Fostering the Right Relationship
Children who’ve been subjected to abuse, neglect, and abandonment, and who’ve been uprooted from the only home they’ve known, run the risk of developing disorders that interfere with learning. Like other students, foster kids are more likely to succeed if they learn to read well, take college prep courses, and graduate. But school success depends on getting foster kids enrolled in school promptly.
Is Science Education Failing Students?
Students of all ages come to school with private theories about how the world works, say Philip Sadler and Matthew Schneps with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. But it isn’t just kids who have these misconceptions. Sadler and Schneps found that 22 of the 25 Harvard University faculty and graduating students they interviewed—including some with science majors—had reverted to their childhood notions of the universe. Teachers can change misconceptions and improve knowledge, but simply covering the curriculum and coaching on tests won’t suffice.
The Power of Caring
Teacher warmth and support, say University of Virginia researchers Bridget Hamre and Robert Pianta, have unparalleled power to help children adjust and achieve. Their 2005 study of 910 first-graders included 5- and 6-year-olds whose mothers had low-level education and children identified with "significant behavior, social, and/or academic problems." But by the end of first grade, the children whose teachers infused “everyday interactions” with emotional and academic support achieved as well as students with college-educated mothers.
Searching for Stability
The number of kids who change schools is astounding. And their mobility rates keep climbing. The negative effects of high mobility are well documented, but how can schools address students’ needs amid the pressures of accountability?
Our Tongue-Tied Students
Learning foreign languages has been a low priority in U.S. schools, but today it’s more important than ever. The U.S. Department of State says "deficits in foreign language learning and teaching" hamper security, diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence, and cultural understanding. And the Committee for Economic Development warns that "strong foreign language programs at the elementary, high school, and college levels" are necessary to maintain competitiveness in global markets.
Students as Researchers
For many kids, summer camp means pitching tents and listening to spooky stories around a campfire. But for 100 city students who signed on as coresearchers on a university project, summer camp was serious business. The kids—white, African American, Latino, Asian, and Afro-Caribbean, with a range of achievement levels—examined race, ethnicity, and class in their New York area high schools. When kids are encouraged to dig for data on a topic they care about, the results can be enlightening—and empowering.
Show Them the Money
To reason economically, students need a broad understanding of history, current events, politics, and statistics. And they need the analytical skills to make informed decisions about their personal finances and about government programs and policies.
I Think I Can, I Think I Can
An Even Start family worker on a home visit checked on a 17-year-old and her six-month-old baby. The apartment was dreary and unkempt, the infant underweight and listless. But the teen mother was undaunted. She was sure that, in just one year, she could graduate from law school and get a job like the criminal attorneys on her favorite TV show. Many teenagers, it turns out, have unrealistic dreams. Students may have high hopes, but their aspirations need to be based in reality—and bolstered by school support.
The Right Size School
Can schools be too small to provide adequate curriculum and instruction? Small high schools are likely to offer fewer courses than large ones. Even so, small schools can provide an enriched curriculum on par, or nearly on par, with large schools. The critical factor is not the number of courses—it’s how principals and teachers organize and manage instruction.
Some of the world’s best classrooms are out of doors. Many American schools are incorporating schoolyard gardens into their site plans to make their grounds more attractive and to help children learn. For many students, natural schoolyards are their only opportunity to run on grassy slopes, observe animal tracks in snow, or build shelters from stones and branches. When it comes to playing, children are the real experts, and designers are coming to realize that playgrounds should be designed from a child’s perspective.
Head of the Class
Superintendents are playing a more assertive role in classroom instruction. Through "distributed leadership" the superintendent plays a vital role in raising student achievement, beginning by shifting instructional decisions from building administrators to district officials to ensure that classroom lessons are aligned with standards.
In America, you don't have to go far to find cultural dissonance. In fact, you might not have to travel beyond your own schools. Increasingly, teachers and students come from different cultural backgrounds. While teachers are overwhelmingly white and English speaking, more than one-third of K-12 students are not white, and one in 10 speaks limited English. These differences can erupt into cultural clashes, but diverse learners can blossom in culturally responsive classrooms.