Friday, June 26, 2009

Chicago, Duncan, tests

this is being posted near simultaneously at Education Policy Blog, School Matters, and Edurati

I recently received an email from Wade Tillett, a teacher, parent and activist in Chicago Public Schools, about a 2-minute statement he made he made June 24th, and included an additional statement he made at a public hearing at Arne Duncan's last Board meeting in December. He informed me that
I spoke about
how CPS is using test scores to fail individual students (the data I
sent you and which you posted earlier), and to fail entire schools.

CPS uses standardized test to override teachers, students, parents and
the community to fail entire schools. The policy the board
voted on today will further “raise the bar” (4), which means they
will put more schools on “probation” - as if they are criminals (5).
This sets the stage for further school closings and privatization. If
CPS really believes that this policy is a fair measure of a school, why
doesn't it apply to charter schools (6)?

With his permission, I am posting below his complete statement as delivered, with associated footnotes. I will offer a few comments of my own at the end.

Statement by Wade Tillett, Chicago Public School Parent and Teacher.
Chicago School Board Meeting
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
125 S. Clark St., Chicago

Hello. I'm Wade Tillett. I am a Chicago Public School Parent and

In 2000, The Cato Institute published "Edupreneurs": A Survey of
For-Profit Education which talks about how 90 percent of the “$740
billion education market” is not yet used for profit. Further they

“The failure of government-run schools to prepare students for the
rigors of the modern economy is a pressing policy problem, but it is
also an opportunity for the private sector. ”

Let's read that again.

“The failure of government-run schools to prepare students for the
rigors of the modern economy is a pressing policy problem, but it is
also an opportunity for the private sector. ” (1)

Wouldn't this opportunity be even greater then, if there were greater

Susan Neuman seems to think so. She should know because she was there
when they were drafting NCLB. She served “as Assistant Secretary for
Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first
term, .... she says... there were others in the department...who saw
NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda — a way to expose the
failure of public education and "blow it up a bit.” "There were a number
of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization."” (2)

(In other words, the wolves are circling.)

The point of NCLB, to some involved in its creation, was not to fix
public schools, but to destroy them. Constantly rising scores inevitably
force many schools to be labeled as failing.

And once these forces are set in motion, they sort of perpetuate

Selective enrollment, magnet schools and charter schools often accept
only students with a certain score on the bubble tests. (“Diamonds in
the rough” as Mr. Duncan just called them.) Thus, neighborhood schools
are left with more students with lower scores, while other schools start
out with more students with higher scores. A vicious cycle is set in

This, of course, does not matter to CPS or NCLB. In fact, that's how
some people wanted it to work. You know, to blow it up a bit.

Mr. Duncan and the school board here continue to pretend that blowing up
schools is the way to save them. Let's remember that the real reason
people wanted to blow up schools was to get at that $700 billion

And wasn't that the same amount we spent to bail out the financial
industry? Is this the right time to implement the business model for
education? Look around us!

When all the dust settles, we're going to be left with what others
regard as the crumbs of a public education system.

If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe two former assistant
secretaries of education, Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch, once prominent
NCLB advocates, who now write:.

“[If NCLB continues,] rich kids will study philosophy and art, music and
history, while their poor peers fill in bubbles on test sheets. The
lucky few will spawn the next generation of tycoons, political leaders,
inventors, authors, artists and entrepreneurs. The less lucky masses
will see narrower opportunities.” (3)

Stop destroying neighborhood schools.


1. "Edupreneurs": A Survey of For-Profit Education, Carrie Lips,
November 20, 2000, Cato Policy Analysis No. 386.

2. No Child Left Behind: Doomed to Fail?, Claudia Wallis, Jun. 08,
2008, Time.,8599,1812758,00.html

3. Leaving "No Child Left Behind" Behind, Richard Rothstein,
December 17, 2007, The American Prospect.

Notes from today's meeting:

4. Monique Bond, CPS spokeswoman.,29028

5. A CPS representative explaining the proposed policy stated that
approximately 40% of CPS elementary schools and 60% of high schools are
now on “probation” or level 3.

