Education Reports of Relevance to Reporters

School and Parent Interaction by Household Language and Poverty Status: 2002-03

Language minority parents may face a number of challenges when trying to communicate or become involved with their child’s school. A greater percentage of students in English-speaking households than in Spanish-speaking households had parents who reported receiving personal notes or e-mails about the student; receiving newsletters, memos, or notices addressed to all parents; opportunities to attend general meetings; opportunities to attend school events; and chances to volunteer. Differences were still apparent after taking poverty status into account.

The Health Literacy of America’s Adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy

This report measures health literacy among American adults including their ability to read, understand, and apply health-related information in English.

Findings include:
* The majority of American adults (53 percent) had Intermediate health literacy. Fewer than 15 percent of adults had either Below Basic or Proficient health literacy.
* Women had higher average health literacy than men.
* Adults who were ages 65 and older had lower average health literacy than younger adults.
* Hispanic adults had lower average health literacy than adults in any other racial/ethnic group.

Understanding Recent Changes in Child Poverty

Over the past 10 years, U.S. child poverty rates took two sharp turns: a major reduction from 1993 to 2000 followed by a slight hike from 2000 to 2004. Both shifts have been even more dramatic for black and Hispanic children. Such abrupt shifts offer an unusual opportunity to tease out what factors contribute to changes in child poverty. Exploring the driving forces behind trends in child poverty offers insights on policy, as well as on the well-being of children, since child poverty is associated with many negative outcomes in later life—low earnings, reduced educational attainment, teenage childbearing, and physical and mental health problems.

This brief shows that economic conditions, together with parental education and work, are the dominant factors behind recent changes in child poverty. Changes in the share of families headed by single parents seem to have played almost no role in the recent changes in child poverty. According to the analysis, the 1993 to 2000 drop in child poverty is largely due to improvements in the job market, especially for less-educated workers. The economic downturn beginning in 2000 hit all families, even those with more education, but the families of black children were hit hardest.

Ensuring the Academic Success of English Learners
by Laurie Olsen

Drawing on three decades of research on second language acquisition, bilingual brain development, effective programs, and “best practices” in instructional strategies, Dr. Olsen details nine elements of a comprehensive system of schooling for English learners. They range from high quality preschool to age-appropriate English language development, instructional materials, and valid assessments. She further suggests four policy goals needed to develop such a system, including investing in a qualified educator workforce, building a meaningful English Learner accountability system, and demonstrating new models of successful schools for English learners.

2006 ACT National and State Scores

This report provides information about the performance of your 2006 graduating seniors who took the ACT as sophomores, juniors, or seniors. It focuses on :

Performance - student test performance in the context of college readiness
Access - number of your graduates exposed to college entrance testing and the percent of race/ethnicity participation
Course Selection - percent of students pursuing a core curriculum
Course Rigor - impact of rigorous coursework on achievement
College Readiness - percent of students meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmark Scores in each content area
Awareness - extent to which student aspirations match performance
Articulation - college and universities to which your students send test results

Racial Segregation and the Private/Public School Choice
by Robert Fairlie

Using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS), I examine ethnic and racial patterns of private school attendance. I find that at both the 8th and 10th grade levels, blacks and Hispanics are substantially less likely to attend private schools than are whites. I also find evidence that racial sorting between the private and public school systems is partly due to preferences over the racial composition of schools. In particular, white and Hispanic students enroll in private schools in response to large concentrations of black students, although the underlying causes are unknown. I also examine whether ethnic and racial income disparities contribute to the large differences in private school attendance rates. I find that lower levels of income among black and Hispanic families contribute substantially to the under-representation of these two groups in the private school system. My estimates indicate that racial disparities in income levels explain 34.9 to 56.7 percent of the white/black gap in the private school attendance rate and 49.7 to 57.5 percent of the white/Hispanic gap in the private school rate. Finally, I find that whites attend private schools that are less integrated than public schools, and blacks and Hispanics attend private schools that are slightly more integrated than public schools.

State High School Exit Exams: A Challenging Year

School year 2005-06 was a time of serious challenges to state exit examinations—tests students must pass to receive a high school diploma. In California and Arizona—two states that were withholding diplomas from high school seniors for the first time based on exam performance—courts weighed the constitutionality and fairness of exit exams, as thousands of high school seniors waited to see if they would graduate with the rest of their class. California students at risk of not graduating breathed a sigh of relief when a superior court overturned the exit exam requirement, only to see it reinstated by the state Supreme Court two weeks later. In several states, policymakers debated whether to stick to their plans to withhold diplomas from students who failed exit exams, whether to exempt students with disabilities or students learning English from having to pass the exams, or whether to create or expand alternate paths to graduation for students struggling to pass the exams.

Missing the Mark: States' Teacher-Equity Plans Fall Short

A new Education Trust analysis of teacher-equity plans prepared by all 50 states and the District of Columbia finds that most states failed to properly analyze data that would determine whether poor and minority children get more than their fair share of unqualified, inexperienced, and out-of-field teachers. Only two states, Nevada and Ohio, fully complied with the requirements and offered specific plans to remedy inequities.

Identifying Potential Dropouts: Key Lessons for Building an Early Warning Data System

This white paper was prepared for Staying the Course: High Standards and Improved Graduation Rates, a joint project of Achieve and JFF funded by the Carnegie Corp. of New York. Its goal is to provide policymakers with an overview of research about the dropout problem and the best strategies for building an early warning data system that can signal which students and schools are most in need of interventions.

As pressure mounts to do something about the dropout problem, many school systems will be tempted to skip questions about how to predict which students are most at risk of dropping out and simply begin with reforms meant to solve the problem. However, the cost of building an accurate Early Warning System is relatively small compared with the cost of providing programmatic interventions or systemwide reforms meant to increase graduation rates. But the payoff of basing interventions on accurate data can be huge. A large school system that invests in better data to support dropout prevention can obtain much better results for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars less than a similar system whose leaders decide to skip that step.