Reports & Research

Updated: August 22, 2018

 

Lab Results Show Many Crayons...

Many parents and teachers shopping for school supplies look for a non-toxic “AP” certified label on the products, but many products don’t have that label, so it’s unclear if they’re safe or not. U.S. PIRG Education Fund is releasing a guide that warns consumers about some products that may be on store shelves or already in their homes. 

"Parents and teachers can use our safe shopping guide when they go to back-to-school shopping,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Toxics Director. “We want to make sure they have the information they need to keep the children they care for safe.”

U.S. PIRG Education Fund tested dozens of school supplies including markers, crayons, dry erase markers, glue, 3-ring binders, spiral notebooks, lunchboxes and water bottles. We found several supplies containing asbestos, lead, benzene and other dangerous chemicals. The “School Supplies Safe Shopping Guide” warns consumers about those specific products, and offers suggestions for safer alternatives...

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Whole Child Approaches to Education...

Each year in the United States, 46 million children are exposed to violence, crime, abuse, homelessness, or food insecurity, as well as a range of other experiences that cause psychological trauma. These experiences create toxic stress that can affect children’s attention, learning, and behavior. Research on human development shows that the effects of such trauma can be mitigated when students learn in a positive school climate that offers long-term, secure relationships that support academic, physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development - an approach known as “whole child” education.  Indeed, such an environment boosts achievement for all children, regardless of their circumstances.

A new report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success, describes how state and district policymakers, school leaders, and teachers can support students’ healthy growth and development, and help children overcome toxic stress and trauma, including stereotype threats that undermine achievement. Drawing on a broad body of neuroscience, science of learning, and child development research, the report explains how schools can use effective, research-based practices to put students’ healthy growth and development at the center of classroom design and the school as a whole...

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Report Takes “Long View” of Solutions...

Most states have been struggling to address teacher shortages for several years now, often filling the vacuum with underprepared teachers who aren’t able to give children the high-quality learning they need and who leave at two to three times the rate of well-prepared teachers. Most often, these teachers are hired in schools serving students of color and those from low-income families. Governors and legislators in many of these states are now working to turn the tide, according to a new report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI).

The report, Taking the Long View: State Efforts to Solve Teacher Shortages by Strengthening the Professionfocuses on six evidence-based policies that states are pursuing to address their teacher shortages by strengthening, rather than weakening, their educator workforce. The policies were selected based on research on teacher preparation, recruitment, and retention strategies that have been found to support greater teacher effectiveness and retention. These strategies can help states build long-term sustainable systems to attract, develop, and retain a strong and stable teacher workforce....

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Depressed Children Six Times More Likely...

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that as many as 2 to 3 percent of children ages 6-12 might have major depressive disorder. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that children who show mild to severe symptoms of depression in second and third grades are six times more likely to have skill deficits, such as difficulties with social skills or academics, than children without symptoms. Parents and teachers also had difficulties recognizing depression in children.

“When you ask teachers and parents to rate a child’s level of depression, there is usually only about 5-10 percent overlap in their ratings. For example, the teacher might report that a child has difficulties making friends in class, but the parent might not notice this issue at home,” said Keith Herman, professor in the MU College of Education. “Some people would view that overlap as the truth about a child’s well-being and areas of disagreement as errors, but we need to explore the possibility that they each are seeing different aspects of children’s behavior and mental health.”....

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Study Calls for More Regulation...

E-cigarettes may have the potential to reduce smoking, but big tobacco’s involvement and a general lack of restriction to youth access are cause for concern, according to a university study.

Professor Greta Hsu of the University of California, Davis, and her co-authors urge attention to regulating youth access to the product and promoting models that are tied to higher rates of smoking cessation.

Their recommendations come from tracking the changes in e-cigarette designs and website marketing as the industry has grown for a study recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research....

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Skateboards, Teens and Schools...

Set to enter the Olympic Games in 2020, skateboarding has grown into a widely popular sport. Still, much remains unknown about skateboarding culture and the youth connected to it. How does skateboarding identity affect the way skateboarders interact with schools and society? How are skills learned from skateboarding transferrable to other aspects of skaters’ lives?

Those are just some of the questions that will be explored through a new research project at the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Zoë B. Corwin, a research associate professor at USC Rossier School of Education, was recently awarded a $264,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation to study the impact skateboarding has on young people and their educational and career trajectories.

