The Political Foundations of the Black–White Education Achievement Gap

More than 50 years after Brown v. Board, African American students continue to trail their White peers on a variety of important educational indicators. In this article, the authors investigate the political foundations of the racial “achievement gap” in American education. Using variation in high school graduation rates across the states, the authors first assess whether state policymakers are attentive to the educational needs of struggling African American students.

The authors find evidence that state policymaking attention to teacher quality—an issue education research shows is essential to improving schooling outcomes for racial minority students—is highly responsive to low graduation rates among White students, but bears no relationship to low graduation rates among African American students.

The authors then probe a possible mechanism behind this unequal responsiveness by examining the factors that motivate White public opinion about education reform and find racial influences there as well. Taken together, the authors uncover evidence that the persisting achievement gap between White and African American students has distinctively political foundations.

Urban Teacher Education: Making a Case for Context-Specific Preparation

The literature on preparing teachers for urban schools provides a rationale for helping candidates understand the particular cultures of students. However, research has not sufficiently “unpacked” features of the setting that programs can address; nor has it discussed how programs tailor teaching approaches to their specific contexts.

Drawing from program descriptions, syllabi, and interviews, this article describes the “context-specific” approach of the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program that prepares teachers for Chicago Public Schools and ways that it helps candidates make meaning of that setting. The article presents a framework to show how the program defines and then teaches as content essential knowledge about a district and its children—including community and neighborhood histories, district curricula, and policies—that must inform teaching and learning.

The article includes examples of context-specific teacher preparation that illustrate how candidates learn about particularities of Chicago Public Schools and apply this knowledge to develop context-specific understandings and practices.

Improving High School Graduation Rates in Rhode Island

This Issue Brief presents detailed graduation and dropout rates for every school and
district in Rhode Island, research on warning signs and risk factors of dropping out, and
key strategies for dropout intervention and recovery, increased graduation rates, and
college readiness. Rhode Island’s four‐year graduation rate has been steadily increasing
in recent years, from 70% in 2007 to 77% in 2012. Disparities continue to exist within
this overall increase. In Rhode Island, students in several sub‐populations have lower
graduation rates that their peers, including: English Language Learners, students with
disabilities, and low‐income students. Minority students also are more likely than White
students to drop out.

The lowest graduation rates are in the four core cities, Central Falls (68%), Pawtucket
(67%), Providence (65%), and Woonsocket (65%). While students in Rhode Island’s
core cities are more likely to drop out than students in the remainder of the state,
progress has been made in increasing the graduation rate. The four‐year graduation
rate for the four core cities increased from 56% in 2007 to 66% in 2012, a steeper
increase than in remainder of the state districts, where the graduation rate increased
from 79% in 2007 to 83% in 2012. Also, the two districts with the largest increases in
graduation rates from 2007 to 2012 were both core city districts – Central Falls and

Warning signs for students at risk

Dropping out of school is almost always a long process rather than a sudden event. A number of
factors or “early warning signs” can predict students at risk for dropping out, including reading
below grade level at the end of third grade; poor course performance; ongoing patterns of
absenteeism or tardiness; and multiple suspensions or other behavior problems. Research
shows that reading at grade level by the end of third grade, attendance, behavior, and course
performance can be tracked and monitored to successfully identify and intervene with students
who are most at risk of dropping out.

Recommendations to Improve Graduation Rates

 Raise awareness among students, parents, and the general public about the connection
between educational attainment and positive economic, social, and health outcomes.
 Increase access to high‐quality early childhood programs, pre‐kindergarten, and fullday
kindergarten to prevent the achievement gap early on.
 Ensure that all children read proficiently by the end of third grade, focusing on
improving school readiness, reducing chronic early absence, and increasing access to highquality
summer learning.
 Establish early warning systems that use data on attendance, behavior, and course
performance to identify students at risk of dropping out.
 Help students transition from middle school to high school by preparing students to
participate in the high school campus and culture before enrollment, ensuring that all
students feel connected to school, and identifying students who are struggling before high
school and providing timely and individualized supports.
 Provide multiple pathways to graduation for all students who need them, including
acceleration programs for students lacking credits, online instruction, flexible hours,
partnerships with adult education and other community providers, and alternative
completion models.
 Ensure that school leaders have high expectations for all students and staff.
 Focus on closing achievement gaps between low‐income and higher‐income students and
White and minority students. Collect and report data on graduation rates for special
 Ensure that all students have effective teachers and that all teachers receive
professional development opportunities focused on effective instructional practice and
differentiated teaching methods for a range of learning styles.
 Offer students a rigorous and engaging curriculum aligned with standards and tied to
college access, career pathways, and vocational exploration opportunities, including
opportunities to participate in arts, music, and sports programs and expanded learning
opportunities that allow students to receive credit for rigorous, hands‐on, individualized
learning opportunities outside the classroom.
 Reduce chronic absence at all school levels by developing systems that provide frequent
reports on student absenteeism and reasons for absenteeism.
 Improve the school climate by focusing on teaching, modeling, and rewarding students’
positive behavior and revising disciplinary policies to ensure the equitable, appropriate,
and limited use of suspensions and expulsions.
 Improve communication with parents, especially when students are falling behind
academically, frequently absent, or exhibiting troubling behaviors in school.
 Develop and nurture partnerships between schools and higher education institutions,
community organizations, and businesses to offer wrap‐around supports to students and
promote educational success.
 Share best practices of schools and districts that are having success in raising their
graduation rates with other schools and districts.