6. Proposed school performance, remediation and probation policy for the
2009-2010 school year.

Now for a few words of my own:

First, it is worth reminding people of the previous role played by Susan Neuman given her visibility in the new Bolder, Broader approach which is currently getting so much attention. And is critically important to remind people that at least some of those who advocated for No Child Left Behind did so because they saw it either as a means of decreasing legitimization of public schools and/or they wanted access to the public funds being spent on education in order to profit therefrom.

Second, the impact of NCLB in narrowing educational opportunities in arts, music,philophy, etc., for those schools with high poverty - when those schools are often the only access these students have to such things - is already ongoing. Similar impacts are now beginning to creep into middle class schools because of the financial crisis and the impact it has on school funding, which we should remember at the local level is heavily dependent upon real estate values that have plummeted as a result of the series of financial blows, including but not limited to the impact of subprime mortgages and securitizing of mortgage-backed assets. Tillett rightly points out how much we seem willing to bail out financial institutions that largely created the crisis - with the great assistance of those in government of both parties who abdicated responsibility for ensuring oversight and financial stability - while too many seem unwilling to cushion the blows affected on others, whether homeowners in trouble or local governments in crisis. Yes, ARRA helps some, but merely in holding part of the status quo ante, and not in addressing the damage already being done by NCLB.

It is important that voices that speak clearly - as parents and teachers - be included in the ongoing discussions about our schools and their future. And remember, the longer we delay addressing the critical issues before us, the more our future in the form of those students currently being deprived of a quality and complete education will suffer, now and in the future.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On the uses and misuses of Advanced Placement - a personal reflection

I teach 3 sections of Advanced Placement US Government and Politics, mainly to 10th graders. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it gives me access to some of the brightest students in our school, students who stretch me as a teacher. On the other hand, I have the responsibility of preparing them for the Advanced Placement test, which determines whether or not they will receive college credit. While this is a semester college-level course spread out over a year, I am more than a little restricted because of the necessity of preparing them to sit for the test.

There are two recent "events" which lead to my writing this posting. The first was serving as a Reader (grader) for the AP exam for the course I teach. The second was the concurrent release of Jay Mathews' Challenge Index, which uses a ratio of number of advanced placement tests taken divided by number of graduating seniors to create a ranking. The combination of these two events has lead to my seriously thinking about the impact of Advanced Placement in our public schools, and thus to the writing of this post.

I invite you to read the results.

At the beginning of this month I spent a week in Florida serving as a Reader. I read several thousand answers to one of the Free Response Questions on this year's examination. Learning more precisely how the test is scored will be of value as I replan the course for next year. But that experience was eye-opening in many ways.

First, let me explain the structure of the examination for the AP course I teach. There are two sections. The first consists of 60 selected response (multiple choice) questions which, like the SAT, has a correction for guessing. Without totally explaining that correction, let it suffice to say that random guessing mathematically would lead on average to no raw points, but elimination of at least one answer per question puts the test taker ahead of the game. The students have I believe 45 minutes to answer the 60 questions, which represent half of the raw score.

The second section consists of 4 "free response questions" (FRQs) which are NOT essays - there is no credit for how well written, nor for topic sentences or conclusion. A rubric is established for each question, anchor papers (sample answers) are culled to guide the Readers who score them, and there are lists of what is and is not acceptable for each point of the rubric. While the questions may have varying number of points in the rubric, in theory from 4 to 10 (the highest this year was 6) the FRQs weight equally as 1/8 of the total value of the test. Students have 100 minutes to answer the 4 FRQs.

Our test had over 170,000 sets of papers. We had around 600 readers. We had in theory over 700,000 individual questions to answer, with each reader reading only one of the four questions. We are trained in multiple stages to ensure consistency, with multiple sets of eyes looking at each paper early on, then as we become more 'reliable' as scorers, a decreasing amount of downstream checking - by table leaders and/or question leaders. By then of the scoring period, because I read very quickly, I had read something over 2,000 sets of papers. Well, that is, I had processed over 2,000, since on more than a few students chose not to answer that question, or in some cases, any question, and/or offered nonsense information. Our question had a rubric of 6 points, and the average rubric score was around a 2.7.

I can imagine some of you asking why a student would sit through the 100 minutes of the test section for the FRQs and write nothing at all, or perhaps instead write deliberately totally off topic. Perhaps because the student was required to take the test by her school? Why? That leads to the challenge index.

