On this week's podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and David Griffith discuss President Trump’s education budget. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines the effectiveness of contemporary career academies.
Editor’s note: In addition to his roles at Fordham, the author is Vice President of the Maryland State Board of Education. The views expressed here, however, are his alone.
Maryland prides itself on having high-performing public schools, but the truth is that its primary-secondary education system is failing to prepare far too many children for what follows. On the most recent (2015) National Assessment of Educational Progress, for example, barely one third of the state’s eighth graders were “proficient” or “advanced” in either math or reading. Among African-American youngsters, that key benchmark was reached by fewer than one in five.
Yet lawmakers are on the verge of undermining the best chance the state has had in ages to do something forceful about the schools that have allowed this sad situation to endure. They’re about to prevent the State Board of Education from installing a new school-accountability system that prioritizes pupil achievement and student success, as well as true transparency by which parents can easily tell whether their child’s school is succeeding or failing. Instead, House Bill 978 and Senate Bill 871, now speeding toward enactment, sharply limit the extent to which learning counts, restrict the use of achievement data, forbid the state from “grading” its schools (or intervening in dreadful ones), and give top billing to measures of teacher satisfaction, class size, adult credentials, and other inputs that are dear to the hearts of teacher unions but have woefully little to do with classroom effectiveness. The General Assembly has already killed Governor Hogan’s proposed expansion of the state’s cramped charter school program and is threatening to shrink its tiny voucher program, thereby ensuring that kids stuck in district-run dropout factories won’t have any alternatives. Maryland districts are also famously allergic to public-school choice, save for the occasional magnet.
Supported by the Maryland Department of Education team, the Board has done its utmost over the past year to maximize the benefit to children, parents, and taxpayers in the Old Line State that is newly possible under the federal Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires states to have standards, to test, and to develop a school-accountability system, but gives them much wider leeway to customize these as state education officials see fit, including what measures to use (in addition to test scores and dropout rates) and what to do about persistently failing schools. I was all for ESSA’s devolution of such authority back to the fifty states, but am now living with a vivid, painful example of how federalism can be used to advance adult interests at the expense of students’.
States don’t have total freedom under ESSA, which retains a number of requirements. It demands, for example, that the indicators of academic performance that are used to judge a school must carry “much greater weight” than gauges of “school quality” such as attendance and discipline. But how to interpret “much greater”? It appears that most states are hinging 70 to 90 percent of the school ratings in their accountability systems on academic indicators and 30 percent or less—sometimes as little as 10—on other kinds of data. Our State Board recently determined that 70-30 would be a reasonable allocation for elementary and middle schools, 80-20 for high schools—which enabled us to give substantial weight to graduates’ actual readiness for success in college and careers.
The pending legislation, however, restricts the academic portion to 55 percent, a ratio that may be rejected by the federal Education Department for not honoring the “much greater” requirement and that, if accepted, will likely place Maryland near the bottom in terms of states’ seriousness about student learning.
The same bills will bar the use of a simple A through F grading scale for school performance and block the state’s ability to intervene in even the most persistently disastrous schools. (The state’s sole remaining role will be to “identify” such schools and “collaborate” with districts in planning possible remedies.) Nor can any remedies for such schools interfere with extant union contracts. Instead, the very districts that negotiated those contracts and let their schools decay retain almost exclusive authority over what—if anything—to do about them. The fact that non-wealthy Maryland families have essentially no alternatives to the schools they’re stuck in only worsens the pain.
The Board and Department have bent over backwards for more than a year to engage every conceivable “stakeholder” group in the state in developing the ESSA accountability plan. The General Assembly concocted the pending bills with no input except from education-establishment lobbyists—who are now gloating about their clout. As board president Andy Smarick, State Superintendent Karen Salmon, and I tried (without success) the other day to persuade a key Senate subcommittee—chaired by a longtime teacher union official—to limit the worst damage that these measures will do to the state’s ESSA plan, we observed the union’s lobbyists prevailing on every single material issue. (Had the subject matter been less serious, we could have been amused by the sight of union leaders lobbying their own veteran colleague.)
As a board, we’re charged with looking after the interests of Maryland’s students. The pending legislation attends to the interests of adults. Governor Hogan will surely veto it, as he should, but absent a political lightning bolt, any such veto is almost certain to be overridden by lawmakers who appear to have no interest in whether the state’s schools are actually preparing the state’s children for success in the modern world.
