Are Achievement Gaps Related to Discipline Gaps? Evidence From National Data

There is a growing interest in the relation between the racial achievement gap and the racial discipline gap. However, few studies have examined this relation at the national level. This study combines data from the Stanford Education Data Archive and the Civil Rights Data Collection and employs a district fixed effects analysis to examine whether and the extent to which racial discipline gaps are related to racial achievement gaps in Grades 3 through 8 in districts across the United States. In bivariate models, the authors find evidence that districts with larger racial discipline gaps have larger racial achievement gaps (and vice versa). (Source: American Educational Research Association)


Hitting Snooze on School Start Times 

When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed S.B. 328 last month, California became the first state to mandate school start times. Starting in 2022, high schools must start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and middle schools must start no earlier than 8 a.m., affecting at least half of schools that start earlier. An analysis shows that the average start time nationwide is 8:03 a.m. Efforts to push back start times have cited research suggesting that adolescent students do not get enough sleep and that later start times would allow for more sleep — leading to better health, better academic performance and more positive social outcomes. However, implementing later school start times does not come without challenges. Changes to school start times could impact after-school activities, transportation and child care for families with children with different start times; and it might also include upfront costs to districts.


Fewer Children Left Behind Lessons From The Dramatic Achievement Gains Of The 1990s And 2000s

Earlier this year, speaking in front of the Education Writers Association, Secretary Betsy DeVos said that decades of reform efforts and increased social spending, both inside and outside of schools, “hasn’t ultimately improved anything for any students, particularly not for the most vulnerable students.” It’s a standard refrain from DeVos, and many other reformers as well when making the case that past efforts have failed and it’s time to try something different. Even Michael J. Petrilli’s friend Rick Hess, after acknowledging big gains in math achievement, has argued that “a fair assessment” of the past two decades of reform “would admit that there has been a lot of action, but not much in the way of demonstrated improvement.” In this white paper, Michael J. Petrilli to digs into these claims, all in pursuit of determining whether America’s schools have improved over the past quarter-century of reform.


Study: Kids in Poor Districts Learn Just as Much

Even though disadvantaged students in poorer school districts might earn lower test scores than those in wealthier districts, students in both settings are learning just as much, according to a new study from researchers at Ohio State University. The research challenges the traditional notions that performance gaps between such districts are a product of the schools themselves, researchers said. “What our results suggest is that that story is probably not accurate,” said Doug Downey, a sociology professor at Ohio State and lead author of the study. The study used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, pulling from a subsample of about 3,000 students from around the country. Children in the cohort examined by researchers took reading tests at the beginning and end of kindergarten and near the end of first and second grade. Researchers calculated how much children learned during the three periods of school and compared that to what happened during summer breaks.


Student Mental Health

This Policy Snapshot reviews 2019 legislative activity addressing student mental health and wellness, including legislative measures focused on school-based mental health services and supports, teacher and school staff training, and school curricula. The report also includes examples of enacted legislation in each category.


Prevention and Discipline for Student Vaping

This year, states adopted disciplinary policies to deter the use of vaping products by school-aged youth. Florida adopted H.B. 7027, which prohibits minors from vaping within 1,000 feet of school property between 6 a.m. and midnight. Violators are subject to a civil infraction citation with a maximum penalty of $25, 50 hours of community service or completion of a school-approved anti-vaping program as an alternative to suspension. Nebraska adopted L.B. 397, adding electronic or alternative nicotine delivery systems to the list of tobacco products subject to a Class V misdemeanor, including a criminal record and potential fine, for people under the age of 19. Virginia adopted companion bills, S.B. 1295 and H.B. 2384, requiring school boards to develop and implement disciplinary policies, including criteria for suspension and expulsion, that address the use and distribution of tobacco or vaping products on school property or at a school sponsored activity.


Indiana Lawmakers Look for Better Ways to Identify Students Living in Poverty

Indiana lawmakers, facing criticism that they are underestimating the number of students living in poverty, are looking for a better way to identify these children. The Indiana General Assembly’s interim study committee on tax and fiscal policy asked for ideas from the public and heard over two hours of testimony on Tuesday. Some schools saw funding drop this year as fewer students qualified as low-income under the state’s new poverty measure. While Indiana previously used eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch to calculate extra funding for districts, lawmakers decided in 2015 to shift to the number of students in foster care, or whose families receive food stamps or welfare payments. That’s a narrower — and poorer — group of students, which previously led some experts to say lawmakers could be undercounting students.


