EPLC Education Notebook

Thursday, December 23, 2004

  • Pennsylvania collected $8.4 billion half-way into fiscal year 2004-05, approximately $176 million (2.1%) more than anticipated, according to the Governor's Mid-Year Budget Briefing. Despite that positive news, the state may not end the year with a comfortable budget surplus because $118 million of revenue came from non-recurring sources and the state faces potential supplemental funding needs for Public Welfare programs and assistance for flood damage. The Brief also details the impact of new accountability block grant funding on education. Of the $200 million appropriated for accountability block grants in the FY 2004-05 budget, school districts have chosen to spend 2 out of every 3 dollars on early childhood education programs. 293 districts are using this funding to provide full-day kindergarten, 40 districts are supporting pre-K programs, and 20,000 students are benefiting from K-3 class size reduction. Read the Briefing at www.budget.state.pa.us/budget/lib/budget/2004-2005/midyear/Dec_13_2004_Legislative_Briefing.pdf.

  • A research project that examined the achievement records of more than 100,000 ninth and tenth grade math students in the Miami-Dade School District has found that National Board Certification "is an effective indicator of teacher quality." The study analyzed student achievement in connection with teacher characteristics, student background, and school environment in an effort to identify characteristics that illustrate good teaching. Teacher experience, advanced degrees, state certification, teaching field assignment, National Board Certification, and other teacher characteristics were considered. Access the report at www.cna.org/documents/CavaluzzoStudy.pdf.

  • Penn State is the "single largest contributor to the state's economy," according to an economic impact study commissioned by the university. The school's 24 campuses net $6.14 billion a year for the Commonwealth, including $492 million in tax revenue, $1.36 billion in tourism, and $84.2 million in agricultural research. The University is also the state's largest non-governmental employer, accounting for more than 35,000 full and part-time employees and a total of 60,000 jobs supported directly or indirectly by the university. Learn more at www.psu.edu/ur/topics/economic_impact/index.html.

  • A study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education compares the performance of students attending charter schools versus traditional public schools. The study looked at five states that have made significant public investment in charter schools and found that even after adjusting for race and poverty, charter schools fell significantly lower in student performance than traditional public schools. The report can be viewed at www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/choice/pcsp-final/finalreport.pdf. The National Center for Education Statistics also released results from the NAEP 2003 charter schools pilot study. Access the results at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/studies/2005456.pdf.

  • The National Education Association released updated data in its "Rankings & Estimates" school statistics report for fall 2004, showing that Pennsylvania dropped from 8th to 10th place nationally in average teacher salaries. The average teacher salary in Pennsylvania is $52,200, while average salaries ranged from $58,287 in California to $33,236 in South Dakota. The NEA also reports that of public K-12 schools, Pennsylvania ranked seventh in the number of teachers and in student enrollment, 21st in current expenditures per student, and 25th in student-teacher ratio. Access the report at www.nea.org/edstats/images/04rankings-update.pdf.

  • A new report from the Education Commission of the States looks at the differences between hard-to-staff schools and other schools in North Carolina. The study reviews data on student achievement, socioeconomic characteristics, school location, school size, and grade levels educated, as well as a survey of teachers' working conditions. Read "Teacher Perceptions of the Work Environment in Hard-to-Staff Schools" at www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/55/87/5587.doc.

  • Investing in preschool for disadvantage children is a sound business decision that can help increase American productivity, according to a paper co-authored by a Nobel prize-winning economist. "The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children," presented at a conference for business leaders hosted by the Committee for Economic Development, says the societal benefits associated with attending quality preschool programs - increased achievement, decreased grade retention, decreased crime rates - could yield a net $409 billion benefit to the public if pre-school were provided to all young children currently living in poverty. Read the authors' case for increasing worker productivity at www.ced.org/docs/report/report_ivk_heckman_2004.pdf.

  • Findings from an experimental preschool program conducted in the 1960's show that preschool programs for at-risk youth are successful and provide long-term benefits to society. The experiment identified 123 impoverished children in Ypsilanti, Michigan that were likely to fail or perform poorly in school. The High/Scope Perry Preschool Program study placed approximately half of these children in a high-quality preschool program. Forty years later, the study found that the children enrolled in preschool were more likely to graduate from high school, hold jobs, and earn more money than those not in the program. The study also found that taxpayers gained about $17 for every tax dollar invested in the preschool program. To view the report, visit www.highscope.org/Research/PerryProject/PerryAge40SumWeb.pdf.

