Posts Tagged United States

Upfront Bonus to Teachers Improves Student Performance


Upfront Bonus to Teachers Improves Student PerformanceEducational reform is receiving considerable attention these days, and a new study suggests prepaying teachers appears to improve student academic performance.

Paying an upfront bonus does come with a caveat as part of the money must be returned if student performance fails to improve, say University of Chicago researchers.

The study showed that students gained as much as a 10 percentile increase in their scores compared to students with similar backgrounds — if their teacher received a bonus at the beginning of the year, with conditions attached.

There was no gain for students when teachers were offered the bonus at the end of the school year, the research found.

“This is the first experimental study to demonstrate that teacher merit pay can have a significant impact on student performance in the U.S.,” said economist John List, Ph.D., an author of the study.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economics Research, reflects the findings of other studies in psychology and behavioral economics.

“The results of our experiment are consistent with over 30 years of psychological and economic research on the power of loss aversion to motivate behavior: Students whose teachers in the ‘loss’ treatment of the experiment showed large and significant gains in their math test scores,” said List, a professor in economics at UChicago.

Timing of the incentive made a significant difference.

“In line with previous studies in the United States, we did not find an impact of teacher incentives that are framed as gains (the reward coming at the end of the year),” he added.

The study comes amid a growing wave of interest of finding ways to provide teacher incentives to increase student performance — as usually assessed by student achievement on standardized tests. Unfortunately, most of the current incentive programs have not shown value, the scholars said.

The new study depends on a formula developed by Dr. Derek Neal, professor of economics at UChicago, and Gadi Barlevy, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

They devised the “pay for percentile” method of measuring teacher performance by comparing individual students with similar backgrounds and achievement to see what impact a teacher had on their learning.

The scholars used the formula in an experiment in Chicago Heights, Ill., a community 30 miles south of Chicago. The community has nine kindergarten to eighth-grade schools with a total enrollment of 3,200 students. Its achievement rates are below state average, and 98 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches.

At the beginning of the school year, the teachers were introduced to the experiment and offered an opportunity to participate. A total of 150 of the 160 teachers agreed to join in the study, which was supported by the local teachers union.

The teachers were randomly assigned to a control group as well as a group given a bonus at the beginning of the year, a group that could receive the bonus at the end of the year, and a group made up of teachers who worked in teams. Money for the bonuses was provided from private sources.

One group of teachers in the study was given a $4,000 bonus at the beginning of the year and told it would be reduced by an amount reflecting their students’ performance — the more the students’ standardized scores increased, the more of the bonus their teacher could keep. Another group of teachers was told they would receive a $4,000 bonus if their students improved during the year.

The incentives were based on rewarding teachers with $80 for each percentile of increase in their students’ mathematics performance over the district average. They could, depending on exceptional student performance, receive up to $8,000 under the plan — the equivalent of 16 percent of the average teacher salary in the district.

The students were tested with the ThinkLink Predictive Assessment, a standardized, non-high-stakes diagnostic tool that is aligned with state achievement tests.

Thomas Amadio, superintendent of Chicago Heights Elementary School District 170, where the experiment was conducted, said the study shows the value of merit pay as an encouragement for better teacher performance.

“Teachers do have challenges, and classes can vary from year to year in how well they perform. Testing students individually to see their growth is a valuable measure, however,” he said.

Teachers responsible for that growth should be rewarded, he said.

Source: University of Chicago

Teacher and students in a classroom photo by shutterstock.

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Social Networking for Jobs May Add to Income Inequality


Social Networks Help Americans Find Good JobsSocial networking for vocational prospecting appears to be more effective in the United States than in Germany.

In a new study, researchers from North Carolina State University discover that while informal networks help both European and American job-seekers, networks in America help job-seekers find higher paying positions.

But one downside is that the practice may lead to economic inequality.

“It is interesting to note that the open market system in the United States, with minimal labor regulations, actually sees people benefiting more from patronage — despite the expectation that open markets would value merit over social connections,” said doctoral student Richard Benton, who co-authored the research.

In the study, researchers examined survey data from the U.S. and Germany to compare the extent to which people find new jobs through “informal recruitment.”

Informal recruitment or networking occurs when a person who is not looking for a new job is approached with a job opportunity through social connections.

The study shows that, on average, informal recruitment is significantly more common in Germany, where approximately 40 percent of jobs are filled through informal recruitment — as opposed to approximately 27 percent of jobs in the United States.

However, the jobs people find through informal recruitment in the U.S. are much more likely to be high-wage managerial positions. Specifically, the odds that a job will be filled via networking increase by two percent for every dollar of hourly wage that the job pays.

For example, the odds that jobs paying $40 per hour ($80,000 per year) will be filled through informal recruitment are about 66 percent better than the odds that a minimum-wage job ($7.25 per hour) will be filled through informal recruitment.

By comparison, the researchers found that wages in Germany did not appear to be linked to how workers found their jobs.

