Friday, July 20, 2018

States with the Most At-Risk Youth

Without a stable home, positive role models and tools for success, many young Americans fall behind their peers and experience a rocky transition to adulthood. Today, about one in nine individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither working nor attending school. Others suffer from poor health conditions that hinder their ability to develop physically or socially.

Such issues not only affect young people later in life, but they also prove harmful to society as a whole. For instance, more than 70 percent of young adults today are ineligible to join the U.S. military because they fail academic, moral or health qualifications. Research shows that when youth grow up in environments with economic problems and a lack of role models, they’re more at risk for poverty, early pregnancy and violence, especially in adulthood.

To determine the places where young Americans are not faring as well as others in the same age group, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 14 key indicators of youth risk. The data set ranges from share of disconnected youth to labor force participation rate among youth to youth poverty rate.

Read the findings here.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Vision impairments more frequent among children with developmental dyslexia

JAMA Ophthalmology
 Developmental dyslexia emerges in childhood and is a reading disorder believed to involve language processing deficits. Reading is also a visual task but the potential role of visual processing in developmental dyslexia has been controversial. This study was a small observational study to assess the frequency of visual deficits in 29 children with developmental dyslexia compared with 33 typically developing reading children. Deficiencies in some measures of visual function were more common among children with developmental dyslexia than children who were typically developing. The cause and clinical relevance of the study findings are uncertain and more studies are needed to see if treating visual function deficiencies improves reading in children with developmental dyslexia.
Authors: Aparna Raghuram, O.D., Ph.D., Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, and coauthors

ADHD drugs do not improve cognition in healthy college students

Contrary to popular belief across college campuses, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications may fail to improve cognition in healthy students and actually can impair functioning, according to a study by researchers at the University of Rhode Island and Brown University.
Study co-investigators Lisa Weyandt, professor of psychology and a faculty member with URI's George and Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, and Tara White, assistant professor of research in behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, had anticipated different findings. "We hypothesized that Adderall would enhance cognition in the healthy students, but instead, the medication did not improve reading comprehension or fluency, and it impaired working memory," she said. "Not only are they not benefitting from it academically, but it could be negatively affecting their performance."
This first-ever multisite pilot study of the impact of so-called "study drugs" on college students who do not have ADHD comes at a time when use of prescription stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse is common among young adults who believe the drugs will improve their academic performance. Research by Weyandt and others has estimated that 5 to 35 percent of college students in the United States and European countries without ADHD illegally use these controlled substances, buying or receiving them from peers, friends, or family.
Results of the new study, published last month in the journal Pharmacy, show that the standard 30 mg dose of Adderall did improve attention and focus -- a typical result from a stimulant -- but that effect failed to translate to better performance on a battery of neurocognitive tasks that measured short-term memory, reading comprehension and fluency.
Weyandt has a theory about why working memory would be adversely affected by the medication. Brain scan research shows that a person with ADHD often has less neural activity in the regions of the brain that control executive function -- working memory, attention, self-control. For people with ADHD, Adderall and similar medications increase activity in those regions and appear to normalize functioning. "If your brain is functioning normally in those regions, the medication is unlikely to have a positive effect on cognition and my actually impair cognition. In other words, you need to have a deficit to benefit from the medicine," Weyandt said.
Participants in the study also reported their perceived effects of the drug and its impact on their emotions, with students reporting significant elevation of their mood when taking Adderall.
In contrast to the small, mixed effects on cognition, the drug had much larger effects on mood and bodily responses, increasing positive mood, emotional ratings of the drug effect, heart rate and blood pressure. "These are classic effects of psychostimulants," said White. "The fact that we see these effects on positive emotion and cardiovascular activity, in the same individuals for whom cognitive effects were small or negative in direction, is important. It indicates that the cognitive and the emotional impact of these drugs are separate. How you feel under the drug does not necessarily mean that there is an improvement in cognition; there can be a decrease, as seen here in young adults without ADHD."
The physical effects from the drugs, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, were expected, and underscored the difference with cognition. "They are subjecting themselves to physiological effects but do not appear to be enhancing their neurocognition," Weyandt said. She stressed, however, that the findings are based on a pilot study and need to be replicated with a substantially larger sample of college students.
The researchers recruited students from both universities, eliminating individuals who had taken ADHD medications or other drugs. After rigorous health screenings, 13 students participated in two five-hour sessions at White's lab at Brown and at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.
In the double-blind study, in which neither researchers nor participants know who is receiving the placebo and who is receiving the study medication, each student received Adderall in one session and the placebo in the other. This allowed the researchers to see the effects of the medication vs. placebo in individuals and across the group.
Given the important and unexpected results from the study, Weyandt and White plan to apply for federal funding to continue the research with a larger group of healthy college students.

