Staffing at High-Poverty Schools

High-poverty schools often staffed by rotating cast of substitutes, By Emma Brown, December 4, 2015, Washington Post: “Mya Alford dreams of studying chemical engineering in college, but the high school junior is at a disadvantage: Last year, her chemistry teacher at Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse Academy quit just weeks after school started, and the class was taught by a substitute who, as Alford put it, ‘didn’t know chemistry.’  The year before, there was no permanent biology teacher until December. Students at Westinghouse, a high-poverty school in one of Pittsburgh’s roughest neighborhoods, often see a rotating cast of substitutes, Alford said. ‘You’re looking at test scores,’ Alford said of the school’s low performance on state standardized tests in math, science and reading. ‘But we didn’t have a stable teacher…'”

US High School Dropout Rate

  • The nation’s high school dropout rate has fallen, study says, By Emma Brown, November 10, 2015, Washington Post: “The U.S. high school dropout rate has fallen in recent years, with the number of dropouts declining from 1 million in 2008 to about 750,000 in 2012, according to a new study to be released Tuesday. The number of ‘dropout factories’ — high schools in which fewer than 60 percent of freshmen graduate in four years — declined significantly during the same period, according to the study by a coalition of education groups…”
  • Report: Quarter-million more students now graduate from H.S. each year, By Greg Toppo, November 10, 2015, USA Today: “About a quarter-million more students graduated from high school in 2012 than four years earlier, new research shows, with the number of ‘dropout factories’ — high schools that persistently graduate fewer than 60% of students — cut in half since 2008. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan welcomed the findings, saying that poorly performing high schools have been ‘failing generations of students…'”

Early Childhood Education

The most powerful thing we could give poor kids is completely free, By Emily Badger, November 3, 2015, Washington Post: “Dana Suskind, a pediatric surgeon at the University of Chicago, performs cochlear implant surgeries every Tuesday on children as young as 7 months old who were born deaf. When she activates the tiny device in their inner ears for the first time, often to the startled expression of the children and tears from their parents, she celebrates each child’s ‘hearing birthday.’ This is the moment, Suskind once believed, when she set each child on the path to understanding words, then speaking them, then reading them, then thriving. Perform the surgeries early enough and you can give children the ability to hear while their malleable brains are still developing, feeding off the language around them. Several years ago, though, Suskind realized some children who’d received the surgery continued to struggle anyway. She describes in her new book, ‘Thirty Million Words,’ one little girl from a poor family who could still barely speak by the third grade. ‘When I looked at her lovely face,’ Suskind writes, ‘it was hard to say whether I was seeing the tragedy of deafness or the tragedy of poverty…'”

National Assessment of Educational Progress

  • Nationwide test shows dip in students’ math abilities, By Motoko Rich, October 28, 2015, New York Times: “For the first time since 1990, the mathematical skills of American students have dropped, according to results of a nationwide test released by the Education Department on Wednesday. The decline appeared in both Grades 4 and 8 in an exam administered every two years as the National Assessment of Educational Progress and sometimes called ‘the nation’s report card.’  The dip in scores comes as the country’s employers demand workers with ever-stronger skills in mathematics to compete in a global economy. It also comes as states grapple with the new Common Core academic standards and a rebellion against them…”
  • U.S. student performance slips on national test, By Emma Brown, October 28, 2015, Washington Post: “Fourth-graders and eighth-graders across the United States lost ground on national mathematics tests this year, the first declines in scores since the federal government began administering the exams in 1990. Reading performance also was sobering: Eighth-grade scores dropped,according to results released Wednesday, while fourth-grade performance was stagnant compared with 2013, the last time students took the test…”

Family Disadvantage

A disadvantaged start hurts boys more than girls, By Claire Cain Miller, October 22, 2015, New York Times: “Boys are falling behind. They graduate from high school and attend college at lower rates than girls and are more likely to get in trouble, which can hurt them when they enter the job market. This gender gap exists across the United States, but it is far bigger for poor people and for black people. As society becomes more unequal, it seems, it hurts boys more.  New research from social scientists offers one explanation: Boys are more sensitive than girls to disadvantage. Any disadvantage, like growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father, takes more of a toll on boys than on their sisters. That realization could be a starting point for educators, parents and policy makers who are trying to figure out how to help boys — particularly those from black, Latino and immigrant families…”

US High School Graduation Rates

Why US high school graduation rates are on the rise, By Story Hinckley, October 20, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “High school graduation rates are rising in most states, according to new data. Moreover, the traditional graduation gaps between white and minority students are shrinking, according to a report released Monday from the US Department of Education. Advocates of recent federal testing and polling standardization say the numbers indicate education reforms are working…”

