~250 Words

Image via TeenLife Blog.
Image via TeenLife Blog.

Drone parents–they’re the helicopter parents with technologically enhanced surveillance capacity–are expanding their territory. In the working world, they’ve been to job fairs and bosses’ offices in the place of grown children. At college, they’ve written term papers and argued with professors on behalf of their offspring. As this parenting style evolves, it’s important to understand how college students are affected when intense over-parenting follows them to campus.

That’s why Jill C. Bradley-Geist and Julie B. Olson-Buchanan conducted an online survey of 482 college students. The survey included questions about parents’ behaviors as well as their own personality, demographics, and GPA. It also provided hypothetical workplace scenarios requiring students to choose how they’d respond to work-related problems.

They found that college students who live at home were more likely to consider themselves “over-parented.” Over-parenting was also more likely among students who consider both their father and their mother to be their primary caregivers, those with fewer siblings, females, and Asian students. Regarding its effects, over-parenting predicted maladaptive workplace behaviors and lower student self-efficacy but was not related to GPA. Parental involvement, in contrast to over-parenting, was positively correlated with intentions to go to graduate school and satisfaction with feedback from professors.

This has important practical implications for higher education and for parents. College visits and orientations could provide guidance about expectations for student autonomy and appropriate parent involvement. Instructors might provide opportunities for practicing “soft skills” like taking accountability and dealing with negative feedback. Parents might rethink the line between involvement and over-involvement, and perhaps forego accompanying their child to lecture.

Read the full article here:

Bradley-Geist, J., & B. Olson-Buchanan, J. (2014). Helicopter parents: an examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students. Education + Training, 56(4), 314-328.


Amy August is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies education, competition, parenting, and sports.

Photo via ed.gov
Photo via Homeroom: The Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Education.

Every year, teachers of different experience levels are placed with particular groups of students, and this can result in the uneven distribution of quality instruction within schools. High-quality teacher instruction yields better educational outcomes for students, and this is especially true for immigrant-origin English Learners (ELs) who rely on teachers for broader cultural socialization. As a result, teacher placement into EL classes matters tremendously for those learners.

To better understand how teachers are placed into EL-designated content courses, Dafney Dabach interviewed 20 teachers, seven administrators, and four EL instructional coaches from seven California high schools with 10-30% EL students. She focused on teachers assigned to both sheltered EL and traditional classrooms because of their ability to compare across contexts.

In general, she finds that less-experienced teachers are more likely to be placed into EL content-area classrooms. In six out of the seven schools, teacher distribution norms were seniority-based. In other words, teachers with more years on-site “get first crack at” what they want to teach, while the newest teachers are “stuck” with classes that others do not want. There were some exceptions: at times administrators intervened with the “seniority-based” process, and occasionally more senior teachers requested EL assignments. But because EL courses were seen as less desirable, newer teachers usually staffed them by default.

According to Dabach, teacher credentialing and education policy also contribute to this pattern. NCLB requires every classroom is staffed by a “highly qualified” teacher. Because California law requires newly issued teaching certificates to include EL endorsements, this means new teachers are automatically considered “highly qualified” to teach EL courses. Their more-experienced colleagues, certified when EL authorization was optional, are less likely to have the endorsement.

You can read the full article here:

Dabach, D. B. (2015). Teacher Placement Into Immigrant English Learner Classrooms: Limiting Access in Comprehensive High Schools. American Educational Research Journal, 52(2), 243-274.


Amy August is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies education, competition, parenting, and sports.

Head Start gives some kids more of a head start than others.
Head Start gives the kids who need it most more of an advantage. Photo by United Inner City Services.

Head Start, the largest federal program serving the developmental needs of low-income American children, has been controversial since its creation in 1965.  There is good evidence that Head Start — on average — improves the school readiness of participants, at least in the short term.  The program also has desirable longer term effects on outcomes like high school graduation, college enrollment, health, and criminal behavior.

