Education Week - January 22, 2014 - (Page 5)

REPORT ROUNDUP ACHIEVEMENT GAPS own money upfront if they want health insurance in retirement, a Michigan appeals court ruled last week. The 3-0 ruling rejects unions' arguments that the 2012 law is unconstitutional. The appellate judges said the law does nothing to diminish workers' vested pension benefits because only future benefits are implicated. They also ruled that it is legal to have school employees contribute 3 percent of their salary for retiree health care because the contributions are voluntary. -AP Bill Dispute Leads City To Shut Off School Water Schools are closed in a Texas town after the city shut off their water amid a dispute over the bill. The city of La Villa shut off water and sewer service to the La Villa district in December, shortly after students started their holiday break. The city had increased a water surcharge, and the district has refused to pay the higher rate. The 625 students were supposed to return to classes last week, but instead found a message on the district's website that schools would be closed until further notice. In a letter to the Texas Education Agency in December, Mayor Hector Elizondo wrote that the rate hike was "absolutely necessary" to upgrade aging utility systems and meet state quality standards. -AP California Districts Build Tests for Common Core The breakaway group of Califor- nia districts known as CORE-for California Office to Reform Education-has created performance assessments for the common-core standards that they've now posted online for anyone to review or use. The assessments, which were piloted in classrooms last school year with more than 15,000 students, are intended to be complex, nuanced gauges of how students are doing as they learn, and to serve simultaneously as instructionally valuable exercises. Teachers in the 10 districts worked together to create the 60 performance tasks, according to CORE, which says they can be used as formative resources or "mini summative" tests. The U.S. Department of Educa- tion granted eight of the CORE districts a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act that essentially allows the group to set up its own accountability system. -CATHERINE GEWERTZ Novel Reading Could Be Good for Brain, Study Says A new study out of Emory University offers evidence that reading novels is more than just high-level entertainment. It also appears to be good for the brain. The study, published in the jour- nal Brain Connectivity, involved giving regular MRI brain scans to college students who were in the midst of reading Pompeii, a thriller by Robert Harris. The results showed heightened connectivity (compared with baseline scans) in the areas of the brain associated with language receptivity and representative understanding-that is, grasping or sensing things the reader isn't literally experiencing. The heightened activity in those areas of the brain was apparent even days after the students had been actively reading the book, suggesting that something akin to muscle memory was activated. -ANTHONY REBORA "Detailed Data on Pass Rates, Race, and Gender for 2013" In Mississippi and Montana, no female, African-American, or Hispanic students took the Advanced Placement exam for computer science in 2013, finds a new analysis of testtaking data. In fact, no African-American students took the exam in a total of 11 states, and no Hispanic students took it in eight states, according to state comparisons of College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech. The College Board, which oversees the AP, notes on its website that in 2013 about 30,000 students took the AP exam for computer science, a course in which students learn to design and create computer programs. Less than 20 percent of those students were female, about 3 percent were African-American, and 8 percent were Hispanic. The breakdown of the test-takers comes at a time when the College Board has stepped up its focus on seeing that traditionally underrepresented groups of students have access to AP courses and tests. -LIANA HEITIN SCHOOL NUTRITION "Commercialism in U.S. Elementary and Secondary School Nutrition Environments" Students at all grade levels continue to face a massive, $149 million-a-year marketing blitz from food vendors at school, finds a new study. Nearly 70 percent of high schools and nearly half of middle schools have exclusive drink contracts with companies. Ten percent of elementary and 30 percent of high schools serve branded food every week. Incentive coupon programs, such as the "Limeades for Learning" program by Sonic restaurants, have become the most common type of marketing, seen in nearly two-thirds of elementary schools. "All too often school officials believe that corporate support provides an acceptable solution to address budget shortfalls," wrote Jennifer L. Harris, the director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, and Tracy Fox, a health policy consultant, in an editorial accompanying the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. "However, this short-term solution comes with the potential for long-term detriment to students' health and well-being." -SARAH D. SPARKS CIVICS EDUCATION "National Civics Teacher Survey: Information Literacy in High School Civics " A new survey finds fewer than half of civics teachers devote at least one unit to teaching students how to critically analyze news. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement asked 720 high school civics and American government teachers how much time they devoted to news analysis in fall 2012. While nearly all reported they thought students "should know what is credible in a sea of information" and devoted at least one class period to the topic, little more than half said they had devoted at least one unit to critical analysis. About the same percentage said they incorporated current news events into their daily classes. -L.H. SCHOOL CLIMATE Students play in a schoolyard as Mount Sinabung erupts in Indonesia last week. More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from villages around the crater of Mount Sinabung and sent to temporary shelters since authorities raised the alert status for the rumbling volcano to the highest level in November. "Student Drug Testing and Positive School Climates: Testing the Relation Between Two School Characteristics and Drug Use Behavior in a Longitudinal Study" School-based drug testing doesn't cut the likelihood that students will try marijuana, but students attending schools where they feel respected are less Study: Early-College Schools Improve Persistence "Early College, Continued Success: Early-College High School Initiative Impact" New research confirms that getting a head start earning college credit in high school pays off. A multiyear study analyzing schools in the EarlyCollege High School Initiative-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-found students in such high schools were much more likely to enroll and complete college than matched peers who had applied for the schools' admission lotteries but attended traditional high schools. (The Gates foundation also supports coverage of the education industry and K-12 innovation in Education Week.) Nearly 25 percent of graduates from early-college high schools earned a college degree (typically an associate degree) two years after graduation, compared with 5 percent of their peers in other high schools, according to a report issued last week by the Washington-based American Institutes for Research. Overall, AIR has reported that 81 percent of early-college high school students enrolled in college, compared with 72 percent of students attending traditional schools. The schools did not have a significantly higher impact on attending a four-year college than students attending other high schools during the study period. In the early-college model, students can earn up to two years of college credit or an associate degree through partnerships with nearby colleges and universities. The initiative, which now includes 240 early colleges, started in 2002. This latest report updates findings from last June and is based on an additional year of postsecondary data for students who were in 9th grade during the academic years 2005-06 through 2008-09. Earlier evaluations only looked at students one year past high school graduation. The overall study sample included 2,458 students, who were followed up to four years after high school, through the summer of 2013. -CARALEE J. ADAMS likely to try drugs, finds a new study. Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Cen- ter of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia tracked 361 high school students over a year, finding that school drug testing had no effect on their likelihood of smoking cigarettes or marijuana. However, the study found students who initially reported their school climate as "positive," with clear rules and a respectful environment, were 20 percent less likely to smoke marijuana and 15 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes. The research was published in the January issue of The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. -S.D.S. AUTISM "Multisensory Temporal Integration in Autism Spectrum Disorders" Students with autism spectrum disorders may have difficulty processing sights and sounds simultaneously, according to a new study in the January issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Vanderbilt University researchers compared 32 typically developing students ages 6 to 18 with 32 high-functioning children with autism who had been matched by IQ and other background characteristics. As the students worked through a series of computer-based tasks, researchers tested their responses to simple and complex flashes, beeps, speech, and environmental actions, such as a hammer hitting a nail. They found students with autism had more trouble connecting sights and sounds that happened together. "It is like they are watching a foreign movie that was badly dubbed; the auditory and visual signals do not match in their brains," said co-author Stephen Camarata, a Vanderbilt professor of hearing and speech sciences, in a statement. EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | | 5 -S.D.S. Binsar Bakkara/AP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 22, 2014

