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What Washington is Reading on Education Policy E-mail
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 08:08

Science and Engineering Indicators, 2012. This nearly 600-page biennial report of the National Science Foundation, released January 17, 2012, is a treasure trove of all one needs to know about STEM trends in the U.S, and in comparison with the rest of the world. It has 8 chapters, many figures and tables, as well as colorful presentation slides, all downloadable from the website. The chapters range from STEM education, to the labor force, to R&D (national trends + international comparisons), academic R&D, to industry, technology & the global marketplace, to public attitudes about science and technology, and finally, state indicators. Of greatest interest to AACTE members is likely Chapter 1: "Elementary and Secondary Math and Science Education," with a section on Math and Science Teachers, including well-referenced data on the characteristics of high-quality teachers and on school factors contributing to teachers' effectiveness. [The Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) is highlighted on Page 1-21.] A few of the report's broader findings are the following:

  • China's engineering degrees were about 10 times higher than those of the U.S. in number and represented a much larger share of all bachelor's degrees (30%) than in the United States (5%).
  • Asia is outpacing the U.S. in the number of science and engineering degrees awarded. China, in particular, has seen an explosion in the number of students studying engineering. In 2008, U.S. students earned about 4% of the world's engineering degrees, while students in Asia accounted for 56%.    
  • Almost one-third of all undergraduate degrees earned in China were in engineering.
  • In 2009, 44% of American doctorates in the natural sciences and engineering were awarded to temporary visa holders, and 57 percent of engineering doctorates were awarded to foreign students.

Science and Engineering Indicators, 2012 data are downloadable from:

Quality Counts 2012: The Global Challenge: Education in a Competitive World.  Released January 12, 2012 by Education Week, this, the 16th annual issue, looks critically at the nation's place among the world's public education systems. It also includes the familiar critical benchmarks on school quality and state-by-state rankings. It is impossible to summarize this ever-vaster online data base, which readers can access at the web address below. However, the following findings seem of particular interest. For 4 years now, Maryland is the top-ranked state on a summative measure, earning the nation's highest overall grade, a B-plus. Perennial strong finishers MA, NY, and VA follow closely behind, each with a B. FL and PA dropped from the top 10 since 2011, while VT joins it for the first time. At the other end, SD receives a D-plus, the lowest grade, and 11 other states are at the bottom with a C-minus. The national average was a C, the same as last year. The Teaching-Profession Framework includes 44 indicators of 3 key aspects of state policy: accountability for teacher quality; incentives & allocation; and efforts to support the teaching workforce. The nation got a C. Arkansas and South Carolina got the highest grades (B+).  Five states earned the lowest grade, a D-minus: (Arizona, DC, South Dakota, Idaho, and Alaska). Since 2010, these scores declined by nearly 1 point, with most states having lower scores than two years ago. This drop partly reflects the economy and states' lack of ability to continue funding specific teacher-related policies and programs.

Most states have established basic-skills and subject-specific testing requirements for both traditional and alternative routes, but differential standards often apply regarding licensure requirements calling for substantial formal coursework in subject areas. Of the 28 states with a requirement in place for traditional-route entrants, only half also apply that standard to alternative-route candidates. The 45 states requiring some form of teacher evaluation has held steady since 2010. But more states now require annual evaluations for all teachers (20 states in 2012, cf. 15 states in 2010). Similarly, in the past 2 years, 4 additional states now require that teacher evaluations take student achievement into account. For more detail see:

Creating Teacher Incentives for School Excellence and Equity. Released January 12, 2012 by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado/Boulder, this 21-page policy brief was authored by Barnett Berry, Center for Teaching Quality and Jon Eckert, Wheaton College, Illinois. It is part of the NEPC's Initiative on Diversity, Equity, and Learning (IDEAL) and was jointly funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice and the Ford Foundation. The authors propose research-based incentives that they find much more effective in attracting and retaining quality teachers to work in high-needs schools than simple merit pay programs.  They find that current approaches (e.g., merit pay) that reward teachers based on their students' standardized test scores, do little to improve student achievement. They urge consideration of the specific conditions in challenging schools that influence whether effective teachers will work and be able to teach effectively in them and point out that such working conditions are far more important than bonuses in persuading teachers to stay or leave their classrooms. National teacher turnover survey data indicate that teachers dissatisfied with their jobs leave for a variety of reasons that can be addressed: e.g., low salaries, poor support from school administrators, a lack of student motivation, a lack of teacher influence over decision-making, and student discipline problems. Yet current policies rarely recognize these realities. The authors urge the creation of incentive policies that spread teaching expertise and allow for effective teaching, noting, however, that this will require the careful development of interlocking policies across federal, state, and local agencies. They make four recommendations to policymakers:

1. Use the Teacher Incentive Fund to Spread Teaching Expertise for High-Needs Schools.
2. Expand Incentives in Creating Strategic Compensation.
3. Create the Working Conditions that Allow Teachers to Teach Effectively.
4. Elevate Best Practices and Policies that Spur School Excellence and Equity.

