The other gap that schools aren’t talking about—relationships

The NAEP scores released in April set off a flurry of headlines about the sobering state of achievement gaps across the nation. The general consensus? Despite pockets of promise and slight declines in gaps by race, achievement data reveal that gaps by income have remained relatively flat, or uneven at best.

The news for young people on the wrong side of these gaps, however, may be worse. Measuring opportunity in terms of household income or school quality, as education reformers are prone to do, doesn’t paint the whole picture. Students today are competing on an even more complex playing field, one that’s often masked by statistics on income and achievement gaps. A well-resourced childhood introduces a whole new set of inequities between rich and poor students, and those whose parents have or have not earned college degrees: social gaps.

Gaps in students’ networks matter immensely in both immediate and longer-term measures. Research groups like the Search Institute have shown that developmental relationships drive everything from higher grades to persistence in school. Down the line, an estimated 50 percent of jobs come through personal relationships.…Read More

The other gap that schools aren’t talking about—relationships

The NAEP scores released in April set off a flurry of headlines about the sobering state of achievement gaps across the nation. The general consensus? Despite pockets of promise, and slight declines in gaps by race, achievement data reveal that gaps by income have remained relatively flat, or uneven at best.

The news for young people on the wrong side of these gaps, however, may be worse. Measuring opportunity in terms of household income or school quality, as education reformers are prone to do, doesn’t paint the whole picture. Students today are competing on an even more complex playing field, one that’s often masked by statistics on income and achievement gaps. A well-resourced childhood introduces a whole new set of inequities between rich and poor students, and those whose parents have or have not earned college degrees: social gaps.

Gaps in students’ networks matter immensely in both immediate and longer-term measures. Research groups like the Search Institute have shown that developmental relationships drive everything from higher grades to persistence in school. Down the line, an estimated 50 percent of jobs come through personal relationships.…Read More

SEL should be an easy sell for U.S. schools and districts

In light of tragic events that have put a spotlight on school safety issues, it’s more important than ever to understand the value of students’ social and emotional learning (SEL). While many districts have started conversations about SEL and its correlation to student success, it’s time to start acting.

The majority of students face daunting socioeconomic and emotional pressures. An alarmingly high number of students experience trauma at home, and their attitudes towards learning can vary due to these outside factors. In fact, studies show that up to 60 percent of all high school students are “chronically disengaged” from their own learning.

Our constantly evolving digital world is another factor that plays into student achievement. Cyberbullying has become more and more common, and a remarkable 20 percent of middle school students reported seriously contemplating suicide in a survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center. Although these statistics are frightening, districts are finding ways to implement support into curriculum to avoid these and other tragedies.…Read More

Survey: Boys have waning interest in STEM careers

Boys’ interest in STEM careers has dropped over the past year, while girls’ interest remains the same, according to an annual survey from Junior Achievement and Ernst & Young LLP.

Last year, 36 percent of surveyed male high school students said they wanted a STEM career, but this year, only 24 percent reported the same. For two years straight, just 11 percent of female high school students say they want to pursue a STEM profession.

Girls’ low interest in STEM education and careers isn’t exactly new–by middle school, many girls lose interest in and enthusiasm for STEM subjects for a variety of reasons, including the false perception that science, math, and technology classes aren’t “cool,” as well as a lack of female representation in STEM professions. Still, many initiatives and schools are working to combat this trend.…Read More

4 key ways ESSA can support SEL in schools

Although student achievement in core subjects is commonly used to define success, more educators agree that student success also depends on learning about intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies–commonly known as social and emotional learning, or SEL.

And while the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) doesn’t reference SEL specifically, it does offer opportunities to focus on school-based SEL. In fact, educators and policymakers can leverage ESSA funding to support SEL, according to a new report from the RAND Corporation.

