, so fluctuations in income seemed to matter most for those with the least. Children in both low- and middle-income households who attended high-quality centers had stable, low levels of internalizing problems (such as withdrawal and anxiety) regardless of whether their families experienced worsening or improving economic circumstances.

The researchers drew data from a longitudinal study of more than 75,000 children and their families who participated in assessments from birth through age 3. Family income data were taken from public tax records. When children were 1 and a half and 3 years old, mothers reported on children's aggression and noncompliance (externalizing problems), withdrawal and anxiety (internalizing problems), and attendance at an early childhood and care center. Children who did not attend a center or were not cared for by a parent or family member were typically cared for by a family day care, nanny, or outdoor nursery (i.e., monitored playground); these settings are unregulated. At 36 months, almost 88 percent of the children were in an early childhood education and care center.

"Even in a context such as Norway, which has relatively little income inequality and relatively strong social supports for families, children in low-income families still appear to be sensitive to acute fluctuations in income, a finding that's also been demonstrated in the United States," according to Zachrisson and Dearing. "However, children in regulated, high-quality early childhood education and care centers appear to be protected against the negative effects of changes in income within families when it comes to internalizing problems."

The Character Factor: Drive and Prudence as Important as Academic Ability in Determining Educational Success

A growing body of empirical research demonstrates that people who possess certain character strengths do better in life in terms of work, earnings, education and so on, even when taking into account their academic abilities. Smarts matter, but so does character.
This paper assesses the quality of measures available in US survey data for two specific character traits, or non-cognitive skills, drive and prudence, which the authors term “performance character strengths” – non-cognitive skills that relate to outcomes important for economic mobility, such as educational attainment. 
The authors evaluate and rank the measures of drive and prudence found in these surveys, categorizing them as broad or narrow, and indirect or direct. Next, we use one of these measures (the BPI-hyperactivity scale in the NLSY) to look at socioeconomic gaps in performance character strengths, and the relative importance of performance character strengths for educational attainment. 
The authors find that family income and maternal education are positively associated with higher levels of performance character strengths, and that the influence of the measure on educational attainment is comparable to the influence of academic scores.