“Ultimately, this suggests that U.S. economic institutions offer greater rewards to sponsorship and nepotism than what we see elsewhere, which could help to explain why inequality is so extreme here,” said Dr. Steve McDonald, an associate professor of sociology at NC State and lead author of the paper.

The study can be found online in the journal Social Forces.

Source: North Carolina State University

Man interviewing for a job photo by shutterstock.

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Press Coverage for The Lancet – Children With Disabilities Are More Likely to Be Victims of Violence


17 July 2012 at 16:32

Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to be victims of violence than other children, according to a new report commissioned by the World Health Organization.

The report, published in The Lancet on Thursday, found that disabled children were 3.6 times more likely to be physically assaulted and 2.9 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

The most common victims of sexual assault were those with mental illness or retardation, and institutionalized children were attacked more often than those living at home.

Last week’s report was a meta-analysis of 17 other studies that collectively gathered evidence on 18,374 children, all of them living in wealthy countries, from the United States to Europe to Israel. About 3 percent of children in rich countries and up to 6 percent in poor ones have disabilities.

“Physical violence” included threats and spanking that left marks on the skin. A study published about 10 years ago estimated that 53,000 children under age 18 are murdered each year.

Dr. Etienne Krug, the director of the W.H.O. department of violence and injury prevention, said that strategies that have proven to protect other children should be studied for the disabled. Among these are training for violence-prone parents and home visits by nurses to children at risk.

An accompanying editorial also touched on mentally ill adults, saying public fear of them should be redirected to “increased awareness of, and compassion towards, these individuals as victims of violence.”

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In Adolescence, Girls React Differently Than Boys To Peers’ Judgments


English: Sagittal MRI slice with highlighting ...

English: Sagittal MRI slice with highlighting (red) indicating the nucleus accumbens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The study, by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Georgia State University, appears in the July/August 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers looked at mostly White psychiatrically healthy Americans ages 9 to 17 to determine what happens in the brains of preteens and teens at a time of significant change in social behavior. The youths looked at photos of peers and rated their interest in interacting with each one. Then they underwent a brain scan while reviewing the pictures and rated how much each young person in the picture might want to interact with them in return. The youths were told they would be matched with a peer for a chat after the scan.

The study found that in older girls (as compared to younger girls), brain regions (the nucleus accumbens, insula, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala) associated with social rewards and motivation, processing emotions, hormonal changes, and social memory responded differently when they thought about being judged by their peers, especially peers with whom they wanted to interact. These differences were not evident between younger and older boys.

“The findings offer a fresh perspective on how changes in the brain relate to changes in the way young people think and feel about how their peers view them,” according to Amanda E. Guyer, a research fellow at NIMH, who led the study. “They are relevant for parents, teachers, and clinicians who are trying to help teens adjust socially during adolescence. They may be especially relevant for girls, who are more likely than boys to feel anxious and depressed at this time.”

via In Adolescence, Girls React Differently Than Boys To Peers’ Judgments.

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Women happier in relationships when men feel their pain


Love Hurts (Incubus song)

Love Hurts (Incubus song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The study involved a diverse sample of couples and found that men’s and women’s perceptions of their significant other’s empathy, and their abilities to tell when the other is happy or upset, are linked to relationship satisfaction in distinctive ways, according to the article published online in the Journal of Family Psychology.

“It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man’s investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times. This is consistent with what is known about the dissatisfaction women often experience when their male partner becomes emotionally withdrawn and disengaged in response to conflict,” said the study’s lead author, Shiri Cohen, PhD, of Harvard Medical School.

Researchers recruited 156 heterosexual couples for the experiment. Of those, 102 came from the Boston area and were younger, urban, ethnically and economically diverse and in a committed but not necessarily married relationship. In an effort to find couples who varied in the ways they resolved conflicts and controlled their emotions, they also looked for couples with a history of domestic violence and/or childhood sexual abuse. The remaining participants, from Bryn Mawr, Pa., were older, suburban and middle-class married couples with strong ties to the community. In all, 71 percent of couples were white, 56 percent were married and their average length of relationship was three-and-a-half years.

Each participant was asked to describe an incident with his or her partner over the past couple of months that was particularly frustrating, disappointing or upsetting. The researchers’ audio recorded the participant making a one- to two-sentence statement summarizing the incident and reaction and then brought the couples together and played each participant’s statements. The couples were told to try to come to a better understanding together of what had happened and were given approximately 10 minutes to discuss it while the researchers videotaped them. Following the discussions, the participants viewed the videotape and simultaneously rated their negative and positive emotions throughout, using an electronic rating device. The device had a knob that moved across an 11-point scale that ranged from “very negative” to “neutral” to “very positive.”

Using these ratings, the researchers selected six 30-second clips from the videotape that had the highest rated negative or positive emotions by each partner. The researchers showed the clips to the participants and had them complete questionnaires about their feelings during each segment as well as their perceptions of their partner’s feelings and effort to understand them during the discussion. They also measured the participants’ overall satisfaction with their relationships and whether each partner considered his or her partner’s efforts to be empathetic.

