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June 16, 2017

The Importance of Social and Emotional Learning Part I

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a subject that’s being increasingly discussed in the education community. SEL is teaching students character skills, which most people agree are important.  The challenge is, while these attributes are significant, they are often hard to objectively define and analyze to see how exactly they impact a student’s future.  In 2015 the OECD published the report Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills with a goal to shed light on evidence behind the impact social emotional learning can have on students.

SEL

The report has many findings, but I hope to highlight a few that I find particularly interesting.  The first finding is social and emotional skill development plays a significant role in a student’s academic development.  Specifically, out of the many skills measured “conscientiousness, sociability and emotional stability” helped with future career and social prospects.  If you think about it, this makes sense.  If you have a student who can regulate his/her emotions, show respect and get along with his/her peers, this student will have skills that will help in future classes covering all different subject areas, and for a wide variety of careers.

The impact of SEL is significant for any student, but its impact is even higher on those students who have lower academic performance.  These students are often placed in intervention programs to help them catch up to their peers.  The evidence from this report shows that social and emotional development should be a key part of these programs because it can help the interventions have an even greater impact on student performance.  This further makes attention to SEL a key consideration for improving equity in a school system.

The OECD report also notes the importance of teaching these character traits early in a student’s education career.  After reviewing the current literature, they find that focusing on social and emotional development in early childhood programs has future benefits for students, such as fewer behavior problems and greater student learning.  The report showcases a few specific programs that have been researched and implemented in schools.  One of these programs is “Tools of Mind” which is used in preschool and early primary classrooms to teach students how to regulate their emotions and social behaviors.  While no long-term study has been carried out on students who have completed the program, short-term evaluations do show that students have improved classroom behavior and emotional control.  The skills students learn in these programs build on each other, and so the earlier they can start the better.

Six months ago, the OECD released the findings for the 2015 PISA. PISA is an international assessment for 15-year-old students in reading, math and science and is given in 72 countries.  One of the key areas of analysis for this round of PISA is social and emotional development and well-being, and looking at how this may be associated with student performance.  Next week, I will highlight some of the key findings from the more recent report that shows how the U.S. compares to the 72 other countries. — Annie Hemphill

Filed under: equity,SEL,Student support — Tags: , — Patte Barth @ 3:08 pm





June 13, 2017

New research: Community schools are an evidence-based strategy for school improvement

Last week, in a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., six schools and community-based initiatives across the country were recognized for their excellence in utilizing the community schools model. The Coalition for Community Schools highlighted the considerable achievements of schools from New York City, Nashville, Chicago and Oakland.

CommunitySchoolsShotThe National Education Policy Center (NEPC) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) also presented new research at the event that supported the use of the community schools model as an evidence-based strategy for school improvement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA requires that all interventions meet the “evidence-based” requirement, and this new research suggests that community schools more than meet that standard.

The community schools model may be a particularly effective strategy for improving schools in areas that struggle with high rates of poverty, because it creates a support system for students and families that addresses needs outside of the academic curriculum. Community schools create a system of partnerships and collaborations that address the needs of each child not only as a learner but also as a community member.

Because the needs and assets of each community are unique, there is no one formula for creating a community school. Each community school takes a unique approach to the model depending upon the circumstances of its students and families. However, all form partnerships and collaborations to create a set of integrated services that meet the needs of the whole child. Most are open before and after school—some even on weekends and during the summer—to provide students with wraparound support. Community schools provide services such as physical and mental health screenings, parent and community resources, and expanded learning opportunities like sports and arts programs.

Despite the variety of approaches, NEPC and LPI were able to identify common aspects of the community schools model that lead to success, including a wraparound student support system and a high degree of community collaboration and engagement. The newly released research also found that for every dollar invested in a community school, there will be a $10 to $15 return on investment within the community. In the awardee schools, chronic absenteeism and discipline referrals have decreased, test scores have increased, and fast academic growth has resulted in rising state ratings. Across the board, students and families report closer school and community ties. Using a wraparound support system, community schools may be a tool to close achievement gaps, prepare students for college and future careers, and promote positive outcomes throughout the broader community.






June 8, 2017

How do high performing education systems in other countries prepare and develop their teachers?

Earlier this week, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) released its report, Empowered Educators, which examined international research on teacher professional development and preparation.  Lead by renowned education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond, the research team reviewed systems in Finland, Singapore, New South Wales and Victoria in Australia, Alberta and Ontario in Canada, and Shanghai as guides for exceptional examples for empowering teachers.  After reviewing all the systems, there were four common elements:

1. Solid Base in Technical and Pedagogical Knowledge

In Finland, teacher candidates are required to complete a degree in at least one academic subject.  Then they continue onto a graduate level program where they learn pedagogic methods to teach their subject to K-12 aged students.  Darling-Hammond also noted that in some of these systems that were studied, the number of teacher certification programs is significantly lower than the U.S. model, emphasizing quality over quantity.  In Finland, there are only 8 programs that are housed in research universities and in Singapore there is just one.

2.  Teachers are Researchers

Teachers in Singapore are required to conduct research every year in their schools.  Teachers work in groups on a research projects that are then presented to the universities.  Many of the research projects are published in academic journals and top teacher researchers receive awards for their work.  In Shanghai, classroom teachers are also required to do research in their schools which often gets published.  In both systems teachers are given ample time in their school day to work on their projects, resulting in less time devoted to classroom instruction compared to the average American teacher.

