Time for a quick recap of what I’ve been reading (and watching) this week.
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As we all know this year’s election was unprecedented and unusual; it has caused a lot of worry and uncertainty among many different groups of people across the country. And while I have been saddened by much of the dialogue that has come from this administration I have also taken strides in my own life to be a more informed, educated, and civically-minded citizen. One way I have done this is through my teaching.
A recent Brookings article highlights some of the details underneath the hooplah that was this years election. The article talks about some concepts and inequalities that social scientists and education researchers have known for years: folks who live in rural America are not receiving basic education about how the economy works, this is something urbanites take for granted.
As a graduate student, I am expected to teach undergraduate courses. So far I have taught Child Development and Mystery, Murder, and Madness (which is basically a criminal behavior class). In my program, upper level graduate students are required to teach 2 courses each semester, so by the end of the program, we have A LOT of experience teaching at the college level.
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.
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.