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Education News From Around the Nation

November/December 2008

Are We Prepared?

Studies Show We Aren’t Ready for Another Katrina

Three years after Hurricane Katrina, many U.S. schools still aren’t prepared for disaster, says a report commissioned by Save the Children. “More than 90 percent of our nation’s children live in areas at risk of some type of disaster,” said Mark Shriver, vice president and managing director of Save the Children’s U.S. programs. “Yet only four states have set basic standards for child-care facilities, and 18 states are still behind in setting minimum emergency preparedness standards for schools.” This lack of planning can yield potentially dire results. “In the event of an unexpected disaster,” the report states, “minutes lost due to panic and confusion can have a profound impact on the safety of children and staff.”

The report represents a challenge to states to review their emergency preparation plan, says Shriver. Minimum standards must include maintaining written disaster plans and conducting regular evacuation drills. Schools should designate relocation sites and develop reunification plans for children and families. They should also develop a set of emergency procedures tailored to children with special needs.

Research Roundup

Generation Remediation.
According to research by the Strong American Schools project, one third of students entering college must take remedial classes. The kicker? Four out of five of these students had a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher, and half described themselves as “good students who worked hard and nearly always completed their assignments.”

Support for Pre–K
Quality preschool programs can raise achievement test scores while lowering grade repetition and special education enrollment. That’s the conclusion of a joint report from the University of Colorado and Arizona State University. While preschool can help all students, the report finds that economically disadvantaged children benefit the most. Download the report.

Unexcused Absences
Researchers at Columbia University say that one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students will miss more than a month of school this year, putting them at a significant educational disadvantage. According to their findings, it’s not negligence that will keep most of these kids at home: Low-income families often lack resources that help ensure regular attendance, such as food, transportation, the social support. Says researcher Hedy N. Chang, “We can work together early on to ensure families get their children to class consistently or we can pay later ... when problems are more difficult and costly to fix.” Read more.

Commercialism on Campus
he seemingly ever-expanding marketing practices “reach into the lives of children and follow them to school,” says a study released by Arizona State University. It finds that “the boundary between advertising and editorial content is becoming less distinct,” and that, wittingly or not, consumers are becoming “agents and collaborators” in marketing. While the report acknowledges a reaction against the most crass forms of marketing on campus, it anticipates an expansion in less obtrusive commercial-school “partnerships.” Read the full report.

Young at Home When They Should Be in School
Many districts tackle truancy by sweeping their communities, looking for kids engaged in loitering, shoplifting, or vandalism. But that’s only part of the truancy issue plaguing our nation. The other part is that one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students will miss a month or more of school this year.

Chronic early absenteeism has been largely overlooked in the U.S., says a report issued by The National Center for Children. But attention must be paid. Students who do not attend kindergarten perform worse academically in the first grade, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Families living in poverty, however, have fewer resources to help their children make up for lost learning time. Among poor children, chronic absence in kindergarten predicts the lowest level of achievement by the end of fifth grade.

Family circumstances significantly affect a child’s attendance. So what can you do? Reach out to families, says the nccp. Educate parents about the importance of attendance. Engage families of all backgrounds in their children’s education. For families in crisis, coordinate assistance among public agencies. Although controversial, some districts offer parents stipends for bringing their kids to school.

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