The Condition of Education 2012

Every year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes another volume of The Condition of Education. Each volume covers educational issues of interest for the past year, and addresses what I consider fascinating data. Tables and graphs abound, and explanations are clear and unbiased. Want to know the dropout rate this year in comparison to that of 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Want to know how many of them finished college? If the graph is not in this issue, check last year’s. Want graphic depictions of the growth of certain ethnic populations? In any two consecutive volumes, the data are provided as charts, as graphs, as tables, as trending plots–whatever works best for a given reader is right there. Want to know what kids who were in preschool 16 years ago are doing now? There’s a graph for that–along with a table, a breakdown activities, comparisons of family SES at the time, etc.

The minute I am in a position to advise a graduate student on where to start for information on an educational issue, I have them go to NCES and check the latest Condition of Education. Now, most graduate students fear statistics. However, there is so much information provided in graphic form in these volumes, that the reader can easily forget that he or she is “reading” statistics. If more information is needed, there are reports using more sophisticated analysis methods that are available for use in conjunction with or independent of the Condition of Education. I’ve been a regular visitor to and user of the NCES web information for years. This is not just a site to which I send students; it is my own starting point for information relating to any level of education and any topic related to these levels.

Very little of the information in any issue of the Condition of Education is analyzed beyond “descriptive statistics,” giving averages, standard scores, percentiles, proportions, and various measure of reliability. However, that’s a lot of information right there. Plus, NCES gives access to the databases represented by the information so that further analyses can be performed by interested parties.

So. Here we have open access to incredible amounts of information representing not only education but also basic population trends (the Condition of Education always includes census data, data from other government departments–such as labor, and even international data). Yet, media often report on educational issues without background checks for their data, as though the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the agency that oversees NCES data, had no data to share. The same goes for many academic “reporters” on educational issues and education researchers. Yet, here is a rich site of information that is just waiting to be exploited. And the information covers anything even vaguely related to education.

Here is the description of the newest volume that just came out last week:

The Condition of Education 2012 summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data. The report presents 49 indicators on the status and condition of education, in addition to a closer look at high schools in the United States over the past twenty years.. The indicators represent a consensus of professional judgment on the most significant national measures of the condition and progress of education for which accurate data are available. The 2012 print edition includes indicators in three main areas: (1) participation in education; (2) elementary and secondary education and outcomes; and (3) postsecondary education and outcomes.

Interested in learning more? Here is the link to The Condition of Education 2012.

Check it out!!

And while you’re there, browse the other publications–both printed and electronic–that’s available to you for free. Remember: if you request hard-copy publications, you don’t even pay a postage fee.


Meanwhile, if the link above does not work, copy and paste the following URL into your browser.


Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002/12) Third Follow-Up Field Test Report

Are you interested in research? Or just want to be the first to know what’s been happening to U.S. students who were high school sophomores in 2002? The ELS:2002/12 third follow-up report was just released, and has lots of answers about this cohort. Just click on the link below to go directly to the NCES official publication site.

Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002/12) Third Follow-Up Field Test Report.


Who Writes the Class Rules?

Who makes the rules in your classroom?

In the majority of classrooms, teachers allow the school rules to prevail, perhaps adding one or two that are specific to the group of students in the class. There are usually so many rules that they are typed out on a single sheet of 8.5 X 11 (sometimes 8.5 X 14!!) paper, in a small font, and tacked onto a bulletin board. Some teachers, realizing that no one can see them, duplicate the lists so that each child has his or her own copy to keep in a binder. Some of the rules are so trite that it is clear they were individualized. So when the teacher scolds a child and tells him/her that a rule has been broken, the student may have trouble discovering exactly which one (or two, or three).

Students are generally pretty aware of acceptable and unacceptable school and class behaviors. Often they get caught up in a moment and end up with an infraction. Except for a teacher, and possibly peers, the student has no one to remind him/her to hold back. The rules on the wall are too far to read, and the notebook was opened to an assignment–not the list of rules.

So how can teachers make seeing and following rules easier on their students? Have the class write its own rules.

“No way!!” say many educators. But the surprise is how readily the students engage in a rule-making session and, more importantly, how well they follow their own rules!

First, set a limit of how many rules they can have. I suggest 5 to 7. If this sounds low, consider that the students should be combining “similar rules” and discussing their similarities as they make suggestions. Seriously, when we read school rules that go on for a page or two, don’t we feel like some are nit-picking? The kids get it–they know what a simple rule like “Keep your hands to yourself” means. It means, “Don’t touch, hit, or hurt anyone, and keep your hands off others’ stuff!” They don’t need a rule for touching, another for hitting, a third for hurting by other means, and a fourth to keep their hands off people’s belongings without permission.

Second, make certain each rule is stated positively. Note that “Keep your hands to yourself” is stated in a “positive” way–that is, there are no Do-nots, Don’ts, Nos, or other words with negative connotations. Help the students rephrase negative-worded rules into positive statements.

Third, help students keep the length of each rule short–no more than five or six words per rule, if possible. The simpler the wording, the less the argument when a rule is broken.

Fourth (and most important!!), encourage the students to generate the rules. Be little more than the person recording and re-writing the rules on the Whiteboard. Let the students make the suggestions, give them time for discussion, and allow them to accept or reject each rule as it comes up.

Once the “general” rules are established and accepted by the class, transfer the rules to a sheet of posterboard, and write the rules out in large letters.

Post the rules at the front of the classroom, high enough to be seen by all of them, but clear of visual obstructions. For the first few days of school, review the rules with the students daily for a minute or two at the beginning of class or the school day. Sometimes, more discussion is needed by some students to clarify included behaviors.

During the first few days of school, instead of coming down hard on students who infringe on the rules, point out to them which of the rules the behavior violated. Allow other students to make constructive criticism or offer a better explanation. Your students may find that they need to add a rule or re-state one to accommodate something no one thought of on the first day. Remember that amendments are made all the time to the Constitution. These rules are the class’ constitution.

Above all, encourage students to help each other keep from breaking rules. Peer pressure can be positive as well as negative.

Have some sort of reward that the class can earn–perhaps 15 minutes of “free time” (make sure you define allowed activities clearly) at the end of Friday’s class if only one person breaks 1 rule during the week, for example. This works better for middle school and high school students who spend limited time in a class each day. For younger children or self-contained classes, the number of broken rules can be higher–at least during the first few weeks of school.

By the way, this also works with college students when class management is a problem.

Let me know what you think of this. If you already do something like this with your classes, share the successes and the unexpected experiences. We’d love to hear from you!!