However, some Head Start programs may be better than others.  And, some children may be helped by Head Start more than others.  We know much less about differences in the effectiveness of Head Start across centers and across groups of children.

A recent report by Howard Bloom at MDRC and Chistina Weiland at the University of Michigan addresses these two issues.  They use data from the Head Start Impact Study, a nationally representative study that used random assignment to isolate the impacts of Head Start.

The authors found that the effectiveness of Head Start varies substantially across centers, partly because the quality of alternatives to Head Start differs across locations.  They argue that “the ‘value added’ by any Head Start program depends on both the program itself and the quantity and quality of other local options for early child education.”

At the same time, the benefits of Head Start differs across groups of children. For example, children with the weakest cognitive skills and Spanish speaking children are helped most. This results in “a compensatory pattern of program effects that reduced disparities in cognitive outcomes among program-eligible children.”

You can read the full article here:

Howard Bloom, Christina Weiland. 2015. Quantifying Variation in Head Start Effects on Young Children’s Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Skills Using Data from the National Head Start Impact Study. New York: MDRC.



Photo by the Lumina Foundation via Flickr.
Photo by the Lumina Foundation via Flickr.

Women now outnumber men in college enrollment and degree achievement. In 2010 women attained 57% of bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. Latino/a degree attainment follows this trend. In 2009 women achieved 61% of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics. New research by Sarah Ovink explains this success by illustrating how gender and race/ethnicity combine to influence college choices.

Ovink conducted interviews with 50 Latino/a high school seniors planning to attend college. Each student was interviewed three times: during senior year, at graduation, and six months after graduation. While both Latinos and Latinas believe the family’s needs should be privileged over one’s own, their behaviors and beliefs about how college relates to the family differs by gender. Latinos view college as a way to provide for future families. Latinas, on the other hand,  see college as a way for them to provide for their families now. Romantic relationships are seen as a threat to Latinas’ success in college, and similarly, college is understood as a way to achieve independence and avoid bad marriages.

At the time of the third interview, 52% of the women enrolled in 4-year schools, while only 35% of the men did. Thirteen percent of men and 4% of women changed their minds and did not attend college at all. Since Latinas’ autonomy is inextricably linked with their college attainment, many chose 4-year schools because of their belief that bachelor’s degrees produce better results. Latinos expressed no such urgency, as degrees were not viewed as essential to autonomy.

Read the full article here:

Ovink, S. M. 2013. “‘They Always Call Me an Investment’: Gendered Familism and Latino/a College Pathways.” Gender & Society 28(2):265–88.


Allison Nobles is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies gender, sexuality, and violence. Follow me on Twitter @Allison_Nobles.

Let’s turn this ship around!
Let’s turn this ship around!

With increased attention on the harassment and bullying faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students, many educators have struggled with how to address the controversial topics of sexual orientation and gender identity in school settings. Fredman, Schulz, and Hoffman conducted a study to examine the ways in which educators incorporate LGBTQ topics in their curriculum and create inclusive environments for students.

They interviewed public school educators to explore the inclusion of LGBTQ issues in curricular contexts, including educator training, policies and challenges, as well as student, community, parent, and administrator reactions.

Teachers reported that, in determining whether to address LGBTQ curriculum in the classroom, they evaluate two risks: 1) their own energy and capacity to address the issue and 2) professional repercussions. Teachers questioned their energy to deal with the tensions that might arise from students, families, and administrators if they attended to this controversial issue. Additionally, they worried about losing their jobs, especially in locations where teacher unions were weaker. Nonetheless, teachers noted the importance of taking risks to incorporate LGBTQ issues in the curriculum because they viewed it as essential for cultivating a safer environment for all students.

By focusing on safety as a core value, educators felt they could get everyone on board to transform schools into a safe environment for all. To do this, they advocated working within the system to make curricular and policy changes and seeking additional educator training on LGBTQ issues.

