Habits of Thought
Students should be taught to reason their way into school subjects, instead of being spoon-fed information that they memorize and then forget. Schools should see to it that students become progressively more disciplined in their reasoning, and more self-critical and self-directed in the process and products of their thinking as they advance through the grades. Students learn to think better when schools teach them how to think. But what's the best way to teach students to think better?
Second Time Around
Making students repeat a grade hasn't worked for 100 years, so why is it still happening? And why do government officials, school leaders, and teachers persist in recommending retention as a remedy for low student achievement—even when researchers call it a failed intervention?
Beginning teachers do not enter the classroom as finished products. Some administrators are openly exasperated with the low quality of teacher applicants. But, they maintain, beginning teachers need time to improve their skills under the watchful eye of experts—and time to reflect, learn from mistakes, and work with colleagues as they acquire good judgment and tacit knowledge about teaching and learning.
Beyond Zero Tolerance
Do zero-tolerance policies make schools safe? Many educators seem to think so—and see zero tolerance as the backbone of school discipline. But many dispute the assumptions that support zero tolerance. Stringent zero-tolerance policies identify every child as potentially dangerous. On the surface, the policies appear sensible and logical, but they end up punishing many children who are often frightened, sometimes thoughtless, but rarely dangerous.
Pathways to the Future
Across the country, high schools are turning to career academies as a way to reshape large, impersonal high schools into small learning communities. In fact, many schools are adopting career academies as their front-line effort at whole-school reform. School officials hope career academies will increase students' engagement in learning, raise achievement, and keep kids in school until they graduate. Community leaders—especially business and industry leaders who sponsor career academies—hope for the same things, but they also have their sights set on preparing a strong workforce.
When Disaster Strikes
Perhaps no school crisis plan can be absolutely perfect. But school boards, legislators, government officials, and others responsible for crisis management have a responsibility to make sure their plans are based on the best information possible—to ensure that their plans are good policy, not just good politics.
Learning After Hours
After-school programs sponsored by schools and community agencies are well-intentioned, but many simply extend the school day with homework and study sessions. Such programs might satisfy parents and teachers, but they fail to satisfy kids—especially those who need time to just be kids. The right kind of after-school programs can pay off for kids.
Reform at the Top
Comprehensive high school reform requires taking the long view and working with the big picture. But it also means taking close-ups of students—and using those snapshots to frame long-lasting reform.
Fifty years after Brown, few Americans would approve of intentional racial segregation. Why, then, are racial achievement gaps allowed to broaden and deepen in many school districts? One answer is deeply ingrained racial stereotypes.
All Together Now
Children learn best when their basic needs—including food, shelter, and clothing—are met and when their families are free from worry about employment, housing, health, and child care. Full-service schools aim to meet all those needs under one roof. Children learn best when their basic needs—including food, shelter, and clothing—are met and when their families are free from worry about employment, housing, health, and child care. Full-service schools aim to meet all those needs under one roof. Increasingly, schools and community agencies are forming one-stop centers for children and their families.
The Pivotal Year
Ninth grade is a make-it or break-it year, says one superintendent. Last year, about a quarter of the ninth-graders in his urban district didn't make it. They skipped classes, flunked courses, broke school rules, and got suspended—but not promoted to 10th grade. Nearly all students enter ninth grade with high aspirations, but many lose their self-confidence by the time they get their first report card. Rough transitions can make ninth grade little more than a holding tank for high school.
Beyond Baby Fat
The medical community is calling childhood obesity the nation's largest emerging issue and a national epidemic that demands urgent attention. And policy makers at the state and federal level are responding. Childhood obesity is a serious health problem—and one schools can help address.