“Son. As a boy growing up in Jamaica, I learnt to be a mon. I was a mon, full-stop. It wasn’t until I came to this country that I realized I was a black man.”
Speaking in the patois of his beloved Caribbean nation, my now deceased father Vincent would often share with me some of the struggles he experienced emigrating to America. He described what it was like to grow up in an island country where success or failure was seen as a result of your individual effort rather than racial group identity, given that virtually everyone in Jamaica was black. He contrasted that to his life in the United States, where he was constantly reminded of what he could not or should not do because of his race.
Indeed, he marveled at how Americans, black or white, obsessed over skin color. There was a certain way to “talk black and act black,” or “talk white and act white.” (Other races didn’t seem to matter.)
My father found it maddening how frequently certain negative behaviors—like committing crime or living in poverty—were equated with being black, even though the raw numbers of non-Hispanic whites in prison or on welfare far exceeded any other racial category.
Even today, whites are the racial group with, by far, the most arrests for violent crimes, and the most number of births to unmarried women. Particularly vexing is the stereotyping of black women as “welfare queens,” when, as Table 1 indicates, whites comprise the largest group collecting SNAP/food stamps at nearly 18 million, more than five million more than the next closest racial group.
Table 1. Participation in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by race and ethnicity of the household head, 2013
Conversely, my dad was shocked at how frequently positive behaviors—like studying hard, being smart, or being a good father—were associated with being white and specifically being not black. As if aspiring to obtain these traits would be a betrayal to the race.
This tendency to primarily see the world through a prism of race, and to associate bad outcomes with being black and good outcomes as exceptions to one’s blackness, is a phenomenon I see regularly repeated by leaders, funders, and researchers in the education reform community.
Like baseball fans who religiously track homeruns and RBIs, education reformers slavishly evaluate academic progress by disaggregating student performance into narrow groupings of race and income level. For example, NAEP results are provided for “groups of students defined by shared characteristics—gender, race/ethnicity, eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch, students with disabilities, English language learners, type of school and location, and highest level of parental education.”
Fair enough. It is important to track student performance by certain groupings, especially for those that have experienced discrimination. Thus the often reported and debilitating mantra of the black-white student achievement gap.
But data that shows differences in black-white achievement doesn't explain why those differences exist. The mere existence of a racial achievement gap between blacks and whites doesn't prove that the gap is caused by structural racism against black students, nor does it support the repulsive notion that black students are inherently inferior to whites.
Yet leaders in education reform consistently make the error of mistaking correlation (differences by race) for causation (differences due to race or racism), completely ignoring other demographic factors—like the explosion in unplanned, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and births—that are too taboo to discuss.
As a result, education reformers and entire networks of public charter schools fixate on closing the “racial achievement gap,” even though the white student standard of accomplishment is itself mediocre at best. To understand the implications of an overemphasis on racial gaps, consider these data from the 2013 and 2015 NAEP reading exams:
On the 2013 NAEP exam in West Virginia, the Schott Foundation Black Boys Report shows that the percentage of black male eighth graders reading at proficiency was 18.7 percent, while the white male eighth grader proficiency rate was 19.7 percent. It would be a Pyrrhic victory if that whopping 1-percentage-point racial achievement gap were closed, but the tragedy still remained that less than one in five black and white eighth grade boys were reading at proficiency.
On the 2015 NAEP exam nationally, fewer than half of all white fourth grade students read at proficiency, meaning that the gap between white student performance of 46 percent and 100 percent proficiency was almost twice the so-called black-white achievement gap. To estimate the raw numbers of fourth grade students by race not reading at proficiency, in Table 2, I pulled final birth data from the CDC’s 2007 National Vital Statistics Reports and paired them with the percentage of fourth grade students who performed at or above the Proficient achievement level in reading on the 2015 NAEP exam.
Table 2. 2015 NAEP 4th grade reading data by race
Estimated Number of 4th Graders in 2015 (A)
Percent of 4th graders at or above the NAEP Proficient level in reading, 2015 (B)
Number of 4th graders NOT reading at grade level by race (A*(100%-B))
My father would no doubt scratch his head to see that more than 1.2 million white fourth graders are not reading at proficiency, far surpassing any other racial group. Yes, whites have higher absolute numbers because they represent a larger percent of the population, but why is the dominant narrative almost exclusively focused on institutional racism when children of all races are not succeeding at reading?