Read the full article here:

Fredman, A. J., Schultz, N. J., & Hoffman, M. F. (2015). “You’re Moving a Frickin’Big Ship” The Challenges of Addressing LGBTQ Topics in Public Schools. Education and Urban Society, 47(1), 56-85.


Colleen Rost-Banik is a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota who studies race, gender, and sexuality in education.



Education researchers do less than scholars in other disciplines to seek out media coverage.

Education researchers typically want their work to be read widely. To make a broader and more meaningful impact on the public and on educational practice they often desire media attention. But do the media report on education research, especially high quality research that has been subject to strenuous peer review?

In new research, Holly Yettick of the Education Week Research Center describes how often news media cite evidence from education research that has undergone scientific peer review. She examined all news items that appeared during the first 6 months of 2010 in daily newspapers, online-only outlets, and Education Week. She also interviewed 33 writers who report on education for various news outlets.

What she found will disappoint most education researchers. In contrast to science or medical journalists, education journalists virtually never refer to peer-reviewed education research; nor do they utilize media-related resources provided by organizations like the American Educational Research Association (AERA).  She concludes that “peer-reviewed academic education research and the AERA organization are barely a blip on the radar of American education reporting.”

Why is this true? Yettick argues that education researchers, especially those in universities, do far less than scholars in other disciplines to pro-actively seek out media coverage. She also notes that education research is relatively less well funded; tends to produce more complex results that defy concise explanation; is often perceived as largely subjective; and is scattered in more journals than in fields like medicine. She concludes with recommendations about how to improve this sad situation.

Read the full article here:

Yettick, Holly. “One Small Droplet: News Media Coverage of Peer-Reviewed and University-Based Education Research and Academic Expertise,” Educational Researcher, online March 3, 2015.

penny and leonard
Women with more education than their husbands are more likely to stay married. If only Penny and Leonard had known.

We know that education can influence everything from income to political leanings, but what about marriage markets?

Past studies have suggested that marriages where wives have higher levels of education than their husbands were at greater risk of dissolution. This may reflect prior gender roles and expectations within heterosexual marriages that relegated women to the domestic sphere. With today’s reversal of the gender gap in education, sociologists Christine Schwartz and Hongyun Han reexamined how education could potentially affect current marriage markets. Using various data sets including the National Survey of Family Growth, Schwartz and Han analyzed marriage trends between 1950 and 2004 to see what education trends emerged.

They found that prior to the 1980s, husbands were more likely to have higher levels of education than their wives. Since then, things have changed dramatically: “For couples married in 2005 to 2009, in over 60 percent of couples with different levels of education, wives had more education than their husbands, and there are no signs this trend is slowing.” Additionally, they found that educated women are less likely to have marriages that end in divorce, which likely reflects “shifts in the institution of marriage away from rigid gender specialization and toward more flexible, egalitarian partnerships.”

For education researchers, this study suggests that education – and all the multifaceted values, beliefs, and lifestyles associated with it – may provide a key contribution to shifts towards gender equality and egalitarian partnerships.

Read the full article here:

Christine R. Schwartz and Hongyun Han. 2014. “The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and Trends in Marital Dissolution.American Sociological Review 79(4) 605-629.

Caty Taborda is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies gender, race, health, and the body.


Never fear: curricular complexity has actually increased since the 1970s. Image by The Baltimore Sun’s Read Street.

Are elementary school reading textbooks getting simpler?  Many people sense that something has changed—that the cognitive demands of reading textbooks are different than they used to be.  Is this true?  If so, what has changed?

New research by Penn State educational psychologist Robert J. Stevens and colleagues tackles this question.  They sampled hundreds of 3rd and 6th grade reading textbooks published between 1910 and 2000, and then sampled texts from within them.  For each text, they analyzed its level of difficulty—including the sophistication of the words, the range of vocabulary used, and the complexity of the syntax—and the cognitive demands placed on the reader—including the amount of text readers need to process, the complexity of processing demands, and whether they ask students about high-level ideas.