  • Disadvantaged children who attended South Carolina's state-funded pre-K programs scored higher on math and language arts assessments compared to children with similar backgrounds who did not attend preschool. Researchers also found that there was no significant achievement gap between racial groups for the children who attended pre-K, however a gap persisted for non-pre-K participants. The South Carolina Department of Education tracked the academic achievement of 3,486 pre-K participants and 4,618 non-participants over six years and drew its conclusions from assessments administered in third, fourth and fifth grades. Read more about the SC Department of Education research at www.myscschools.com/offices/research/PennyBuy2004.pdf.

  • A study by the Harvard Family Research Project reports that parental involvement increases student success rate. The study was conducted in 129 high-poverty elementary schools across Illinois over a 2-year period. Parental involvement in these schools included parent participation in school decision-making, parent education on the importance of parental involvement, and outreach to families. The study found that students involved in this program increased their scores on the Illinois State Assessment Test more than students statewide. To view the report, visit http://gseweb.harvard.edu/%7Ehfrp/content/projects/fine/resources/research/redding.doc.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics recently released "Trends in Educational Equity of Girls and Women." The study reviews education data from preschool through postsecondary education and beyond that demonstrates that women in all levels of primary and secondary education are doing as well or better than their male counterparts. The report looks at the advances made by girls and women in education over recent years and examines the extent of educational opportunities available to males and females and how each gender takes advantage of these opportunities. To view the report, visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/equity/.

  • A joint report from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Justice looks at crime rates for school-aged children (12-18) and the rates of various crime incidents between 1992 and 2004. On average, crime for school-aged children in and out of schools is declining, according to the report. Access the report at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005002.

  • The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) recently reviewed intervention-based mathematics programs used for middle school students. The WWC looked at 40 of the known programs available for middle school math and was able to determine only five that met the WWC's standards of success. The WWC is part of the U.S. Department of Education that examines scientific evidence of what is effective for education. View the study and the programs that met the WWC standards at http://whatworks.ed.gov/TopicReportLinks.asp?tid=03.

  • The annual Community College Survey of Student Engagement includes profiles of how Pennsylvania's Bucks County Community College and Lehigh Carbon Community College fare on five benchmarks of student engagement. View the results at www.ccsse.org.

  • ACT recently released two reports geared toward improving student retention on college campuses. According to a survey of two and four-year institutions, "colleges are more likely to blame students than their own practices for high dropout rates." ACT says colleges need to expand retention programs beyond academic intervention to include social integration efforts like those highlighted in "What Works in Student Retention" at www.act.org/path/postsec/droptables/index.html. In addition to this best practices report, ACT offers a policy report on "The Role of Academic and Non-Academic Factors in Improving College Retention" at www.act.org/research/policy/pdf/college_retention.pdf.

  • The Education Commission of the States recently released a Policy Brief on Involving Students in Governance. The brief talks about the benefits of student involvement in school, district, and state policymaking and provides models of student involvement strategies. Read the brief at www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/55/86/5586.pdf.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics released results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, an international assessment of fourth and eighth graders. U.S. eight graders scores improved in both math and science since the assessment was first administered in 1995, however, fourth grade achievement did not improve and is lower today relative to the 14 other countries that participated in 1995. Access the results at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005005.

  • The Tennessee Department of Education's Smart from the Start initiative provides online information about what young children should be able to do at different developmental stages from birth through age 5 and tips for helping young children learn. Read more about early child development at www.k-12.state.tn.us/smart/.

  • Education Week's website has added a new education data tool. Viewers may go to www.edweek.org/rc/edcounts and create custom built tables, graphs or maps based on a selection of indicators. Some of the categories include accountability, demographics, finance, student achievement, and teacher quality based on selected years and states.

  • For information concerning on broad range of education policy issues, see the EPLC Education Policy Information Clearinghouse at http://www.eplc.org/clearinghouse.html.

  • Next week... The EPLC Education Notebook will not be published next week. Look for the next Notebook after the New Year.

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