Structure and freedom for kids

Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews discusses some findings in Michael Petrilli’s book The Diverse Schools Dilemma; namely, that middle class and working class parents tend to have different parenting styles that impact education:

A middle-class, college-educated parent of any ethnicity is likely to be like me: Overscheduling children’s free time but preferring innovative instruction and informal discipline at school.

The research Petrilli cites says working-class and poor parents of any race are more likely to let their children amuse themselves as they see fit once their homework is done but tend to prefer schools with traditional teaching styles and strong discipline.

He cites the work of University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau. She and her team closely tracked 12 families of different racial and class backgrounds. They found the center of life in middle-class families was the calendar, with what Lareau said were “scheduled, paid, and organized activities for children . . . in the two-inch-square open spaces beneath each day of the month.” But despite the forced march to improvement that characterized their children’s free time, those parents tolerated a lot of back-talk and often negotiated with children about what they wanted to do. They preferred teachers who did not give orders but encouraged creativity..

Working-class and poor parents, researchers found, left their children on their own on weekends and summer days but were more likely to set strict behavior rules. Those parents tended to like teachers who were tough and structured.

As a nation, we have been arguing for many generations about the best parenting styles. Those of us who prefer lots of scheduled activities but not much discipline should remember that many members of the revered Greatest Generation who won World War II were raised the way many low-income children are brought up today. . . .

Do loose school lessons teach more than structured ones? Does regular weekend soccer practice do more for our children’s character than roaming around with their friends? I don’t know. The research doesn’t say.

If middle class and low-income parents have different methods with their kids and different expectations for their schools, how do principals and teachers serve both populations?

via Do rich and poor parenting styles matter? – Class Struggle – The Washington Post.

So when middle class teachers go with a “creative” free-form approach to teaching, working class kids end up with no structure, either at school or in their free time.  Perhaps home-schooled middle-class kids tend to do so well because both their schooling and their free time are highly structured.  If this breakdown is correct, poorer kids would do really well if they only had more structure in their schooling.

As I recall, though we were middle class, my school was highly structured and my free time was my own.  That may have more to do with “greatest generation” parenting, times gone by, and local culture.  I think it’s good to give children some space for freedom and for pursuing things they enjoy on their own, rather than scheduling every minute with sports and self-improvement lessons.

Do you think this holds true?  Can you make a case for one of these parenting/educational styles over the others?  Are there other possibilities?

New online classical Lutheran school

One of the promising developments in homeschooling is the advent of on-line courses.  Parents can now enroll their children in an entire on-line school or in individual hard-to-teach-on-your-own classes.  A promising venture that many Lutheran homeschoolers are excited about is  Wittenberg Academy, an online classical Lutheran school, featuring strong confessional theology and an academically-rich curriculum for high-schoolers.  After long preparation, Wittenberg Academy is now taking registrations for the Fall.  (Sorry, for the “Michaelmas Term.”  Isn’t that cool, having a “Michaelmas Term”?)  Here is the notice I received:

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! It is with exceeding joy that I share with you the news that registration for the 2012-13 academic year is live!

After much ado about much, we decided to go the simple route for the time being and explore better options in the future for accepting online payments, etc. For now, you can go to http://www.wittenbergacademy.org/registration.html and fill out the online form. Once we receive your registration, we will email you with payment options and a summary of your registration.

As the form is very simple, be sure to check out http://www.wittenbergacademy.org/2012-13course_descriptions.html for any prerequisites and in which term a class is being offered.

At each step of this journey of bringing you the best in online Classical Lutheran education, we trust God for his timing and provision. While our timing would have included live registration several months ago, we trust that this is God’s best for Wittenberg Academy and thank you for your patience.

Here are a few items for your consideration: Michaelmas Term runs September 4, 2012- November 21, 2012 Christmas Term runs November 26, 2012- March 1, 2013 with Christmas break from December 22, 2012- January 6, 2013 Easter Term runs March 11, 2013- May 31, 2013 with Easter break from March 28- April 1 and no class on Memorial Day (May 27)

Each class is one credit with the exception of the Paideia courses, which are three credits. Each credit (class) is $400. Thus, all classes, with the exception of the Paideia courses, are $400.

The Paideia courses are $1200. If you have any questions about registration, be sure to contact me! Again, we thank you for your patience and look forward to partnering with you during the 2012-13 academic year!

Jocelyn

Mrs. Jocelyn Benson, Head Teacher Wittenberg Academy

mrsbenson@wittenbergacademy.org www.wittenbergacademy.org

Courses offered this term include Math (Algebra I, pre-Calculus, & Calculus I&II), Languages (Latin, Greek, & German), Science (biology & chemistry), Liberal Arts (beginning and intermediate courses in grammar, logic, & rhetoric; also several music courses), Theology (“Liturgical Theology & Sacramental Piety”), four levels of “Paideia” (an integrated humanities curriculum, studying history, literature, philosophy, etc.), and electives (Physical Education, Psychology, & Personal Finance).

Another option is for parochial schools to supplement their offerings with some of these online courses.

 

The myth of self-esteem

A long-time educational myth is exploded:

For decades, the prevailing wisdom in education was that high self-esteem would lead to high achievement. The theory led to an avalanche of daily affirmations, awards ceremonies and attendance certificates — but few, if any, academic gains.

Now, an increasing number of teachers are weaning themselves from what some call empty praise. Drawing on psychology and brain research, these educators aim to articulate a more precise, and scientific, vocabulary for praise that will push children to work through mistakes and take on more challenging assignments. . . .

A growing body of research over three decades shows that easy, unearned praise does not help students but instead interferes with significant learning opportunities. As schools ratchet up academic standards for all students, new buzzwords are “persistence,” “risk-taking” and “resilience” — each implying more sweat and strain than fuzzy, warm feelings.