Meanwhile, this obsession with closing the racial achievement gap masks the needs of high-achieving black students who must endure the low expectations of teachers whose growth mindsets have undoubtedly been pummeled by this unrelenting message of black student failure.
These staggering numbers of failed reading proficiency underscore our nation’s massive collective failure to effectively teach literacy and build verbal proficiency across all races. It also shatters the accepted truth that racism is the sole or even primary cause of low proficiency rates among all Americans.
According to the 2015 NAEP, only 34 percent of all American fourth grade students of all races performed at or above the Proficient achievement level in reading. This is as much a crisis now as when A Nation at Risk was published more than three decades ago, warning that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”
What else could be a plausible causal factor to explain why so many American students of all races cannot read at grade level? Notice in the litany of NAEP tracking demographics a glaring omission: the preoccupation with measurement of student performance by race and income level essentially crowds out any other key demographic measure—most notably family structure, despite its overwhelming correlation to a wide range of positive or negative child outcomes, including the number of words heard, vocabulary acquisition, and literacy.
Consider a 2016 MIT research study that assessed the family characteristics and academic, disciplinary, and high school graduation records for more than one million children born in Florida between 1992 and 2002. One of the report’s key conclusions was that “a sizable portion of the documented minority-white difference in educational and behavioral gender gaps is attributable to higher degrees of family disadvantage among minority families.”
Imagine if the National Center for Education Statistics and other researchers were bold enough to begin disaggregating academic outcomes by family structure as loyally as they do by race.
If they did, we would see revealing results like those in Figure 1, which come from a powerful longitudinal study that used data from a nationally representative sample of families and their children, engaging 6,072 individuals, spanning thirty-one cohorts of children born between 1954 and 1985.
Figure 1. The growing schooling gap
Source: Ariel Kalil, Greg J. Duncan and Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, “One-Parent Students Leave School Earlier,” Education Next (Spring 2015) (author’s calculated “based on smoothed time-series data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics).
In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words. As the authors of the study state, “the negative relationship between living with a single parent and educational attainment has increased markedly since . In other words, American children raised in single-parent homes appear to be at a greater disadvantage educationally than ever before.”
Moreover, we would start to see that the underlying conditions undermining academic success and mobility in the black community are now doing the same in the white community. As the New York Times just reported, the recent increase in dysfunctional behavior among non-college white men correlates with the substantial increase in the rate of white nonmarital births, up from 22.2 percent in 1993 to 35.7 percent in 2014. In 1965, the white nonmarital birth rate was 3.4 percent.
I hope my father would be proud of the job my wife and I are now doing to raise a beautiful five-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. We are neither naive nor delusional enough to not prepare them for a world in which they will likely face some form of racial discrimination. But whatever racial discrimination any child may face pales in comparison to the likely consequences for their life if they were to have an unplanned child out of wedlock before the age of twenty-four, or were to leave a child fatherless.
While many of us fight to dismantle the structural barriers of institutional racism, the lives of our children cannot wait. In a world with no guarantees, the greatest power to control their own destiny lies within the personal choices they make every day. The empowering message we must instill in our children is that no one of any race holds dominion over them.
To do our jobs as educators and parents, we must have the courage to turn away from our existing pattern of willful blindness. We must teach our students of all races that there is a sequence of life choices—college, job, marriage, children (in that order)—that will give them and their future children the greatest likelihood of life success.
Greg Richmond at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers recently announced that charter applications have declined 48 percent since 2012. According to his report, the national approval rate has held steady for years, with authorizers approving 35 percent of the applications that they receive. Why are they receiving so many fewer?
This is no trivial matter. “There are still way too many parents waiting for the chance to send their children to a high quality public school of their choice,” writes Susan Aud Pedagrass at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in a recent blog post. Many existing charters have waiting lists. Lottery-based admissions—so memorably depicted in the film Waiting for Superman—still yield tearful faces. Why is this once-so-vibrant movement now struggling to meet the obvious demand?
One key problem is overregulation. This issue may represent the biggest threat to the charter sector today because it undermines its ability to offer distinctive, high-quality options to students and families with differing needs and preferences. If charter entrepreneurs are compelled to deliver the same one-size-fits-all education as other public schools, why start new charters at all? To confront the magnitude of this challenge, consider Arkansas, where I was a charter operator from 2011 to 2016.
