Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Later School Start Times for Teenagers Get Another National Endorsement

From the Education Week "Time and Learning" Blog

By Marva Hinton
April 21, 2017

Another national organization of health-care professionals has come out in favor of school start times no earlier than 8:30 a.m. for middle and high school students.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has now made the same recommendation as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, and several other national organizations.

The AASM made its recommendation through a position statement, which was published this month in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The statement reads in part, "During adolescence, internal circadian rhythms and biological sleep drive change to result in later sleep and wake times. As a result of these changes, early middle school and high school start times curtail sleep, hamper a student's preparedness to learn, negatively impact physical and mental health, and impair driving safety."

AASM stresses that a lack of proper sleep is associated with many problems for students including poor school performance, obesity, increased depressive symptoms, and increased risk of car accidents.

Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson is the lead author of the AASM statement and the group's immediate past president. He's also a professor of neurology at the University of Washington.

AASM recommends that adolescents get eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. But that can be difficult when school starts before 8:30 a.m. Simply going to bed earlier is not a viable option for most teenagers. During adolescence, changes occur in the circadian rhythms of teens making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m.

The group's policy statement includes statistics showing most teenagers are not getting enough sleep:

  • Nearly 70 percent of high school students in the United States sleep seven hours or less on school nights;
  • Only 23 percent sleep eight hours, while only 2 percent sleep 10 hours or more.

Watson said he hopes the AASM taking a stand will encourage more school boards around the country to adopt later school start times for middle and high school students.

"We're concerned about adolescent health and well-being," said Watson. "The evidence has continued to mount regarding the issue of the negative impact of early bell times on adolescent health."

One of the biggest dangers is sleepy teens getting behind the wheel of a car.

"The research shows younger people are more susceptible to the effects of drowsiness when driving," said Watson. "When you consider the problem of drowsy driving and fall-asleep crashes, it's this younger group of drivers, these novice drivers, who are most susceptible to being affected by this."

Statistics provided by the AASM show crash rates for teen drivers decline by 17 percent following a school start time delay of one hour.

Beyond Later Bell Times

Watson adds that morning bell times of 8:30 a.m. and later won't solve all of adolescents' sleep problems.

For schools that do push start times back, the AASM recommends that practices or other school-related events also don't take place before 8:30 a.m.

Watson also stresses that students and their parents have a role to play.

He has the following tips for healthy adolescent sleep:

  • Consistent bedtimes and wake times both during the week and on the weekends;
  • A consistent bedtime routine;
  • No caffeine after 2 p.m.
  • No exercise or eating right before bed;
  • Turn off all screens in the wind-down time before bed.

Related Stories

Louisiana Families Must Give Up Special Education Rights for School Vouchers

From The Lens

By Marta Jewson
April 19, 2017

The New York Times reports that in several states, students give up their rights to special education services if they accept a government voucher to attend a private school. That’s true in Louisiana, too.

Voucher programs provide public dollars for tuition at a private school. When they enter these programs in several states, children waive protection under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. That law requires public schools to provide a “free appropriate public education” to all children.

In Florida, the Times reported, some families didn’t know they lost certain protections until they were already using vouchers.

“In the meantime,” reporter Dana Goldstein wrote, “public schools and states are able to transfer out children who put a big drain on their budgets, while some private schools end up with students they are not equipped to handle, sometimes asking them to leave. And none of this is against the rules.”

Besides Louisiana and Florida, parents in these states must waive all or some of their rights under that federal law: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

The law is meant to ensure that all students, including those who need extra help, have equal access to public education.

In a typical public school, such accommodations can include anything from weekly sessions with a speech therapist to having a teacher’s aide remain by a student’s side throughout the day. Public schools must not only pay for these services, they must also pay for diagnostic testing if school leaders suspect a student has a disability.

Among the rights parents may give up in these states, according to the Times:

“... the right to a free education; the right to the same level of special-education services that a child would be eligible for in a public school; the right to a state-certified or college-educated teacher; and the right to a hearing to dispute disciplinary action against a child.”