Student Aid for Nontraditional Education

New federal program offers students aid for nontraditional education, By Patricia Cohen, October 14, 2015, New York Times: “Hoping to offer more alternatives, particularly to low-income students considering substandard for-profit colleges, the Education Department is unveiling a pilot program on Wednesday to allow students to use federal loans and grants for nontraditional education like boot camp software coding programs and MOOCs, or massive open online courses…”

Social Services in Schools – Pittsburgh, PA

  • Schools step up social services in hopes of improving education, By Eleanor Chute, September 6, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “When Cornell superintendent Aaron Thomas interviews a potential administrator, he wants to know if the candidate will drive a school van. Administrators, including the superintendent, sometimes need to drive a parent to a teacher conference or a child to a doctor appointment.  At Grandview Upper Elementary School in the Highlands School District, it’s not unusual for principal Heather Hauser to find a bag of groceries on her desk, left anonymously by a staff member. The school started a food pantry after a student one Friday said he didn’t have anything to eat at home…”
  • Educators can spot emotional baggage, By Mary Niederberger, September 7, 2015,  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “When Grace Enick, now 25, was in a Christian elementary school, no one noticed her behavior after she was raped in second grade. ‘All I wanted was for someone to ask me what was wrong,’ she said. No one did.  In recent years, educators have become more aware that some students are carrying emotional baggage that can interfere with their ability to learn…”
  • Parents’ involvement at home key for students, educators, By Clarece Polke, September 8, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “An unlikely catalyst inspired Milton Lopez to go back to school to earn a GED diploma.  Mr. Lopez, now 40, of Coraopolis dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and has worked full time ever since. His young son inspired him to finish his diploma more than a decade after leaving school…”
  • First-generation college students face hurdles, stigmas, By Bill Schackner, September 9, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Teireik Williams wanted to be like other students at Penn State University, but reminders that he was different were everywhere on the flagship public campus where the cost to attend rivaled his family’s total income. It was obvious to the South Oakland resident whenever he saw students driving cars paid for back home or heard them discuss exotic travel. But his sense of isolation wasn’t simply economic — or exclusively because he is an African-American at a largely white university. Since neither of his parents holds a college degree, he differed from peers in another way: He could not count on advice and reassurance from adults back home who already had been through the academic pressures he was facing…”

Early Childhood Education

States agree on need for ‘preschool,’ differ on definition, By Sophie Quinton, September 4, 2015, Stateline: “Kari Leonard is a mom of five, but on a typical weekday a visitor might find 10 young children in the living room of her Saint Peter, Minnesota, home. The children at her child care center, who are mostly preschool age, might be playing with blocks, or doing a craft project, or listening to a song as Leonard plays it in a foreign language.  Her business could benefit from the state’s recent decision to spend $104 million over the next two years on early learning scholarships for low-income children. Because her program is highly rated by Parent Aware, a nonprofit that evaluates early education programs, she can enroll scholarship recipients.  Policymakers in Minnesota, like many across the country, have been impressed by studies that show early education can improve a child’s life and save taxpayers money over the long term. But while there’s a growing consensus on the value of preschool, states disagree on where the programs should be based, who should run them, or how the government should support them…”

Education Savings Accounts

This innovative idea is helping low-income families save for college, By Jillian Berman, September 2, 2015, MarketWatch: “When he was a first-grader, Emily Gardner’s 8-year-old son Elijah Peters told her he wasn’t interested in college. He dreamed of becoming a handyman like his father instead. She signed him up for a college savings plan anyway. Now she’s glad she did. After a field trip to Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., where Elijah held a pig’s heart and used Mentos to create an explosion in a bottle of Diet Coke, he began depositing his birthday and Christmas money into the account and asking his grandparents to help him save even more. ‘Just to hear that from a child who said ‘I’m not going to college,’ it is fantastic,’ said Gardner, 31, of Wabash, Ind., where she is director of the city’s downtown economic and community development program…”

School Breakfast Programs

Schools use creative measures to serve breakfast to more students, By Yvonne Wenger, August 27, 2015, Baltimore Sun: “Waving her hands above her head, Kelly Leschefsky shouted over the morning rush at Perry Hall High School: ‘Come and grab your breakfast and take it to your classroom!’ A steady stream of students picked up cereal, cartons of orange juice, cinnamon rolls, bottles of milk and Pop-Tarts before the morning bell, entered their ID numbers on a keypad and headed to class. Some won’t actually pay, but that’s not apparent at the checkout line. The ‘Grab n’ Go’ carts at Perry Hall and elsewhere — at which the ID payment system keeps students from seeing whether their peers are buying the food or getting it free — are among several efforts statewide to ensure that more low-income children eat breakfast…”

