Hi friends. Many of your are or will soon be heading into the grad school interview deluge in the fall/winter months, so I figured I would arm you with good interview questions that are sure to impress your potential future advisors. These are the kinds of questions you could ask during a phone interview, video-chat interview, or during the in-person open house.
Hi everyone! I’m introducing a new series to the blog! Each week (at least that’s the goal), I’ll post a short list of articles from around the web that I’ve read. The articles will deal with issues related to children and families. I’m starting this as a way to (a) keep myself accountable and focus on reading more relevant and staying current on child and family social policy, and (2) encourage and promote good quality information about these important topics on the internet. All too often I see news roundups that fail to focus on domestic issues that impact children and families from across the sociodemographic spectrum. So I’d like to do my part, and spread the news.
Well, it’s been a long time since I have posted here, but now that it’s summer, I have a little more time on my hands to read for pleasure and post my thoughts on the current education climate in the U.S.
I just read this really interesting article from the Washington Post about “data walls.” Basically, these “walls” are posters that schools put up in the hallways of elementary schools displaying how their students perform on standardized tests. Each student’s standardized test scores are presented in a tidy little graph that’s color-coded to determine who is behind, and who is excelling.
“And once blossoms were on the trees, we were just a few weeks from the exams that would mark us as passing school or a failing one. We were either analyzing practice tests, taking a test or prepping for the next test.”
What this article gets at is something that many parents and families have struggled with for many years. In our current testing-focused climate, we have have lost sight of what is really important: educating our children well. Children have become numbers, and numbers have become currency for schools and teachers. Some student test scores influence school funding and teachers salaries so much so that we have devalued and forgotten about what goes on the other 7 months of the school year, when testing is not taking place.
“When policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet.”
What has become a further problem as a result of our testing epidemic is what happens when we examine what these tests are actually measuring. What this article hints at is how these test scores might really be measuring access that students have to valuable resources that help them prepare for such tests. And this is exactly what the research shows us. Standardized tests were intended for leveling the playing field, but really they are just making it worse and increasing the achievement gap that we are fighting to hard to close.
There needs to be a fundamental shift in our thinking: away from test scores and toward a more holistic view of learning.
While driving into work this morning, I was listening to NPR and a story came on about something that has plagued many elementary, middle, and high school teachers for year…the summer slide.
The summer slide is a phenomena where students (especially those who are coming from lower income backgrounds) experience a severe decline in their achievement during the summer break months. One school in DC actually tested this with their students and gave them a test at the end of the school year right before break, and then again right at the beginning of the following school year. The findings show that “when students left for summer break, their reading levels were at about 68-69 percent, and when they came back, their levels fell to about 30 percent.” This is a HUGE change!
Summer slide is an issue that researchers have been well aware of for many years. It has just taken some time for the school boards to enact a change, reasonably so, because the added cost of simply keeping schools in session for an extra 20 days of the school year costs a whopping $5.5 million! While an extra 20 days may not seem like a huge impact, it’s still a step in the right direction with making sure children are learning and spending the majority of their year being enriched and growing their academic skills.
While still a work in progress, it’s so nice to see a change happen at the ground and policy levels that has profound positive implications for children in school.
Does anyone else feel like their lives are dictated and run by numbers? I certainly do. We get grades in school that determine where we get in to college. Our colleges are ranked based on numerous qualities and characteristics. Then we get a job and start thinking salaries, days of vacation, hours worked each day…the list goes on. Sometimes it feels like we are living our days by the numbers and missing the point.
Measurement cannot go away, but it needs to be scaled back and allowed to mature.
School is supposed to be about learning. Test scores are no replacement for quality learning so why are we so focused on them? Well, this article does a really good job of explaining how we need to achieve a balance between strictly thinking in numbers and really interpreting and valuing what those numbers mean. There is, undoubtedly, a need for reform in the kinds of assessments that we give children, doctors, students, and other professionals. Numbers are important, but we are missing the point.
In late 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Child Succeeds Act, which replaces the existing No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. This article from The Atlantic surveys the opinions of many scholars and experts on the state of schools in America. It’s a really interesting take on the pros and cons of our educational policies and how they influence children, teachers, and families. After reading this article, I was further convinced that it’s important to achieve a balanced approach to educating kids. When we strictly take an economic point of view, we run the risk of over-emphasizing testing, and deemphasizing quality instruction. Increased testing does not necessarily mean improved learning.
“The federal government and many districts now propose to limit the testing that provides essential feedback and accountability.” – Joshua Angrist, professor of economics at MIT
When we solely focus on the economic gains of implementing policies in the classroom, we can easily miss the target audience of all our efforts: the children. Often, I feel like policies are put in place without regard for how they directly impact children and their families.
“As poverty levels for children have grown to one in four nationwide, and the number of homeless children has doubled, states have been cutting funds for both education and social services.” – Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education emeritus at Stanford University and president of the Learning Policy Institute
But, as this article emphasizes, there is hope. More and more politicians are becoming aware of the problems in our education systems and are redirecting their focus to quality learning environments and more holistic educational practices, as opposed to strictly high-stakes testing factories.
“I find hope in the growing attention of politicians and policymakers to forces outside K-12 classrooms that impinge on learning, particularly for the poorest children.” – Dale Russakoff, reporter for The Washington Post and author of The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?
It’s a great article, you should definitely check it out. Worth the long read.
While soft skills are important for children’s social development, fine motor skills are equally, if not more important, for academic achievement. Interesting read on how something seemingly so small, like fine motor skills, can help children in school.
“The more motor skills children develop, the more motor experiences they are able to have, and the better-prepared they will be cognitively for their later academic careers.”
This has huge implications for the way we teach children in preschool and kindergarten. If fine motor skills have this much of an impact, could we then target this skill to help boost children who are falling behind in school?
“If fine motor skills have the greatest impact on math achievement, then children struggling with early math skills may benefit from a fine motor intervention.”
Psychology Today’s Blog Page is a great resource for finding psychology-related articles, typically written by graduate students or professors, without having to sift through peer-reviewed articles.