Conscientiousness and Creativity

Schools are beginning to focus on the nuances of education realizing that beyond academics kids have emotional growth and curiosity in their own interests that if nurtured make them stronger individuals than solely focusing on traditional academics. Character based education considers self-control, curiosity and grit as factors that can be nurtured and help kids do well in school and develop their personalities. An Australian psychology professor, Arthur E. Poropat’s research shows that conscientiousness and openness or creativity and curiosity are more important to student success than intelligence. Read more on his research here.

School Lunch Around the World

Kids eat over half of their daily caloric need during school lunch. With French fries and pizza still being classified as “vegetable” through loopholes, it’s not surprising that childhood obesity is still on the rise. Let’s take a look at standard school looks like from countries around the world (most of which are out performing the United States.) Perhaps another way to help US students improve their academics could be eliminating nutritionally poor options from school lunches, replacing them with options rich in nutrients.

Common Core Closing the Gap

Common core as implemented in schools serves to restructure and ideally help close the achievement gap faced by black, Latino, low-income students and English language learners. Students are working more collaboratively in ways that prepare them for college and trade schools and ultimately careers, where they will be required to work collaboratively. A California school teacher witnessed an exchange in her class. An English language learning student answered a math problem correctly, but when asked to explain it he couldn’t. He had the answer right, but for the wrong reason. After the teacher asked him to confer with his peer group and discuss why and how to arrive at the right answer, he was able to explain how to resolve the problem. Working in this way prepares students for life long learning and establishes peer connections. Both of these things are needed to be successful later in life while preparing to enter a career. Read more on common core advocacy here.

Schools and Physical Activity

The author of a recent Chicago Tribune Article brings up some pertinent concerns about modern schooling. Namely the issue around inactivity for kids who are bursting with energy. Jennifer L.W. Fink is a freelance writer and creator of BuildingBoys.net. She sees schools as limiting in certain rigid restrictions. As the mother of a son who she deems Little House on the Prarire material, an active child willing to help and get firewood, she feels schools break boys spirits’ by limiting their natural inclination to be active. This is a valid concern and is similar to conversations about school start and end times based on kids natural biorhythms and optimal sleep times. Read more on Jennifer’s concerns here.

Immigration Status and Kids

20 New York school districts are being compelled by the Department of Education and the attorney general’s office to stop asking for certain enrollment documents like Social Security cards. The practice is illegal after the 1982 Plyler v. Doe Supreme court decision to stop schools from banning students from public education on the basis of immigration status. Still after intervention some schools continue to deny access to certain students. Read more on the topic here.

3D Printing in Schools

3D printing is projected to be the manufacturing revolution of the future. Some schools have added 3D printing courses to junior high and high schools. Trudi Lawless, an engineering teacher, introduced her class to a desktop 3D printer. She first printed medals for students who took them home to show amazed friends and family. Students began to realize the limitless possibilities at their fingertips. Our future is being shaped now, as these and similar middle school students realize soon they will be able to make things rather than buy them. One of Lawless’ students designed a new case for his smartphone and can print it at school.

Breakfast is Brain Fuel

A study from 2013 finds that the cognitive function of young students improves from the nutritional benefits provided by eating breakfast. Those who ate breakfast scored higher on standardized tests and had higher IQ scores later in life. Eating breakfast is particularly important for poor kids because they are more likely to eat meals with low nutritional value or fewer meals.

These results show how important the first meal can be for students. With this in mind the School Breakfast Program, launched in 1966, helps to alleviate hunger and poor nutrition for kids from low-income families who are at, just above, and below the poverty line by serving free or near free breakfast each day.
What’s surprising is despite the fact that 9 in 10 schools who serve free and reduced lunch also serve free and reduced breakfast, only 53% are utilizing the program. A few factors are at work here. A big obstacle is the associated stigma of being on a free and reduced meal program. Another is having the get to school earlier to take advantage of most meal programs. Some schools now serve breakfast after 1st period, in effect normalize eating these meals in class. Some schools in Chicago and Los Angeles have implemented grab and go breakfast options, making it it easier to obtain a nutritious meal to start the day without having to go out of the way to arrive early, which is often infeasible for low-income kids. Read more on the topic here.

Grit Gets Gritty

It seems some in education have taken away misconstrued conclusions about Angela Lee Duckworth’s research. An Education Week article wrongly states that schools concerned with Grit seek to cultivate personality traits in students. Instead Grit is concerned with fostering their interests, passions and ultimately career paths. These are things each student is capable of irrespective of their racial and socioeconomic background. Perhaps for a more clear understanding we should first understand what Angela Lee Duckworth means by Grit.
“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in – day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon not a sprint.” – Angela Lee Duckworth taken from her TED Talk “The Key to Success? Grit”
Grit is not about minority kids having to work harder than more affluent peers as it is about working hard, period, and focusing on your goals. Angela Duckworth’s research is about the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with effort. While some kids may have it tougher than others, what will never be lost is their potential. The concepts highlighted in Grit exist to support all students and acknowledge that educators need a better understanding of students and learning from a motivational and psychological perspective.

Charter School Enrollment Increases

A report from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools shows that charter school enrollment in the United States has increased by 14% from last year, meaning there are 2.9 million children currently in charter school attendance alone. The states that have the largest number of charter schools that opened in the 2014-15 school year are California, Florida and Texas. Today almost 6% of children are attending charter schools. In the next few years the percentage is expected to rise to 10%.

“We are not surprised parents are choosing charter schools for their child’s education,” Nina Rees, president and CEO of NAPCS, said in a statement. “The growth in charter school enrollment shows parents’ demand for high-quality educational options. We are optimistic that the number of public charter schools will continue to grow to serve even more students and families.” – Education News
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