Reports in Brief

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Teacher preparation programs lack faculty with early STEM expertise

Teacher preparation programs for elementary math are too often led by faculty who lack connection to elementary classroom instruction, according to a report by 100Kin10, a network of academic institutions, nonprofits, companies, and government agencies aiming to get 100,000 STEM teachers into classrooms nationwide. The report looks at ways to improve early math education by highlighting challenges and opportunities to equip teacher preparation faculty with more expertise in elementary STEM education, and how faculty can better model instructional strategies that teachers should use in the classroom. “There is a scarcity of teacher preparation faculty with expertise in elementary STEM education, making recruitment and selection of faculty with sufficient expertise challenging,” the report reads.

California ranks third from the bottom among states in average college debt load

Class of 2018 graduates from four-year colleges in California left school with an average debt load of $22,585, less than the average debt taken on by students in 47 other states, according to a report published Thursday by the Institute for College Access and Success. About half of students in California graduated with no debt at all, and only students in Utah and New Mexico graduated with less debt on average than California students. The findings reflect previous years’ versions of the same report, which have also showed that only graduates from Utah and New Mexico had smaller debt loads than California’s graduates. Across the United States, the average student loan debt for Class of 2018 graduates was $29,200, a 2 percent increase from the Class of 2017

California community colleges double number of transfer-level math and English

English and math courses that can transfer to California universities have increased dramatically among 47 of California’s 114 community colleges, according to a report released Tuesday by the Campaign for College Opportunity. Transfer-level classes in English have increased from 45 percent to 88 percent since 2017 and from 33 percent to 71 percent in math. The colleges have also increased the number of courses that offer co-requisite remediation, which provides additional support in entry-level classes. Among 47 colleges, 39 now offer this form of remediation in English and 30 offer them in science, technology, engineering and math courses. The report analyzed 47 colleges from the Central Valley, Inland Empire and Los Angeles areas, or about one-third of the community colleges in the state. A new law known as AB 705, which goes into effect this fall, requires the colleges to offer transferable, college-level classes. The report said additional research will be needed to examine the entire two-year college system.

Chronic absenteeism data can diagnose problems that keep kids from learning

State and local policymakers can use chronic absenteeism data to decide where to allocate resources to help improve academic outcomes at schools, according to a new study from American Institutes for Research and Attendance Works. “Using Chronic Absence Data to Improve Conditions for Learning” found that there is a relationship between chronic absenteeism — missing 10 percent or more of a school year — and academic achievement. The study concluded that the data can be used to pinpoint and diagnose problems in the school and community that are causing chronic absenteeism and hurting academic outcomes.




Less than half of America’s high schools teach computer science

Less than half (45 percent) of America’s high schools teach computer science, and low-income students and students in rural areas are among the least likely to attend schools that offer the subject, a new report from, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and Expanding Computing Education Pathways shows.

But things may be changing: Over the last year, 33 states have passed laws to promote computer science. And some states, including California, provide guidance with computer science standards around how to make access to computer science education more equitable.

Free community college could backfire for earning bachelor’s degrees

A Brookings Institution study finds that better financial aid or waiving tuition at four-year public colleges with an income cutoff can effectively increase the rates of students earning bachelor’s degrees. However, it also finds that free community college programs are significantly less effective and can even backfire. While eliminating community college tuition and fees does lead to more associate’s degrees, some students who otherwise would have started at a four-year school instead are drawn to the community college and never earn a bachelor’s degree, the study finds. Besides, most free community college policies exclude students from the lowest-income families since these students already receive federal Pell Grants that cover most, if not all, of the tuition cost for community college.

California lags in Latino college enrollment and degree attainment

A report released today from The Education Trust finds California fails to provide Latinos with the same access to selective universities as white students, despite having a large population of the former. The state is home to more than 60 percent of all Latino students, but the share of these students attending a selective institution is about 23 percent. The report found a 17.1 percentage point gap between the number of California Latinos attending a selective, four-year university and their white peers. The difference was only slightly better for all public four-year universities, at nearly 35 percent for Latinos and 45.7 percent for their white peers.


Common strategies of 7 ‘positive outlier’ districts in California

As a followup to a report last spring, Learning Policy Institute researchers visited and studied seven California districts in which African American, Latino, and white students achieve at high levels on math and English language arts to learn strategies behind their success. Among the commonalities, the authors found instructionally engaged leaders; strategies for hiring and retaining a strong, stable educator workforce; collaborative professional learning; a deliberate, developmental approach to instructional change; systemic supports for students’ academic, social, and emotional needs; and an engagement of families and communities. The districts were Chula Vista Elementary School District, Clovis Unified, Gridley Unified (Butte County), Hawthorne School District, Long Beach Unified, San Diego Unified and Sanger Unified.

