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January 24, 2017

Welcome CPE’s latest intern!

Hello, my name is Katharine Carter and I am thrilled to join CPE as its spring intern, where I hope to contribute and expand upon the team’s research efforts in public education.

I’ve often referenced education as my “family business,” because my grandparents and my mother were all educators in Baltimore City’s public school system. My interest in the advancement of public education has grown since I was a student at Howard University, where I worked with high school students in a college-prep program.

Prior to studying at Catholic University to obtain my Master’s degree, where my research experience has a specific focus on education policy and special education services for public school students, I worked for many years as a legislative analyst, where I reported on House and Senate floor proceedings and analyzed bills related to education.

I look forward to the opportunity to provide an unbiased analysis of the existing research and policy implications related to our nation’s public schools.

Filed under: research,special education — Tags: , , — Katharine Carter @ 2:41 pm

June 4, 2015

Yet Another Report Touts Record High School Graduation Rates

EdWeek’s annual Diplomas Count report shows that the U.S. high school on-time graduation rate has hit another all-time high with 81 percent of students graduating within four-years of entering high school.  You may remember last month another report found the same. Both reports were based on similar data so it is not surprising they found similar results.

One difference is that this most recent report sheds a brighter light on disparities between different groups of students. An examination of EdWeek’s data shows that in 2013—the most recent year graduation rate data is available—the poverty gap in on-time graduation rates is as large as 16 percentage points in Minnesota to just one percentage point in Kentucky.  Nationally, the gap between white students and their black and Hispanic classmates continues to narrow. Again, the gaps differ significantly from state to state.

While the overall story is certainly good news, the persistent gaps are still troubling. Gaps are particularly large between special education students and the general student population as well as between English Language Learners (ELL) and native English speakers. So while significant progress has been made, there is a lot more work to be done until all students enter high school with a similar chance to graduate high school four years later.


The Findings

National Graduation Rates

  • The national graduation rate hit another all-time high.
    • Eighty-one percent of students who entered 9th grade in the fall of 2009 graduated with at least a standard high school diploma by the summer of 2013 — the highest level seen since the late 1960s.
      • Between 2011 and 2013 the graduation rate increased 2 points.
      • Graduation rates had remained relatively stagnant between the late 1960s and early 2000’s.
  • Large attainment gaps also remain between traditionally disadvantaged groups and their more advantaged classmates.
    • 16 point gap between white and black students (71 and 87 percent).
    • 12 point gap between white and Hispanic students (75 and 87 percent).
    • Seventy-three percent of students from economically disadvantaged families graduated on-time.
      • This is 8 points lower than the national average.
    • Just 62 percent of Students with Disabilities graduated on-time.
      • This is 19 points lower than the national average.
    • Only 61 percent of Limited English Proficient students graduated on-time.
      • This is 20 points lower than the national average.

State Graduation Rates

  • Most states have improved their graduation rates since 2011.
    • All but six states (Arizona, Illinois, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming) improved their on-time graduation rates between 2011 and 2013.
    • Nevada made the greatest improvement by increasing their graduation rate from 62 to 71 percent (9 points) during this same time period.
      • New Mexico and Utah both improved their graduation rates by 7 points as well.
  • Large gaps remain between states
    • There is a 28 percentage point gap between Iowa –the state with the highest graduation rate (90 percent)– and the District of Columbia which has the lowest graduation rate (62 percent).
    • Only seven states (Alaska, District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon) have graduation rates that fell under 75 percent while 21 states have graduation rates of at least 85 percent.
    • In Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota there is a 15 point gap between the graduation rates of economically disadvantaged students and their state averages.
      • In six states (Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Indiana, and District of Columbia) the gap is 5 points or less.
    • In Mississippi just 23 percent of Students with Disabilities (SWD) graduated on-time which is 53 points lower than the state average (76 percent). Mississippi had both the lowest graduation rates for SWD and the largest gap.
      • On the other end of the spectrum Arkansas had the highest graduation rate for SWK (80 percent) while Alabama had the smallest gap (3 points).
    • Three states (New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Texas) had graduation rates over 80 percent for black students.
      • Three states (Minnesota, Nevada, and Oregon) had graduation rates of less than 60 percent for their black students.
    • Eleven states graduated at least 80 percent of their Hispanic students on-time.
      • Minnesota was the only state to graduate less than 60 percent of their Hispanic students.


February 9, 2015

High-quality preschool reduces later special education placement

A recent study released on Tuesday shows that children who attended high-quality preschools in North Carolina were significantly less likely to require special education services in the third grade. These findings were from a longitudinal study following children from at-risk families from birth to the end of third grade. Two programs, More at Four and Smart Start, both publicly funded programs in North Carolina, aim to provide high-quality child care to 4-year-olds living in poverty and to improve the quality and delivery of child care and preschool services for children from birth to 5, respectively. The focus on this developmental period of life is reflective of much developmental research showing that significant cognitive, social, and emotional development occurs across this timeframe and thus, it is a critical period to support. Furthermore, educational psychologist Jeffrey Liew highlights that cognitive and social-emotional development in early childhood can be heavily influenced by teaching efforts targeting those skills.