Study finds 1 in 10 high school students hurt by dating partners

One in 10 high school youth in the U.S. reports having been hit or physically hurt by a dating partner in the past year, according to a new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health researcher.

In a study published in the Journal of School Violence, Emily Rothman and Ziming Xuan, faculty at Boston University, analyzed data from 100,901 students who participated in the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey (YRBSS) for the years 1999-2011. They found that 9.3 percent of U.S. high school students have been "hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose" by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year – an annual prevalence rate that has not changed significantly in the past 12 years.

The experience of being hit, slapped or otherwise physically hurt was reported at nearly equivalent rates by males and females who participated in the survey. There was a statistically significant increased rate of dating-violence victimization among black (12.9 percent) and multiracial (12.2 percent) youth, as compared to whites and Asians (8 percent) or Hispanic youth (10.5 percent). The rate of dating violence victimization remained stable over the 1999-2011 period for both males and females, and for each racial subgroup, despite a number of efforts to curb dating violence in the last decade.

That 9 percent of the nation's youth are hurt by dating partners every year is a serious public health concern, given that consequences of such violence can include depression, eating disorders, injury, and in the most severe cases, death, said Rothman, an associate professor of community health sciences at BUSPH.

"While 9 percent may sound low, this figure puts dating violence on par with many of the other public health issues that we tend to view as serious problems, such as obesity, frequent cigarette smoking, or driving after drinking," Rothman said. "The real concern here is that the rate has not gone down at all in the past 12 years, while the rate of physical fighting with peers has decreased significantly.

That means that whatever headway we have made in reducing youth violence does not extend to people in dating or sexual relationships."

Malcolm Astley, father of Lauren Astley, who was murdered in Wayland, MA, by her boyfriend in July of 2011, said that the new study should serve as a wake-up call to parents and teachers around the nation.

"Parents, teachers, counselors and legislators need to do everything they can to prevent dating abuse," said Astley. "No other family or community should have to go through what we, and thousands of other families, have gone through.

"I hope that 10 years from now, dating violence will be a much smaller issue. People facing break-ups should get the direction and education they need to handle their feelings." Rothman said that several programs specifically geared to dating-violence prevention have been tested through randomized controlled trials and shown to be effective.

"Our data support the idea that states and communities should invest in these types of prevention programs in order to try to address this problem," she said.

Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds

Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children's learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive effects of video game play to be published by the American Psychological Association.

The study comes out as debate continues among psychologists and other health professionals regarding the effects of violent media on youth. An APA task force is conducting a comprehensive review of research on violence in video games and interactive media and will release its findings in 2014.

"Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored," said lead author Isabela Granic, PhD, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. "However, to understand the impact of video games on children's and adolescents' development, a more balanced perspective is needed."

The article will be published in APA's flagship journal, American Psychologist.

While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent, the authors said. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player's capacity to think about objects in three dimensions, just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. "This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Granic said. This enhanced thinking was not found with playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.

Playing video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, the authors said. The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013. Children's creativity was also enhanced by playing any kind of video game, including violent games, but not when the children used other forms of technology, such as a computer or cell phone, other research revealed.

Simple games that are easy to access and can be played quickly, such as "Angry Birds," can improve players' moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety, the study said. "If playing video games simply makes people happier, this seems to be a fundamental emotional benefit to consider," said Granic. The authors also highlighted the possibility that video games are effective tools to learn resilience in the face of failure. By learning to cope with ongoing failures in games, the authors suggest that children build emotional resilience they can rely upon in their everyday lives.

Another stereotype the research challenges is the socially isolated gamer. More than 70 percent of gamers play with a friend and millions of people worldwide participate in massive virtual worlds through video games such as "Farmville" and "World of Warcraft," the article noted. Multiplayer games become virtual social communities, where decisions need to be made quickly about whom to trust or reject and how to lead a group, the authors said. People who play video games, even if they are violent, that encourage cooperation are more likely to be helpful to others while gaming than those who play the same games competitively, a 2011 study found.