Jay Mathews invented the Challenge Index, which rates high schools using a calculation of total number of Advanced Placement Examinations taken the previous year in each school divided by the number of graduating seniors. A ratio greater than 1.0 gets one on the list. Our high school has been on the list since Mathews first released it about a decade ago (and you can visit this page at the Washington Post for more information). The intent was to find those high schools which challenged their students. Mathews decided to use this measure as the result of an article by Cliff Adelman which argued that even sitting for an AP exam, whether or not one passes the exam, better prepares the student for college work. Here I note that the passing rate on the exam has no effect on the calculation of the index (and thus on the rating of the school). In the past Mathews has tweaked the calculation, in some cases uses International Baccalaureate (IB) exams as well as AP exams, and in some cases sitting for courses that are cross-registered with local institutions of higher education where a college level examination is required.

Mathews, for those who do not know his work, wrote a book on the achievements of Jaime Escalante at Garfield HS in Los Angeles, challenging his largely inner city Hispanic kids to take AP Calculus - you may well have seen the film that resulted, "Stand and Deliver," starring Edward James Olmos as Escalante. In introducing the index in 1998, Mathews wrote
Nearly every professional educator will tell you that ranking schools is counterproductive, unscientific, hurtful and wrong. But I am going to do it anyway, not because I believe my system is scientifically infallible, but because I think it provides insight into one of the most significant emerging issues in American education: whether our high schools are working hard enough to challenge and elevate students.
From his experience as a reporter and as a parent, he began to question the restrictions some schools and systems used to limit enrollment in AP courses, which he viewed as more challenging than the course students would otherwise take. It is worthwhile to read the essay linked above, because it explains the rationales Mathews offers both for creating the index and for ranking the schools.

Here I should disclose several things. I got to know Jay Mathews about the time of the first index being published, although not for that reason. I had read a book he had written largely about a school attended by one of his children, and it was about my alma mater, which led to contact between us. Although I often find myself in disagreement with Jay, we developed a friendship and I have appeared in his column on several occasions. Thus I find myself conflicted because while I admire the intent behind the index, I find it destructive and misleading.

Let me first note the following - in the 1998 index the school at which I teach Eleanor Roosevelt, was ranked 16th in the DC metro area with an index of 1.173. That also, if memory serves, put us in the top 100 in the nation, excluding schools that got to totally select their student body (we admit about 1/3 of ours by exam to our science and tech program). In 2008, we have fallen to 82nd in the area, even though our index score has risen to 1.289. Having been at the school since 1998, I can assure you that our rigor has not decreased in any way, either on an absolute basis or in comparison to other schools in the region, even though many more now offer many more AP courses than before. It is the explosion of advanced placement that leads to the different results. And I believe that one can argue that explosions results directly from the Challenge Index. And I question whether it is the right course for our schools to follow.

Our school system, Prince George's County (MD), now requires all high schools to offer a base of 8 AP courses. The system pays for exams, which are required, because we give a weighted grade for an AP course - an A is worth 5 versus 4 for any other course, a B is a 4 versus a 3, and so on. At least now the teachers of the AP courses are required to receive appropriate AP training - that was not the case when we began to offer AP Gov in 10th grade. When we moved the course from 9th to 10th so that students would have had all of American History before taking government (previously they had the 2nd half in 11th grade, 2 years after taking government), I argued for allowing students to take AP in lieu of the regular course of Local, State and National Government. Our then superintendent decided all 21 high schools should offer at least one section of AP, but only 4 teachers,2 from our high school, were appropriately trained to do AP.

Many school systems began expanding their AP offerings after the Index first appeared. The College Board, which controls AP, began to question the validity of such courses, in part because of how many of the increasing number of exams scored so badly - here I will note that in 2007-08 academic year, in order to receive a passing score of 3 (out of a possible 5) on the exam, students needed less than 50% of the raw points. A few years back those wishing to use the AP designation on a course had to submit a syllabus to ascertain whether what was being taught was in fact at the college level. My syllabus was immediately accepted. Most of the AP government teachers in our system submitted a common syllabus prepared centrally, which was rejected as not meeting the requirements of the program.