Louisiana’s voucher program allows students to take the state funding that would have followed them to a public school and use it to enroll in certain private schools. To qualify, the student must be at a school rated C or below by the state. The family must also meet income requirements.

State law requires parents to acknowledge in writing that they agree “to accept only such services as are available to all students enrolled in the nonpublic school.”

Louisiana Department of Education spokeswoman Sydni Dunn said the decision was made after “lengthy debate by the legislature in 2012.”

Louisiana has another voucher program for children with disabilities. However, it is limited to students with certain disabilities. Schools specify which ones they can serve.

Just six schools in New Orleans participate in that program, far fewer than the 18 that take part in the regular voucher program. (One participates in both.)


Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

Monday, April 24, 2017

My Daughter Has Autism But Our Special-Ed System Isn’t What She Needs

From Time Magazine

By Katherine Osnos Sanford
April 17, 2017

"The time has come to reconsider what it means to provide a 'free and appropriate education for all,' because for increasing numbers of children, education must last a lifetime."

Mae has a red backpack that I ordered shortly before she started school. Her two brothers have similar backpacks, also in bright colors, each embroidered with their initials. I love the sight of my children’s backpacks hanging together on the hooks by our back door. It makes me feel that things are in order.

What you can’t see when you look at their backpacks is how differently they experience school. My sons, who are in elementary and middle school, are on a largely regular trajectory. Mae, however, is autistic; she is almost completely nonverbal and, at the age of nine, still in diapers. Five years after Mae entered a classroom for the first time, school is a vital but incomplete experience.

The current system of special education is based on a noble American commitment: In 1975, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It guarantees a “free, appropriate public education” for all children — a standard known in special-ed circles as “FAPE." But the system created 42 years ago isn’t ready for student needs today.

The diagnostic criteria have since expanded to include a wider spectrum. This year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in sixty-eight children will be diagnosed with autism of varying degrees, many before they enter school. (In 1975, it was one in ten thousand.)

Educators are now scrambling to patch together services for a group of students increasing in size and complexity. Meanwhile, many parents like me feel that their children are not being taught the skills they need to one day live independently, and then are too quickly thrown — unprepared — into adulthood.

This starts early on in an autistic child’s education. The current model of special education revolves around an annual exercise known as the Individualized Education Plan. An IEP sets out goals and expectations for a child in the year ahead and is composed by teachers, therapists (speech, occupational and physical), administrators, a psychologist and, sometimes, the school nurse. In Mae’s case, every potential skill that she could develop in the year ahead is broken into its most basic parts: cutting with scissors, sitting still, matching a set of plastic bears by color.

In theory, by following the blueprint, we can quantify and track Mae’s progress and assure that one year builds on the next. In reality, the exercise has become a hollow pageant.

Mae’s IEP should be one page, with a single goal: Mae will learn to communicate.

As long as my daughter doesn’t speak, using scissors and identifying colors are not the things keeping her from the rest of the world. The better she can become at communicating her own needs, the less support she will need as an adult from society. Mae needs life skills before all else.

It took time for me to realize this. When Mae was five, I toured a private special-needs school in Connecticut. On the second floor, there was a mock grocery store with some children practicing shopping and others acting as employees. They were older than Mae — late teens, early twenties. Across the hall, in a mock clothing store, students were learning how to place a plastic label on a hanger to mark the size. Some had headphones on to soothe them; some were making the low growling noises not uncommon among autistic kids.

At the time, I wasn’t ready for that scene. I still hoped that, with the right combination of therapies, specialists, herbs (and sleepless nights for her parents), we would cure Mae. I couldn’t leave the school fast enough.

When your child is five, you can’t envision that the simple work of labeling hangers could someday be worthwhile. Now that she is nine, I understand that this is who my child is. I have not given up. But I understand that, for her, being able to take care of herself and perform simple tasks that serve a function in society would be a very good outcome.

When the school day is over, there is another question: What now? Many schools provide afterschool-care for regularly developing students — everything from chess club to a quiet place to do homework— but, for special-ed kids, the school day ends at three o’clock. According to a 2014 study published in Pediatrics, a family with a child on the spectrum spends, on average, over $17,000 more a year on health and childcare costs than a family without one.

