On My Radar 4/29/09: Test Scores Up Since NCLB

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* Test Scores Up Since NCLB
* Colleges Using Social Media
* Consumer Confidence Soars
* Fewer Child Porn Sites

__________

Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with why I think they may be useful for nonprofit and philanthropy leaders.

  • Math and reading scores rise for 9- and 13-year olds.
    Think, by Flickr user ccarlstead
    Think, by Flickr user ccarlstead

    Since the passage of 2002’s controversial No Child Left Behind law, math and reading scores have risen, according to the definitive national test on the issue. Says WaPo: “Performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which offers a long view of U.S. student achievement, shows several bright spots. Nine-year-olds posted the highest scores ever in reading and math in 2008. Black and Hispanic students of that age also reached record reading scores, though they continued to trail white peers.”

    • My take: I have always felt that opposition to NCLB was in large part about fear of measurement, which is something that nonprofits and philanthropies grapple with all the time. What if you measure my program and find it to be a failure? But, you can flip that: Things that get measured typically get more energy put behind them, and so they improve.
  • Colleges are using social media as a recruitment tool. According to the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, the share of colleges not using social networking as part of its outreach fell from 39% last year to 15% this year. This includes blogs as well as commercial social network sites (primarily Facebook). However, 37% of admissions offices with blogs don’t accept comments on them. And there was an interesting drop: The number of colleges using social networking sites to research potential students dropped to 17%  (from 21% in 2007)
    • My take: It’s all about the execution here, and there are troubling signs that colleges are out of touch. Andrea Jarrell knows a lot more about this than I do, but here are my opinions from a social media perspective. They should be increasing their proactive, researching use of social networks, as this would allow them to better target admissions messages. And, according to the CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, “Social media tools, like Facebook, Twitter and blogs, are key to communicating with this generation of students.” This suggests a misunderstanding of “this generation of students,” for whom the key is texting. Sorry, kids don’t Twitter.
  • Consumer Confidence Index soars. In a stark turnaround, the Conference Board announced that April’s closely-watched Consumer Confidence Index rose twelve points to 39.2, the highest level since November and topping analysts’ consensus expectation of 29.5. “The Present Situation [which meausres how shoppers feel now] rose slightly to 23.7 from 21.9 last month. The Expectations Index, which measures how shoppers feel about the economy over the next six months, skyrocketed to 49.5 from 30.2 in March.”
    • My take: Consumers feel OK about how things are now, but have an overall sense that the bottom is near and the next few months will show improvement. I am not a firm believer in the wisdom of crowds, but on this I’ll give it some small credence — if only out of hope. The state of the economy has a huge impact on the nonprofit and philanthropy worlds, as so much is driven by foundations’ budgets, which are fundamentally connected to the stock markets.
  • Watchdog group reports fewer child porn sites.The Internet Watch Foundation said more public and law enforcement attention has made it harder to operate child pornography sites, which “are often removed within hours,” according to the group. However, those that remain online are more likely to use very graphic images (58%, up from 47% two years ago), and 24% of the children used in the photographs and videos appear to be 6 years old or younger.
    • My take: This is one of the remaining evils on the planet. It’s good news that heightened awareness can reduce the apparent activity level, but troubling that what’s left is increasingly hardcore.

Thanks for reading,

Brad

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