Let me add one additional note: many colleges will limit the number of credits a student can receive via AP or IB, and will for AP courses only give credit for the maximum score of 5 on the zero to 5 scale. Now imagine you are a student who will graduate with ten or more AP courses, and you are required to sit for the AP exam in each. Why bother preparing for the exam, right? That is in part the explanation for some of the blank booklets or totally non-responsive answers we encountered.

What was far more troubling as a reader was seeing the number of answers where the student was attempting to answer the question but was not responsive to the prompt of the question, could not present a coherent series of statements, and/or lacked basic understanding of the material.

As noted, I read several thousand answers to one question. The rubric had six points. The number of papers I read which met all 6 points was in the single digits. And it is not that the rubric required us to be all that finicky in awarding points. Remember also that our average score was around a 2.7 out of those 6 points. And remember also that last year on our exam one needed less than 50% of the raw points to receive a "passing" scaled score of 3 (out of 5). If you find something wrong with this picture, so do I. There are far too many sitting for the AP examination who are not, as demonstrated by their FRQs, capable of working in this subject at a college level.

One can certainly argue for students being challenged. I do not believe an Advanced Placement course is the only way to accomplish that. In fact, I have found teaching AP to 10th graders has in some ways restricted my ability to challenge my students as much as I did when I taught the course to 9th graders, and did not have to worry about "coverage" - the amount of material my students had to learn to be prepared for what might appear on the AP exam. To give just one example, there is no defined universe of Supreme Court cases that could appear. I cover in some form or other almost 100. Yet this is not a course in legal history or in the Supreme Court.

Mathews does not currently include cross-registered courses in the calculation of his index. We have students who run out of the math, including Calculus B/C, sometimes by their sophomore year, often by the junior year. This is one case where we offer courses through cross registration with local universities. We have a man from Catholic U who teaches Calculus III and Differential equations. These course do not get a weighted GPA, nor do they count as part of the Challenge Index. Thus even though we are definitely challenging these students, the Index gives us no credit for doing so.

The students in our Science and Technology program can, if they are well prepared, do a Research Practicum in lieu of 3 of their courses as senior. They receive a grade, equal to 3 courses, but it is not weighted. They are working in laboratories with real-word scientists, often doing original work. They might be at the USDA lab in Beltsville MD, or working with someone in a university science department. They are doing work that is beyond the freshman level of college in its demands and challenges. Were they not involved in this program, most would be taking at least two and in some cases 3 more AP courses. The Index gives our school no credit for our challenging our students in this fashion.

I could go further. One of the most demanding courses in our school is Genetics, taught by a man with a Ph.D. It is the equivalent of a college level genetics course. The students do not receive a weighted grade. Nor is participation in the course included in the calculation of the index.

We have active parents at Eleanor Roosevelt. Some have argued with Mathews on both the calculation of the index and the concomitant ranking of schools by their scores. Mathews argues that any school with an index of >1.0 is already in the top 3% of schools in the nation, so that the rankings are not all that important. Then why publish rankings? I can remember when I was exploring teaching at a school in another system. The day I met with the Assistant Principal was the day the index was published, and the school in question was listed in the top 20 in the nation. As I was coming in to his office he was arranging to have the list reproduced and distributed.

We are obsessed with rankings in this nation. And that can lead to distortions. One of the more egregious examples of this has been in the rankings of Colleges and Universities, especially that done by US News and World Reports. As it happens, there is an op ed in today's Boston Globe entitled Our obsession with college rankings which came about in part because of how Clemson University successfully improved its ranking - they limited classes that would otherwise have 24-25 students to 19 in order to have a higher percentage of class with less than 20 students, which meant that the remaining classes often expanded to more than 50.

If you know how an index is calculated, you can do things to manipulate the score you receive. We have seen this outside of education, for example, in ratings of cities as places to live. All of these are yet again example's of Donald T. Campbell's 1976 postulate that
The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decisionmaking, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.
One statement from the Globe piece, while written with respect to universities, is I believe quite applicable to this discussion:
It is the public’s obsession with the numerical rank, and not the actions of US News or schools like Clemson, that misleads us into believing that some schools are innately better than others and pressures students into dreaming of schools that are not right for them.
We have an obsession with reducing complex situations to single numbers so that we can do comparisons that provide much less meaningful information than the weight we give the results of those comparisons.

