Stateline’s State of the States Report

State of the States 2016, January 25, 2016, Stateline: “Stateline’s annual State of the States series looks at some of the pressing issues state lawmakers are facing as they begin their work this month. The five-part series includes analytical articles, infographics and interactives…”

National School Lunch Program

Obama’s plan to give free lunches to millions more kids, By Roberto A. Ferdman, January 27, 2016, Washington Post: “The Obama administration will announce new plans Wednesday to launch a pilot program aimed at increasing poor children’s access to food through the National School Lunch Program. The pilot program will allow participating states to use Medicaid data to automatically certify students for free and reduced-price school lunches. Currently, families have to submit an application — a laborious process for parents and a costly one for schools — even when they have already proven that they are income-eligible through their participation in other government assistance programs…”

Young Black Men and Unemployment – Chicago, IL

Nearly half of young black men in Chicago out of work, out of school: report, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, January 25, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Nearly half of young black men in Chicago are neither in school nor working, a staggering statistic in a bleak new youth unemployment report that shows Chicago to be far worse off than its big-city peers. To 24-year-old Johnathan Allen, that’s no surprise. ‘It’s right there in your face, you don’t need statistics,’ Allen said as he testified before a room full of lawmakers and public officials Monday at an annual hearing about youth unemployment, where the report was presented. He encouraged everyone to walk down the street and witness how joblessness devastates communities…”

Income and College Attendance – Ohio

New state report cards show how college readiness and attendance rise with affluence, plummet with poverty, By Patrick O’Donnell, January 20, 2016, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “New state report card data shows a predictable pattern of how poverty is related to lower college attendance and lower scores on college admissions tests – poor school districts do poorly and affluent districts do well. The Plain Dealer and the Ohio School Boards Association each compared school district poverty rates to college enrollment and readiness data on the state report cards. Across multiple measures, the consistent pattern is that success rates are high when a district’s poverty is low, and low when poverty levels are high…”

High School Graduation Rate – New York City

New York City’s high school graduation rate tops 70%, By Elizabeth A. Harris, January 11, 2016, New York Times: “As New York State officials met on Monday to consider changes to high school graduation requirements, the state announced that the graduation rate inched up last year, with New York City’s edging above 70 percent for the first time. Despite that increase, white students remained far more likely to receive a diploma than black or Hispanic students. And high school graduation remained out of reach for many students with disabilities…”

Staffing at High-Poverty Schools

Study: Low-scoring teachers tend to work in schools with high poverty rates, By Juan Perez Jr., January 12, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Elementary schoolteachers who scored lowest on Chicago Public Schools’ job performance evaluations were more likely to work at schools serving the city’s most disadvantaged students, an educational think tank concludes in a report released Tuesday.  In observational evaluations and ‘value-added’ evaluations that adjust for the socioeconomic status of the student body, more teachers who received the lowest scores worked in schools with the ‘highest levels of poverty,’ according to the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research…”

Racial Achievement Gap – Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s racial achievement gap widens, By Abigail Becker, December 16, 2015, Appleton Post-Crescent: “When Madison Memorial High School sophomore Demitrius Kigeya solves math problems in his head, other students give him surprised looks. He believes it is because he is black.  ‘I just pay attention in class and do my homework,’ said Kigeya, 15.  Odoi Lassey, 16, a junior, echoed Kigeya’s feelings. ‘People don’t expect you to know anything,’ explained Lassey, who, like Kigeya, is a high academic performer, plays on the high school soccer team and is active in Memorial’s Black Student Union. ‘It’s almost as if you know something, they think you’re weird or you’re acting white … some people think you’re not black just because you try to help yourself out and do well in school.’  The negative stereotype that follows students such as Kigeya and Lassey is rooted in Wisconsin’s dismal racial academic achievement record…”

Early Childhood Experiences

  • Only in America: Four years into life, poor kids are already an entire year behind, By Roberto A. Ferdman, December 17, 2015, Washington Post: “Wealthy parents aren’t just able to send their kids to top pre-schools—they can also purchase the latest learning technology and ensure their children experience as many museums, concerts and other cultural experiences as possible. Low-income parents, on the other hand, don’t have that opportunity. Instead, they’re often left to face the reality of sending their kids to schools without having had the chance to provide an edifying experience at home.  That might sound foreboding if not hyperbolic, but it’s a serious and widespread problem in the United States, where poor kids enter school already a year behind the kids of wealthier parents. That deficit is among the largest in the developed world, and it can be extraordinarily difficult to narrow later in life…”
  • Class differences in child-rearing are on the rise, By Claire Cain Miller, December 17, 2015, New York Times: “The lives of children from rich and poor American families look more different than they have in decades.  Well-off families are ruled by calendars, with children enrolled in ballet, soccer and after-school programs, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. There are usually two parents, who spend a lot of time reading to children and worrying about their anxiety levels and hectic schedules.  In poor families, however, children tend to spend their time at home or with extended family, the survey found. They are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods that their parents say aren’t great for raising children, and their parents worry about them getting shot, beaten up or in trouble with the law…”

US High School Graduation Rate

  • US high school graduation rate ticks up to 82 percent, By Jennifer C. Kerr (AP), December 15, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The U.S. high school graduation rate inched up to 82 percent and the achievement gap narrowed, according to new federal data that raise concern among education officials and others that too many students still aren’t getting a diploma. The latest figures released Tuesday by the Education Department showed wide disparities in graduation rates according to where students live. Leading the way was Iowa, with a graduation rate of nearly 91 percent. The District of Columbia had the lowest rate, 61 percent…”
  • High school graduation rate hits all-time high; 82 percent finish on time, By Lyndsey Layton, December 15, 2015, Washington Post: “The national high school graduation rate hit an all-time high in 2013-2014, with 82 percent of students earning a diploma on time, according to federal data released Tuesday.  The data shows that every category of student — broken down by race, income, learning disabilities and whether they are English-language learners — has posted annual progress in graduation rates since 2010, when states adopted a uniform method of calculating those rates…”

State funding for K-12 Education

Report: Most states providing less K-12 funding than before Great Recession, By Valerie Strauss, December 13, 2015, Washington Post: “A new report on public school funding across the country finds that most states are now providing less support per K-12 student than before the 2007-2009 Great Recession — and that some states continue to cut funding…”

Achievement Gap

  • Achievement gap in D.C. starts in infancy, report shows, By Michael Alison Chandler, December 10, 2015, Washington Post: “The District is a national leader in providing universal access to preschool for 4- and 5-year olds, an investment designed to improve school readiness and narrow a a rich-poor achievement gap that is apparent by kindergarten.  But, according to a new report produced by Child Trends and commissioned by the Bainum Family Foundation, the achievement gap starts much earlier — in infancy — and the city isn’t prepared to deal with it…”
  • Black students struggling more in Michigan than other states, according to report, By Jonathan Oosting, December 10, 2015, MLive.com: “African-American students are further behind their peers in Michigan than in most other states, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  African American students are disproportionally impacted by shortcomings in the national education system, according to the report, which points to ongoing struggles to improve outcomes for minority students and close achievement gaps…”
  • Minority students make gains, but achievement gap remains, By Mary Niederberger, December 10, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “While there has been some improvement in academic achievement among African-American students since the early 1990s, overall performance levels remain critically low nationally, and Pennsylvania’s results fall below national averages. That information was contained in the report ‘The Path Forward: Improving Opportunities For African-American Students,’ released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the NAACP…”

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…”