Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
American children still read for pleasure, according to a new report, but not very often and not very well. Reuters has more:
The San Francisco-based nonprofit Common Sense Media, which focuses on the effects of media and technology on children, published the report, which brings together information from several national studies and databases.
“It raises an alarm,” said Vicky Rideout, the lead author of the report. “We’re witnessing a really large drop in reading among teenagers and the pace of that drop is getting faster and faster.”
The report found that the percentage of nine-year-old children reading for pleasure once or more per week had dropped from 81 percent in 1984 to 76 percent in 2013, based on government studies. There were even larger decreases among older children.
A large portion rarely read for pleasure. About a third of 13-year-olds and almost half of 17-year-olds reported in one study that they read for pleasure less than twice a year.
Of those who read or are read to, children tend to spend on average between 30 minutes and an hour daily with that activity, the report found. Older children and teenagers tend to read for pleasure for an equally long time each day.
Rideout cautioned that there may be difference in how people encounter text and the included studies may not take into account stories read online or on social media.
The report also found that many young children are struggling with literacy. Only about one-third of fourth grade students are “proficient” in reading and another one-third scored below “basic” reading skills.
Despite the large percentage of children with below-basic reading skills, reading scores among young children have improved since the 1970s, according to one test that measures reading ability.
The reading scores among 17-year-olds, however, remained relatively unchanged since the 1970s.
About 46 percent of white children are considered “proficient” in reading, compared with 18 percent of black children and 20 percent of Hispanic kids.
Those gaps remained relatively unchanged over the past 20 years, according to the report.
“To go 20 years with no progress in that area is shameful,” Rideout said.
Help make reading fun with this free “Animal Antics” reading worksheet!
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Thursday, May 8th, 2014
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, an assessment that’s also called “the nation’s report card,” shows disappointing trends in the performance of American 12th graders in both math and reading skill levels. NPR has more:
It measured reading and math skills of 92,000 high school seniors in 2013 and found that reading skills of those 12th-graders have gone unchanged since the last time the test was given, in 2009, and they’re lower than those of students in 1992.
Things aren’t much better when it comes to math. While scores were slightly better than in 2005, they too have been stagnant since 2009.
Those results are unacceptable, said David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees testing policy.
“Achievement at this very critical point in a student’s life must be improved to ensure success after high school,” he said.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the news troubling, particularly as high school graduation rates have reached an all-time high.
“We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools, and as a nation, we must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students,” he said.
In the NAEP test, achievement is broken down into three levels: basic, proficient and advanced. “Basic” indicates partial mastery of the subject, “proficient” is grade-level performance, and “advanced” indicates superior work.
Seventy-four percent of students scored below the grade-appropriate level in math, compared with 26 percent of students who scored at or above grade level. Asian students and students whose parents went to college achieved the best math scores. Math scores for African-American students were the worst.
In reading, just 38 percent of seniors scored at or above grade level. And one-quarter of high school seniors are reading below grade level.
But that flat performance wasn’t just among students who struggled with math and reading, officials said. It also extended to the highest-performing students.
The results released Wednesday also showed that the achievement gap between white students and their black and Hispanic counterparts remained stubbornly wide, despite more than a decade of federal efforts to close it.
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Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Children who use hand gestures during a math lesson have been found to grasp and retain a greater amount of information than children who do not. The findings, from researchers at the University of Chicago, looked at ways in which children could use “abstract gestures,” as opposed to, say, counting numbers on their fingers, to improve math learning. More on the study from the university:
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The researchers taught third-grade children a strategy for solving one type of mathematical equivalence problem, for example, 4 + 2 + 6 = ____ + 6. They then tested the students on similar mathematical equivalence problems to determine how well they understood the underlying principle.