I am not opposed to Advanced Placement. I would not continue to teach my three sections, which next year may contain over 100 students, if I did not find value in the program. I know that some students sign up for the course for the weighted grade. Others do hope to receive the college credit. And a few sign up because they want me as a teacher, particular those who are younger siblings of students I have previously taught - although in a few cases that decision is made by the parent rather than the student. I always have some students who really are not prepared to do the work required. Still, I believe that I am able to stretch the vast majority of my students, and I always especially enjoy those who stretch me as a teacher - that helps keep me fresh. Insofar as I am challenging my students, Mathews is right about his emphasis on AP, although I believe I could challenge them even absent the AP designation.

And I do not disagree that one measure of a school is how much it is willing to challenge its students. I do not limit who can take my class. We do require a recommendation from the current social studies teacher, and check English grades and overall academic performance. Even in the few cases where a student is not recommended for AP, or recommended with reservations, the parent can override that recommendation and insist on the student taking the class. AP can provide a framework within which good teachers can find ways to challenge themselves and their students.

Still, I remember the large number of answers I read and rated during that week in Florida, and wonder if we may be overdoing it? I have had brilliant students, some of whom graduate with 14, 15 or more AP courses, with 5s on all their exams. So long as they have time to still be teenagers, to participate in activities like music, theater, sports, or simply hanging with friends, I don't object. I worry that we may push some into academic endeavors at the expense of developing the students in other ways.

If the reason is to improve how the school "ranks" on an artificial index, such a use of AP is truly a misuse, and may represent an abuse - not only of the academics, but of the students. If you think the word "abuse" too harsh, then perhaps substitute "academic malpractice."

I will continue to teach AP because it enables me to challenge some very bright students, and to experience how their minds and insights can challenge me, stretch me even further as teacher and as person. I will also continue to teach ordinary kids, those who might not be considered as academically able, because I know that they can surprise me if I can find the way of connecting them with the subject matter. Every year I get a couple of students who took regular government with me in a non-honors class as a sophomore who decide to come back and take AP as a senior or even as a junior.

I read over 2,000 answers. Less than a dozen got all 6 points on the rubric. Some of the papers I most enjoyed reading did not get all 6 points, but showed a depth of insight that blew me away. Reading so many papers could be mind-numbing, except so often I encountered students who were willing to stretch themselves. That is a proper purpose of Advanced Placement. AP is not the only way to accomplish that, but it can well serve that purpose, properly applied.

I do hope we do not continue down the path of our current obsession, believing that more AP is inevitably better. The quality of the instruction is not necessarily better nor more challenging merely because the course has an AP designation - after all, one can have the most wonderful syllabus and still not be able to communicate its contents to the students, nor to engage the students in the process of learning.

And I wish, almost certainly futilely, that we would stop distorting the meaning of AP by using it as a means of 'ranking' schools.

My school year is now officially over. This summer I will be working with students at the other end of academic performance, students needing extra help to meet state requirements in government to graduate from high school. I wanted to complete this reflection before I mentally transition next month.

All of my students deserve the best teaching I can give them. All students are capable of learning, of being stretched. I expect that this summer will stretch me as a teacher and person, albeit in a different fashion.

As a teacher, I find that I must take time to look back, to reflect, to learn. This essay is a part of that process. I hope it is of value to at least one person who encounters it.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How Does Our Language Shape the Way we Think?

from Edge, h/t neuroanthropology:
For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question. We have collected data around the world: from China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia. What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity.

. . .

An important question at this point is: Are these differences caused by language per se or by some other aspect of culture? Of course, the lives of English, Mandarin, Greek, Spanish, and Kuuk Thaayorre speakers differ in a myriad of ways. How do we know that it is language itself that creates these differences in thought and not some other aspect of their respective cultures?

One way to answer this question is to teach people new ways of talking and see if that changes the way they think. In our lab, we've taught English speakers different ways of talking about time. In one such study, English speakers were taught to use size metaphors (as in Greek) to describe duration (e.g., a movie is larger than a sneeze), or vertical metaphors (as in Mandarin) to describe event order. Once the English speakers had learned to talk about time in these new ways, their cognitive performance began to resemble that of Greek or Mandarin speakers. This suggests that patterns in a language can indeed play a causal role in constructing how we think.6 In practical terms, it means that when you're learning a new language, you're not simply learning a new way of talking, you are also inadvertently learning a new way of thinking. Beyond abstract or complex domains of thought like space and time, languages also meddle in basic aspects of visual perception — our ability to distinguish colors, for example. Different languages divide up the color continuum differently: some make many more distinctions between colors than others, and the boundaries often don't line up across languages.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ed Links and Other Unrelated Stuff

First-time Moms' Exhaustion Caused By Sleep Fragmentation, Rather Than Timing Of Sleep

Contrary to popular belief, the timing of sleep in new mothers is preserved after giving birth, according to new research.

