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Disadvantaged Children Benefit More From Additional Programs

While studies have shown that children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit from high-quality preschool programs, they would benefit even more if they had additional tutoring and mentoring during their elementary and high school years, according to research from the University of Chicago.

Systematic interventions throughout childhood and adolescence could sustain the early gains and build on them, according to the paper, “Investing in our Young People.”

“Childhood is a multistage process where early investments feed into later investments. Skill begets skill; learning begets learning,” says Dr. James Heckman, the author of the report.

The researchers studied data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth to estimate a model to predict the outcomes of children born to disadvantaged mothers when the children received a variety of extra learning assistance.

The study showed with early childhood intervention, high school graduation rates would increase to 65 percent and college enrollment to 12 percent. Participation in crime would decrease. Combining early childhood intervention with high school intervention would increase high-school graduation rates to 84 percent and college participation rates to 27 percent.

Although preschool can have an impact on improving cognitive skills, interventions later on can improve non-cognitive skills such as perseverance and self-control, the authors wrote.

Blacks Sleep Less Than Whites

Blacks sleep less than Whites, men sleep less than women, and the poor sleep less than the wealthy. These were the conclusions of a University of Chicago study published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study followed the sleep characteristics of 669 middle-aged adults and found White women slept the most, 6.7 hours a night, followed by White men at 6.1 hours, Black women at 5.9 hours and Black men at 5.1 hours. Higher income also was associated with more sleep.

“People don’t think they get enough sleep and they get less sleep than they think,” said Dr. Diane Lauderdale, associate professor of health studies and the author of the study. “As we learn more and more about the importance of sleep for health, we find evidence that people seem to be sleeping less and less.”

This was one of the first large studies to combine sleep diaries with a technique called wrist actigraphy that uses a motion sensor – worn like a watch – to measure not just when people go to bed but when they fall asleep. Participants wore the device in the home for three days and nights. They also kept a log of their hours in bed.

Using the Actiwatch and nightly logs, the researchers were particularly surprised by the short span and poor quality of sleep among African American men – 5.1 hours a night and 73 percent sleep efficiency.

Lack of sleep has long been connected with reduced ability to concentrate, trouble learning, decreased attention to detail and increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. More recent studies have tied chronic partial sleep deprivation to medical problems, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

Although the study found significant variation based on race, sex and income it was not designed to get at the causes of those differences. “People who make more money may have fewer worries,” Lauderdale suggested, “or they may have more control over their sleep environment.” The findings, however, are “consistent with sleep being on the causal pathway between socioeconomic status (or race) and disease risk,” the authors conclude.

Study Gives Snapshot of the 2004-05 School Year

Public elementary and secondary schools had 48.8 million students in 2004-05, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

Of the total student population, almost 28 million were White, non-Hispanic; 9.1 million were Hispanic; 8.3 million were Black, non-Hispanic; 2.1 million were Asian/Pacific Islander; and 581,481 were American Indian/Alaska Native. In California, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas, students of a single racial/ethnic group other than White, non-Hispanic comprised the largest group within the state.

The states of California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas had the highest number of students going to school and the average student/teacher ratio in public schools was 15.8 (i.e., there were about 16 students for every teacher employed). Arizona, California, Oregon, and Utah had student/teacher ratios higher than 20 to 1.

Almost 2.6 million students were awarded a high school diploma, says the report.

The government spent $403.4 billion in fiscal year 2004 on public education with nearly $266.6 billion (66 percent) spent on instruction and instruction-related expenses. Of the remaining amount, $20.8 billion (5 percent) was spent on student support, $44.4 billion (11 percent) on administration, and $71.6 billion (18 percent) on operations. Oklahoma’s percentage was the smallest (60 percent), while New York’s was the largest (71 percent).

The average current expenditures per pupil for instruction and instruction-related expenses were $5,492 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

–Diverse Staff Reports

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