Engaging the Disengaged
Schools can do plenty to keep students engaged in learning, says Charlotte Danielson, of the Educational Testing Service. Students who are deeply engaged in learning are not simply spending time on task, she says, but are intellectually involved with curriculum topics and mentally involved in what she calls minds-on learning. Making that happen, not surprisingly, starts with the teacher.
In the Beginning
Preschoolers come in small packages, but almost everything to do with universal prekindergarten—projected costs, numbers of eligible kids, and claims about long-term results—is super-sized. Some politicians and early childhood advocates might like to provide prekindergarten programs for all of the nation's 8.3 million 3- and 4-year-olds. But current budget deficits appear to be dampening state governors' and legislators' enthusiasm for universal preschool.
Stressed Out in the Classroom
Stress seems to be a way of life for teachers. Many teachers describe themselves as overwhelmed. They admit to feeling anxious and apprehensive—especially about meeting the mounting needs of troubled students, doing justice to an all-consuming curriculum, and getting kids ready for a relentless series of tests. What causes teachers to feel stress? The source can be a personal problem, an inability to live up to lofty ideals, or difficult working conditions.
The Creative Classroom
What does a creative classroom look like? You might expect to see a profusion of student artwork, brightly decorated bulletin boards, and projects in various stages of completion. But teachers who've received the American Teacher Award (ATA), sponsored by the Walt Disney Corp., say a stimulating visual environment is just part of the picture. Much more important is a classroom's mental environment—a climate where kids and teachers are free to study and explore important curriculum topics with rigor but without restraint.
Dying for a Drink
Predicting adolescent alcohol abuse is an inexact science, but new research studies show what works in preventing early drinking—and what doesn't work. Many intervention programs aimed at reducing or eliminating adolescent alcohol use focus on a single factor, such as peer pressure, instead of the complex array of factors that contribute to early drinking. School-based and community-based intervention programs should take into account students' risk factors at various ages and stages of development.
Angry at the World
Aggression, the experts say, is a learned behavior. If that's the case, school-age kids are learning a lot about hitting, kicking, and other aggressive behaviors. In fact, many students are learning to push their aggression to the limits, displaying traits that are increasingly dangerous—and that have dire consequences for the safety of students and teachers alike.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Hearing loss takes a toll on learning. Hearing-impaired children are likely to display delayed speech and language skills and social adjustment problems, all of which contribute to poor overall achievement. Children with severe or profound hearing loss are easy to spot, but those with moderate or minimal hearing problems sometimes go undetected. As a result, many students with minor hearing problems experience a slow but steady decline in academic achievement.
Teaching about Religion
School leaders need to provide guidance and support to teachers who cover curriculum topics related to religion—and they need to be certain that, when it comes to teaching about religion, the district abides by the letter of the law. Where schools sometimes go wrong is ignoring that little word about. Provide top-notch training for teachers before expecting them to teach about religion.
Prescription for Learning
The National Association of School Nurses' (NASN) definition of school nursing says school nursing is a specialized practice that advances the well-being, academic success, and life-long achievement of students. In fact, most of what school nurses do enables kids to return to their classrooms and continue learning. That link to learning is a major reason school leaders should be more informed about school nurses and the important role they play in overall student achievement.
Show What You Know
Teachers seldom use standardized test scores to improve classroom teaching and learning, but those who use performance assessments throughout each curriculum unit can gauge students' progress and are more likely to raise student achievement. That can't happen unless teachers know where each student stands in terms of progress, and uses that information to decide whether to reteach lessons, try different instructional strategies, or give students extra time and more guided practice to learn and learn well.
Too Soon to Test
It's a rite of passage: Parents start calling in September to ask about preparing their 4- and 5-year-olds for kindergarten screening in the spring. Kindergarten screenings aren't always what they seem—or what they should be. Many schools are replacing developmental screening with readiness screening. Especially troubling is the fact that the most commonly used standardized screening instruments are not psychometrically sound and do not accurately predict students' success in the early grades.