The Arkansas State Board of Education authorizes the state’s open-enrollment charters. Since each is its own “local education agency,” charters report directly to the Arkansas Department of Education much like traditional districts. To gain autonomy from state laws and rules, charters request specific waivers, but the state is reluctant to approve these.
In 2013, lawmakers created a Charter Authorizing Panel as the oversight body for open-enrollment charters. It comprises the Department’s deputy commissioners—meaning that charter schools report directly to the officials who oversee statewide reporting for district schools, too. The Panel’s decisions can be appealed to the State Board, but only under exceptional circumstances.
374 separate reports and nine reporting systems…really?
In 2014–15, Arkansas charters were each expected to submit 374 separate reports as part of the standard compliance calendar. Even when a school had waivers, it was still required to complete all reports; never mind whether they apply to its activities. Each time a submission is made, the school leader must attest to its legal completeness and accuracy. Incomplete reporting can result in delays in state payments to the school or other penalties. As part of the reporting load, charters must navigate at least 4 and as many as 6 major reporting events every year, including (but not limited to) the following:
Major reporting events
Independent audits of finance and reporting compliance
Arkansas Consolidated School Improvement Plans (ACSIP)
Annual parent involvement plans
Charter amendment requests, including changes in facility locations
Accreditation standards reviews
Nutrition reporting audits
Charter renewal applications.
Each of these events requires thirty to eighty hours of labor from school administrators depending on the level of state scrutiny. At the start of the 2014–15 school year, charter administrators were required to attend twelve state-administered trainings over a five-month period, thus compelling key school administrators to be off-site for nineteen days. To fulfill all these obligations, the State required charters to input their reporting data into nine separate reporting systems. Due to the lack of cross-platform functionality, manual entry had to be done into eight of the nine systems. If charters have their own knowledge management systems, they must make duplicate entry into them. Burdensome? It gets worse.
Thirteen monitoring bodies
Arkansas charters are monitored by thirteen different units spread over four state agencies. Each unit has its own primary contacts and deliverables, as described below:
Field Liaisons for Student & Financial Information. Finance directors meet with them biweekly on accounting and student information entry.
Charter Schools Office. School directors interact with representatives monthly to arrange site visits, charter reviews, and respond to inquiries from parents, employees, or the public.
Division of Learning Services. Charters administer state-required special education tests, early childhood tests, language acquisition tests, and state proficiency tests, on which they’re accountable for meeting state-determined annual targets.
Office of Educator Effectiveness. Charters report on HR requirements including teacher licensing, staff qualifications and evaluations, and professional growth plans. Arkansas charters must comply with most certification requirements.
School Nutrition Unit. Charters meet strict federal and state nutrition guidelines.
Standards & Accreditation Unit. Charters post required reports and disclosures to their website, including teacher salary schedules and contracts. They demonstrate compliance with over one hundred regulations.
Fiscal & Administrative Services. Charters submit their budgets, monthly financial statements, and meet to respond to special accounting requests.
Office of School Improvement. Charters demonstrate that they are using federal funds to meet students’ remedial needs within tight guidelines and according to a state-approved school improvement plan.
Charter Authorizing Panel. Charters appear before the Charter Authorizing Panel to seek changes in location, make charter amendment requests, seek charter renewal, and defend their waivers.
State Legal Counsel. Charters seek legal approval of long-term debt obligations, including copier leases, facilities financing, and any loan financing beyond a year.
Teacher Retirement. Charters participate in the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System.
Employee Benefits Division. Charters participate in the state health insurance plan.
Legislative Audit Committee. Independent audits of charter finances are subject to legislative review. Significant findings result in live hearings before a panel of state legislators.
These thirteen bodies actively monitor, review, and audit all of the electronic and paper reporting that charters do over the academic year.
In 2011, Arkansas lawmakers began requiring all public schools, including charters, to implement a standardized teacher evaluation and professional development program. The average charter school with 475 students would employ thirty-five teachers. Following the evaluation process requires a minimum 195 hours of time from the school principal and director of curriculum.
Total reporting load
In addition to state requirements, charters are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings law, IRS 990 reporting, and corporate filings with Arkansas’s Secretary of State. They must cooperate with the fire marshal, police department, and Department of Human Services on such issues as safety, custody disputes, and child abuse.
