Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
A new study by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University is looking at whether highly decorated kindergarten classrooms–adorned with colorful art, posters, and borders featuring things like dancing letters and numbers–are distracting to kids during that important first year in school. While the study wasn’t conclusive, it did indicate that some kids’ gazes and attention are drawn away from classroom activities by the decorations. More from the New York Times:
The study, one of the first to examine how the look of these walls affects young students, found that when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted, their gazes more likely to wander off task, and their test scores lower than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan.
The researchers, from Carnegie Mellon University, did not conclude that kindergartners, who spend most of the day in one room, should be taught in an austere environment. But they urged educators to establish standards.
“So many things affect academic outcomes that are not under our control,” said Anna V. Fisher, an associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon and the lead author of the study, which was published in Psychological Science. “But the classroom’s visual environment is under the direct control of the teachers. They’re trying their best in the absence of empirically validated guidelines.”
In the early years of school, children must learn to direct their attention and concentrate on a task. As they grow older, their focus improves. Sixth graders, for example, can tune out extraneous stimuli far more readily than preschoolers, the study’s authors noted.
But could information-dense kindergarten classroom walls, intended to inspire children, instead be overwhelming? Could all that elaborate décor impede learning? Some experts think so.
“I want to throw myself over those scalloped borders and cute cartoon stuff and scream to teachers, ‘Don’t buy this, it’s visually damaging for children!’ ” said Patricia Tarr, an associate professor at the University of Calgary who researches early childhood education and art education. She was not involved in the study.
Image: Colorful classroom, via Shutterstock
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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.
Image: High school student, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
A Pennsylvania teenager is appealing a court ruling that required him to pay a fine for allegedly violating wiretapping laws when he recorded incidents in which he felt bullied by classmates during school classes. More from Newser:
The 15-year-old boy, who has learning disabilities, recorded his tormenters in class after enduring regular bullying, his parents tell the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. South Fayette High School reacted by slapping the teen with detention and dragging him before a judge for violating wiretap laws.
“The whole thing has been a horrible nightmare,” said the boy’s father, Shea Love. “This whole ordeal has made my son miserable.” School officials said nothing to the press, but according to a transcript of a legal hearing, the teen said he recorded his tormenters “because I always felt like it wasn’t me being heard.”
Love says that on the recording, one boy tells another to yank his son’s pants down, and the teacher tells them to get back to work. “What?” says one of the boys. “I was just trying to scare him.”
Ultimately, a judge found the teen guilty and his parents paid a fine. Now the boy is seeking an appeal and his parents are pursuing a civil suit against the district, WPXI reports.
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Image: Mobile phone camera, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 28th, 2014
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, a Minnesota school has agreed to pay student Riley Stratton $70,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from an incident where school administrators forced her to give up her Facebook login information. The administrators then perused her Facebook page against her will. More from Newser.com:
It began when Riley Stratton, then 13, posted on Facebook complaining that a hall monitor was mean, and the school responded by giving her an in-school suspension. “They punished her for doing exactly what kids have done for 100 years—complaining to her friends about teachers and administrators,” Riley’s ACLU lawyer says.
Matters intensified when a parent complained that Riley was chatting about sex with her son. This time the school forced Riley to enter her Facebook password in front of a sheriff’s deputy, and perused her page in front of her. “I was in tears,” says Riley, now 15. “I was embarrassed when they made me give over my password.” Superintendent Greg Schmidt tells Fox News that the school thought it had permission from Riley’s parents, but her mother says she was never informed. “I’m hoping schools kind of leave these things alone, so parents can punish their own kids for things that happen off school grounds,” she says.
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Friday, December 6th, 2013
The school lunch “hour” is a misnomer at schools across the country, many of which give students as little as 15 minutes to eat lunch. NPR reports:
At many public schools today, kids are lucky to get more than 15 minutes to eat. Some get even less time.
And parents and administrators are concerned that a lack of time to eat is unhealthful, especially given that about one-third of American kids are overweight or obese.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that students get at least 20 minutes for lunch. But that means 20 minutes to actually sit down and eat — excluding time waiting in line or walking from class to cafeteria.
At Oakland High [in California], over 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. And officially, students get about 40 minutes for the meal. But Jennifer LeBarre, Oakland Unified School District’s nutrition services director, admits that the actual table time is far shorter. At times it’s just 10 minutes.
“I think it’s a legitimate complaint that there’s not enough time to eat,” LeBarre says. “If we are being asked to eat our lunch in 10 minutes, that’s not enough for us. So I really think we need to really work more for the 20-minute table time.”
Oakland High is hardly alone. In a wide-ranging by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 20 percent of parents of students from kindergarten through fifth grade surveyed said their child only gets 15 minutes or less to eat.
Ironically, relatively new federal school-nutrition guideline changes may be making the situation worse. Under federal rules, schools have to increase the availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables — among other changes. It’s part of an effort to improve nutrition and combat childhood obesity.
But eating more healthful foods can take more time, LeBarre says. “It’s going to take longer to eat a salad than it will to eat french fries.”
Image: School lunch box, via Shutterstock
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