Postpartum Anxiety Delays Puberty In Offspring

Hormonal changes early in pregnancy cause maternal postpartum anxiety and behavior changes that can lead to a delayed onset of puberty in both birth and adoptive daughters, according to a new study conducted in mice.

Hypertension Among Lower-status Employees Lingers Well Into Retirement

Retirement from some occupations may not provide relief from the potentially devastating health effects of work-related hypertension, according to a new study.

Urban Myth Disproved: Fingerprints Do Not Improve Grip Friction

Everyone thinks that they know what fingerprints are for: to improve your grip's friction. But it turns out that this urban myth is wrong. Scientists have proved that instead of improving your grip, fingerprints drastically reduce friction.

Later Parental-mandated Bedtimes For Teens Linked To Depression And Suicidal Thoughts

Earlier parental-mandated bedtimes could help protect teens from depression and suicidal thoughts by lengthening sleep duration, according to new research.

What About The Boys? Boys Face Serious Issues Which Are Being Ignored, Experts Argue

Issues affecting boys are more serious than those affecting girls, but they have been neglected by policy makers, according to expert opinion. Researchers review issues characterizing American boyhood, how they compare to those affecting girls, and the lack of initiatives in place to address them.

Concussion Experts: For Kids -- No Sports, No Schoolwork, No Text Messages

When it comes to concussions, children and teens require different treatment, according to international experts. The new guidelines say children and teens must be strictly monitored and activities restricted until fully healed. These restrictions include no return to the field of play, no return to school, and no cognitive activity.

Are Socialists Happier Than Capitalists?

Do economic concerns outweigh political reforms in their impact on subjective well-being? A new study finds that overall well-being initially plummeted in countries directly affected by the fall of the Iron Curtain, driven by a decline in satisfaction with work life and family life. The research expands our understanding of the correlation between happiness and democracy.

Confusion Reigns Over Whole-grain Claims In School Lunches

While most nutrition experts agree that school lunches should include more whole grain products, a new study finds that food-service workers lack understanding and the resources to meet that goal.

Students Who Get Stuck Look For Computer Malfunctions

When students working with educational software get stymied, they often try to find fault with the computer or the software, rather than look to their own mistakes, according to new research.

Easily Grossed Out? You Might Be A Conservative!

Are you someone who squirms when confronted with slime, shudders at stickiness or gets grossed out by gore? If so, you might be politically conservative, according to two new studies.

Early Childhood Conditions That Lead To Adult Health Disparities Identified

The origins of many adult diseases can be traced to early negative experiences associated with social class and other markers of disadvantage. Confronting the causes of adversity before and shortly after birth may be a promising way to improve adult health and reduce premature deaths, researchers argue.

Discoveries Shed New Light On How The Brain Processes What The Eye Sees

Researchers have identified the need to develop a new framework for understanding "perceptual stability" and how we see the world with their discovery that visual input obtained during eye movements is being processed by the brain but blocked from awareness.

Intervention Reduces Delinquent Teenage Pregancy Rates

A program aimed at reducing criminal behavior in juvenile justice teens has yielded a surprising side benefit. The program is also reducing the teens' rate of pregnancy, according to a new study.

When Adult Patients Have Anxiety Disorder, Their Children Need Help Too

In what is believed to be the first US study designed to prevent anxiety disorders in the children of anxious parents, researchers have found that a family-based program reduced symptoms and the risk of developing an anxiety disorder among these children.

Parents' Influence On Children's Eating Habits Is Small, Study Finds

The popular belief that healthy eating starts at home and that parents' dietary choices help children establish their nutritional beliefs and behaviors may need rethinking, according to a new study. An examination of dietary intakes and patterns among U.S. families found that the resemblance between children's and their parents' eating habits is weak.