“Skateboarding is so prevalent in our society, yet we know very little about how skate culture intersects with education and career opportunities–especially in low-income and minoritized communities,” Corwin said. “This study is a researcher’s dream as we’ll be exploring an understudied field using critical and youth-centric lenses with the aim of figuring out how to best support marginalized youth-and to do so in partnership with such a well-respected foundation is very exciting.”....

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Research Shows That When It Comes...

Schools in the United States are among the most inequitably funded of any in the industrialized world. These inequities in funding - which impact everything from class sizes to course offerings to teaching quality - create dramatic disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes for children. Students from low-income families and students of color experience the greatest disparities.

A new research brief released on July 17 by Learning Policy Institute shows that investing in these students and their schools can reduce those disparities. The brief, How Money Matters for Schools, draws on a large body of research that establishes that school resources are associated with higher student achievement. Moreover, research indicates that ensuring that schools with a large number of low-income students get adequate and equitable resources improves test scores and graduation rates. The brief summarizes the findings in a longer report and suggests ways states can use this knowledge to develop policies that ensure all schools are adequately funded and all students have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. The brief’s author, Bruce Baker, a professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Education, also addresses long-standing counter arguments that money doesn’t make a difference and explains the flaws in earlier methodologies....

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Parents Prefer Armed Police...

After a school year marked by two of the deadliest school shootings in American history, parents’ fear for their children’s safety at school is at its highest point in two decades. But the public is skeptical that arming teachers or staff is the answer, broadly preferring measures such as armed police, mental health screenings, or metal detectors.

Strikingly, two-thirds of public school parents would prefer that their child’s teacher not carry a gun, including more than 80 percent of black and Hispanic parents.

These are just some of the findings from the latest edition of the annual Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the defining public opinion survey on American public education for the past 50 years. This year, PDK has elected to make results on school safety and guns available before the full poll results, which will be released in late August....

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PPIC Report: California’s K-12 Test Scores...

(Editor’s note: On Jun 26, the Public Policy Institute of California released a 26-page report analyzing data from California’s standardized testing of students. The following text contains the report’s conclusions. A link to the complete report can be found at the end of this article.)

California’s test scores in mathematics and English provide important information about the state’s K-12 system. Most importantly, the results inform parents, teachers, school administrators, and state policymakers about our children’s success in mastering these two basic subjects. In addition, test scores represent the only academic performance measures for students in elementary and middle schools used in the state’s K-12 accountability system. Thus, the data are central to evaluating whether schools and districts are performing adequately....

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Analysis: the Cost of Summer Child Care...

On June 11, the Center for American Progress released a new 50-state analysis looking at families’ ability to afford summer child care by calculating and juxtaposing the median income for a typical family of four and the expected cost of summer programming for 2018. The analysis assumes that the typical family in 2018 will, on average, enroll children in summer programs for five weeks - the average number of weeks children in the United States were enrolled in 2014. However, the national average length of summer vacation is 10 weeks. Key findings from the analysis include:

The typical family currently spends 20 percent of the income they’ll earn this summer ($3,048) for just five weeks of summer programming....

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Career Technical Education in California...

Career technical education is critical to meeting the state’s workforce needs.
If current trends continue, roughly one-third of new jobs in California will require some training beyond high school but less than a four-year degree. Career technical education (CTE), also known as vocational training, connects students to these career opportunities by providing industry-based skills. In addition to improving career options in the short term, CTE can provide pathways to higher education; for example, about a third of high school CTE courses meet the admission requirements for California’s public four-year universities.

Public high schools and community colleges are the primary providers of CTE....

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K-12 Reforms and California’s English Learner...

(Editor’s note: In May, the Public Policy Institute of California released a report by researcher Laura Hill examining issues relating to California’s students who are English Learners. The summary of Hill’s report appears below, along with a link to the complete 14-page document.)

English Learner (EL) students have been a key part of California’s K-12 system for decades. They currently make up about 21 percent of the public school population.

English Learner status is meant to be temporary, and indeed, reclassified English Learners (those who are deemed English proficient) are among the best-performing students in the state. But students who remain ELs for longer periods generally have poor outcomes....

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