Recent education research reports are summarized below. Click on the links for further details, and, in many cases. links to the full reports. These, and many other reports are available at my Education Research Report blog.
Students who were told they would receive feedback quickly on their performance earned higher grades than students who expected feedback at a later time. Furthermore, when students expected to receive their grades quickly, they predicted that their performance would be worse than students who were to receive feedback later. This pattern suggests that anticipating rapid feedback may improve performance because the threat of disappointment is more prominent. As the authors note, “People do best precisely when their predictions about their own performance are least optimistic.”
Under the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, states are required to assess students in reading and math and to identify them as below proficient or as proficient or advanced (both considered passing). Because schools are held accountable only for ensuring that students test proficient or better, there have been concerns that a focus on increasing the percentage of students testing proficient might unintentionally lead to fewer students testing at the advanced level. Schools in Kentucky and Virginia with the greatest increases in the percentage testing proficient or better also have the greatest increases in the percentage testing advance.
“Healthier Students Are Better Learners,” focuses on seven health risks that disproportionately impair the academic performance of urban minority youth.
• Black children are significantly more likely to suffer from asthma, and certain populations within Latinos – most notably Puerto Ricans – are as well. Urban minority youth also have higher rates of poorly controlled asthma, as indicated by over-use of the emergency room and under-use of efficacious medicines.
* The average score for students at grade 4 showed no overall increase at the national level, although scores were significantly higher in 2009 than when the assessment began in 1992.
* The average score for grade 8 in 2009 was higher when compared to both 2007 and 1992. The percentages of students at grade 8 performing at or above Basic and at or above Proficient (75 and 32, respectively) were also higher in 2009 than in both 2007 and 1992.
The Fordham Institute’s expert reviewers have analyzed the draft Common Core K-12 education standards.
From the review:
On the math side, our reviewers found clear, rigorous standards that set forth most
of the essential content that students in grades K-12 must master. While some
tweaks are needed—particularly at the high-school level—this draft “embodies
internationally-competitive expectations for students in mathematics” and earns an
On the English language arts (ELA) side, the standards are also strong, though in
need of a few more adjustments… As written, the standards earn a solid B.
The federal government pays 90 percent of the bill for interstate highways, and even secessionist states such as Texas and South Carolina go along with its specifications for lane width, signage, and speed limits. Now, the Obama Administration seeks to greatly extend the reach of federal policy with an ante of just 7.5 percent or so of the annual bill for public education. The vehicle for this audacious play is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
The U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) “Blueprint for Reform of Education,” which it released on the Ides of March, makes the case for a dramatic rewriting of national policy, including some worthwhile and needed changes to the present law.
First, it recognizes the hash that NCLB made of curricular standards and standardized testing. Essentially, most states set weak, numerous, vague, or too specific academic standards and then gamed the state tests to deceive the public about how well students were performing. USDE now proposes that states agree on a new set of clear, strong, and relatively fewer standards, followed by cooperatively developed assessments that go beyond multiple choice.
Second, the Blueprint replaces NCLB’s ludicrous mandate of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 with a more complex system that emphasizes steady and significant progress by students, schools, and districts. It maintains the important attention to how specific subgroups of students perform, with consequences for those districts and schools where the achievement gap persists for poor, minority, or English-learning students.
Third, as it did last year in the stimulus legislation, USDE requires that every state develop a data system that follows each student from preschool to graduation. A few states such as Texas and Florida can now generate very useful analyses of how well free-lunch eligible, Latino fourth graders, for example, are doing on English in every classroom, school, and district in the state. All states need to get to the point of being able to track, analyze, report, and evaluate student achievement.
Fourth, USDE deserves credit for recognizing in the Blueprint the broken system for preparing, recruiting, supporting, retaining, and promoting more effective teachers and principals, even if some of its recommendations are impractical and unfair.
Finally, the Blueprint gives special emphasis to English learners, the disabled, migrant students, and students in rural districts. This may read like a pretty good start on rewriting the centerpiece of federal education policy. Actually, there are five very serious problems with the Blueprint that Congress needs to correct before enacting ESEA
A new study from the Center on Education Policy (CEP) that analyzes state assessment data by gender finds good news for girls but troubling news for boys. According to CEP’s study, the lagging performance by boys in reading is the most pressing gender-gap issue facing our schools. In some states, the percentage of boys performing at proficient in reading is more than 10 percentage points below that of girls. And that trend is consistent at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, the study finds.
The story is different in math, however. At the proficient level, the number of states in which girls outperformed boys was roughly equal to the number of states in which boys outperformed girls. At the advanced level, 4th-grade boys outperformed girls in most states.
Seeing the letter A before an exam can improve a student’s exam result while exposure to the letter F may make a student more likely to fail.
Doctors treat millions of children with Ritalin every year to improve their ability to focus on tasks, but scientists now report that Ritalin also directly enhances the speed of learning.
In animal research, the scientists showed for the first time that Ritalin boosts both of these cognitive abilities by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine deep inside the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers neurons use to communicate with each other. They release the molecule, which then docks onto receptors of other neurons. The research demonstrated that one type of dopamine receptor aids the ability to focus, and another type improves the learning itself.
The scientists also established that Ritalin produces these effects by enhancing brain plasticity – strengthening communication between neurons where they meet at the synapse. Research in this field has accelerated as scientists have recognized that our brains can continue to form new connections – remain plastic – throughout life.
Children taught skills to monitor and control their anger and other emotions improved their classroom behavior and had significantly fewer school disciplinary referrals and suspensions, according to a study by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers.
Children in a school-based mentoring program were about half as likely to have any discipline incident over the three-month period of the study, according to an article published online by the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. They also had a 43 percent decrease in mean suspensions as compared to the control group, which did not receive mentoring of the self-control skills. In the four-month interval after the intervention began, 1.8 percent of children in the mentored group were suspended compared to 6.1 percent of the control group. Children taught the new skills also had a 46 percent decrease in mean office disciplinary referrals as compared to the children in the study’s control group
Children who had the best average scores in standardized tests in reading, math, science and social studies were fit at the start and end of the study, researchers found. The next best group, academically, in all four subjects, was made up of children who were not fit in fifth grade but had become fit by seventh grade. The children who had lost their fitness levels between fifth and seventh grades were third in academic performance. Children who were not physically fit in either the fifth or seventh grades had the lowest academic performance.