Pressure To Look Attractive Linked To Fear Of Rejection In Men And Women

People who feel pressure to look attractive are more fearful of being rejected because of their appearance than are their peers, according to a new study.

Young Unwed Women Who Graduated From Private Religious Schools More Likely To Obtain Abortions

Unwed pregnant teens and 20-somethings who attend or have graduated from private religious schools are more likely to obtain abortions than their peers from public schools, according to sociological research. Although rates of reported abortions were higher for young women educated at private religious schools, the type of religious school was not a factor: Catholic schools had similar rates as other religious schools.

Why Can We Talk? 'Humanized' Mice Speak Volumes About Evolutionary Past

Mice carrying a "humanized version" of a gene believed to influence speech and language may not actually talk, but they nonetheless do have a lot to say about our evolutionary past, according to a new report.

Did Mozart Really Have ADHD? History Of Hyperactivity Off-base, Says Researcher

A Canadian researcher working in the UK says doctors, authors and educators are doing hyperactive children a disservice by claiming that hyperactivity as we understand it today has always existed.

Strict Maternal Feeding Practices Not Linked To Child Weight Gain, Study Suggests

A new study provides further evidence that strict maternal control over eating habits -- such as determining how much a child should eat and coaxing them to eat certain foods -- during early childhood may not lead to significant future weight gain in boys or girls. Instead, this behavior may be a response to concerns over a child's increasing weight. Some form of control may be necessary to help children eat well, maintain healthy weight, according to researchers.

Scientists Reaching Consensus On How Brain Processes Speech

Neuroscientists feel they are much closer to an accepted unified theory about how the brain processes speech and language. Both human and non-human primate studies have confirmed that speech, one important facet of language, is processed in the brain along two parallel pathways, each of which run from lower- to higher-functioning neural regions.

Understanding The Therapeutic Process Of Mother-infant Psychotherapy

Given the documented detrimental effects of postpartum depression on infants and the mother-infant relationship, mental health professionals are anxious to understand models of best practices. This focus group study of psychotherapists, who treat mothers suffering from PPD and other mood disorders with their infants, have developed a proven process that contributes to a greater positive experience with immediate insights for the mothers to develop healthy connections between their maternal experiences and their infants' behaviors.

Classroom Computers Boost Face-to-face Learning

Computers have been used for years to facilitate learning at a distance. A new research program shows that computers can also enhance collaborative, face-to-face learning and problem solving.

How Does The Human Brain Work? New Ways To Better Understand How Our Brain Processes Information

How does the human brain process information? Researchers explore new methodologies that shed light on this age-old mystery. The human brain is perhaps the most complex of organs, boasting between 50-100 billion nerve cells or neurons that constantly interact with each other. These neurons 'carry' messages through electrochemical processes; meaning, chemicals in our body (charged sodium, potassium and chloride ions) move in and out of these cells and establish an electrical current.

Psychologists Find That Head Movement Is More Important Than Gender In Nonverbal Communication

Psychologists and computer scientists have found that gender is less important than head motion in the nonverbal dynamics of how people converse.

Tying Education To Future Goals May Boost Grades More Than Helping With Homework

Helping middle school students with their homework may not be the best way to get them on the honor roll. But telling them how important academic performance is to their future job prospects and providing specific strategies to study and learn might clinch the grades, according to a research review.

Area Of Brain That Makes A 'People Person' Discovered

Researchers have discovered that whether someone is a "people person" may depend on the structure of their brain: the greater the concentration of brain tissue in certain parts of the brain, the more likely they are to be a warm, sentimental person. This area is in the same region linked to processing of pleasures such as sweet tastes and sexual stimuli.

Children Raise Their Parents

Values are learnt at home; but not only from parents. Researchers studied the role of the family in passing on personal values. Parents influence their children. But children also influence their parents. And parents influence each other.

Achieving Fame, Wealth And Beauty Are Psychological Dead Ends, Study Says

If you think having loads of money, fetching looks, or the admiration of many will improve your life -- think again. A new study demonstrates that progress on these fronts can actually make a person less happy.

