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Research Roundup

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November 1, 2011, Volume 58, No. 10

Minority Teacher Recruitment: Fact or Fiction?

In a released study, Penn GSE Professors Richard Ingersoll and Henry May report that recent efforts to recruit minority teachers, and place them in disadvantaged schools, have been remarkably successful—although those efforts have been undermined by a widespread failure to retain these new recruits. Using nationally representative data, Drs. Ingersoll and May empirically examined trends in recruitment, employment and retention of minority teachers. “For those engaged in efforts to address the minority teacher shortage, there is both good news and bad news,” said Dr. Ingersoll.

The study, “Recruitment, Retention and the Minority Teacher Shortage,” does show a persistent gap between the percentage of minority students and the percentage of minority teachers in US schools. In 2008-09, for example, 41 percent of the nation’s K-12 students, but only 16.5 percent of its teachers, were minority. Nonetheless, since the 1980s, the number of minority teachers has increased dramatically, almost doubling from 325,000 to 642,000—representing a growth rate more than twice that of white teachers.

So why the gap? Drs. Ingersoll and May found the answer to this question in the retention figures: minority teachers are more likely to leave the profession than are their white peers. Their reasons for departing center on the working conditions of the schools where they’re teaching—specifically the lack of autonomy and influence in their work. “The strongest factors by far for minority teachers,” the researchers report, “were the level of collective faculty decision-making influence in the school and the degree of individual instructional autonomy held by teachers in their classrooms.”

Heavy Media Use: Poorer Mental Health in Young People

Results released in May from the National Annenberg Survey of Youth (NASY) indicate that although concerns about excessive Internet use may be justified, heavy use of television may be an even larger concern. In one of the most extensive national surveys of media habits over a two-year period, six different types of media use were identified in young people ages 14 to 24. The study involved over 700 young people interviewed in each of years 2008 and 2009. The six patterns of media use were found across both years of the study. The current report focuses on the types found in 2009. However, a more recent survey in 2010 found the same types as in the prior years.

The Heavy Internet/TV group tends to use the Internet for blogging, social networking, and video game playing. It also tends to get lower grades in school than other groups and to participate less in sports and other extracurricular activities. The Heavy TV group tends to watch TV primarily for entertainment purposes but also reports above average use of magazines, movies, and news programming. The group does manage, however, to participate in sports and clubs at about average levels.

The largest group, the Information Seekers, is projected to account for nearly a quarter of young people. This group was quite well adjusted with lower rates of hopelessness (33 percent reported having such experience). This group tends to use media in moderate amounts with greater emphasis on consumption of news, books, and other information. In addition, these youth are physically and socially active and tend to get high grades in school. Not surprisingly, this group also tends to live in the wealthier and suburban neighborhoods.

At the other end of the spectrum, a large group of young people (about 21 percent) is relatively disengaged from all media use. This Disengaged group only tends to use social networking at an average level as well as the Internet for schoolwork. At the same time, the group is also physically active with above average levels of participation in sports. Nevertheless, the group also reports higher levels of hopelessness than youth comparable in age and gender (41 percent).

A not insignificant group of young people (about 14 percent) is still relatively dependent on TV without as much access to the Internet as others. Not surprisingly, this TV Only group tends to be more rural, where access is still relatively limited, and to live in neighborhoods with lower median incomes. It is also relatively low in hopelessness compared to others (28 percent).

A final group (about 14 percent in size) does not use the Internet at very high levels but scores high on indices of online communication uses, such as social networking and blogging sites. This Online Communicator group, not surprisingly, is also heavily involved in extracurricular activities. It also reports lower levels of hopelessness (34 percent).

“Rule of Rescue” Often Prevails in Critical Care Units

A study from the Perelman School of Medicine indicates that the “rule of rescue”—whereby clinicians are prone to try to save their own patients as opposed to opening up a bed for a new patient—often prevails even in the face of substantial social benefit in terms of cost containment and procurement of organ donations. The research was published in the July 2011 edition of Intensive Care Medicine.

“Adherence to this ‘rule of rescue’ accords with traditional norms for clinicians of prioritizing one’s own patients, but contrasts with recent conceptualizations of medical professionals’ social responsibilities,” said Dr. Scott Halpern, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology, and the study’s senior author.

Few studies have examined how clinicians balance their duties to current patients with the additional responsibilities to promote, or at least not discount, societal interests. To explore this issue, the researchers analyzed mixed methods questionnaires from 1,122 ICU clinicians in the US, 648 physicians and 438 nurses. The questionnaires addressed the clinicians’ preferences for allocating their last bed in the ICU to a gravely ill patient already being treated, but with little chance to survive, versus an incoming deceased or dying patient for whom aggressive management could help others through organ donation.

Physicians were more likely than nurses to adhere to the “rule of rescue’’ by allocating the last bed to the gravely ill patient (45.9 vs. 32.6 percent). The most common reason for allocating the last bed to an identifiable patient was that clinicians perceived strong obligations and fidelity to identifiable living patients. The questionnaire also revealed that the magnitude of the “social benefit” to be obtained through organ donor management (5 or 30 life-years added for transplant recipients) had small and inconsistent effects on clinicians’ willingness to prioritize the donor.

“Our findings indicate that future research is needed to identify the actual frequencies with which clinicians prioritize individual patients when doing so carries real social costs, and to further explore factors related to the observed variability in allocation patterns among clinicians,” said Dr. Rachel Kohn, lead author of the study and a graduate of the Perelman School of Medicine.

Barriers To Emergency Dental Care Based On Insurance

Less than 40 percent of children who are insured via Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) are able to obtain care for a dental emergency, compared to 95 percent of those with private insurance, according to research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania published in the journal Pediatrics in May. Even among dental providers who were participants in the state Medicaid/CHIP program, nearly a third studied denied appointment access to children with that type of coverage—unless parents offered to pay in cash.

In the study, research assistants posing as mothers of a 10-year-old boy with a fractured permanent front tooth—an injury that impacts 1 in 7 children ages 8 and 13 and 25 percent of adolescents in the United States—made calls seeking an urgent appointment with a random sample of 85 Cook County, Illinois, dental practices, 41 of which were signed up to participate in the Medicaid program. The researchers called each practice twice, approximately four weeks apart, varying only their purported insurance status but maintaining all other aspects of their scripted story. Overall, callers were told their insurance type was not accepted by the non-enrolled dental practices in 93 percent of calls from Medicaid/CHIP patients’ mothers, compared to only 9 percent who said they had Blue Cross insurance.

“Although our study shows significant barriers to emergency dental care based on insurance status, more than two thirds of practices who participate in Medicaid/CHIP did offer appointments when plan participants sought them, and 75 percent of them offered a slot for those children within two days of the call,” said senior author Karin V. Rhodes, director of Emergency Care Policy Research in the department of emergency medicine at Penn. “However, the law calls for these programs to provide equal access to care, and our results show that many children in need are still being turned away when they need help—unless their parents are able to pay out of pocket.”

Thirty-four percent of callers were asked for their child’s insurance type before being told whether or not they could schedule an appointment. When operators did not ask about insurance status before scheduling, the callers inquired about whether their coverage was accepted. After insurance status was revealed, access to care was often rescinded.

Almanac - November 1, 2011, Volume 58, No. 10