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Virginia Journal of Education


NewsFronts


Educators See Obstacles
to NCLB Implementation

SANTA MONICA, CA-While most educators support the idea of standards-based accountability, like that upon which the No Child Left Behind Act is built, they find significant obstacles in implementing it, says a RAND Corporation study. The study looked at the reactions of teachers and administrators in three states-Georgia, Pennsylvania and California-representing different parts of the country, different student populations and different approaches. Here is some of what the teachers had to say about NCLB challenges:

. They're concerned about alignment among standards, assessments and curriculum: Many think that there are misalignments among state standards and assessments and the local curriculum. All states have made progress in improving alignment among tests and standards, but teachers noted that the tests still include content not in the curriculum and omit some content that is.

. They want more professional development: Especially in areas such as assisting English language learners and students with special needs, using data for decision-making, and identifying the most effective instructional practices, teachers feel they need more training.

. They want better methods of measuring performance: Many teachers are unhappy with adequate yearly progress (AYP) being evaluated by status (proficient or not proficient) instead of by gauging progress over time. Most educators, at all levels, doubt their ability to meet NCLB's escalating achievement targets over the next five years.


Summer Learning Key to
Fighting Achievement Gaps


BALTIMORE-Educators have always known that students lose some ground academically over the summer, but some appear to lose more than others, leaving summer learning activities as an important key to fighting achievement gaps, according to researchers at the Center for Summertime Learning at Johns Hopkins University. They say that the learning some students do over the summer, mostly students from economically secure homes, and the learning that other students do not do, primarily students from families of lower socioeconomic levels, is exacerbating achievement gaps.

Findings from a study of over 300 Baltimore students earlier this year found that two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between upper- and lower-income high school freshmen comes from the reading enrichment they did or did not receive during the summers of their elementary school years. Factors related to reading ability, such as the curriculum students choose to pursue in high school, their risk of becoming dropouts, and their aspirations for higher education, all show significant disparities related to family income.

By the time students enter sixth grade, students in higher socioeconomic level homes had added approximately 47 points to their reading test scores through summer learning; meanwhile, students from poorer homes had lost about 2 points over the same period. Data from winter tests, which demonstrate mostly in-school learning, showed that disadvantaged students performed as well as other students.

While studies show that summer learning programs can have a major impact on tightening achievement gaps, many education policymakers have overlooked the summer months as a key time for improving student achievement.


Overweight Children Face
Debilitating Stigma


NEW HAVEN, CT-Children who are overweight face such a stigma from their peers and the adults in their lives that they end up with a quality of life very much like that of children with cancer, researchers at Yale University and the University of Hawaii have found.

Obese children are stigmatized in the media, at school and even at home, points out Rebecca M. Puhl, the lead author of the Yale-Hawaii study, and the stigma shows no signs of subsiding.

Puhl cites research that shows that weight bias begins as early as preschool, and that overweight children are often viewed by their peers as ugly, stupid, mean and undesirable playmates. Even teachers have been found to be more likely to perceive overweight children as untidy, more emotional, more likely to have family problems and less likely to succeed academically.

Obese children who suffer bias and mistreatment from peers and adults are more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, poor body image, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts and acts.

The study's researchers say that all this is happening while an epidemic of childhood obesity is going on: By 2010, nearly half of all children in North America will be overweight.

Puhl recommends that teachers:

. Encourage overweight students to succeed;
. Raise awareness of the media's influence on how we develop body image;
. Include examples of overweight role models when teaching;
. Emphasize health over thinness;
. Have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying; and
. Be sensitive to potentially embarrassing situations.


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