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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
News in Brief
Harvard study shows the dangers of early school enrollment Children are going to school at younger and younger ages and are spending more time in school than ever before. At an early age, they are increasingly required to learn academic content that may be well above their developmental capability. Research shows that pushing early literacy can do more harm than good. Today, children are regularly labeled with a reading delay and prescribed various interventions to help them catch up. If they are found to be not listening to the teacher, daydreaming, or squirming, young children often earn an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) label and, with striking frequency, are administered potent psychotropic medications. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 11 percent of children ages four to seventeen have been diagnosed with ADHD, and that number increased 42 percent from 2003–2004 to 2011–2012, with a majority of those diagnosed placed on medication. One-third of these diagnoses occured in children under age six. New findings by Harvard Medical School researchers confirm that it’s not the children who are failing, it’s the schools we place them in too early. These researchers discovered that children who start school as among the youngest in their grade have a much greater likelihood of getting an ADHD diagnosis than older children in their grade. In fact, for the U.S. states studied with a 1 September enrollment cut-off date, children born in August were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older peers. The study’s lead researcher at Harvard, Timothy Layton, concludes: “Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school” (Foundation for Economic Education, 30 November 2018).???? Global politics takes heavy toll on international enrollment in U.S. Global political tensions and fears of violence have taken a significant toll on international enrollment at the University of Missouri (MU), where over the past five years enrollment of foreign students has dropped 35 percent, from 2,505 to 1,632. The issue is not confined to MU, however, with colleges and universities around the U.S. facing a difficult recruiting atmosphere. Graduate student enrollment has seen a dramatic decrease as well. Though the U.S. has been a prime higher education destination for international students, many are now weighing other options. “Some international students were hesitant to apply at U.S. institutions,” said Dawn Whitehead, vice president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, who relayed their concern about whether they would be welcome and cited the increased difficulty in securing visas (Missourian, 29 October 2019). How to flip an entire school day Flipping the classroom is no longer enough, according to Bob Harris, president of Edudexterity, who is currently working as the head of human resources for Pittsburgh’s school district. It’s time to flip the entire high school day, in his view, allowing students to gain a variety of real work experiences that will, in turn, give them a deeper appreciation for their potential directions in life. In Harris’s model, students would start their day at 9 a.m. by reporting to a workplace that could rotate every semester or year. After working half a day, they would then break for lunch and head to school to do their extracurricular activities and collaborate with fellow students on projects. Finally, in the evenings, students would take their classes online from home. Only about 20 percent of teens hold a job today, compared to a generation ago when 40 percent did. Flipping the school day would give students a better sense of how their learning is connected to their potential careers after school (www.christenseninstitute.org, 10 October 2019). Desperate to fill shortages, U.S. schools are hiring teachers from overseas Across the U.S., schools are hemorrhaging teachers while fewer college graduates enter the profession. In 2018, the country had an estimated shortage of 112,000 teachers, according to the Learning Policy Institute. Arizona alone had 7,000 teacher vacancies going into this year, said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association. Some of those vacancies were filled by people who don’t have a standard teaching certificate, he said. Others were plugged by long-term substitutes, contracted agencies, or teachers who must add an additional course to their day. Some schools are hiring teachers from half a world away. Casa Grande Union High hired several Filipino teachers using J-1 visas. The average starting pay for teachers in Arizona is about US$36,300. While that salary may seem paltry for many Americans, Filipino teachers like Noel Que say their jobs in the U.S. are much more lucrative than back home, allowing them to live better. Que, like other Filipino teachers at his school, lives with roommates to cut down on expenses (CNN, 6 October 2019). Student background should be considered in ranking U.K. schools, study shows A Bristol University report says that more details about students’ backgrounds should be taken into account when compiling data for secondary school league tables in England, including factors such as ethnicity, free meals, and special needs. The study found that adjusting for these background factors would improve the ranking of a fifth of schools by over 500 places. Around half (51 percent) of schools judged to be “underperforming” against current accountability measures would move out of this category (BBC News, 29 October 2019). Record number of colleges stop requiring the SAT and ACT Critics of the SAT and ACT tests have long argued that they reflect income more than ability, and the “Varsity Blues” admission scandal reinforced the idea that the tests can be gamed by families with enough money. In the interest of leveling the playing field, one in four institutions in the U.S. no longer requires these test scores for admission. They have lost their luster as a common yardstick, according to experts, who cite the tutoring that wealthy families can afford, extra time their kids are more likely to get, and the prevalence of cheating. The University of Chicago created a stir by making these tests optional last year; it reported a record enrollment this fall of first-generation, low-income, and rural students, along with veterans. Forty-one schools have jettisoned the requirement in the last year alone, the largest number ever. A recent analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce suggests that the 200 most selective colleges and universities in the country already look at more than candidates’ standardized test scores. It found that, if SAT and ACT results had been the sole basis for admission, 53 percent of students who were accepted wouldn’t have gotten in. More than 1,000 accredited bachelor’s-degree-granting higher ed institutions now allow prospective students to decide whether or not to submit standardized test scores with their applications (PBS NewsHour, 9 October 2019).
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