Model legislation to enable states to enact these principles, authored by Scott R. Bauries of the University of Kentucky College of Law, isdownloadable from:

Helping Newcomer Students Succeed in Secondary Schools and Beyond. Released in January 2012 by the Center for Applied Linguistics, this 124-page report was written by Deborah J. Short and Beverly A. Boyson. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the project addresses the needs of the fastest growing student group in the PreK-12 school population: English language learners (ELLs), and specifically, adolescent students who are newly arrived immigrants and who need to learn English. They are held to the same accountability standards as native speakers yet are just beginning to develop proficiency in academic English. They are studying core content areas, which require comprehension of secondary–level texts and completion of secondary-level assignments, for which they are unprepared. New to the country and the language, they face acculturation issues as well. 'Newcomer programs' have thus been created by a number of U.S. school districts to provide specialized academic environments that serve newly arrived, immigrant English language learners for a limited period of time – and are the subject of the national survey, which this report describes and analyzes. The study's purpose was to inform educators and policy makers on the needs of newcomer adolescent ELLs and to communicate promising practices for serving both their educational and social needs. The report is based on three years of research, including a national survey, compilation of program profiles into an online, searchable database, and case studies of ten exemplary programs. No one set model was identified for a newcomer program, given the variety of student characteristics, including their languages, countries of origins, literacy skills, and educational backgrounds.  This report shows how successful newcomer programs develop students' academic English literacy skills, provide access to the content courses that lead to college and career readiness, and guide students' acculturation to U.S. schools and their eventual participation in civic life and the global economy.  Differences in newcomers' literacy skills and educational backgrounds proved to be the most important factors in planning such programs. The report highlights design features and policies that are working well to promote academic rigor and put newly arrived adolescent learners on the path to high school graduation and postsecondary opportunities.  The report is available at:

Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City. This is 46-page National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper (NBER Working Paper #7632) was released in late December. The authors are Will Dobbie and Roland G. Fryer, Jr., both Harvard University professors. They gathered evidence of the determinants of school effectiveness by collecting comprehensive data on the inner-workings of 35 charter schools in New York City and then correlating those data with credible estimates of each school's effectiveness. Their effectiveness indicators were obtained from interviews with principals about teacher development, instructional time, data driven instruction, parent outreach, and school culture; teacher interviews about professional development, school policies, school culture, and student assessment; and student interviews about school environment, school disciplinary policy, and future aspirations. In addition, lesson plans were used to measure curricular rigor and videotaped classroom observations enabled calculations of students on task. The researchers found that traditionally collected input measures – e.g., class size, per pupil expenditure, percent of uncertified teachers, and percent of teachers with advanced degrees – were not correlated with school effectiveness. By contrast, they determined that an index of five policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research: frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations – explained approximately 50 percent of the variation in school effectiveness. They controlled for three alternative theories of schooling: a "Whole Child" model emphasizing the provision of wrap-around services; a model focused on teacher selection and retention, and the "No Excuses'' model of education. They concluded by demonstrating that their index provides similar results in a separate sample of charter schools.

