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Virginia Journal of Education


NewsFronts


Pre-K Programs Could
Create Big Benefits

RICHMOND—If Virginia makes smartly targeted investments in pre-kindergarten, the benefits could outweigh the costs of the program 10 to 1 by the year 2050, according to The Commonwealth Institute, an independent research organization.

In the short term (years one-five), Virginia could realize savings of $49.5 million in special education costs; $13.6 million in child welfare costs; and $96 million in increased earnings for parents, who would realize dramatic savings in child care. In the mid-term (years 6-17), the commonwealth could save $1.3 billion in special education costs; $189.4 million in juvenile crime costs; $30.4 million in adult crime costs; $157 million in child welfare costs; and $68.4 million in grade retention costs.


Arts Education Essential
to Building Arts Audience

SANTA MONICA, CA—A lack of high-quality arts education programs is leading to a weaker nonprofit cultural sector in the U.S., says a new study by the RAND Corporation. According to the study, called “How to Cultivate Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement and State Arts Policy,” the audiences for classical music, jazz, opera, theater and the visual arts have been declining as a percentage of the population, and the percentage of fans of these genres age 30 and younger has declined even more.

“For decades, public funding of the arts has focused on building supply and expanding access to the arts, but it has neglected the cultivation of audiences capable of appreciating the arts,” says RAND arts researcher Laura Zakaras, co-author of the study. “If we are not teaching the young how to engage with works of art, they are not likely to become involved in the arts as adults.”

Pointing to research that shows that art experience and study in childhood increases the likelihood of arts participation later in life, the study recommends supporting and expanding arts education to increase demand for the arts. However, it notes that in the current environment of high-stakes testing, class time for the arts and humanities has dropped in the last five years.


Career-Switchers May
Aid Teacher Shortage

PRINCETON, N.J.—Adults making career transitions may provide one of the nation’s best sources for filling 1.5 million teaching vacancies over the next 10 years, according to a survey by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. In the survey, called “Teaching as a Second Career,” 42 percent of Americans ages 24-60 who are college-educated would consider becoming a teacher. Further, the individuals in that group are more likely than other college grads to have a postgraduate degree and to have better-than-average grades.

“Career-changers could help address persistent teacher shortages in hard-to-staff schools, given the right compensation and the right preparation,” says Arthur Levine, president of the Foundation.

Among those in the survey who indicated an interest in teaching, low pay is the largest factor holding them back: only 36 percent say that a salary of less than $50,000 is acceptable.

“Raising starting pay is the single most important step states and districts could take to increase the attractiveness of teaching for career-changers,” says Foundation senior fellow David Haselkorn.


Sexual Minority Students
Harassed Frequengtly

NEW YORK—The atmosphere in our nation’s schools is very unwelcoming for students who are sexual minorities: Such students are bullied and harassed at “alarming” rates, according to GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Here are some of the major findings in GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, which surveyed 6,209 middle and high school students:

• Almost 9 in 10 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students (86.2 percent) report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation; 22.1 percent say they were physically assaulted at school in the past year.

• Nearly three-quarters (73.6 percent) of LGBT students say that they’ve heard derogatory remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” frequently or often at school.

• Over half of LGBT students (60.8 percent) feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation.

• Almost one-third (31.7 percent) of LGBT students missed a class and 32.7 percent missed a day of school in the last month because they felt unsafe, compared with only 5.5 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.

• The academic performance of harassed students suffers: The reported grade point average of students who are frequently harassed is almost half a grade lower than for students who are less often harassed.

Two factors extremely helpful in alleviating such circumstances are the presence of supportive school staff and the establishment of gay-straight alliance clubs. Students in schools with those kinds of environments report less harassment, fewer reports of missing school, and a greater sense of belonging to their school community.

 


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