“We used to think we could hand children self-esteem on a platter,” Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck said. “That has backfired.”

Dweck’s studies, embraced in Montgomery schools and elsewhere, have found that praising children for intelligence — “You’re so clever!” — also backfires. In study after study, children rewarded for being smart become more likely to shy away from hard assignments that might tarnish their star reputations.

But children praised for trying hard or taking risks tend to enjoy challenges and find greater success. Children also perform better in the long term when they believe that their intellect is not a birthright but something that grows and develops as they learn new things.

via In schools, self-esteem boosting is losing favor to rigor, finer-tuned praise – The Washington Post.

Educational culture

What is the key to a successful school?  The educational culture.

Think of the ingredients that make for a good school. Small classes. Well-educated teachers. Plenty of funding. Combine, mix well, then bake.

Turns out, your recipe would be horribly wrong, at least according to a new working paper out of Harvard. Its take away: Schools shouldnt focus on resources. They should focus on culture.

The study comes courtesy of economist Roland Fryer, an academic heavyweight who was handed a MacArthur Foundation “genius award” earlier this year for his research into the driving forces behind student achievement. Fryer gathered extensive data from 35 New York City charter schools, which generally cater to underprivileged and minority communities. He interviewed students, principals, and teachers, reviewing lesson plans and watching classroom video, to try and pinpoint factors that correlated with higher test scores.

His findings could add some new fire to the debate about what makes a good school. Fryer found that class size, per-pupil spending, and the number of teachers with certifications or advanced degrees had nothing to do with student test scores in language and math.

In fact, schools that poured in more resources actually got worse results.

What did make a difference? The study measures correlation, not causation, so there are no clear answers. But there is a clear pattern. Schools that focus teacher development, data-driven instruction, creating a culture focused on student achievement, and setting high academic expectations consistently fared better. The results were consistent whether the charter’s program was geared towards the creative arts or hard-core behavioral discipline.

If small classes, credentialed teachers, and plush budgets aren’t adding up to successful students, then what is? Fryer measured school culture in a way no academic before him had. He looked at the number of times teachers got feedback. The number of days students got tutored in small groups. The number of assessments for students. The number of hours students actually spent at their desks. Each correlated with higher student scores.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, schools that claimed a “relentless focus on academic goals” also tended to produce better test scores. Schools that focused on self esteem and emotional health? Not as much. (Sorry Gen Y.)

via Everything You Know About Education Is Wrong – Atlantic Mobile.

Perhaps this is one reason why homeschooled children tend to do so well.  In addition to following what is usually a more substantive curriculum, homeschooled children have lots of interactions with their teachers!  And they are indeed immersed in an educational culture.

HT:  Stewart Lundy

The Atlanta cheating scandal

It’s not the students who cheated in Atlanta.  It’s the teachers.  And the principals:

Prosecutors are weighing whether to file any criminal charges against 178 Atlanta teachers and principals who state investigators said had cheated on standardized tests to inflate student scores.

The cheating in 2009, found in 44 of the 56 Atlanta public schools examined, was prompted primarily by pressure to meet targets in a data-driven environment, a statement released by Governor Nathan Deal’s office said.

“A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in Atlanta Public Schools, which created a conspiracy of silence,” the state report concluded. The 2009 cheating was said to include teachers erasing incorrect answers on state standardized tests.

Deal’s office said on Wednesday that the decision of whether or not to prosecute would be up to district attorneys in the three Georgia counties where the educators live. . . .

Eighty-two teachers and principals have confessed to the cheating, according to the state report. Deal’s office said six principals refused to answer questions.

“These principals, and 32 more, either were involved with or should have known that there was test cheating in their schools,” the investigation found.

The report concluded that there was a “major failure of leadership throughout Atlanta Public Schools with regard to the ethical administration” of the 2009 standardized exams known as the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Cheating occurred as early as 2001, and warnings several years ago of misconduct were ignored, the report said.

via Prosecutors to review widespread cheating in Atlanta schools | Reuters.

I know what is going to happen:  The educators will blame the standardized testing required by  the “No Child Left Behind” law.  But what they were really doing was masking their own failures to teach their young students how to read and write.

 

U.S. test scores vs. China’s

International testing data shows that American high schoolers perform at a distinctly mediocre level in reading, math, and science.  Our future imperial masters, though, scored at the very top.

After a decade of intensive efforts to improve its schools, the United States posted these results in a new global survey of 15-year-old student achievement: average in reading, average in science and slightly below average in math.

Those middling scores lagged significantly behind results from several countries in Europe and Asia in the report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to be made public Tuesday.

South Korea is an emerging academic powerhouse. Finland and Singapore continue to flex their muscles. And the Chinese city of Shanghai, participating for the first time in the Program for International Student Assessment, topped the 2009 rankings of dozens of countries and a handful of sub-national regions.

via International test score data show U.S. firmly mid-pack.

The top five in reading:  (1)  Shanghai-China (2) South Korea (3) Finland (4) Hong Kong-China (5) Singapore.  The USA ranked 17.

The top five in math:  (1) Shanghai-China (2) Singapore (3) Hong Kong-China (4) South Korea (5) Taiwain.  The USA ranked 31.

The top five in science:  (1) Shanghai-China (2) Finland (3) Hong Kong-China (4) Singapore (5) Japan.  The USA ranked 23.

Would this not be evidence of American decline and Asian ascendancy?  (Also, I suppose, Finnish ascendancy?)  Any ideas about what we could do to become eduationally competitive again?  Keeping in mind everything that hasn’t worked?


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