To make matters worse, according to a 2012 study in the same journal, mothers of autistic children also earn, on average, 56% less than other mothers, because so much of their time is required at home. So, what if schools provided after-school care for special-needs students, as well? What if they provided opportunities to develop important life skills, with field trips to useful destinations, like the grocery store or the ATM?

This kind of program would allow families to pay for their child to be in a safe and familiar place — and allow school districts to augment the salaries of support staff who choose to participate.

And this educational structure should continue well beyond the ages at which a regular-ed student graduates. For students on the autism spectrum, the need to learn more in order to support themselves does not end at the dawn of adulthood. In many cases, an autistic student will go from a school in which she is supported by a team of teachers and aides, in an environment that seeks to include her as much as possible with students in regular education, to a far more secluded and limited life.

Kevin Murray, a founding board member of Autism Speaks, is the father of a 22-year-old son who recently aged out of school and entered the uncertain world of adult care. The change has been radical. As he compared to me the services that his son received when he was in school to his current situation, he asked, “When did my son become less valuable?”

Looming over many of these issues is the matter of money. It can seem as if everyone is struggling. School districts are straining. The National Education Association estimates that the average annual cost of educating a regular-ed student is $7,552; the cost for a special education student is more than twice that, $16,921.

Families are stretched, too. When Mae turned 7, my husband and I had to face the difficult truth that we could no longer afford to pay for her therapies. In two years, we had spent nearly $140,000 on them; our insurance reimbursed us $9,000.

We have two other children who we hope to send to college one day. They will eventually be tasked with supporting their sister — as will the rest of the country. Americans must recognize that the price of therapy for children is more than a short-term cost: Every dollar invested in their future independence will relieve the burden on society.

Four decades ago, America made a commitment: We will provide an appropriate education for every child in this country. For regularly developing students, school ends at 18 or 22. But for people on with autism, even those who are relatively independent, they still need more therapy, job support and training.

The time has come to reconsider what it means to provide a “free and appropriate education for all,” because for increasing numbers of children, education must last a lifetime.

Katherine Osnos Sanford is a public school teacher in Northern California; she is working on a book about raising an autistic child.

Denying the "School Choice Deniers" Argument

From FutureEd

By Douglas N. Harris
April 17, 2017

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial suggests that research proves the benefits of private school choice. Tulane Professor Douglas N. Harris, a FutureEd research advisor who is studying school choice in New Orleans, examines the Journal's claims.

School Choice Deniers
WSJ: Critics hype a pair of studies while ignoring other evidence on education vouchers.

The Journal's headline writer and voucher supporters more generally equate vouchers with school choice. But there are several ways of providing families with school choice that don't require vouchers, including charter schools, inter-district choice, and intra-district choice.

So the headline is problematic; pointing to negative research findings on school vouchers doesn't necessarily make one a "school choice denier."

WSJ: President Trump has made a cause of public and private school choice, and liberals who oppose evaluating teachers based on student achievement are now hyping a few studies that have found vouchers hurt student performance. A closer look still supports the case for giving parents choice.

More than 400,000 students in 30 states and Washington, D.C., participate in private-school choice programs whose designs and funding sources vary. Over the last two decades dozens of studies have sought to measure these programs’ impact on student growth. Those with the most rigorous methodologies have produced positive findings.

If by "rigorous" the Journal means having what researchers call randomization (a comparison of students who receive vouchers with those who sought but didn't receive vouchers), this is false. The Louisiana example below is randomized and shows the worst effects on student achievement of any study of vouchers—really, some of the worst results ever observed for any program or policy.

WSJ: A meta-analysis last year by the Friedman Foundation found that 14 of 18 empirical studies analyzing programs in which students were chosen at random by lottery found positive academic outcomes.

This statement is false on several levels. Here are the main problems:

(1) The Friedman report lists 18 studies of academic outcomes. But there are only six separate cities/states that have had randomized voucher programs; this means 12 of the 18 studies are similar analyses of the exact same students. The Friedman Foundation, now known as EdChoice, has double-counted these studies.