Investing in Single Mothers’ Higher Education: Costs and Benefits to Individuals, Families, and Society

Complete report

Postsecondary education is a reliable pathway to economic security and is increasingly important to securing family-sustaining employment. For single mother families, who make up a growing share of U.S. families, and who are especially likely to live in poverty, college attainment is a game changer for improving family well-being and meeting the demands of a changing economy. College credentials are associated with a host of positive outcomes, including increased earnings,[2] higher rates of employment,[3][4] improved health,[5] increased civic engagement,[6][7] and improved outcomes among the children of college graduates.[8]

Single mothers, whose families stand to gain disproportionately from the benefits of postsecondary degrees, face substantial obstacles to college completion, including financial insecurity and heavy caregiving burdens. Just 8 percent of single mothers who enroll in college graduate with an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years, compared with 49 percent of women students who are not mothers.[9]

The vast majority of single student mothers have low-incomes (89 percent) and no money of their own or from their families to cover college expenses. They are also likely to incur substantial student debt, in part due to the high cost of child care—which costs the equivalent of roughly one-third of working single mothers’ median annual incomes[10]—and their disproportionate enrollment in for-profit institutions.[11] On average, single student mothers spend nine hours each day, or 70 hours each week, caring for their children and doing housework.[12] Child care, in addition to being expensive, can be difficult to access, and has been declining on college campuses around the country.[13][14]

Single mothers’ low completion rates are particularly concerning given the high proportion who are students of color: 37 percent of Black women, 27 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 19 percent of Hispanic women, and 14 percent of White women in college are single mothers.[15] Addressing their needs while pursuing college degrees is critical to making meaningful progress toward racial/ethnic equity in education.

To better understand the benefits of college for single mothers, and the costs of investments in supports that can improve their success, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) estimated the economic returns to college attainment for single mothers and their families, and for society more broadly, and how those benefits compare to investments needed to promote single mother success. This report is part of a series of publications presenting findings from this cost-benefit analysis.[16]

Lead Testing of School Drinking Water

The federal Government Accountability Office. surveyed school districts across the country on testing for lead in drinking water in 2017. Based on our nationally generalizable survey, we estimate that:
  • 41% of districts, serving 12 million students, had not tested for lead in the 12 months before completing our survey.
    43% of districts, serving 35 million students, tested for lead. Of those, 37% found elevated levels and reduced or eliminated exposure.
    16% did not know if they had tested.
At least 8 states require schools to test for lead, and many others assist with voluntary testing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

State-level Information Available on arts education, computer-based assessments, and graduation rates

New state-level data on charter schools, arts education, computer-based assessments, and graduation rates are now available on the State Education Reforms website. The State Education Reforms website draws primarily on data collected by organizations other than the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which compiles and disseminates the information in five sections:
  • Accountability;
  • Assessment and Standards;
  • Staff Qualifications and Development;
  • State Support for School Choice and Other Options; and
  • Student Readiness and Progress through School.
One table was updated in the “Accountability” section. The “Staff Qualifications and Development” and “State Support for School Choice and Other Options” sections each had two updated tables.  One table was added in the “Assessment and Standards” section and in the “Student Readiness and Progress through School” section.  These tables may be easily located by the “Updated!” and “New!” tags next to the table title in the corresponding section.

To view the site, please visit:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Black children subjected to higher discipline rates than peers

Elementary school discipline policies that rely on expulsions or suspensions as punishment may be fostering childhood inequality, a new study shows.

These policies are not rare but can unfairly impact African-American children, says University of Michigan researcher Garrett Pace, who along with colleagues at the University of Maryland and Pennsylvania State University collaborated on the study.

The higher rate of black children suspended or expelled from school appears largely due to differences in their school characteristics rather than to differences in behavior problems, the researchers say.

"More disadvantaged schools should be provided resources and training to use more inclusive disciplinary practices," said Pace, a U-M sociology and social work doctoral student.
Previous research has documented racial disparities for discipline in middle and high school but few studies focus on the risk in elementary schools nationwide.

Many factors contribute to a child having problems in school--ranging from family instability to teacher biases--that place them at risk for suspensions and expulsions, Pace says.

The researchers used child and parent reports from the Fragile Families Study, which tracked nearly 5,000 children born in hospitals between 1998 and 2000 in 20 large cities. Parents were interviewed after the child's birth, and follow-ups were conducted at ages 1, 3, 5 and 9. Their final sample involved nearly 2,500 kids.

About one in 10 children were suspended or expelled by age 9.

Racial disparities remained high. About 40 percent of African-American boys were suspended or expelled, compared to 8 percent of white boys or from other ethnic groups. These disparities are largely due to differences in the children's school and family characteristics rather than to behavior problems.

In addition, children who were suspended or expelled displayed more aggressive behavior, like fighting, after they were disciplined than they did before their suspension or expulsion.

The study was not able to identify the cause of this increased aggression but it is possible it arises in response to negative emotions, which may become amplified if the discipline causes the student to fall behind in school or introduces stress at home because the parents' work schedules are disrupted.

The researchers also say that there are situations when exclusionary punishment may be necessary.
"However, in our opinion, schools should be provided resources and training to implement more inclusive alternatives," Pace said.
Journal: Social Forces

The study did not explore the role parents play in promoting their children's good school behavior.