Time in School: How Does the U.S. Compare? This online policy brief, released December 12, 2012, was prepared by Jim Hull and Mandy Newport at the Center for Public Education, National School Boards Association. The purpose was to hopefully debunk frequent statements, such as those of Education Secretary Duncan, that U.S. students spend less time in school than students in other countries. The authors examined that question and then compared the instructional time states require with what the rest of the world requires, including high-performing countries such as Korea, Finland, and Japan. They measured the minimum number of compulsory hours of instruction per year countries require their public schools to provide in a formal classroom setting, noting that most U.S. states require 175-180 days of school and/or 900-1000 hours of instructional time per year, depending on the grade level. The researchers found that most U.S. schools require at least as much or more instructional time as other countries. However, since these comparisons are based on required minimums, it is possible that certain schools in these countries and states provide more time for instruction. Further, students in countries like China, India, Japan, and Korea have a tradition of receiving additional instruction through non-formal schooling such as tutoring and night schools, especially at the high school level. In India, schools are open 200 days a year for grades 1-5, for a total of 800 instructional hours per year, but twenty additional days (220 days) and 1,000 instructional hours for grades 6-8.  The 1,000 is similar to the requirement in most U.S. states, the authors note. According to the Education Commission of the States, 35 states require at least 990 hours of instruction at the middle school level, including Texas (1260 hours), New York (990 hours) and Massachusetts (990 hours). Although Indian middle school students attend nearly 25 percent more school days per year than U.S. students, they do not necessarily receive 25 percent more instruction; the total actual instructional hours are quite similar. E.g., India's 800 instructional hours at the elementary school level is actually less than California's requirement (840 hours), Florida's (900 hours in grades 4-6), New York's (900 hours), Texas' (1,260 hours), and Massachusetts' (900 hours). In fact, just 8 states require fewer than 800 hours of instructional time. Students in China may attend more days of school each year, but those in primary grades (grades 1-5) take 34 courses per week at 45 minutes each, equating to nearly 900 hours per year, which is similar to or less than many U.S. states, including Florida, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts. At the middle school level (grades 6-8), Chinese students attend just under 1,000 hours of school per year, similar to that of most U.S. states. In addition, the authors stress that the relationship between time and student learning is not about the amount of time spent in school. Rather, it is how effectively that time is used. A number of countries that require fewer hours of instruction outperform the U.S., while the U.S. performs as well as or better than some other countries that require more hours of instruction. The brief is found at:

Data for Action 2011: DQC's State Analysis.  The Data Quality Campaign's (DQC) seventh annual state analysis was released December 1st in Washington, DC. This is a series of analyses highlighting state progress and key priorities to promote the effective use of longitudinal data to improve student achievement.  The State Analysis annually measures the progress of all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico toward implementing the 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems and 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use. Results show that states have made strong progress toward increasing their capacity to build and use data systems, but they are not yet helping educators, parents, and other education stakeholders use the data to inform decisions to improve student achievement. However, more states than ever – 36, up from zero n 2005 – have implemented all of DQC's 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems , and 49 states, DC, and Puerto Rico have implemented eight or more. Thus, without exception, every state in the country has robust longitudinal data extending beyond test scores that could inform today's toughest education decisions. Yet no state has taken all of the 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use, which creates a culture in which stakeholders use the rich data states now collect. The states that DQC has identified a doing cutting-edge work and thus proving that these challenges can be addressed are:

  • Arkansas leads the nation with 9 of 10 State Actions and providing cutting-edge, real-time data access and reporting.
  • Texas connects K–12 and workforce data to provide feedback information to districts regarding the employment of their graduates and non-graduates after they leave the district.
  • Maryland ensures transparency and accountability while developing a system to answer the state's critical policy questions through a P–20 governance body.
  • North Carolina shares teacher performance data with the state's teacher preparation programs and uses its program approval authority to require data literacy training in pre-service programs.

For further details see:

Career Clusters: Forecasting Demand for High School through College Jobs, 2008-2018.This report was released in Washington on November 14, 2011 by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce in collaboration with the National Research Center for Career and the Technical Education and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education.  It is intended to find the best education pathways out of jobless recovery. The report identifies 16 career clusters which represent the full array of related occupational opportunities and education requirements. Findings show that for those with high school diplomas, decent jobs still exist but there are not enough to go around. Only one in three of high school-level jobs will pay wages of $35,000 or more; although in some cases, with experience, these jobs can provide up to $50,000.  High school-level jobs are found in four male dominated career clusters: manufacturing, construction, transportation, and hospitality. Of these four clusters, only jobs in manufacturing and construction still pay relatively good wages; particularly for those who obtain on-the-job-training. The study confirms that women need postsecondary education to earn the same wages as men with only a high school diploma.  In many industries the overall number of jobs will decline through 2018 but openings will still be available due to retirement. For example, the study finds that there will be 181,000 fewer manufacturing jobs over the decade but there will be 3 million job openings in manufacturing by 2018. Middle-skill jobs have promise for those who acquire some level of postsecondary education or training but not a Bachelor's degree.   One in two of these middle jobs provide career pathways leading to median wages of roughly $40,000.  Workers with Bachelor's and graduate degrees have the most positive outlook. Five out of six jobs available for workers with Bachelor's pay more than $35,000 a year and average $60,000. Seventy-two percent of jobs available for workers with a Bachelor's degree or better are found in nine occupational clusters. Yet at this education level, all career clusters are essentially accessible. In addition to the full national report, Career Clusters contains a state-level analysis of jobs by career cluster. These documents are available online at Hard copies can be obtained by contacting the Center at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Monday, 29 April 2013 13:55