Site Helps Education Reporters Find Fresh Angles

By: Charles Bowen

Now that we have plunged headlong into another school year, it’s not only the children, parents, and teachers who are scurrying around. Take a look at your education reporter. Always hungry for new ideas and for novel approaches to those annual school-bells-are-ringing stories, the seasoned writers on the nation’s education beats again have begun scouring the Internet for something fresh about young people.

And just in time, a new site on the Web offers one-stop surfing for all kind of statistics relating to children and teens. This service gives the quickest possible heads-up on the latest trends and research on more than 70 key indicators relating to young people. Provided by Child Trends, a national leader in the field for more than two decades, the Child Trend DataBank covers education, health, income, family, and more.

To look in on the resource, visit http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org, then click options along the top of a concise, well-organized introductory screen to reach facts and figures about children and:

* Health. From here are connections for data on disabilities, mental health, health-related behavior, violence, drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and general health care.

* Social & Emotional Development. Here’s your connection for data on early childhood development, social activities and attitudes, sexual activities and teen childbearing, and delinquency and crime.

* Income, Assets & Work. From here you can browse statistics on poverty and wealth, social support benefits, employment, and parents’ educational attainments.

* Education & Skills. This section has material on learning assessments, attendance and attainment, behaviors that affect learning, and education-related assets.

* Demographics. The data here covers basic demographic characteristics, family structure and living arrangements, birth and death.

* Family & Community. This final area has material on families, peer relations, and school life of children.

Selecting any of these main sections produces reams of data. For instance, click on the “Violence” link in the Health section and the site lists a half dozen reports, including those on the percentage of youths involved in physical fights, data on students carrying weapons to school, and incidents of date rape and other violence while dating. Meanwhile, click on the section called “Behaviors that Affect Learning” under Education & Skills and reach reports on everything from learning disabilities to statistics on TV viewing by students.

With such a rich reservoir of information, you’d hope for a good search engine on the site, and it has one. At the top of any page, just enter a search word or phrase in the data-entry box and click the “Search” button. It will return matching reports in all categories. For example, enter a search word like “driving,” and you receive reports ranging from drunk driving to seat-belt use.

You also can search specific categories. To do that, click the “Advance Search” option below the data entry box and, on the resulting screen, enter a keyword or phrase, then select a category from an adjacent drop-down menu.

Other considerations for using Child Trends Databank in your writing and editing:

1. For the latest additions to this extensive reservoir of statistics, simply watch the site’s front page. A frequently updated “What’s New” section at the right of the introductory screen provides two-line summaries of the latest reports. Each is dated and offers a “Read on” link you can click for the complete text.

2. You also can have the updated information come directly to your online mailbox. A service on the opening page of the site invites you to enter your e-mail address and sign up for automatic notification on new and pending data releases.

3. The operators of the site, Child Trends, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. For more on the group, visit its own Web site at http://www.childtrends.org.




To see Bowen’s last 10 columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Bowen” in the “Author” field.

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