The researchers randomly assigned 90 children to conditions in which they learned using different kinds of physical interaction with the material. In one group, children picked up magnetic number tiles and put them in the proper place in the formula. For example, for the problem 4 + 2 + 6 = ___ + 6, they picked up the 4 and 2 and placed them on a magnetic whiteboard. Another group mimed that action without actually touching the tiles, and a third group was taught to use abstract gestures with their hands to solve the equations. In the abstract gesture group, children were taught to produce a V-point gesture with their fingers under two of the numbers, metaphorically grouping them, followed by pointing a finger at the blank in the equation.
The children were tested before and after solving each problem in the lesson, including problems that required children to generalize beyond what they had learned in grouping the numbers. For example, they were given problems that were similar to the original one, but had different numbers on both sides of the equation.
Children in all three groups learned the problems they had been taught during the lesson. But only children who gestured during the lesson were successful on the generalization problems.
“Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalize the knowledge they had gained during instruction, action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between,” said senior author Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology. “Our findings provide the first evidence that gesture not only supports learning a task at hand but, more importantly, leads to generalization beyond the task. Children appear to learn underlying principles from their actions only insofar as those actions can be interpreted symbolically.”
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Friday, March 7th, 2014
Kids between the ages of 4 and 6 may have an innate ability to solve algebra problems long before they have had a single math class, according to new research from Johns Hopkins University.
“These very young children, some of whom are just learning to count, and few of whom have even gone to school yet, are doing basic algebra and with little effort,” post-doctoral fellow Melissa Kibbe, the study’s author, said in a statement. “They do it by using what we call their ‘Approximate Number System:’ their gut-level, inborn sense of quantity and number.”
The “Approximate Number System,” or ANS, is also called “number sense,” and describes humans’ and animals’ ability to quickly size up the quantity of objects in their everyday environments. Humans and a host of other animals are born with this ability and it’s probably an evolutionary adaptation to help human and animal ancestors survive in the wild, scientists say.
Previous research has revealed some interesting facts about number sense, including that adolescents with better math abilities also had superior number sense when they were preschoolers, and that number sense peaks at age 35.
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Thursday, March 6th, 2014
New federal school meal standards, established in 2012, that require schools to offer healthier choices to students appear to have had a measurable, positive impact on fruit and vegetable consumption among U.S. school children.
“There is a push from some organizations and lawmakers to weaken the new standards. We hope the findings, which show that students are consuming more fruits and vegetables, will discourage those efforts,” said lead author Juliana Cohen, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, which conducted a study that examined food consumption both before and after the new standards were implemented.
Some 32 million students eat school meals every day; for many low-income students, up to half their daily energy intake is from school meals. Under the previous dietary guidelines, school breakfasts and lunches were high in sodium and saturated fats and were low in whole grains and fiber. The new standards from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) aimed to improve the nutritional quality of school meals by making whole grains, fruits, and vegetables more available, requiring the selection of a fruit or vegetable, increasing the portion sizes of fruits and vegetables, removing trans fats, and placing limits on total calories and sodium levels.
The researchers collected plate waste data among 1,030 students in four schools in an urban, low-income school district both before (fall 2011) and after (fall 2012) the new standards went into effect. Following the implementation of the new standards, fruit selection increased by 23.0%; entrée and vegetable selection remained unchanged. In addition, consumption of vegetables increased by 16.2%; fruit consumption was unchanged, but because more students selected fruit, overall, more fruit was consumed post-implementation.
Importantly, the new standards did not result in increased food waste, contradicting anecdotal reports from food service directors, teachers, parents, and students that the regulations were causing an increase in waste due to both larger portion sizes and the requirement that students select a fruit or vegetable. However, high levels of fruit and vegetable waste continued to be a problem—students discarded roughly 60%-75% of vegetables and 40% of fruits on their trays. The authors say that schools must focus on improving food quality and palatability to reduce waste.
“The new school meal standards are the strongest implemented by the USDA to date, and the improved dietary intakes will likely have important health implications for children,” wrote the researchers in a statement.
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