(2) EdChoice's unusual standards for including studies have the effect of excluding two large, rigorous "quasi-experiments" (of voucher programs in Indiana and Ohio) that reflect poorly on vouchers.

(3) The review counts as positive any study that finds a positive effect for any racial or other subgroup of students. However, if you separate students into enough groups, someone is bound to benefit. Researchers call this the “multiple comparisons” problem.

Academic researchers would never carry out an analysis like this. In reality, there are eight programs with rigorous evidence—four positive, three negative, and one with no effect. But if these results are weighted based on the number of students in each study—a standard research practice—the overall effect of vouchers on student achievement in the studies is negative, substantially so.

Even if we threw out the three negative results, the four positive ones are limited to a specific student subgroup: African Americans in urban school systems.

WSJ: Two demonstrated no visible effect, while two recent studies of Louisiana’s voucher program found negative effects. The Louisiana studies are disconcerting since voucher proponents have hailed the program, and the negative effects were large. Math scores declined in one study by 0.4 standard deviations after one year in private schools, representing a 50 percent increase in likelihood of failing the state test.

Correct. It’s nice that the Journal was upfront about this, and about the negative effects in Ohio below.

WSJ: But Louisiana’s voucher program is unusual in several respects. Fewer than a third of private schools participated in the first year, and they had already experienced significant enrollment declines. This suggests that voucher students had their pick of the worst private schools.

This is true, but it is also true of other forms of choice. This just reinforces the problem with conflating all forms of choice with vouchers.

WSJ: Some higher performing schools may have been deterred by regulations that prohibit them from setting admissions standards and charging families more than the voucher amount—$5,300 on average in 2012.

Again, this is true, but misses an important point: a primary purpose of vouchers is to provide choice to those who do not have it. The fact that private schools want to maintain their admissions standards means that they are unlikely to serve the students who currently lack access.

WSJ: Liberals also highlight a Fordham Institute study last year of Ohio’s voucher program that found participants performed “worse on state exams compared to their closely matched peers remaining in public schools.” The study wasn’t included in the Friedman meta-analysis because participating students were not chosen at random, and it excluded students attending the lowest-performing schools who might benefit most from vouchers.

The study did find that vouchers “improved the achievement of the public-school students who were eligible for a voucher but did not use it.”

This is true, but it is also true of other forms of choice. This just reinforces the problem with conflating choice with vouchers.

WSJ: These students tended to be more economically disadvantaged and lower-achieving than those who used vouchers. It appears vouchers impelled low-performing public schools to improve to avoid losing students.

This conclusion is bolstered by the Friedman meta-analysis, which demonstrated positive effects in 31 of 33 studies evaluating the impact of vouchers on public schools. An analysis of Louisiana’s program last year found that student performance increased “in the public schools exposed to the threat of competition, with effect sizes growing in magnitude as the competitive threat looms larger.”

WSJ: These studies rebut the union claim that vouchers harm students left behind in public schools.

Again, the other forms of choice have the same effect.

WSJ: Notably, one of the outlier studies was of Washington, D.C., which compensates schools for funds they lose from voucher students.

One reason public schools in urban areas are so abysmal is that the predominantly low-income students they serve have no other options, while the affluent can flee to private schools. This reduces the political and economic incentives to shape up. Vouchers level the playing field among income strata—which liberals should support—and create competition for the public-school monopoly.

This might be true if: (a) private schools produced better outcomes at scale; and (b) the programs were designed to ensure access of low-income students. Neither condition appears to hold.

WSJ: Progressives who cherry-pick negative data on vouchers are denying the overwhelming social science that shows private-school choice benefits both participants and public school students. These progressives are thwarting educational progress.

There is nothing overwhelming about this evidence. The only thing we know with any certainty is that most choice programs seem to benefit African American students living in cities. That’s important, but it doesn't justify voucher programs, and certainly not universal, national programs of the sort the Trump administration is considering.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

FDA Warns of Products Claiming to Cure Autism

From DisabilityScoop

By Shaun Heasley
April 13, 2017

The Food and Drug Administration is cautioning that many products claiming to cure or treat autism are bogus and may in fact be dangerous.

