October 2007 Archives

My eyes were not opened to the pure joy and energetic powers of a cup of coffee until I was a young adult working at a daily newspaper. Purely out of survival, I began consuming coffee throughout each day and the habit has continued for almost two decades. But I have serious reservations about making coffee easily available to high school students, as is being done in coffeehouses now setting up shop in high school libraries. See "High School Libraries Luring Students in with Coffeehouses." The idea is to entice more kids to visit the library. Sure, my As and ...


Thousands of public high school students in New Orleans received their own laptop computers this month. The ultimate goal of the $53 million technology initiative is to improve achievement, according to this Education Week story. Some reseachers are very skeptical of linking laptops to student achievement gains. (See "The Laptop Revolution Has No Clothes.") Others, however, are finding links to student learning gains. A recent study about a statewide laptop program in Maine, for instance, suggests that it has helped improve student writing. What have you seen in your district or state? And what impact do such programs have on ...


Fans of the 4-H, scouting, and other organized clubs that focus on positive youth development may not be surprised to learn that those types of memberships help students' long-term success. A new study reports what many adults and educators may know from experience, or at least intuitively: that students who experience positive relationships with their peers and adults in programs that work to build character, confidence, and competence, are more likely to do well in school and in life. They are also more apt to be civically engaged and to contribute to their communities. The study sponsored by the National ...


Education Week's Debra Viadero has written a fascinating piece about 'stereotype threat,' the tendency for students to underperform when faced with situations that might confirm negative stereotypes about their social group. Since 1995, stereotype threat has been documented in more than 200 studies for many different situations and social groups, Ms. Viadero points out. Have you seen this behavior manifesting itself in your schools? If yes, how so? And what should educators do to encourage kids to look beyond stereotypes?...


In case you missed it, last week was the inaugural National Teen Driver Safety Week, and if anyone needed an explanation of why such a commemorative event was initiated, a random look at news clips says it all. During the same seven-day stretch: several Sacramento, Calif.-area students died in car crashes; teenage drivers in Florida and New Jersey were charged with vehicular manslaughter and homicide, respectively, for the deaths of their friends in crashes earlier this year; and, many teens could be seen car surfing in video clips on the social networking site MySpace.com. Car crashes cause more ...


Motivation Matters reader Bill Betzen of Dallas has requested some feedback about a middle school initiative to improve student motivation and academic achievement. The initiative is called The Middle School Archive Project: Student Motivation and Dropout Prevention and it aims to get kids to think more about what they would like to achieve in the future and how to get there. In a recent comment on this blog, Bill asked for feedback on what you like or don't like about the initiative and how it might be improved. So, let's give Bill some help. Check out the initiative and then ...


Lately, it seems like every month or so another school district starts an incentive program in which cash is offered for student academic achievement. The latest news is from the New York City schools, which plans to expand the use of a cash-reward program. Thanks to donations by philanthropists, the district will start a program this school year to offer cash incentives for students who do well on Advanced Placement exams, according to this New York Times story. The district had just started its own program to pay some students in the fourth and seventh grades for getting good scores ...


Blogger Joanne Jacobs points us this week to the D-Ed Reckoning blog, where specific ideas for using positive reinforcement to motivate students are proposed. The ideas are based on an interview with a teacher who works in a poor, urban school. Since this was my first visit to D-Ed Reckoning, I must say I did get a chuckle out of the quote from the movie Animal House featured at the top of the blog: "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life." I didn't care much for Dean Wormer, but he was right on that note. But ...


Motivation guru Richard Lavoie, the author of The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets for Turning On the Tuned-Out Child, talks to USA Today in this Q&A session about the importance of not branding kids as lazy, the balance between providing support and encouraging challenges, and the wisdom, or lack thereof, of reward systems, competition, and punishment. It's a good and easy read, so it's worth checking out....


A high school in Minnesota is trying to motivate kids to get to school on time by linking parking privileges to tardiness, according to a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The school has set up a graduated system of consequences for tardiness that suspends students' parking permits. What's your prediction? Do you think the new policy will yield measurable results?...


A new organization is being launched today to promote an extended school day and school year. The National Center on Time & Learning will provide research and support for efforts to increase academic and enrichment opportunities for students, which some experts say can help improve student performance and close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their better-off peers. There is currently a bill in Congress to fund district-level programs for expanded learning time, and the strategy is included in the discussion draft for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act that was released by House education leaders last ...


Does fining or punishing parents for their children's misbehavior really work? Probably not, suggests a recent story by the BBC. One researcher looked specifically at whether fining parents worked to discourage British children from skipping school. But he found no link between the parental penalties and improved school attendance. Rather, the story says, efforts to educate parents about how to discipline their children tend to be more effective than fines. But it says such efforts are expensive and therefore not widespread. I have known some families in which most of the kids are well-behaved and respectful, but there is one ...


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