Early in the 20th century, there were dramatic declines in the level of difficulty and cognitive demands of curricula.  Between about 1930 and 1970, and for reasons the researchers cannot explain, the cognitive demands of reading texts barely changed.  However, after 1970, they observe a fairly consistent increase in the level of difficulty and cognitive demands of texts, especially in 3rd grade.  They attribute this increase to criticisms of classroom instruction, to increased research on reading comprehension, and to changes in the types of reading material featured in texts.

In short: “Contrary to the common assumption of a trend of simplification of the texts and comprehension tasks … the results indicate that curricular complexity … has notably increased since the 1970s.”

Read the full article here:

Stevens, Robert J., Xiaofei Lu, David P. Baker, Melissa N. Ray, Sarah A. Eckert, and David A. Gamson. Forthcoming. “Assessing the Cognitive Demands of a Century of Reading Curricula: An Analysis of Reading Text and Comprehension Tasks From 1910 to 2000.”  American Educational Research Journal 

Image courtesy of good pix gallery.
Image courtesy of good pix galleries.

Public opinion polls have consistently shown that 40 to 45% of Americans do not believe the theory of evolution. This puts high school biology teachers in a pedagogical dilemma: How do they teach the state-mandated science curriculum in the face of conflicting community, student, and personal views about the merits of evolution and creationism? How do biology teachers’ decisions about how to resolve these dilemmas foster pro- or anti-evolution sentiments in the next generation?

According to new research by political scientists Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer, “[h]igh school biology teachers play a crucial role in whether a high school biology course reinforces the scientific consensus or whether it confers legitimacy on creationist perspectives.” Biology teachers differ in whether they portray the science of evolution as controversial, in whether they feel obligated to be “fair” to pro- and anti-evolution perspectives, and in whether they portray religion and science as incompatible.

Where do high school biology teachers learn to walk these fine lines—often inadvertently undermining the validity of the curricular material they present to students? Berkman and Plutzer’s work point to the roles of teachers’ personal values, the depth of their scientific knowledge, their confidence in their scientific training, and their pedagogical philosophy. They also argue that high school biology teachers are not well prepared in their training programs to confidently master relevant scientific material or to help students to work through conflicts between their faith and scientific evidence. The result is an unhappy compromise in the messages students’ receive.

Read the full article here:

Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer. 2015. “Enablers of Doubt: How Future Teachers Learn to Negotiate the Evolution Wars in Their Classrooms.The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 658:253-270


colorblind sameness
Image courtesy of Jimmy for Premise of Ed.

Multicultural education is more than a trend in education, with 40 years of teachers embracing this philosophy. Its aims are to create a learning environment that increases learning for all students and to create equity. This sounds great, but in practice efforts fall short.

To find out how teachers think about and integrate multicultural education into their curriculum, Angelina Castagno conducts a year-long study in an urban school district in Utah. By interviewing teachers and administrators, and observing classes, board meetings, and district-level professional development, her research critiques multicultural classroom practices.

Castagno argues that attempts to incorporate multicultural education occur through what she calls “powerblind sameness” and “colorblind difference.” These effectively reinforce whiteness — “a pervasive ideology justifying dominance of one group over others” — which affirms power and inequality, promotes avoidance of social change, and legitimates the status quo. Many adopt the term “multicultural education” as a description of generally “good” teaching. What actually occurs is that this practice waters down a teaching method intended to disrupt power and transforms it into something palatable, easy, and structurally compliant. As a result, Castagno writes, “There is a tension between what multicultural education should be and what it actually is, and this tension is centrally mediated by whiteness.”

Read the full article here:

Angelina E. Castagno, “Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness”, American Journal of Education, 2013


Monica Saralampi is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies consumption, social movements, stratification/marginalization, gender and sexuality.