For a school with 475 students, the total estimated salary cost for charter administrators to meet the standard state reporting obligations in 2014-15 was $370,305, or 10.3 percent of public operating revenue (at $7,600 per pupil). That is the time necessary for administrators, such as the curriculum director, dean of students, principal, finance director, executive director and office manager, to manually enter data, prepare reports, confirm reporting accuracy, and complete other reporting tasks. In other words, charters were required to spend a tenth of their budget on reporting rather than instruction.
But the dollar cost isn’t the biggest challenge; it’s the loss of precious time serving students and families. In 2014–15, administrators at an Arkansas charter school spent an estimated 1,431 hours, which equates to 179 full-time days, just completing reports. And that’s without taking into account the time associated with supporting the school’s governing board. While a school’s leadership team is completing these tasks, it is forfeiting the time needed to build relationships with students and parents, handle behavior issues, support teachers in their classrooms, supervise transition periods, and otherwise improve school performance. This is particularly problematic in underserved communities where students and families have more intensive needs.
Arkansas is not unusual. In a recent article, Joey Gustafson reported that 90 percent of charter authorizers are traditional school districts or state departments of education. Only 10 percent are higher education institutions, independent chartering boards, non-profits, or municipalities.
Authorizers have the power to impose reporting requirements that dictate every major aspect of what charter schools do. When their compliance mandates force conformity with regular district schools, they defeat the very purpose of chartering, which is to provide a variety of high-quality, distinctive options to learners and families with differing needs and preferences. One size does not fit all!
Yet the scale and burden of overregulation are easily overlooked. No national watchdog produces a rigorous tally of the reporting burden across cities and states so that charter operators can properly account for this issue when choosing where to open new schools. Because reporting practices vary by state and authorizer, charter operators face an inordinate amount of complexity when expanding across jurisdictions. Frequently, charter founders are not properly trained on the reporting load and therefore must learn on the job, which compounds the difficulty of executing an effective school startup.
Charter opponents understand only too well that overregulation is a lethal tool. Last week, for instance, an L.A. Times article reported that the Los Angeles teachers union introduced a bill to regulate charters more heavily. If overregulation isn’t fixed, it won’t just stifle the charter sector’s growth. It will erode the performance and sustainability of existing schools because they’ll gradually lose the capacity to perform in a flexible, responsive fashion.
Solutions to Overregulation
The problem of overregulation is real, but it can be remedied. Ideas include:
Charter-Specific Authorizers. Some states have created authorizers that specialize in overseeing charters and have discouraged traditional education departments and districts from authorizing. Examples include the DC Public Charter School Board and the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools. This moves charters under a separate system of oversight for state and federal reporting, a system that can support a variety of distinctive options.
Single Point of Contact. State departments and districts seeking to oversee their charters efficiently and well can create specialized teams as a single point of contact for schools, empower those teams to manage all aspects of reporting, and provide them with the authority and resources to implement better reporting systems.
Advanced Management Systems. Powerful knowledge management systems, such as Epicenter and Illuminate, span many different functions once performed by multiple reporting systems. These systems minimize the need for manual entry and support more agile information retrieval, analysis, and reporting. They have the capacity to support authorization in ways that are less burdensome to schools.
Any solution starts with recognizing that charter schools can only reinvent public education if they operate outside of the traditional system. The best people to build great charter schools, district charter portfolios, and statewide charter sectors are visionary educators and reform-minded entrepreneurs passionate about enabling charters to fulfill their distinct missions. Now that the charter movement has come through twenty-five years of development, there are many such seasoned professionals with the real-world knowledge and field experiences to redesign reporting systems from the ground up. If done properly, these systems could free up precious resources to support higher levels of performance instead of removing the operating autonomy and flexibility so fundamental to charter success.
Benjamin J. Lindquist has spent twenty-two years as a charter school operator, venture philanthropist, and grant-maker. You can email him at [email protected].
In this report, the authors use administrative data from California to estimate the impact of suspensions on high school graduation rates, as well as the broader social costs of suspension.
According to the authors, the graduation rate for suspended students in California is 60 percent versus 83 percent for non-suspended students. However, as the authors note, much of this difference is likely explained by factors other than suspension. After controlling for several such factors, including GPA and low socio-economic status, the authors estimate that being suspended in high school reduces a student’s odds of graduating by 6.5 percentage points.