Report: Universal Free Lunch is Linked to Better Test Scores in New York City

Offering all students free lunch helps boost academic performance, a new report, which looked at meal programs in New York City middle schools, shows. The study, out of Syracuse University’s Center for Policy Research,assessed the impact of universal free lunch on students who previously didn’t have access to such a meals program. Researchers found “statistically significant” bumps in reading and math state test scores once students attended schools with universal free lunch. One way to understand those score bumps: They were equivalent to 6-10 weeks of learning for students who did not qualify or sign up for free and reduced price lunch and about half of that for students who were part of the lunch program, the paper said. “I think that is the big takeaway  that if we make lunch free, kids do better in school,” said Amy Ellen Schwartz, who co-wrote the paper, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.


Black-White Achievement Gaps Go Hand in Hand With Discipline Disparities

Gaps between black and white students in school suspension rates and academic achievement may be two sides of the same coin, according to a massive new national study. The study, based on data from more than 2,000 school districts, finds the two racial disparities are tightly intertwined, compounding challenges for students of color and the educators trying to support them. “These disparities are two things the districts think and care a lot about,” said Francis Pearman, an assistant education professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the lead author of the study. But he said that education leaders may not connect the dots in school improvement efforts. Based on their findings, the researchers also warned there could be unintended academic consequences from the federal Education Department’s decision to roll back 2014 guidance intended to ensure students of color were not punished more harshly than their white peers. “The results … should caution against such moves,” they concluded.


50 States of Ed Policy: What Could California’s Decision to Delay the Morning Bell Mean for Other States?

A nationwide movement to delay school start times gained fuel this month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill mandating later start times for most middle and high schools. SB 328, the first legislation of its kind, requires public and charter middle schools in California to start no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools to begin at 8:30 a.m. or later, with the exception of rural schools. Under the law, optional early classes will still be allowed. Until recently, the later-start-time movement nationally had been a slow-burning local issue for more than two decades. “Most of the communities that have adopted this have done so voluntarily and have done it with a process that has included buy-in building within the community,” Deborah Temkin, a director for the national research organization Child Trends, said.


U.S. Education Achievement Slides Backwards

The average performance of the nation’s fourth and eighth graders mostly declined in math and reading from 2017 to 2019, following a decade of stagnation in educational progress, according to the results of a test released on Oct. 30, 2019. The one exception was fourth-grade math, with the average score rising by one point between 2017 and 2019. This was not the first drop in national test scores since the biennial test, called the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP, was first administered in the early 1990s. Scores also dropped between 2013 and 2015. But federal statisticians described the current 2019 drop as “substantial,” particularly in eighth-grade reading achievement with 31 states posting lower scores. “Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest performing students are doing worse,” said Peggy G. Carr, associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in a prepared statement.


How States and School Districts are Adopting the Next Generation Science Standards

As 20 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards—and another 24 have adopted standards based on the same framework—K-12 districts across the nation have been implementing changes to align science curricula to the standards, which stress skills such as communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem-solving and flexibility. NGSS focuses on three distinct and equally important dimensions to learning science—cross-cutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas. These dimensions are combined to form each standard—or performance expectation—and all work together to give students a comprehensive understanding of science. Officials in Pennsylvania recently announced that educators will begin reviewing its state standards to assess whether the state should implement NGSS, PennLive reported. In conjunction, $20 million in STEM training grants will be made available through the state’s PAsmart job-training initiative, according to Pennsylvania Business Report.


A Plan for Supporting New Initiatives

Imagine a school in early August. The floors are shiny and fresh paint covers the classroom walls. Fortified with renewed energy and the latest initiative from Central Office, the faculty eagerly await the start of the school year. This year’s focus is lowering discipline referrals in each grade. If realized, this could boost achievement for perennially under performing students. However, if poorly pursued, this initiative will soon begin to wither, ultimately wasting valuable resources and undermining student success. Whether you’re a teacher or administrator, you have likely experienced a revolving door of initiatives. Well-intentioned directives, whether arising from the grassroots level during summer in-service or communicated at the district level, are adopted but then gradually abandoned. Changing this pattern requires a shift in how schools introduce, manage, and learn from their improvement efforts.


Arkansas Provides K-12 Districts With Volunteer IT Team to Fight Cyber Attacks

Arkansas school districts experiencing cyber attacks can now turn to a strike team of technology volunteers to help them grapple with hacking, data breaches and cyber security incidents. The P-12 Cyber Threat Response Team, which will provide districts with on-site support at no cost, was created by the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education within the Arkansas Department of Education. About 230 of the state’s 260 school districts are rural and many often only have one-person technology departments, said Ray Girdler, the director of technology initiatives and resources in the elementary and secondary education division.