The article emphasized that educators are currently redesigning classroom experiences, integrating video games that can shift the way the next generation of teachers and students approach learning. Likewise, physicians have begun to use video games to motivate patients to improve their health, the authors said. In the video game "Re-Mission," child cancer patients can control a tiny robot that shoots cancer cells, overcomes bacterial infections and manages nausea and other barriers to adhering to treatments. A 2008 international study in 34 medical centers found significantly greater adherence to treatment and cancer-related knowledge among children who played "Re-Mission" compared to children who played a different computer game.

"It is this same kind of transformation, based on the foundational principle of play, that we suggest has the potential to transform the field of mental health," Granic said. "This is especially true because engaging children and youth is one of the most challenging tasks clinicians face."

The authors recommended that teams of psychologists, clinicians and game designers work together to develop approaches to mental health care that integrate video game playing with traditional therapy.

New Report Details States' Progress on College and Career Readiness

With all 50 states and the District of Columbia having adopted college- and career-ready standards, Achieve's eighth annual "Closing the Expectations Gap" report, released today, shows how all states are aligning those standards with policies and practice to better ensure that all students are academically prepared for life after high school.

"All 50 states deserve credit for confronting the expectations gap - that is the gap between what it takes to earn a high school diploma and what the real world actually expects graduates to know and be able to do," said Mike Cohen, Achieve's president. "But raising standards is just the start. Supporting teachers and leaders with the time and tools they need to change classroom practice is critical, and many states are doing just that. It is also important to align graduation requirements, assessments and accountability policies to college- and career-ready standards. This work is complicated and it will take time to get it right. Governors, chiefs and other state and districts leaders must continue to make the work a top priority; they deserve tremendous credit for leading on an issue that is so critical to the future of students, their families, communities, states and ultimately our country."

Achieve conducts an annual policy survey that asks all 50 states and the District of Columbia whether they have adopted standards, graduation requirements, assessments and accountability systems aligned to the expectations of two- and four-year colleges and employers. The national survey of state education leaders has measured the same areas of reform each year since the National Governors Association and Achieve co-sponsored the National Education Summit in 2005. This year's survey reveals the following results:

Standards: All 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted standards aligned to the expectations of college and careers. 46 states and DC have adopted the Common Core State Standards, while four have state-developed CCR standards. For these standards to be realized in classrooms, they must be implemented with fidelity. Ensuring access to high-quality aligned instructional materials and supporting training and professional learning opportunities for teachers and principals is critical - as is deploying strong performance metrics to monitor implementation progress.

Graduation Requirements: Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia have adopted college- and career-ready graduation requirements. However, more than half the states in the country that have adopted the CCSS/CCR standards have not raised their graduation requirements to match those standards. This misalignment means that students may graduate unprepared for college and careers since they will not have taken courses that deliver the CCSS/CCR standards or demonstrated their mastery of the CCSS/CCR standards through competency-based methods.

Assessments: Today, 19 states have or will administer college- and career-ready high school assessments capable of producing a readiness score that postsecondary institutions use to make placement decisions. The 42 states and District of Columbia participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium working to develop CCR assessments will face many key decisions in the months and years ahead, including how these next generation assessments can support aligned and rigorous instruction, how to ensure postsecondary use of the results, and how and whether to factor the results of new assessments into high-stakes graduation decisions for students.

Accountability: A majority of states, 35, have now incorporated at least one of four accountability indicators that Achieve has identified as critical to promoting college and career readiness. No state meets Achieve's criteria regarding the use of all indicators in its college- and career-ready accountability system, and overall state progress in creating accountability systems anchored in CCR has been slow - and often stalled - even with the adoption of new accountability systems under ESEA flexibility waivers.

Cohen also pointed to the sharing of a common set of standards by 46 states and the District of Columbia that has produced unprecedented cross-state collaboration to address many implementation issues. He went on to say, "The next few years will be challenging for the college- and career-ready agenda and we have to stay the course. Those who are against the CCSS or CCR standards, better assessments, aligned graduation requirements, and accountability systems that value college and career readiness are, in fact, champions of the status quo. A status quo that graduates far too few and fails to prepare many who do receive a diploma for the real world."

STEM Attrition among college students

This Statistical Analysis Report
presents the most recent national statistics on beginning bachelor’s and associate’s degree students’ entrance into, and attrition from, STEM fields. Using recent transcript data, it provides a first look at STEM coursetaking and examines how participation and performance in undergraduate STEM coursework, along with other factors, are associated with STEM attrition. The study is based on data from the 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) and the associated 2009 Postsecondary Education Transcript Study.

Some 28 percent of beginning bachelor’s degree students and 20 percent of beginning associate’s degree students entered a STEM field at some point during their enrollment between 2003 and 2009. As of 2009, 48 percent of the bachelor’s degree STEM entrants and 69 percent of the associate’s degree STEM entrants had left these fields by either changing majors or leaving college altogether without completing a degree or certificate. Major factors associated with STEM attrition include first-year STEM coursetaking experiences, the level of success in STEM coursework, and overall college performance.