Education Week - January 22, 2014
50 Years Later, Verdicts Are Mixed On the Nation’s War on Poverty
A K-12 Titan in Congress to Move On
Fla. Pushes Longer Day With More Reading In Struggling Schools
Personal Danger of Data Breaches Prompts Action
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Funds to End For Little Rock Desegregation
Union, District Clash in Pittsburgh Over Teacher Evaluation
Revised GED Ushers in New Era With More Testing Competition
In Five States, Districts Bail Out on Race to the Top Grants
K-12 Publishing, Ed-Tech Markets Experiencing Rising Revenues
Blogs of the Week
Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit To Cincinnati’s West End
Among States, Spending Gaps Have Widened
Spending Plan Aims to Relieve Some K-12 ‘Sequester’ Pain
Calif. Transgender Law Takes Effect In Schools, Amid Efforts to Repeal It
State of the States
Wash. Governor Pledges School Aid Boost
BRUCE FULLER: Is Small Beautiful? New York’s tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation
RUFINA HERNÁNDEZ: A Common Cause for the Common Core
JEFFREY D. WILHELM & MICHAEL W. SMITH: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pleasure Reading
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
XU ZHAO, HELEN HASTE, & ROBERT L. SELMAN: Questionable Lessons From China’s Recent History of Education Reform

Education Week - January 22, 2014