The agency said in a notice this week that unproven therapies marketed to those on the spectrum can “carry significant health risks.”

No cure for autism exists and many products claiming to address symptoms of the developmental disorder simply do not work, the FDA said.

Companies peddling treatments including chelation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and detoxifying clay baths as well as raw camel milk and essential oils have received warnings or been subject to action by the FDA for making improper claims related to autism.

At present, the FDA has approved the use of the antipsychotics risperidone, or Risperdal, and aripripazole, also known as Abilify, to treat some symptoms of autism. The agency indicated that individuals should check with their doctor before taking medication or participating in any type of behavior therapy to address the developmental disorder.

“Autism varies widely in severity and symptoms,” said Amy Taylor, a pediatrician at the FDA. “Existing autism therapies and interventions are designed to address specific symptoms and can bring about improvement.”

Consumers should be suspicious of treatments advertised as a “quick fix” or “miracle cure,” according to Jason Humbert, a regulatory operations officer in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs.

What’s more, individuals should be wary of anything that claims to address a wide range of conditions and keep in mind that personal testimonials are no replacement for scientific evidence, Humbert said.

The Gap Within the Gap

From The Brookings Institution

By Susan M. Dynarski and Katherine Michelmore
April 13, 2017

Researchers and policymakers devote considerable effort to understanding gaps in academic achievement between low-income students and their better-off classmates. [1] And rightly so: the income-based achievement gap is a large and growing source of educational inequality in the United States.

The test-score gap between high- and low-income students is 40 percent wider today than it was 25 years ago. [2]

One widely-used marker for poverty in schools is a student’s eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch. But while nearly half of students nationwide are eligible for subsidized meals, only a quarter of US children live in poverty. These two statistics make clear that eligibility for subsidized meals is a blunt measure of economic disadvantage.

This rough measure may be perfectly appropriate for determining which children should receive school lunch subsidies, but it may be less useful for other purposes, such as measuring income gaps in achievement, determining the effectiveness of educational interventions targeted to low-income families, or steering resources toward the neediest children.

Yet it is, for now, the only measure available to the many researchers and practitioners who work with administrative data to evaluate the effects of educational programs, measure gaps in student achievement, and steer resources toward the neediest children.

We use administrative data from Michigan to develop a more detailed measure of economic disadvantage. Our data contain information on the entire population of students in the Michigan public schools. We leverage the longitudinal nature of these data to document systematic variation in outcomes within the population of children who are eligible for subsidized meals.

We do this by counting the number of years in which a given student qualified for subsidized meals, over multiple years of school enrollment.

In Michigan, roughly half of 8th graders are currently eligible for a subsidized meal; in math tests, they score about 0.69 standard deviations below those who are not eligible. By contrast, just 14 percent of 8th graders have been eligible for subsidized meals in every year since kindergarten. These persistently disadvantaged children score 0.94 standard deviations below those who were never eligible (and 0.23 standard deviations below those who were occasionally eligible).

This gap is 40 percent larger than that measured using the conventional approach, which considers only current disadvantage.

Demographics differ starkly by these measures of economic disadvantage. In Michigan, 90 percent of those who were never disadvantaged are white, compared to 60 percent of those who were ever disadvantaged and 46 percent of the persistently disadvantaged.

Students who had ever been disadvantaged by 8th grade were six times more likely to be black and four times more likely to be Hispanic, compared to those who were never disadvantaged.

Students who were persistently disadvantaged by 8th grade were eight times more likely to be black and six times more likely to be Hispanic, compared to those who were never disadvantaged.

The persistently disadvantaged are more concentrated in urban areas, while the transitorily disadvantaged are more concentrated in suburban areas.

The demographics available in state administrative data systems are limited. We turn to nationally-representative, survey data to shed further light on demographic differences between children who are persistently disadvantaged, transitorily disadvantaged and never disadvantaged. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K) includes information on household income and subsidized-meal eligibility.

