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Education Rundown: Sleep Helps Students; Racial Achievement Gap Persists

(via Wikimedia Commons)

Once a week, our team of education reporters would like to share stories that look at trends in education here and across the country. In particular, we want to focus on people, research and even gizmos that may help make kids learn better.

Snooze button

Here's some research that won't be news to all of those transfer students who have had to get up before the sun to catch buses this school year: Teens need more sleep and early start times for class are harmful to their physical and academic health. The Education Commission of the States says in a new study that "there is virtually unanimous agreement in the research community that later start times in adolescent education would produce a positive change in adolescent learning, health and safety."

On school days, researchers found, students can lose as much as an average of 2.7 hours of sleep. At the Air Force Academy, data showed that the earlier students began classes, the worse they did in those classes, and their achievement suffered in all of the classes they took later in that same day. And more sleep helped things at home as well. Research among students and families in Minneapolis showed that when classes started later, families had more conversation time and their high schoolers were easier to live with. (Dale Singer)

Happy graduation

Looking for that perfect gift for your graduate as commencement season approaches? Why not consider what a project at MIT will be giving every undergraduate student this fall — $100 in Bitcoin.

Sure, you may be like everyone else and not be able to explain exactly what Bitcoin is, or how it can be used. But that didn’t stop a pair of MIT students who managed to raise $500,000 for their Bitcoin Project. The website Fast Company explains that most of the money came from MIT graduates. After the new currency is distributed, the project plans to study how students use it and how their spending affects the university. Founder Dan Elitzer said that “we expect the broader ecosystem and focus on Bitcoin at MIT that it helps create will continue for many years to come.” (Dale Singer)

In loco parentis

A new report from the American Association of University Women says that more women than ever before are choosing community colleges to get an education and training for the workforce. But, it adds, within six years after they first sign up for classes, nearly half of those students leave school without a degree. One big reason: a lack of child care. The report says that even though a greater number of student-mothers are enrolling at community colleges, only 49 percent of the schools provide on-site child care, compared with 57 percent of four-year public schools and 9 percent of four-year private schools. The report calls for Congress to put more money into a federal program known as CCAMPIS — Campus Child Care Means Parents in School. (Dale Singer)

Taken to the cleaners?

Pity the poor students at Davidson College in North Carolina. Since 1920, they have been able to take advantage of a free, full-service laundry on campus, where they could drop off their dirty clothes and pick them up all clean, folded and wrapped — or in the case of dress shirts, on hangers. The laundry was named after Lula Bell Houston, who worked there for 57 years. But the college says it is now "aligning its resources to meet educational priorities within the changing landscape of higher education." Translation: No more free full-service laundry, starting May 15, 2015. But don't expect students to have to start going grubby. They still have free self-service laundry facilities on campus to keep themselves looking sharp. (Dale Singer

Feds remind schools of obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status

Even though the path toward immigration reform remains murky on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Department of Justice updated rules that school districts must follow when it comes to educating children regardless of immigration status.  Civil rights groups say the revised rules, which provide specific examples that administrators must follow, will prevent discrimination against school age children.  The U.S. Department of Education says it’s received 17 complaints since 2011 that districts were raising barriers to student enrollment because of immigration status.  That's illegal under the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doe

A letter to administrators acknowledges that schools can ask for proof of residency in a district, but that documents can’t unlawfully bar students from going to school.

While a district may restrict attendance to district residents, inquiring into students’ citizenship or immigration status, or that of their parents or guardians would not be relevant to establishing residency within the district.

The updated rules also include a question and answer document for administrators.  The fact sheet that accompanies the new rules notes that all children are entitled to equal access to basic public education, regardless of immigration status.

(Tim Lloyd)  

The racial gap in education achievement isn’t getting any smaller

Despite the upward trajectory of overall student achievement in America, the gap between minority and white high school students is wide and steady.  That finding is part of the nation’s report card from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

In a statement, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the results troubling.

We project that our nation’s public schools will become majority-minority this fall – making it even more urgent to put renewed attention into the academic rigor and equity of course offerings and into efforts to redesign high schools.  We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools, and as nation, we must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students.

The report found that African American and Hispanic students had gains in the percentage scoring at or above proficient level on standardized tests, but those gains didn’t make the achievement gap slimmer as overall student success improved.  The report card from the federal government is issued for high school students every four years and every two years for fourth through eighth grade students.  

(Tim Lloyd)

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.
Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.

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