Homeless College Students

How to help the students with no homes?, By Kelly Field, August 24, 2015, Chronicle of Higher Education: “The scars on Christine Banjo’s arms are still there — faint marks from the bed bugs that bit her when her family was living in a motel room during her high-school years. ‘Battle wounds,’ she calls them: a faded but constant reminder that the college junior has been chronically homeless since she was 7. During the school year, Ms. Banjo, who is 20, lives in the dorms at Norfolk State University. But on summer vacation and during other breaks, she has no set place to go. There’s no room for her in the rooming house where her parents live, so she crashes with friends or sublets space in a cramped apartment. Most days, her only meal is the sandwich and fries she gets during her shift at McDonald’s. She returns there on her days off just to have something to eat…”

Community Scholarship – Michigan

Report: How one poor, rural Michigan town is sending ‘all its kids to college’, By Brian McVicar, August 19, 2015, Grand Rapids Press: “Baldwin, a small community in rural Lake County, is making national headlines after The Atlantic took an in-depth look at a community scholarship that aims to send every high school graduate, many of whom are low-income, to college. The piece tells the story of the Baldwin Promise, which provides up to $5,000 per-year for students to attend college, and the big impact the fund is having not only on college access, but on changing the community’s perception of higher education…”

School Gardens

School gardens help fruit, vegetables to flourish in low-income food deserts, By Sanya Mansoor, August 10, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “Green classrooms, incorporated into high school curricula, have sprouted nationwide to educate teenagers about nutrition and include them in community gardening. Participating students invest their time and energy in providing their neighborhoods with ready access to healthy and affordable food. As a result, they may also improve academic performance and engagement at school and pass on their knowledge and habits to their families…”

AP Test Support for Low-Income Students

Education Department awards grants to defray costs of AP tests, By Lauren Camera, August 12, 2015, Education Week: “In a push to prepare more low-income students for college or a career, the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday awarded $28.4 million in grants to help defray the cost of taking advanced placement (AP) tests…”

College Students and Food Insecurity

Rise in college food banks linked to the economy and campus demographics, By Jason Song, August 3, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “For years, the food bank at Michigan State University was one of the few, if not the only, such organizations in the country. By 2008, only four other groups offered college students free meals. But as the economy continued to sink, Michigan State began to get a lot of company. There are now 199 similar groups throughout the country, according to the College and University Food Bank Alliance, including food pantries at UC Berkeley and UCLA. The California State University system is conducting a study to determine the number of students on its campuses who do not have regular sources of food and housing. And one student is attempting to convince vendors and restaurants at Santa Monica College to accept food stamps.

Low-Income Students and College Readiness

ACT report: College readiness remains flat among low-income students, By Andrew Phillips, July 22, 2015, The Gazette: “The percentage of low-income students who met college-readiness benchmarks on the ACT exam last year remained flat from the year before, according to a report released this week by ACT Inc. and a national education group. The report includes data from students nationwide in the high school graduating class of 2014 who took the ACT exam. It was released Monday by ACT Inc., the Iowa City-based testing company, and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships…”

Measuring Poverty in Schools

To measure poverty, states look beyond free lunch, By Amy Scott, June 23, 2015, Marketplace: “For years, the federal school meals program has been one of the most powerful forces in education. Not just because it feeds kids, but because the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals has been the main way schools measure poverty. That number, in turn, can impact everything from school funding levels to accountability programs.  But that’s changing. Massachusetts has introduced a new way of measuring poverty in its schools…”

Early Childhood Education

The education gap among America’s youngest students, By Aimee Picchi, June 17, 2015, CBS News: “An education disaster is in the making, and it’s starting before children even reach kindergarten. Poor American kids are arriving at kindergarten with lagging academic and ‘noncognitive skills,’ such as self-control and approaches to learning, when compared with children of high-income families, according to a new report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Those education gaps have grown increasingly noticeable in more recent generations, which may be due to demographic shifts in the American population, such as more children being born into poverty and more growing up in single-parent households…”

Foster Children and High School Graduation – California

In Hollywood, foster care students try to finish high school, By Christine Armario (AP), June 6, 2015, San Jose Mercury News: “Tucked below the Hollywood sign, on a street where tourists stop to pose for pictures, is Beachwood House, a pale blue two-story home for foster kids without one. It’s known as the place you go if you are good.  There is no high-security, gated entrance. No 24-hour psychiatrist on staff. Instead, teenagers considered stable and who haven’t been adopted or placed in a suitable individual home get the sort of care a mom or dad might provide: Allowances, tutors and transportation to school…”