In the ECLS-K, about half of 8th graders in 2006-2007 were ever eligible for subsidized meals (similar to Michigan) and about 10 percent of 8th graders were eligible in each survey wave of the ECLS-K (again, similar to Michigan). [3]

As in Michigan, persistently disadvantaged students in the ECLS-K are much more likely to be a racial or ethnic minority (73 percent compared to 46 percent among transitorily disadvantaged and 11 percent among the never disadvantaged).

They were also much less likely to live with both parents at the start of the survey (51 percent compared to 65 percent among the transitorily disadvantaged and 91 percent among the never disadvantaged) and much less likely to have a parent with any college experience (29 percent compared to 56 percent among the transitorily disadvantaged and 85 percent among the never disadvantaged).

An indicator for eligibility for subsidized meals is often included as a control in a regression that includes other student information, such as race, ethnicity, sex, and school characteristics. For quantitative researchers, a key question is therefore whether these other observables “explain” the larger achievement deficit among persistently disadvantaged students.

If other observable characteristics can explain the differences, then an analyst need only include these variables in the regression in order to eliminate biases that may otherwise be induced by unobserved heterogeneity within the population of currently disadvantaged students.

We find that other observable differences between the persistently disadvantaged and other students do not explain their larger test score deficit. When we control for race, ethnicity, and gender, as well as their interactions, the gap between the never disadvantaged and the persistently disadvantaged (0.76) is still nearly 40 percent larger than the gap based on standard measures of contemporaneous eligibility (0.55).

Comparing children only within the same school (by controlling for school fixed effects) reduces gaps further, but the within-school gap between the never disadvantaged and the persistently disadvantaged remains 40 percent larger than the gap based on the standard measure of contemporaneous eligibility. [4]

In Figure 1, we plot the relationship between scores and the number of years spent in economic disadvantage and 8th grade scores. There is a negative, nearly linear relationship (this pattern holds after controlling for student demographics and school fixed effects, as described above). A natural interpretation is that this is an exposure effect, with each additional year of disadvantage further reducing scores.

However, this linear relationship is nearly identical in 3rd grade, before children have been differentially exposed to five more years of economic disadvantage.

Figure 1. Each additional year of disadvantage is associated with a roughly constant increase in the achievement gap.

What explains this pattern? The number of years that a child will spend eligible for subsidized meals appears to be a reasonable proxy for her current level of income. When in kindergarten, the children in ECLS-K who will be persistently eligible have an average family income of $18,000. For the transitorily eligible it is $31,000 and for the never eligible $71,000.

That is, family income in a given year is negatively correlated with the number of years that a child will spend eligible for subsidized meals.

Our results imply that the number of years that a child spends eligible for subsidized meals can be used to proxy for household income. While still a crude proxy, this proposed measure captures greater variation in economic resources and educational outcomes than does the dichotomous variable currently used by researchers, which measures a child’s current eligibility for subsidized meals.

Our proposed measure can be used to estimate heterogeneous effects in program evaluations, to improve value-added calculations, and to better target resources. Two classrooms may have identical numbers of currently eligible children but different numbers of persistently eligible children. A value-added measure that does not account for these differences will be biased against teachers of the most disadvantaged children.

Our measure of persistence can also be used in program evaluation, in order to estimate heterogeneity in causal effects or as a control to reduce omitted variables bias.

Our proposed measure can also be used to better target resources toward the most disadvantaged children. Many federal, state, and local programs distribute money based on the share of a school’s or district’s students eligible for subsidized meals.

In Michigan, schools that have identical shares of students who are currently eligible for subsidized meals vary considerably in the share of students who are persistently eligible (Figure 2).

By taking these differences into account, practitioners and policymakers can better target resources intended to support the most disadvantaged children and their schools.

Figure 2. School-level share of eighth graders currently disadvantaged versus share persistently disadvantaged.

The authors did not receive financial support from any firm or person with a financial or political interest in this article. They are currently not officers, directors, or board members of any organization with an interest in this article.

