Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
American teenagers are continuing to slip in the rankings of high school achievement internationally, according to the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Americans were found to be roughly average in science and reading, but below the international average in math. NBC News has more:
Vietnam, which had its students take part in the exam for the first time, had a higher average score in math and science than the United States. Students in Shanghai — China’s largest city with upwards of 20 million people — ranked best in the world, according to the test results. Students in East Asian countries and provinces came out on top, nabbing seven of the top 10 places across all three subjects.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan characterized the flat scores as a “picture of educational stagnation.”
“We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators,” Duncan said.
Roughly half a million students in 65 nations and educational systems representing 80 percent of the global economy took part in the 2012 edition of PISA, which is coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.
The numbers are even more sobering when compared among only the 34 OECD countries. The United States ranked 26th in math — trailing nations such as the Slovakia, Portugal and Russia.
The exam, which has been administered every three years to 15-year-olds, is designed to gauge how students use the material they have learned inside and outside the classroom to solve problems.
U.S. scores on the PISA have stayed relatively flat since testing began in 2000. And meanwhile, students in countries like Ireland and Poland have demonstrated marked improvement — even surpassing U.S. students, according to the results.
Top Talkers: Teenagers are making no progress on international achievement exams, the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment results show. Jon Meacham, Julie Pace and Mike Barnicle discuss.
“It’s hard to get excited about standing still while others around you are improving, so I don’t want to be too positive,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told the Associated Press.
Image: Students taking a test, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
Schools across the country are taking a fresh look at “zero tolerance” policies that enforce suspensions and expulsions if students are guilty of infractions–sometimes minor ones, others that have resulted in an arrest. Critics of the policies say they most affect minority students who are already at greater risk of performing poorly in school or dropping out altogether. More from The New York Times:
Perhaps nowhere has the shift been more pronounced than in Broward County’s public schools. Two years ago, the school district achieved an ignominious Florida record: More students were arrested on school campuses here than in any other state district, the vast majority for misdemeanors like possessing marijuana or spraying graffiti.
The Florida district, the sixth largest in the nation, was far from an outlier. In the past two decades, schools around the country have seen suspensions, expulsions and arrests for minor nonviolent offenses climb together with the number of police officers stationed at schools. The policy, called zero tolerance, first grew out of the war on drugs in the 1990s and became more aggressive in the wake of school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado.
But in November, Broward veered in a different direction, joining other large school districts, including Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver, in backing away from the get-tough approach.
Rather than push children out of school, districts like Broward are now doing the opposite: choosing to keep lawbreaking students in school, away from trouble on the streets, and offering them counseling and other assistance aimed at changing behavior.
These alternative efforts are increasingly supported, sometimes even led, by state juvenile justice directors, judges and police officers.
Image: School lockers, via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 15th, 2013
A Florida principal is in agreement with the mother of a seventh-grader who was placed on the honor roll despite having a C and a D on his report card that the placement was misguided and should be reversed. More from ABC News:
Principal Kim Anderson of Pasco Middle School in Dade City, Fla., was siding with Beth Tillack who was upset that her seventh grade son Douglas was on the honor roll and his report card came with a teacher’s comment, “good job” and a smiley face.
The principal said that 45 percent to 50 percent of the school’s students are on the honor roll. She said it was a “difficult situation” and that Beth Tillack was justified in questioning policies surrounding the school’s standards and system of assessment.
“I do agree with her,” said Anderson. “I feel it’s important for students to progress by meeting standards. We measure them by standards, they know if they’ve met them or not. Sometimes grades don’t always indicate that.”
The Pasco Middle School honor roll system is based on a weighted grade point averages, meaning that the 3.16 average Douglas Tillack achieved overall for his four A’s, a C and a D, just pushed him over the honors requirement line, which is set at 3.15.
Theoretically, children could get an F and still qualify for the honor roll, said Anderson, which is problematic when a child might not be motivated to perform like they should.
“Her son is a bright boy and can do the work. There are choices he’s making,” Anderson said. “He knows exactly what he can get away with. Maybe this is a wake-up call that there are higher expectations.”
Beth Tillack told ABC News affiliate WFTS that when she saw the report card and the honor roll notice, “I immediately assumed it’s a mistake. It was glaring in the fact that it said ‘good job’ and then there was a D.”
Tillack said that after her complaint, the school reissued the card, replacing “good job” with “Work on civics. Ask for help.”
“The bottom line is there’s nothing honorable about making a D,” said Tillack. “I was not happy, because how can I get my child to study for a test when he thinks he’s done enough?”
Image: Report card, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
A recent Gallup poll has found that they a majority of Americans believe that age 25 or younger is the ideal time for women to start a family, while men should wait until they are age 26 or older. More from Today.com:
The majority of Americans, 58 percent, believe the ideal age for women to start having children is 25 or younger, while the majority, 52 percent, said men should start having children at 26 or older, a recent Gallup poll found.
The average perceived ideal age for each gender to have children differs only slightly: 25 for women and 27 for men, Gallup found. Some 5,100 U.S. adults took part in the survey.
Gallup acknowledged “tension between biology and societal norms” in the results, noting young women may have the best odds of conceiving a healthy child but that rushing to become a parent “doesn’t square with modern Western sensibilities about pursuing higher education and career goals, finding the perfect partner, or simply relishing the experience of young adulthood.”
Gallup also found “significant differences by education and race” in the poll. The proportion of respondents saying the ideal time for a woman to have her first child by age 25 was greater among blacks and Hispanics than among whites.
Image: Expectant couple, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
In an updated policy statement, its first since 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that schools make condoms available to teenagers alongside providing instruction on sexual education topics. More from Reuters:
There is still some resistance to making condoms more accessible for young people, researchers said.
“I think one of the main issues is the idea that if you provide condoms and make them accessible, kids will be more likely to have sex. But really, that’s not the case,” Amy Bleakley said.
“Getting over the perception that giving condoms out will make kids have sex is a real barrier for parents and school administrators,” she told Reuters Health.
Bleakley studies teen sexual behavior and reproductive health at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia but wasn’t part of the AAP committee.
She said some studies suggest teenagers with access to condoms and comprehensive sex education actually start having sex later than their peers who don’t.
Teen birth rates have been declining in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, there were 31 births for every 1,000 U.S. women aged 15 to 19.
But that number is still higher than in other developed countries.
Rates of many sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Chlamydia and gonorrhea, are also highest among teenage and young adult women.
Image: Condoms, via Shutterstock
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