CAREI in the News

CAREI to serve as project evaluator for new grant focusing on underrepresented college students

The Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement will serve as the project evaluator for a new $2.8 million CEHD grant. The project will focus on improving engagement of underrepresented and low-income college students and is part of the First in the World program. Read the full story.

Study of Family Liaison Positions in High-Poverty, Urban Schools

Education and Urban Society has published a study authored by Beverly Dretzke, a CAREI Research Associate, and Susan Rickers, a former CAREI Graduate Research Assistant who is now an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Bemidji State University. The paper, titled “The Family Liaison Position in High-Poverty, Urban Schools,” examines the roles and responsibilities of family liaisons working in urban schools with enrollments characterized by high poverty, high mobility, and ethnic diversity.

Results of the study indicated that the major responsibilities of the liaisons were creating a trusting and welcoming environment, facilitating parent involvement in the schools, keeping parents informed on school-related topics, and connecting parents with resources. To increase their effectiveness, the liaisons requested greater job clarity and more flexibility in their formal work hours. In general, it appeared that the family liaisons investigated in this study placed a stronger emphasis on creating a welcoming environment and establishing trust than has been found in research on family liaisons in more affluent communities.

CAREI Researchers Receive MWERA Award

A paper co-authored by Timothy Sheldon, Ph.D., and Elyse Farnsworth was selected by the Mid-Western Educational Research Association as the best paper presented in the Research, Evaluation, & Assessment in Schools Division (Division H) at its 2013 conference. Sheldon is a Research Associate with the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI), and Farnsworth is a CAREI Graduate Research Assistant. Their paper, titled “Connection, Competence, and Contribution: New Outcome Measures for Assessing Outdoor Program Impact on Urban Youth,” reports the results of an evaluation of Wilderness Inquiry’s Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA) program.To be selected, the paper had to meet several quality indicators as well as pertain to the conference theme of “Education, Access, Marginalization, and Empowerment.”

UWCA Participants.
Students participate in the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures program.

The primary objective of the UWCA program is to improve student academic performance through an innovative classroom/fieldwork curriculum that uses environmental educational experiences to teach science, social studies, and language arts. The ultimate goal is to inspire students to become environmental leaders. Program participants were fifth- through eighth-grade students in Minneapolis Public Schools.

Students’ grades and health improve with later high school start times

Later high school start times improve student grades and overall health, according to a new College of Education and Human Development study.

The three-year project, using data from more than 9,000 students attending eight high schools in three states, found that, when switching to a later start time:

  • attendance, standardized test scores and academic performance in math, English, science and social studies improved.
  • tardiness, substance abuse, symptoms of depression, and consumption of caffeinated drinks decreased.

In addition, the study found that there was a 70 percent drop in the number of car crashes involving teen drivers at Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming, which shifted to the latest start time of the eight schools (8:55 a.m.).

Wahlstrom“The research confirmed what has been suspected for some time,” said Kyla Wahlstrom, Ph.D., director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI), which conducted the study. “High schools across the country that have later start times show significant improvements in many areas. The reduction of teen car crashes may be the most important finding of all, as the well-being of teens and the safety of the general public are interrelated.”

The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that high schools that begin as late as 8:55 a.m. have 66 percent of students obtaining eight or more hours of sleep on school nights, which is the recommended amount for high school aged students. Schools that begin at 7:30 a.m. have an average of only 34 percent of students obtaining eight or more hours of sleep on school nights.

“Even a start time of 8:35 a.m. allows 57-60 percent of students to get eight or more hours of sleep, which is an important health benefit for a majority of students,” said Wahlstrom. “Local school districts, school personnel, parents, and students need to understand the importance of sleep and to make choices using the knowledge from this and other studies.”

In the first study to examine multiple schools in various locations across the U.S., student data were collected from eight schools that moved to later start times. Over the last three years, researchers surveyed St. Louis Park High School, Mahtomedi High School, Woodbury High School, Park High School, and East Ridge High School in Minnesota; Boulder High School and Fairview High School in Colorado; and Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming. Students were individually surveyed about their daily activities, substance use and sleep habits. Researchers then examined various health factors post-change in school start time and compared them with national average data.

The study also collected comparative data about students’ academic performance, including grades, attendance, tardiness and performance on state and national standardized tests. Car crash data were also examined for the communities surrounding the participating high schools.

The full report, “Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study,” includes an examination of the processes by which local school districts participating in the study made the decision to change to a later start time. Key participants in the discussions and the decision-making were interviewed.

“Our research provides evidence of clear benefits for students whose high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later,” said Wahlstrom. “More research needs to be done, but these findings are substantive and should provide more information for school districts considering a change in start time.”

See more research on teens and sleep. Also see coverage of this new study in the New York Times, HuffPost Live, Star Tribune, KSTP-TV, KARE 11-TV, and more media outlets.

