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Research Center

History, geography, economics, civics and government subjects included beneath the "social studies" umbrella are defined in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation as core subjects. But "social studies is getting short shrift in the classroom as teachers and administrators focus almost exclusively on achievement test results in math and reading," claims the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).

Helping English language learners (ELLs) succeed and stay in school is a challenge faced by many schools and districts striving to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind act. This challenge becomes acute in secondary schools, where the emphasis shifts from learning basic literacy skills to applying those skills to learn academic content. Students who have not mastered English must perform "double the work of native English speakers," according to a 2007 report published by the Carnegie Corporation.

An examination of existing research indicates that an increase in classroom thinking may improve student mathematics achievement. The 1999 TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) found cognitive demand to be a key difference between mathematics instruction in the countries posting higher scores. The American Educational Research Association (AERA) explains in its fall 2006 Research Points that two types of cognitive demand are associated with student performance on achievement tests. The first has to do with the number and kind of mathematics courses taken.

According to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), average sci-ence scores compared to 2006, have made slow progress at Grade 4, come to a standstill at Grade 8, and lost ground at Grade 12.

What kinds of school-family connections are more likely to produce higher levels of student achievement? K12 educators are asking this as they implement various school-family-community involvement programs to comply with the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB). Fortunately, educational research offers insights and direction for school districts. For example, researchers Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp recently synthesized 51 high-quality studies on parent and community involvement, 31 of which address relationships between student achievement and parent-community involvement activities.

Can studying a second language in elementary school boost student achievement in other academic areas? Numerous studies suggest that this may be the case. Yet even though NCLB identifies foreign language as a core subject, only about a fourth of U.S. public elementary schools report teaching foreign languages, and most of these schools provide only introductory courses. Fewer than half of all U.S. high school students are studying a foreign language. Meanwhile, administration of a National Assessment for Educational Progress test for foreign language has been put on hold.

NCLB classifies the arts as a core academic subject to be taught by highly qualified teachers. K-12 standards for dance, music, theater and visual arts education were developed in 1994 by the Consortium of National Arts Education Association. A 2005 Harris Poll found strong public support for the arts (see box). So the arts should be high on every district's priority list-at least, that's the message implied in recent national reports.

We know how to design buildings for minimal heat loss, says Professor Stephen Hempell, but "no one knows how to prevent learning loss." Hempell isn't being pessimistic, and he is well aware of research showing that physical variables such as air quality, temperature and noise can have an effect on learning.

The latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the percentage of children who are overweight has more than doubled since 1980. Among adolescents, the rates have more than tripled.

This trend does not bode well for the future health of today's schoolchildren. Those who are overweight are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing their risk of type II diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, some cancers and other serious medical conditions.

Six in 10 U.S. high schools offer at least one Advanced Placement class, and a growing number of students are signing up. College Board president Gaston Caperton speaks of the AP program as "an anchor for increasing rigor in our schools and reducing the achievement gap." Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings calls it a "critical tool" in raising student achievement.