  • 1 This post summarizes a longer research paper by the authors: The Gap Within the Gap: Using  Longitudinal Data to Understand Income Differences in Educational Outcomes,” AERA Open, Vol 3, Issue 1, First published date: February-01-2017. We thank our partners at the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and Michigan’s Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) for providing the data used in these analyses. The Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, provided support through Grants R305E100008 and R305B110001. This research uses data structured and maintained by the Michigan Consortium for Educational Research (MCER). MCER data are modified for analysis using rules governed by MCER and are not identical to data collected and maintained by MDE and CEPI. Results, information, and opinions are the authors’ and do not reflect the views or positions of MDE or CEPI.
  • 2 Reardon, S. F. 2011. The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations, in Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane (Eds.) Whither Opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances (New York: Russell Sage Foundation).
  • 3 The ECLS-K does not collect annual information on subsidized meal eligibility; we can observe whether a student is eligible in each of the five waves of data collection. We define the persistently disadvantaged as those who were eligible in each of the five waves. The transitorily disadvantaged were eligible in at least one wave but not all five waves.
  • 4 Controlling for household income at the zip code level does very little to change the within-school results.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Just Breathe: Mindfulness May Help Freshman Stress Less and Smile More

From Penn State University
via ScienceDaily

April 20, 2017

Mindfulness training may be one way to help students successfully transition to college life, according to Penn State researchers.

The first semester of college is a time of great transition for many students -- they often are living away from home for the first time, have a much more fluid schedule than in high school and are potentially surrounded by a new peer group. For all of these reasons and more, this can be an incredibly stressful time in a student's life.

To help ease this transition, researchers offered an eight-session mindfulness training program to first-year students at Penn State, according to Kamila Dvorakova, a doctoral Compassion and Caring fellow in the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center and lead author of the study.

In mindfulness meditation, practitioners learn how to develop an accepting, nonjudgmental and kind attitude toward present moment thoughts and feelings, according to the researchers, who presented their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of American College Health.

At the end of the eight sessions, the intervention was associated with significant increases in the students' life satisfaction, as well as a significant decrease in depression and anxiety, when compared to students who did not participate in the training.

There was also an overall drop in alcohol use between the students who took part in the mindfulness program and the control group.

"We offered an experiential, practice-oriented training," said Dvorakova. "Rather than telling the students what to do, we had them explore and talk about how to be mindful in their daily lives and discover the benefits for themselves. We found that underneath the stress that students are experiencing is a deep desire to appreciate life and feel meaningful connections with other people. It is our responsibility as educators to create academic environments that nurture both students' minds and hearts."

Dvorakova and Mark Agrusti, mindfulness and meditation integration specialist, Prevention Research Center, adapted the existing Learning to BREATHE program -- originally developed for adolescents by Patricia C. Broderick, research associate, Prevention Research Center -- for college students and called it Just BREATHE.

The teachings in the eight sessions were themed around the BREATHE acronym: body, reflections, emotions (or awareness), attention, tenderness (or self-compassion), healthy habits and empowerment.

"The beginning of the college career presents such a unique opportunity -- all of these students are going through this same transition at the same time," said Agrusti. "These freshmen are beginning to acquire habits and perceptions that will shape their lives as students and adults, so it's a perfect time for them to discover practices, such as mindfulness, stress management, self-care and emotional literacy skills."

Fifty-two undergraduate students participated in the intervention, with another 53 serving as a control. The program included self-awareness practices, emotion-regulation skills and simple mindfulness techniques to help students manage stressful situations, the researchers said. The participants were also given cards and stickers for home practice to serve as reminders to use mindfulness techniques when they encounter stressful situations.

The students indicated that the three most effective in-class exercises were three mindful breaths, breath awareness and mindfulness of emotions. A total of 98 percent of the participants would recommend the program to friends and classmates.

According to the researchers, future studies might include adding more participants, scheduling long-term follow-ups and integrating mindfulness with academic lessons.

Journal Reference
  • Kamila Dvořáková, Moé Kishida, Jacinda Li, Steriani Elavsky, Patricia C. Broderick, Mark R. Agrusti, Mark T. Greenberg. Promoting healthy transition to college through mindfulness training with first-year college students: Pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of American College Health, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1080/07448481.2017.1278605