These findings evidence the importance of a high-quality early childhood education. Between the years 1997 and 2010, over 127,000 students were serviced by the North Carolina preschool programs. As reported in Thinking P-12: The school board role in pre-k education, appropriate class sizes, teacher qualifications, and teacher training, among others, constitute markers that differentiate low from high-quality programming.

Although the results from this study are encouraging, it is important for readers to not misinterpret the results. Furthermore, the study uses maternal education (at time of the childbirth) as a proxy for socioeconomic status (SES). While maternal education is an indicator of SES, the inclusion of additional at-risk markers, such as household income and whether or not the parent(s) are employed typically provides a more comprehensive picture.

That high-quality education in preschool reduced special education placement years later in third grade just reinforces the many reasons why addressing issues early can benefit children throughout life. Similar to the foundation of a house, early childhood represents the bedrock of development; when this foundation is built poorly or weakened for whatever reason (e.g., toxic stress, poverty, neglect), the integrity of the entire building is at risk. Through the implementation of high-quality education, these positive experiences can help to “repair the cracks.” As reported in our Research on Pre-K, children who are able to attend high-quality preschool programs, like the High/Scope Perry Preschool program, for example, tend to graduate high school, demonstrate higher achievement at age 14, and earn more income at age 40 compared to those who did not attend similar pre-kindergarten programs.

In conclusion, this study reinforces what we already know: high-quality early childhood education is one of the best ways to support optimal development. This study highlights that when cognitive, social, and emotional problems are addressed early through, children can stand to benefit the most before special education is required.

Filed under: Pre-k,preschool,research,special education — Tags: , , — David Ferrier @ 4:29 pm

April 21, 2010

Modified tests for Pennsylvania special ed students

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported on April 18 that the state of Pennsylvania is offering modified state tests in math for all special education students, and it is field-testing simplified-format tests in reading and science for this same group. The modified tests, called PSSA-M (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment-Modified), are offered in an effort to raise state proficiency scores.

Is a special test necessary for special education students? In our report Special education: A better perspective, we take a look at special education and the special education student. While a majority of special education students do not require special services, our study found that, regardless, there is an achievement gap between special education students and their peers. This is particularly important because many schools and districts, not just in Pennsylvania but around the nation, are missing AYP targets under NCLB based soley on the performance of special ed students. Of course, there are other reasons schools miss AYP, but the special ed population is one of the main reasons. Although the gap has narrowed recently, more research is needed to find out what’s working.

Our report found that the “vast majority of students who are identified with disabilities might have been classified as simply “low achieving” just a few years ago.” This raises the question: Are modified tests really a good measure of how well this population is learning? Of course, the jury is out on this one since there is no research to answer the question. We do know, however, that “when school districts target resources and support, the acheivement of students with disabilities does increase.” Learn more about the special education student and what schools and school boards can do by reading the Center’s full report. ~ Pamela Karwasinski

December 8, 2009

What to expect from special education students

As a former special education student, I was quite pleased that the Center on Education Policy found that special education students have been making academic gains in most states since 2006. The bad news, however, is that special education students are still performing far below their peers.

Of course many people are not surprised by this gap. They think, well, these students are in special education for a reason. But what they don’t realize is that many of these students have the mental capacity to perform just as well as their peers.

As the Center’s recent report Special Education: A better perspective points out, many in the special education community argue that the majority of special education students, with support, can perform just as well as their peers. As a matter of fact, one study the Center’s report cited estimated that only 10 to 15 percent of all special education students have a severe handicap. Most are diagnosed with disabilities that do not even necessarily mean their mental ability is reduced.

For example, there is no reason students with physical handicaps can’t perform as well as their peers–but they are classified as special education students. And nearly 80 percent of special education students spend at least 80 percent of their school day in a regular classroom.

I, along with many of my friends, was part of that 80 percent. For the most part, we have led pretty successful lives after high school. Many of us have earned bachelor’s degrees and even graduate degrees. Needing special help to get through elementary and high school didn’t impede us from reaching our goals.

And our goals were set high. From the first day we met with our resource teacher, Joanne Daniels, she not only expected a lot from us but insisted we expect a lot from ourselves. There is no doubt I and many others of her former students would not be where we are today without her.

Was it always easy? Of course not! There were a lot of tears, and frustration reared its ugly head from time to time, but never from Mrs. Daniels. She always kept her eye on the big picture and kept reminding us how capable we were.

At first we didn’t really buy into it. My friends and I figured it was easier to think of ourselves as dumb than to actually think we could succeed at school if we just put in some effort.  It was easier to try to make our classmates laugh than to study or finish our homework. But like a boxer with a great jab, she wore us down. By the time we were set to go onto high school we knew we were prepared. Not only did we graduate from high school, unlike way too many other special education students, many of us went on to earn a college degree.

There is no doubt in my mind I wouldn’t be where I am today without the high expectations of Mrs. Daniels. But as a policy researcher, it pains me to see so many special education students performing so poorly when I too believe they can be successful.

Does it take more than high expectations? Of course. But without high expectations there isn’t much chance of continuing the trend of closing the achievement gap between special education students and their peers.   – Jim Hull

Filed under: Achievement Gaps,Report Summary,special education,teachers — Tags: , , , — Jim Hull @ 8:42 am

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