Positive Student Performance Outcomes Linked to Ethnic Studies Curriculum

The inclusion of ethnic studies (ES) in high school curricula is a topic of much debate, with one state banning some ES classes and another state’s Governor vetoing a bill that would have mandated them in public schools. Although both critics and supporters of culturally relevant teaching have strong views regarding its impact on students, there was little quantitative research in this area. Until now.

A study out of Stanford University found statistically significant increases in key academic outcomes among at-risk students in ES classes.  Data from several student cohorts from 3 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District indicate that those students enrolled in the classes increased school attendance by 21 percent, GPA by 1.4 points and academic credits earned by 23.  Male students and Hispanic students showed the largest increase in positive outcomes.

The authors of the study note that while their work offers empirical evidence of the impact of culturally relevant pedagogy on student performance, questions remain on the scalability of the approach and the size of the effect (if any) on students with higher levels of academic achievement. The paper is available for download on the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis webpage.

 

 

Citation: Dee, T., & Penner, E. (2016). The Casual Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum (CEPA Working Paper No.16-01). Retrieved from Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis: http://cepa.stanford.edu/wp16-01

Child Maltreatment and Abuse – A Predictor Agencies are Using Prediction to Prevent

According to 2011 data,  12.5 percent of children under the age of 18 are abused or neglected in the United States each year.  A Facts on Youth brief from the Center for Health and Justice at TASC cites a study published in JAMA Pediatrics that found confirmed maltreatment for 1 in 8 youth, with nearly 6 percent of cases  (just less than half of confirmed reports) involving children ages 5 and under.  The brief also notes that studies of child abuse and maltreatment that rely on self-reports rather than substantiated reports indicate a rate of up to 40 percent.

The Child Trends brief Preventing Violence: Understanding and addressing determinants of youth violence in the United States reviewed relevant research on interventions and policy approaches to reducing youth violence, with an emphasis on individual, family and school/community factors.  This review identified several predictors of violence, including domestic violence, dysfunctional parenting, gun availability, low self-control, and lack of connectedness to school.  Child maltreatment, however, was a strong predictor of nearly every type of violence.  The prevention of child abuse and provision of interventions to address the impact of such trauma appear to be critical actions in reducing the potential of future violence.  That said, although child maltreatment is a risk factor for criminal behavior, the longer term negative effects of that experience may be offset or amplified by other life events. Completing high school/getting a GED and getting married were two factors identified by a research team at the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington as having a positive impact on a person’s life, thus reducing the power of the relationship between the maltreatment and future high risk behaviors.  A history of maltreatment combined with additional risk factors, such as poverty, increases the likelihood of criminal behavior.

As safety and health are essential factors in optimal child development, and may affect a multitude of life outcomes, new strategies have emerged to better identify and “triage” high-risk situations.  States are turning to the big data playbook to assist in investigations of abuse and maltreatment, using predictive analysis to help prioritize reports and better provide preventive services. Information such as family history, school reports and other administrative data, plus case officer knowledge, gives child welfare decision-makers more (if not necessarily better) data to guide the use of resources for the protection of children. Along with Connecticut, Florida, and Los Angeles County, Allegheny County here in western Pennsylvania is utilizing predictive analytics in an effort to reduce child maltreatment, abuse, and fatalities.  For more information on how predictive analysis is being used in child welfare, see Who will Seize the Child Abuse Prediction Market by Darian Woods and Checklists, Big Data and the Virtues of Human Judgement by Holden Slattery, both in The Chronicle of Social Change.

 

Study Finds Overseas Tobacco Advertising Reaches Very Young Children

Tobacco marketing reaches children as young as 5 years old influencing their attitudes about smoking and smokers, according to a study of children in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia recently published in the journal Child: Care, Health & Development. The research study, led by Dr. Dina Borzekowski, research professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health at the University of Maryland adds to her body of work on the impact of media on children’s health.

The research team assessed the children’s level of familiarity with tobacco branding, their intention to smoke in the future, and their overall exposure to media.  Among 5-and-6-year-old children in the six counties, nearly 68 percent were able to identify one tobacco logo and more than 25 percent could identify two or more. Higher levels of media exposure were not necessarily associated with better knowledge of tobacco brands. However, in three of the sample countries the presence of an adult in the home was also not a significant factor in brand knowledge, suggesting that advertising plays a role in the exposure of very young children to tobacco brands and smoking behavior.

Although tobacco companies face weaker regulations overseas, they spent $9.6 billion on advertising in the United States in 2012.  A U.S. Surgeon General’s report suggests that these companies continue to target marketing to American adolescents, portraying smoking or smokeless tobacco use as a desirable behavior. Considering the approximately 3.5 middle and high school students who used tobacco in 2012, it’s working.

Extensive information about tobacco marketing and promotion is available at the Stanford Research Into the Impact of Advertising (SRITA) webpage.

 

 

Study Citation: Pires, P. P., Ribas, R. C.,  Borzekowski, D. L. G. (2015).  Attitudes and intentions to smoke: a study of young Brazilian children. Child: Care, Health and Development.1365-2214 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cch.12240

 

Personal Stories Shed Light on the Dropout Rate

What is happening in the lives of teens who leave school?
What is happening in the lives of teens who leave school?

Motivational sound bites like “Dream it, do  it” and “No excuses” are more appropriate on the wall of a fitness club then as explanations of the character traits lacking in those who appear to just give up.  It is understandable that there isn’t  much sympathy for youth who leave school, after all it is by their own choice, and one may wonder, how much more difficult is high school compared to the real world? Dropout rates have been trending downward for decades, (7 percent in 2011, down from 12 percent in 1990), but the negative outcomes associated with not finishing high school are severe, including a higher risk for health problems, the inability to compete for jobs, a higher likelihood of criminal activity, and life-long poverty.  That list is not exactly an enticement to quit school.

To get a better understanding of why students leave high school, a national study was conducted by The Center for Promise at Tufts University. Based on interviews and surveys, the findings provide us with the personal stories behind absenteeism and/or class failure – considered the main predictors of dropping out along with behavioral problems.  Some of the conclusions from the report, Don’t Call them Dropouts:

  • There is not one factor that causes a student to stop attending school. It is almost always a “cluster” of situations and events, including homelessness, an incarcerated or ill parent, and a high rate of change regarding the child or family’s residence.  These concerns often make school a lower priority.
  • Make it easier to stay in school (or return) than to leave.  School district policies and procedures  may make dropping out the most logical, and certainly the easiest, choice.
  • Support for students facing problems at home, and in some cases in negative or dangerous school environments is helpful, but the need for family, church and community members to step up to guide these youth through personal crises is critical. These young people display outstanding coping skills on a daily basis, but need assistance to persevere with longer-term goals such as returning to school.

Multimedia resources and the complete report – including findings and recommendations – are available at GradNation.org.

 

 

Photo Credit: M. Puzzanchera (Own Work) (CC By-NC-ND 3.0)