USDA Publishes Toolkit for Farm-to-School Grant Program: USDA publishes the Farm to School Planning Toolkit, a handy guide to help schools and nonprofits interested in setting up a program or winning funding from the $5 million Farm-to-School Grant Program (CFDA Number: 10.575). The toolkit guides users through 11 different farm-to-school topics with helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when digging into farm to school planning. The toolkit is designed for use by schools, school districts, and community partners. The next round of grants is to open in February.
Fewer Students Dropped Out Last Year: Just 7% of the nation’s 18-to-24 year olds dropped out of high school last year, continuing a steady decline in the nation’s dropout rate since 2000, when 12% dropped out, reports the Pew Charitable Trust. The decline has been driven in part by substantially fewer Hispanic and black youth dropping out. Although Hispanics still have the highest dropout rate among all major racial and ethnic groups, it reached a record low of 14% in 2013, compared with 32% in 2000. The decline is particularly noteworthy since it comes as the Hispanic youth population is growing. The dropout rate for blacks was also at a record low in 2013 (8%), falling by nearly half since 2000 (15%). Among non-Hispanic white youth, the dropout rate has also declined since 2000 to 5% in 2013. Asian youth continue to be the major racial group with the lowest high school dropout rate (4% in 2013).
Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: A new DoEd report explores implementation of the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) in the first two years after Congress reauthorized it. The scholarships allow disadvantaged students to transfer to private DC schools on the government’s tab. Key findings include: just over half of all DC private schools participated in the OSP, with current schools more likely to have published tuition rates above the OSP scholarship amounts; and OSP applicants represent between 3-4% of the estimated 53,000 children in DC who meet the eligibility criterion. The study also found that a number of awarded scholarships go unused, with students from disadvantaged schools and families using awarded scholarships at lower rates than others.
Study Finds School District Superintendents are Short-Timers: A new report from the Brookings Institution is the first broad study to examine whether district effects on student learning are due to the superintendent in charge. Analyzing student-level data from Florida and North Carolina for 2000 to 2010, the authors found that being a superintendent is usually a short-term job. The typical superintendent stays three to four years, and student achievement does not improve with longevity of superintendent service. Hiring a new superintendent is also not associated with higher student achievement. In all, superintendents account for a small fraction (0. 3%) of student differences in achievement. Individual superintendents who have an exceptional impact on student achievement cannot be reliably identified. Ultimately, the authors conclude that when district academic achievement improves or deteriorates, the superintendent is likely to play a part in which his or her role could be filled successfully by many others.
Special Ed Program Effective in Improving Behavior: Fast Track, a school intervention program designed to reduce conduct problems for at-risk children, was found to have potentially positive effects on emotional behavior, reading, and social outcomes, a DoEd report finds. Prior to first grade, students are identified as being at risk for long-term antisocial behavior. Services are provided through 10th grade. Delivery of the program begins in the first grade and continues through tenth grade. After the first year, the frequency of the supports is reduced based on the assessed functioning of the students and their families.