3. Mentoring

In Finland, teacher candidates spend a large part of their university teacher preparation programs in model schools.  These schools are tied to the university and are staffed with very skilled master teachers that coach and model research based teaching practices.  In some cases, mentoring programs are extended to the first and second year teachers to continue to help them better their teaching practice.

4. Career Ladders

Shanghai and Singapore have created formal career ladders for teacher to advance through the profession.  Teachers each have an individual plan based on their long-term aspirations of continuing in the classroom, becoming an administrator or a becoming a policy leader.  These systems recognize that relevant professional development looks different for each level of teacher on the career ladder, and can tailor the sessions so that they have the biggest impact.  The formal labels recognize excellent teachers by labeling the top level as master teachers, and give classroom teachers a title to aspire towards.

All the systems studied implemented these four basic principles in some form.  They took research based ideas and manipulated them to fit within their local context.  The policies may not be able to be explicitly copied from one country or state to another due to the vast cultural and contextual differences, but the sharing of successful ideas can create a generally more informed policy.   Now the question is, how can the United States use these ideas to take our teachers to the next level?

 






June 6, 2017

Does a four-day school week sacrifice learning in the interest of a balanced budget? Part II: Academic impact

This week, we revisit our two-part series on the increasingly popular four-day school week. Adopted as a cost-cutting measure in nearly 150 districts across the country, this schedule has been shown to produce limited savings. What are the academic effects of such a change? How does a four-day school week change classroom learning? How might students use their “free” day?

Parents and educators have expressed concerns about the academic viability of a four-day school week in most districts where the switch has been suggested. However, thus far, any evidence of students’ academic performance in four-day districts is limited and mixed. A recent study found evidence of slightly higher scores in mathematics for students on a four-day schedule than those on a five-day schedule , however this is certainly not part of a broader pattern. Just a few years prior, one study found “little difference”  in achievement between the two schedules, while another found slightly higher achievement in students on the five-day schedule. Evidence of any academic benefit or detriment to students is inconclusive at this time and cannot yet be used to make a decision about the use of a four-day schedule.

Academically, we know very little about the effect of a four-day school week. Some proponents suggest, however, that there may be other potential benefits to students and staff from the shift. Absenteeism may be reduced for both students and staff, particularly in rural areas, as the “free” fifth day may be used to schedule appointments that would otherwise create time missed from school. Teachers may be able to use the increased time in the daily schedule to implement new teaching methods, and may use the fifth day for planning and collaboration. Students may use the fifth day for enrichment activities, remediation, or class preparation. Proponents suggest that the four-day week brings benefits to students and teachers by allowing for greater flexibility and creativity with the use of the school day, which may have a positive impact on student learning.

Unfortunately, these potential benefits come with detrimental drawbacks. Teachers and parents both voice the concern that five days of learning may not effectively be consolidated into four. Fewer, longer days may be particularly difficult for younger students who may become fatigued and unfocused by the end of the day. While absenteeism may be reduced, any student who is absent for a single day misses a larger portion of the week’s material than a student who is absent for one day of a five-day schedule. For many districts making this switch, a large portion of the students may be receiving free- and reduced-price lunch and breakfast. By eliminating one day of the school week, schools push the responsibility of providing one or two extra meals onto already struggling families. In some communities with four-day school weeks, food banks have had to step in to fill this gap in students’ nutrition. The extra “free” day created by a four-day calendar also raises the question of how students spend this increased time out of school, and how that may vary across socioeconomic groups. Families with more resources may be more able to pursue enrichment activities for their child, whereas families with fewer resources, already stretched thin, may be required to seek out alternative day care or even leave older children unsupervised. There is some evidence that moving to a four-day school schedule may even increase youth criminality as older students left unsupervised fill their time with illegal activity. Each of these unintended consequences may have long-term impacts on students’ academic achievement that should be considered and accounted for before shifting to a four-day schedule.

We have reached the end of our two-part series on the four-day week. Though the switch continues to gain popularity due to tight budgets, we know very little about its effects on student learning outcomes, particularly regarding longer-term indicators like college attendance and career success. As this schedule gains popularity as a method to cut budgets in districts across the nation, we will almost certainly gain a more conclusive understanding of its implications. As of now, there is little support for the theory of large potential savings, current evidence on academic success is incomplete, and there remain questions of potentially negative implications for students both inside and outside of the classroom.






June 2, 2017

Welcome our summer intern!

Hello, my name is Annie Hemphill and I am a new summer intern at the Center for Public Education.  I am very excited to have the opportunity to add to all the existing work that CPE has done on public education.

Before coming to CPE, I graduated from the Institute of Education at the University College London with a master’s degree in Comparative Education.  During my program, I studied education policies and public education systems in countries throughout Europe and Asia to gain a global perspective that informs education policies that are effecting the U.S.

I taught for two years in a public school in Tulsa, Okla. through Teach For America and have had multiple experiences volunteering in public schools in Colorado.  I have worked in different types of public schools ranging from the affluent suburbs to a high-needs school in Tulsa.  Through this I have seen the differences that exist in the public schools, and the various challenges that can be shaped by context.

Utilizing my background in the United States public education system and international education research, my goal is to look at public education in a new way.  I want to find the similarities between the education system in the United States and those abroad so we can learn from one another and enhance the research on public education.

Filed under: CPE — Annie Hemphill @ 8:00 am





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