How states can benefit from collecting school-level data

School administrators in California and other states have been recalculating data to comply with a new federal law requiring the reporting of spending, including actual, not average, teacher salaries, at the school level. A study of a pilot project of states’ efforts by the National Center for Education Studies found that the work, if done right, could be a useful tool for developing state education policy. Many  participating states found they were able to report complete expenditure data for a high percentage of their schools. Although there are “numerous inherent challenges,” evidence suggests “the feasibility of collecting and reporting school-level finance data of reasonable quality is relatively high.”

Women are poorly represented in political science course readings

There is a major gender gap in political science course readings at colleges across the nation and that could affect women’s choices in becoming professors in that field. So says a new study headed by UC Irvine political science associate professor Heidi Hardt. Only one in five readings assigned to political science graduate students is written by a female author, according to the article published in both The Journal of Politics and PS: Political Science & Politics.  Hardt and co-authors show that women are underrepresented on political science course syllabi and reading lists compared with the rate at which women publish academic articles generally. The researchers analyzed 88,673 readings from 840 syllabi and 65 reading lists used in political science graduate courses.


No seniors took advanced math at 40 percent of California high schools

About 75 percent of all California high school seniors enrolled in a math class in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but only 47 percent of those students were enrolled in advanced math courses above Algebra 2, a study from Policy Analysis for California Education shows. White, Asian and high-income students were much more likely to take advanced math in their senior year, compared with African American, Latino and low-income students. The report also found that students who were admitted to California State University and University of California campuses were much more likely to take advanced math in 12th grade, compared with the overall population of 12th-graders.

Why school principals quit: focus groups share their stories

A study by the Learning Policy Institute draws on evidence from focus groups to understand challenges principals face and suggests strategies to support and retain them, including professional learning opportunities, competitive salaries, more decision-making authority, and timely evaluations and feedback.

Berkeley report ‘Breaking the Silence’ on early child care and education costs

How much would it cost for California to provide high-quality early care and education? According to a new report by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley and the Economic Policy Institute, California should be spending at least $30,000 per child enrolled in child care and preschool. That’s almost four times as much as the state currently spends on children in public preschool. The researchers say in order to provide high-quality early education, lead teachers should be paid $77,214 a year, and there would need to be almost three times as many early childhood teachers in the state as there are currently.

Special ed students, especially African Americans, suspended at high rates

Tackling an issue that has long been a concern to civil rights advocates, this 212-page  report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shows that special education students with a range of disabilities are suspended at twice the rate of non-disabled students. Among those students, black students with disabilities are suspended or expelled at higher rates than their proportion among all students with disabilities, and that they lose approximately 77 more days of instruction compared to white students with disabilities. It includes two lengthy dissenting reports by commissioners, including one who argues that the disparities noted in the report could well be because of a student’s behavior, not racial discrimination.


Reforming school discipline: what teachers think

An ongoing issue in the push to reduce suspensions and expulsions whether doing so results in improved behavior and school climate, or whether it contributes to the reverse.  This paper by the conservative-leaning Fordham Institute takes what may be the first in-depth look at this issue in a nationally representative sample of teachers were polled on their views on this topic.  A majority of teachers feel that a decline in suspensions in their school has been replaced by a higher tolerance for misbehavior.  Most teachers say alternative strategies have been “somewhat” effective, but that suspensions have their uses, including “sending messages to parents about the seriousness of infractions” and encouraging other students to follow the rules.  It is important to note that the poll is based on teachers perceptions and opinions, rather than any measurement of actual incidents or behavior in schools themselves.

Under-enrollment of students with disabilities in California charter schools

The California Teachers Association and United Teachers Los Angeles provide new evidence behind a familiar argument, that charter schools significantly under-enroll students with disabilities, particularly those with the most expensive impairments to treat, such as autism. The charter under-enrollment significantly shifted special education costs to districts, the study found.  Union researchers say their analysis is the first extensive comparison of enrollment and costs between charter schools and districts that authorized them. It examined the three districts with the largest numbers of charter schools – Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland. The report details sources for the data and the methodology.

Majority of teens get news from social media and YouTube

More than half (54 percent) of teenagers say they find news at least a few times a week from social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, according to a survey by Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey that polled 1,005 teenagers age 13 to 17 in the United States. Fifty percent or respondents said they get news from YouTube. For teens who turn to YouTube for news consumption, 60 percent said they are more likely to learn about current events by watching videos from celebrities or social media personalities, rather than news organizations.