Renewed focus on U teen sleep studies after Sec. Duncan’s comments

WahlstromGround-breaking teens and sleep research at the University, led by Kyla Wahlstrom, director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, has received renewed attention following comments recently by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He suggested that high schools nationwide should consider the research on teens and sleep in relation to making decisions about school start times.
Twenty years ago Wahlstrom’s research about teen sleep began changing school start times in Minnesota. Now it’s become a national movement. The timing for this renewed interest coincides with the first national conference on teens and sleep in Minneapolis, Oct. 3-4, bringing experts from around the country to discuss current findings on teens and sleep and to translate them to create better school performance, improved physical and mental health, and reduced risky choices among teens.
See Wahlstrom’s appearance on KARE 11:


Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure Program Findings Spotlighted by Mayor and Foundations

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Timothy Sheldon, research associate at CAREI, and Dr. Marti Erickson, founding Director of the University of Minnesota’s Children, Youth, & Family Consortium, presented the findings from CAREI’s three-year evaluation of the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure (UWCA) Program to Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and several foundation leaders. Over 12,000 Twin Cities youth and their families participated in the program in 2012. Day and overnight canoe trips on the Mississippi River introduce young people to the outdoors, connect them to caring adults, and transform the lives of young people by helping them make lasting connections to the natural world. CAREI’s evaluation of the UWCA program assessed the impact of the program activities on the attitudes and behaviors of participating students. The evaluation found that the program: (a) positively influenced students’ attitudes about the river, the environment, and science; (b) resulted in more positive connections to peers and adults, (c) promoted personal development, and (d) increased leadership skills. For more information, you can access Sheldon’s recent report on the UWCA program evaluation.

CAREI Collaborative Grant Recipients Announced

The Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2013 CAREI Collaborative Grant Awards. These awards support research collaboration between practitioners in CAREI Member School Districts and faculty and staff of CEHD. This year’s recipients are:
Roozbeh Shirazi, Assistant Professor in OLPD, and Kyle Sweeney, French Teacher with St. Louis Park Public Schools, for their project Not Just a Matter of Race: Engaging with Transnationalism as School Diversity. Their qualitative investigation is intended to lead to the development of pedagogical and curricular tools for educators to encourage the classroom participation of multilingual and multicultural students.
Susan Ranney, Senior Lecturer in C&I, and Karla Stone, DirecTrack to Teaching Coordinator and Professional Development Specialist with Robbinsdale Area Schools. Their project, Amplifying Academic Language in Co-Taught Classrooms will explore how English learner (EL) teachers and content teachers can effectively co-teach academic language – the English used in textbooks and classrooms but not in everyday conversation – in middle and high school content classrooms.

CAREI evaluators present at MESI Spring Training Conference

Delia Kundin and Beverly Dretzke both presented at the Spring Training Conference of the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute. Beverly Dretzke conducted a workshop on “Using Excel to Analyze Survey Data.” Instructions for using Excel to carry out numerous statistical procedures are available in Dretzke’s publication Statistics with Microsoft® Excel, which is now in its fifth edition with Pearson. Delia Kundin led a café-style discussion on “Research on Evaluation & How to Get Published” in partnership with fellow University of Minnesota researchers Frances Lawrenz, Stacie Toal, and Kelli Johnson. Participants in both the workshop and discussion included faculty and staff from the University of Minnesota and other colleges and universities, graduate students, evaluators from independent organizations, and local government analysts.

Kwon Discusses Intersection of Research and Advocacy in the Asian American Community

3-thumb-250x250-150584Melissa Kwon was invited to speak to an audience including Assistant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health Jeanne Ayers, Minnesota policy makers, non-profits, and community leaders at the annual Asian Pacific Islander Advocacy Day at the Minnesota State Capitol. Kwon is the recently elected Chair of the Asian American Pacific Islander Health Coalition (AAPIHC), a coalition of over 12 organizations and professionals committed to improving the health of AAPIs in Minnesota. She spoke about conducting research on and educating the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community about AAPI health and wellness, and specifically addressed the importance of disaggregating data among Asian American ethnicities. Kwon’s research with CAREI on API young women and health ties closely with her presentation, and Kwon’s undergraduate class participated in the advocacy day training and event.

Southern California Public Radio Interviews Wahlstrom on School Start Times

wahlstrom-EdPA-photo-thumb-150x225-150471Kyla Wahlstrom, director of CAREI, was interviewed by KPCC Southern California Public Radio about her extensive research linking school start times with academic achievement and student wellness outcomes. The research is particularly relevant as the Long Beach Unified School District is debating changes to its middle and high school start times. Wahlstrom answered questions from a diverse set of callers, including parents, educators, and students. To learn more, you can listen to the radio program on the KPCC website or read CAREI’s reports on school start times.