Studies show that student success increases with various social and emotional skills, including self-management skills and the ability to navigate relationships. With increased acknowledgement that students need “soft” skills outside of core academic skills, interest in SEL programs and interventions has increased as well.…Read More

Taking on teacher attrition

We once believed that teacher effectiveness dramatically increased for the first three to five years on the job and then plateaued. But recent research suggests that substantial growth in effectiveness can be seen for the first 12 years on the job, and likely longer. This suggests that teacher quality develops over time and that experience can influence effectiveness.
We also know that students who have highly effective teachers for three years in a row can score 50 percentile points higher on achievement tests than students who have less effective teachers three years in a row.

But academic gains are just one of the outcomes of high teacher effectiveness. Research showed that as teachers gained experience, their students’ absenteeism rates declined. Experienced teachers tend to be better at classroom management and motivating students, resulting in fewer conduct issues and higher attendance.

And then there are soft skills, such as the ability to collaborate and problem solve, think creatively, and be empathetic. These skills—which have been linked to higher employment, greater job satisfaction, and lower crime rates—are developed, not taught, and teachers are a huge part of that development.…Read More

3 smart ways to fix your PD

The benefit of professional development (PD) for teachers is well known: improving teaching practices means greater student achievement. What’s less frequently acknowledged is that PD programs are often so wracked with issues that they’re rendered ineffective, if not downright detrimental.

Impractical, infrequent, identical—teachers’ complaints about PD programs run the gamut. Unless school administrators address these problems, they risk wasting not only time, energy, funding, and other scarce resources, but squandering the unique opportunity for teacher growth and student advancement.

Below are three common issues that teachers have with PD, as well as suggestions for how administrators can tackle them. Consider it a starting point for optimizing your school’s approach to PD.…Read More

How to use data to increase student success rates

Roughly 10 percent of freshmen class students nationwide find themselves struggling to earn enough credits to pass ninth grade, leaving them with only a 20-percent chance of graduating on time. This past year, the Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Decatur Township teamed up with the University of Chicago to combat this issue by implementing a Student Transition and Enrichment Pathway (STEP), a research-based program proven to produce growth in academic achievement and graduation rates among high school students. With its new STEP program in place, Decatur Township experienced significant success in just six months.

Does your school district face the same problems with its graduation rates? If you’re looking to improve the success of your students these steps can help you get to the root of the problem and establish strategies to increase key graduation statistics.

Identify the indicators of falling behind
In order to effectively battle increasing dropout rates, educators need to first research statistics and identify specific indicators that lead to high school students falling behind. The STEP program identifies these indicators by reviewing each student’s academic performance and attendance. This allows educators to distinguish which students are “at risk” and need additional support and encouragement on their path to graduation.…Read More

3 must-know’s about assessment achievement levels

In education and assessment, we use the word “standards” in a number of ways: curriculum standards, standards-based assessments, performance standards. Performance standards—also known as proficiency levels, achievement levels, performance descriptors, and more—are one way we report assessment results, and have a direct influence on decisions that affect educators and students every day.

Many of us use and discuss these performance standards without knowing where they come from. Performance standards are first a policy initiative representing student expectations of proficiency for an assessment program, and then are uniquely defined for each content and grade level, after at least one year of operational administration. Standard setting is the process undertaken by education experts to relate test scores from an assessment program to pre-defined achievement levels.

Here we explain the three basic facets of standard setting: purpose, use, and process.…Read More

How our school is personalizing learning through co-teaching

Greenwood College School is a not-for-profit, independent, grade 7 to 12 school with about 450 students and about 60 teachers. We focus not only on academic achievement, but also on each student’s character development through connecting to their varied interests, both inside and outside the classroom. At Greenwood, we emphasize community service, extracurricular activities, outdoor education, the arts, and athletics. We want our students to venture out in the real world, experiencing life as much as possible.

Schools looking to personalize learning generally aim to increase interactions between the student and teacher. To achieve this goal, the most straightforward approach would be to have fewer students per teacher; the idea is that the teacher will have more time to devote to each individual student’s growth.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!…Read More