February 2008 Archives

This story, "Researchers Propose NAEP Look Beyond Academic Measures," by Education Week's Kathleen Kennedy Manzo is about a new report written for the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University, which says that the National Assessment of Educational Progress should measure more than just basic academic skills. The report claims that the assessment should expand to include eight goals: "basic academic skills, critical thinking, social skills and work ethic, readiness for citizenship, physical and emotional health, appreciation of arts and literature, and preparation for work." There's an interesting discussion forming in the comments, directly linked to student motivation. ...


In a recent commentary piece on edweek.org, Vicky Shippers argues that recess is an important piece of a student's school day. It is the only unstructured time children have at school, and yet many recess activities--like kickball and tag--have been banned from the playground because of safety concerns, and in many schools, recess itself has been squeezed out because of time constraints. Shippers explains why this is a worrisome trend: "Recess ... is about freedom. ... During recess, children are in a peer setting where they can watch how other kids act, decide whom they like and don’t like, and ...


There's a relatively new blog up on edweek.org that showcases student work from a project called Students at the Center, which works in two New Orleans high schools. On the blog, co-directors Jim Randels and Kalamu ya Salaam give regular updates on what students in the project are up to and post the essays students write. This is a really great example of how educators have begun to use technology to motivate students and present their work in a different way. The blog itself is an inspiring window into the lives of high school students living in New Orleans ...


It seems like lately every week there's been something new about cash-incentive programs, and this week is no exception. Debra Viadero's follow-up story about a three-year-old rewards program in Coshocton, Ohio reveals that their cash incentives have worked--sort of. Scores in math have improved, but reading scores have stayed the same. Test scores in science and social studies have also improved, although not significantly. Because of the mixed results, it seems like educators on both sides of this debate are using the study's results to support their position. Also, I was a little surprised to see that an overwhelming majority (81%)...


There's a letter to the editor this week that gets right to the heart of student motivation issues. It's from a former teacher who, as a substitute teacher, was appalled when he took over for a teacher who was letting students read comic books for an English class. But then he had a realization: "These boys and girls, all from working-class families, many of them children of immigrants, were devouring the comic books, and were reading for pleasure for the first time. Some of them had moved from comic books to Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Jack London, and they ...


A couple of months ago, we had quite a debate going on this blog about the importance of homework--how much should be given, whether it's effective, and how much strain it puts on families. So when I saw this story ("Survey on Homework Reveals Acceptance, Despite Some Gripes") on edweek.org this morning, I immediately thought of the readers of this blog. Debra Viadero's article says that 85 percent of American parents believe their kids are doing "the right amount" or "too little" homework. Seventy-five percent of students say they have adequate time to complete their homework. Overall, students, parents, ...


Education Week reporter Mary Ann Zehr, who posts frequently on her Learning the Language blog, just returned from a one-month stint in the Middle East. She wrote a number of fascinating dispatches while she was there, and her latest "Back in School, Iraqi Teen Lacks Motivation to Study" might be of particular interest to readers of this blog. The circumstances surrounding the interruption of many Iraqi children's education are complicated and difficult to summarize, so I highly recommend that you go read the entire story. Once Iraqi kids go back to school after a long interruption, they are often grouped ...


In her story this week, Education Week's Debra Viadero says that research is drawing an increasingly strong link between exercise and academic performance. Here's an excerpt: "There’s sort of no question about it now," said Dr. John J. Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "The exercise itself doesn’t make you smarter, but it puts the brain of the learners in the optimal position for them to learn." This has significant implications for schools that, finding themselves in a time-crunch, have cut down on the amount of time allotted for physical education during school. ...


Here's a new twist on the student incentives debate: Prison officials in California are considering offering inmates special privileges if they make use of academic classes. The brief article doesn't go into much detail, but says that prison classes don't have enough teachers and are frequently disrupted by fights, which might be why participation in classes is low. In addition to considering incentives for inmates, officials are also hiring more teachers and addressing behavior issues. Also, if you'd like to view all posts about incentives and rewards on Motivation Matters, check out our Incentives/Rewards topic page....


Over the past few days, a number of readers have pointed my attention to a variety of sources where you can find out more about cash-incentive programs. In the interest of providing as much information as I can about this topic, here's a roundup of some of the links that have been sent my way. This blog post by eduwonkette, available from edweek.org, gathers links to some papers presented at a panel about student incentives at the American Economic Association's annual meeting. Overall, the studies found that giving students incentives was not very effective. Independently of the cash-incentive program ...


I wrote a story about cash incentives for the upcoming issue of Education Week, and it's up now on edweek.org, if you'd like to take a look. One thing I didn't have room to address in the story itself was assertions by both Andres Alonso, the chief executive officer of Baltimore public schools, and Gregory Fields, the assistant superintendent for high school curriculum for Fulton County, Ga., schools, that students regularly receive monetary incentives from their parents for good grades. Mr. Alonso, in particular, stressed that these programs were making those kinds of rewards available for students whose parents ...


This AP story details an innovative, and effective, program to get students to finish their homework. At Glenpool Middle School, teachers don't give out zeros for incomplete homework assignments. Instead, they send the students to a lunch study hall, where they are expected to complete the originally assigned work. If the work still isn't completed by the end of the lunch period, their parents are contacted to make arrangements for the student to finish the assignment before or after school hours. I think this is a really good idea for a number of reasons. First of all, zeros pull down ...


I came across a really good video of a talk about giving kids the freedom to explore dangerous things. Gever Tulley, who founded a summer program called the Tinkering School, which allows kids to build inventions and generally tinker with things, urges parents to let their kids play with fire, own a knife, and drive a car--among other activities--arguing that those opportunities teach kids invaluable life lessons about the way things work and allow them to explore their natural curiosity in a positive way. It reminds me of the debate I had with my Dad about whether increased safety regulations ...


Here's a story about a school that's doing a lot of things right. Samuel Powel School in Philadelphia has met No Child Left Behind's federal benchmarks for the past four years, and in a district where less than half of students can read on grade level by the end of third grade, 96 percent of Samuel Powel School's third graders read on grade level, says the article. So what's its secret? The classes are small, it has a low rate of teacher and student turnover, and the parents are actively involved. The article also details an engaging reading lesson by ...


As we are all aware, a variety of factors--including academic pressure and laziness--motivate some students to cheat. This article in The Oregonian notes that new technology brings even more ways for students to break the rules. The Internet can be used to download plagiarized research papers, cell phones can take pictures of exam questions, and graphing calculators can store information to be called up during a test, the article says. However, the number of cheaters remains steady--and staggeringly high. "Two-thirds of high school students admit to cheating at some point during their academic careers," says the article. That's an overwhelmingly ...


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