Unfortunately, like many similar estimates from previous suspension studies, this one most likely suffers from “omitted variable bias” insofar as the authors are unable to control for all of the factors that might make students both more likely to be suspended and less likely to graduate. And as in many of those prior studies, at least one omitted variable is fairly obvious: the same behavioral challenges (like poor impulse control) that make students more likely to misbehave might also make them less likely to graduate. Yet scholars lack access to data that tells them which students struggle with such challenges.
This is a well-known problem. So it’s unfortunate that the authors chose not to acknowledge it in the paper.
Worse, even though their estimate of the impact of suspensions is probably inflated by unobserved differences between kids, they nevertheless use it to estimate the economic costs of suspension.
According to the authors, “a single non-graduate generates $175,120 in fiscal taxpayer losses and $579,820 in social losses over his or her lifetime.” Thus, since their estimates imply that 4,621 students a year fail to graduate from high school as a result of suspensions, they conclude that suspensions in California “result in fiscal losses to taxpayers of $809 million over their working lifetimes (from age 18 to 65) and social losses of $2.679 billion.” These numbers are, at best, speculative. Moreover, since (as the authors admit) the report doesn’t take outcomes for non-suspended peers into account, even if they were credible they would only tell part of the story.
Needless to say, all of this is pretty frustrating if you’re a “no excuses” aficionado (or just a lonely suspension skeptic in search of a fact-based discussion, but I digress). While it is true, as the authors observe, that there is “no research-based justification for the frequent use of suspensions,” the case against them is weaker than advocates have led themselves to believe.
It’s that time of year when many of us are searching desperately for a local Girl Scout troop in order to buy some cookies. (Helpful hint: It’s super easy to find a cookie booth near you.) But the Girl Scouts aren’t just the bearers of thin mint goodness—the organization also has a research arm, which recently published The State of Girls 2017, an examination of national and state-level trends related to the health and well-being of American girls.
The report analyzes several indicators including demographic shifts, economic health, physical and emotional health, education, and participation in extracurricular/out-of-school activities. Data were pulled from a variety of national and governmental sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends were analyzed from 2007 through 2016.
American girls are growing more racially and ethnically diverse along with the rest of the country’s population. The report notes that the percentage of white school-age girls (ages five to seventeen) decreased from 57 percent in 2007 to 51 percent in 2016. Meanwhile the percentage of Hispanic/Latina girls increased from 20 to 25 percent while the percentage of Black girls decreased from 15 to 14 percent. Approximately 26 percent of all school-age girls are first- or second-generation immigrants, up from 23 percent in 2007. 34 percent of girls live in single-parent homes, and 41 percent of girls live in low-income families. Both these percentages are slightly higher than they were in 2007.
For girls’ physical and emotional health, there’s both good news and bad. Most risky behaviors—such as smoking cigarettes and alcohol use—have declined. Fewer girls report being bullied, though there has been a slight increase in the number of girls who report being victims of cyberbullying. But there’s worrisome data surrounding emotional health: In 2015, 23 percent of high school girls reported seriously considering suicide, compared to 19 percent in 2007. The rate was highest among ninth-graders (27 percent). In addition, approximately 13 percent of low socioeconomic-status girls reported being depressed compared to 9 percent of more affluent girls. The report’s authors concluded that these data demonstrate the need for “better mental health assessments and interventions for youth in schools and communities.”
Speaking of school, the data related to high school completion and reading and math proficiency should already be familiar to those in the education world. The high school dropout rate has decreased for girls, but it’s significantly higher among low-income girls than among their higher income peers—6 percent compared to 2 percent, respectively. Using NAEP as its basis, the report also notes that although reading and math proficiency has generally improved for girls, achievement gaps based on race and income persist.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this report are the data on extracurricular and out-of-school activities. It’s a widely accepted fact that enrichment and extracurricular opportunities matter. Unfortunately, consistent school athletic participation is significantly lower for low-income girls: 17 percent participated regularly, compared to 31 percent of higher income girls. And it’s not just sports, either. Low-income girls also have lower levels of extracurricular participation in areas like community affairs or volunteer work and student council/government.
These statistics on America’s girls serve as a solid reminder that schools and nonprofit groups have a big role to play in ensuring that all young women have the opportunity to succeed.
On this week's podcast, Mike Petrilli, Alyssa Schwenk, and David Griffith discuss President Trump’s education budget. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines the effectiveness of contemporary career academies.