Preschoolers' Language Development Is Partly Tied To Their Classmates' Language Skills

A new study shows that children's abilities to both speak and understand words developed faster when they were with classmates with better language skills. The study involved 1,800 preschoolers in over 450 pre-kindergarten classrooms in 11 states and entailed "receptive language" and "expressive language" testing for each child at the start and end of pre-kindergarten. Findings for this study offer ideas for designing and structuring preschool classrooms.

More Compulsory Schooling -- Fewer Teenage Mothers

More compulsory schooling results in fewer teenage pregnancies, according to new research. More school means less time for so-called risk activities, such as getting pregnant. And -- the more schooling they have, the smarter the choices girls make.

Babies Learn Music While Sleeping

Early screening and treatment for infants with hearing problems, and the ability to computer-generate musical scores, are two very different possible outcomes of some "off-the-wall" research.

Study Links Internet Addiction To Aggression In Teens

Internet-addicted teens seem more prone to aggression than other adolescents, according to new findings from Taiwanese researchers. However, Americans who study violence are not ready to make any conclusions about a possible link.

If Something Is Difficult, Most People Believe It Must Be Important To Achieving Goals

Try the following experiment with two young children. To one child, hold a toy out just beyond their grasp and watch them bounce all over the place trying to reach it. With the second child, just hand the toy over to them. Is the first child likely to find the toy more interesting than the other child? If we come across something very difficult, how will that affect our ability to meet our goal?

Peer Victimization In Middle And High School Predicts Sexual Behavior Among Adolescents

Peer victimization during middle and high school may be an important indicator of an individual's sexual behavior later in life, according to a new study.

Don't Flatter Yourself: Why Survey Research Can Be Flawed

We all do things to impress others -- exaggerate our accomplishments, downplay our faults, even fib on surveys. A new study sheds light on why we don't tell the strict truth about ourselves in surveys and what, if anything, can be done about it.

Marching To The Beat Of The Same Drummer Improves Teamwork

Armies train by marching in step. Citizens sing the National Anthem before sporting events. Why do we participate in these various synchronized activities? A new study suggests that when people engage in synchronous activity together, they become more likely to cooperate with other group members.

Too Much TV Linked To Future Fast-food Intake

High-school kids who watch too much TV are likely to have bad eating habits five years in the future. A new study followed almost 2000 high- and middle-school children and found that TV viewing times predict a poor diet in the future.

College Freshmen In US And China: Chinese Students Know More Science Facts But Neither Group Especially Skilled In Reasoning

A study of college freshmen in the United States and in China found that Chinese students know more science facts than their American counterparts -- but both groups are nearly identical when it comes to their ability to do scientific reasoning. Neither group is especially skilled at reasoning, however, and the study suggests that educators must go beyond teaching science facts if they hope to boost students' reasoning ability.

Physically Fit Kids Do Better In School

A new study found that physically fit kids scored better on standardized math and English tests than their less fit peers.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Secret to Success is Staying in School And Studying Hard!

Study here, summary here.

Recent graduates from Philadelphia's public high schools had higher employment rates and higher annual earnings than their classmates who dropped out, but many of them still did not have incomes above the federal poverty line, according to a new study from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. The report suggests that although it is essential to increase high school graduation rates, "without additional postsecondary education, the effect of a high school diploma on lives and livelihoods may be rather limited."

. . .

The study shows that only 35 percent of the dropouts from the classes of 2000 to 2005 had any earnings in Pennsylvania in 2006, compared to almost half of the graduates. "For those dropouts who were employed, work was typically episodic and annual incomes low: The average employed dropout worked just 25 weeks during the year, earning just more than $9,000," according to the study. Those with diplomas averaged approximately $12,000 in annual income during 2006. Both dropouts and graduates with no postsecondary education were most likely to be employed in restaurants, security and janitorial services, and institutions that provide care for the elderly, ill and disabled.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Big Gains for Paying Kids to Do Well

See this article.

To be completely non-PC, I think this is actually a good idea. As Alexander Sidorkin argues (paraphrasing badly from my memory of some of the articles this book is based on) in many places, especially in low-income schools focused on test prep, education is simply a form of forced labor. (It's no accident that you often have to look twice to figure out whether a building is either a school or a prison.)

Okay, so let's pay them for it. Let's stop pretending we know how to make low income schools feel less like prison or a child-labor sweatshop. At least child-laborers get paid.

(If it's wonderful constructivist learning, well, then we don't need to pay them).