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

A Look at the Research on School Lunches and the Importance of Recess

Over the summer I came across a couple of briefs from Bridging the Gap that I thought might be appropriate to post once the yellow buses started rolling again. One report summarizes research on the changes in the federal lunch program, the other discusses policies on recess.

Although an initial government study found the much debated new nutritional regulations resulted in a decrease in participation in the school lunch program, waste of food, price increases and menu planning challenges between 2010-11 and 2012-13, student opinion of lunches may not be as negative as previously thought. According to the brief, Student Reactions During the First Year of Updated School Lunch Nutrition Standards, data on administrator perception of student opinion of the new meals concluded that while middle and high school students did voice their displeasure about the new lunches (44 and 53 percent, respectively), by the end of the year they were liked “to at least some extent” by students (70 and 63 percent).  Other findings,

  • Among elementary schools, more students complained about the meals in the spring of 2014 than at the beginning of the school year (56 percent versus 64 percent), but 70 percent of those surveyed reported that students generally liked the new lunches.
  • Rural schools reported more student complaints about school lunches than urban schools.
  • Rural schools reported increases in waste (students throwing away food) more than urban schools.

While school lunches are one way to attempt to impact student health and wellness, there has not been as much policy activity around the inclusion of recess time for elementary-school-age students.  Less than half of the school districts in the country have a recommended or required policy regarding daily recess, and just 13 states recommend or mandate recess as part of the daily schedule in elementary schools.  The CDC/Bridging the Gap brief, Strategies for Supporting Recess in Elementary Schools, discusses evidence-based approaches for encouraging physical activity such as recess, including

  • training and technical assistance from states to districts on student health and wellness,
  • upgrades to or maintenance of existing playground and sports equipment, and
  • daily recess as well as scheduled physical education class in elementary schools.

More information on the importance of recess in child development (including academic achievement)  is available at the website for the  US Play Coalition: A Partnership to promote the Value of Play throughout Life  at the Clemson University School of Health, Education and Human Development, including the white paper A Research-based Case for Recess.

 

 

Report Citations:

Terry-McElrath YM, Turner L, Colabianchi N, O’Malley PM, Chaloupka FJ, Johnston LD. Student Reactions during the First Year of Updated School Lunch Nutrition Standards— A BTG Research Brief. Ann Arbor, MI: Bridging the Gap Program, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; 2014.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Bridging the Gap Research Program. Strategies For Supporting Quality Physical Education and Physical Activity in Schools.Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2014.

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)

National Survey Findings Support Association between Delinquency and Victimization

Childhood exposure to domestic and community violence has been linked to the development of PTSD, as well as depression and anxiety, and can negatively impact cognitive development and educational achievement.  In addition, experiencing violence as a youth is considered a risk factor for delinquent behavior.

An October 2013 bulletin from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection takes a closer look at delinquency and victimization of juveniles, particularly where they overlap.  In Children’s Exposure to Violence and the Intersection Between Delinquency and Victimization by Carlos A. Cuevas, David Finkelhor, Anne Shattuck, Heather Turner and Sherry Hamby, data from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence is used to examine the association between the incidence of children’s direct exposure to crime and their reported delinquent activities. 

Researchers categorized youth into three main groups, Delinquent-Victim, Primarily Delinquent, and Primarily Victim, based on reported delinquent acts and victimization (experiencing three or more criminal acts) in the past year.  Additional within-group classifications allowed for distinctions to be made regarding the types of reported behaviors and victimizations.  The key findings are summarized below.

  • For boys, the Primarily Delinquent group made up 20.8 percent of the sample, the Delinquent-Victim group made up 18.1 percent and Primarily Victims 17.9 percent.
  • For girls, the Primarily Victim group made up 21.2 percent of the sample, the Delinquent-Victim group made up 13.3 percent, and the Primarily Delinquent group 13 percent.
  • Among both boys and girls, the Delinquent-Victim group engaged in more delinquency than their male and female peers in the Primarily Delinquent group (boys, 3.9 versus 2.5 activities, girls 3.3 versus 2.0).
  • Both male and female Delinquent-Victim groups reported more victimization that their counterparts in the Primarily Victim groups (boys 6.3 versus 4.5 different victimizations, girls 6.4 versus 4.2).  Male Delinquent-Victims had a higher percentage in every category of victimization (except bullying) compared to males in the Primarily Victim group. For girls, perhaps the most significant statistic is the high sexual victimization rate among the female Delinquent-Victim group (58%) compared to that of the female Primarily Victim group (27%).

The researchers found patterns in the growth or reduction of each group as children aged, although this study was not longitudinal. Their analysis indicates that male rates of delinquency-victimization peak at ages 13-14, while for females it occurs earlier, at ages 11-12. This suggests interventions at the grade school level may be more successful than those introduced during the teenage years.