Relationship satisfaction was directly related to men’s ability to read their female partner’s positive emotions correctly. However, contrary to the researchers’ expectations, women who correctly understood that their partners were upset during the videotaped incident were much more likely to be satisfied with their relationship than if they correctly understood that their partner was happy. Also, when men understood that their female partner was angry or upset, the women reported being happier, though the men were not. The authors suggest that being empathetic to a partner’s negative emotions may feel threatening to the relationship for men but not for women.

The findings also show that the more men and women try to be empathetic to their partner’s feelings, the happier they are. The authors suggest that this research should encourage couples to better appreciate and communicate one another’s efforts to be empathetic.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 154,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

via Women happier in relationships when men feel their pain.

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New Discoveries About the Anger


English: Emotions associated with anger

English: Emotions associated with anger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Discoveries About the Experience of Anger

Younger people, those with children and less-educated individuals are more likely to experience anger, according to new UofT research that examines one of the most common negative emotions in society.

Drawing upon national survey data of more than 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older, Professor Scott Schieman from the Sociology Department at the University of Toronto has published new findings about the experience of anger. In a chapter in the forthcoming International Handbook of Anger, to be released in January 2010, Schieman documents the basic social patterns and contexts of anger. His main findings include:

Younger people experience more frequent anger than older adults. This is mainly due to the fact that younger people are more likely to feel time pressures, economic hardship, and interpersonal conflict in the workplace (three core stressors that elevate anger levels);

Feeling rushed for time is the strongest predictor of anger, especially the “low-grade” forms like feeling annoyed;

Having children in the household is associated with angry feelings and behaviour (i.e., yelling) and these patterns are stronger among women compared to men;

Compared to people with fewer years of education, the well-educated are less likely to experience anger, and when they do, they are more likely to act proactively (e.g., trying to change the situation or talking it over);

Individuals who experience more financial strain tend to report higher levels of anger. This relationship is much stronger among women and younger adults.

“The sociological analysis of anger can shed light on the ways that the conditions of society influence emotional inequality,” says Schieman. “Why do some people seem to experience more anger than others? And what does this say about social inequality and its impact in our everyday lives?”

The International Handbook of Anger is edited by Michael Potegal, Gerhard Stemmler and Charles Spielberger.

via New discoveries about the experience of anger.

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Discrimination: Female doctors making less money than male doctors


English: A female doctor examines a child.

English: A female doctor examines a child. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Women doctors make less than men: study Female doctorresearchers make an average of $12,000 per year less than their male counterparts, even after their work hours and area of specialty are taken into account, according to a study out Tuesday.

The wage gap between men and women is nothing new, but among doctors in particular it wasn’t clear if the disparity was due to different career choices and work habits in men and women that could have affected their pay.

“Disturbingly, even after we controlled for all those other factors, we found that male doctors were paid more than female doctors for doing the same work,” said Dr. Reshma Jagsi, the lead author of the new study from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

She and her colleagues sent questionnaires to 800 doctor-researchers in the United States, all of whom had previously won a mid-career award from the government. The doctors were an average of 45 years old at the time of the survey and three-quarters of them were white.

Men reported making an average of slightly over $200,000 per year and women about $168,000, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers found women were more likely to work in lower-paying specialties such as pediatrics and family medicine. Female doctors also tended to work slightly fewer hours than their male peers — 58 hours per week, on average, versus 63 for men.

Those differences were responsible for some of the salary gap. But even after Jagsi’s team accounted for income disparities that could have been due to career and life choices, the researchers found women still made about $12,000 less than men doing the same type and amount of work.

That’s similar to what has been found in past research, such as in studies of early-career doctors, according to Anthony Lo Sasso, a health policy and economics researcher from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But the finding still leaves many unanswered questions, said Lo Sasso, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

“It really doesn’t get at what the underlying driver is, and I think that remains the puzzle at this point — what is accounting for this unexplained salary difference?”

One explanation, according to the researchers, is that women are less aggressive about negotiating for pay or may take factors other than salary, such as location and community, into account when choosing a job.

Lo Sasso said the disparity is “not necessarily a bad thing,” as it’s possible women in the study accepted slightly lower pay in return for less time being on-call and more predictability in their schedules. Those types of questions were not included in the survey.

“We don’t really have the answer to that, so we’re kind of just left to speculate,” Lo Sasso told Reuters Health.

The researchers calculated that over her career, the average female doctor-researcher would make about $350,000 less than a man doing similar work because of unexplained salary differences.

Jagsi said she worries the findings may hint at unconscious biases in hiring and pay at the academic institutions where these researchers worked. One way to address that, she said, is for employers to have clear policies about how salaries are determined so doctors can know if they’re being paid fairly.

And that applies outside of hospitals and universities as well, she pointed out.

A report out in April showed American women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gap that is even bigger in certain professions, such as financial management.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/JjFzqx Journal of the American Medical Association, online June 12, 2012.

via Discrimination: Female doctors making less money than male doctors – Chicago Tribune.

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