Posts Tagged ‘ education standards ’

Don’t Forget Why These Indian Parents Helped Their Children Cheat

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Cheat sheetLast week nearly 1.4 million students in India sat down to take a high-stakes exit exam. Around the world, students participate in forms of standardized testing all of the time, so why are these 10th grade exams making headlines? Because some of the kids’ parents were climbing up walls in an effort to help them pass the exam, that’s why.

Yes, you heard correctly—family members and friends were photographed scaling up several floors to hand off cheat sheets to students inside. It’s also been rumored that security and police officers were accepting bribes in exchange for turning a blind eye—not shocking considering just how many people were participating in the “climb.”

These parents want their children to succeed and, in many cases, India’s flawed education system is not allowing students to do so. According to the Washington Post, ”Education experts say that cheating is just a symptom of the deeper problems that plague India’s education system, such as teacher absenteeism, emphasis on rote learning and inadequate school infrastructure.”

Nearly two dozen Indian parents were apprehended and released hours later, and approximately 600 students were expelled as a result of the cheating, reports the Daily News.

If a student in India fails this exam, it’s likely that they will drop out of school, and these parents were trying to prevent that. They want their children to be educated and have opportunities that they may not have had themselves, and isn’t that what every parent wants for their child?

Lest we forget, systemic cheating has happened in our own country as well. Just a few years ago, Atlanta’s public school system came under harsh scrutiny after 178 teachers and principals in 44 schools confessed to cheating on numerous state-mandated exams.

I believe cheating is wrong, of course, and in no way should a parent, who is supposed to be their child’s role model, exemplify this type of behavior—but when I saw the images of these parents going to such great lengths to help their kids, I couldn’t help but feel just a tiny bit sympathic. What’s your take?

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Income's Impact on Education
Income's Impact on Education
Income's Impact on Education

Image: Student using cheat sheet via Shutterstock

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How Twitter Can Help Shy and Introverted Kids in Class

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Twitter bird and hashtag symbol on black chalkboardHere’s the one thing my parents heard every year at Parent Teacher Conferences: “Your daughter has really good grades, but she doesn’t speak up enough. She has to learn to speak up because it’ll be important for her later in life.” But as much as I wanted to, I was too shy and introverted to speak up, and every time that I did, I would suddenly feel my stomach tightening, my heart racing, my arm shaking as I raised it, and my lips parting without being able to form words in a cohesive, coherent way. My mind always went too fast for my mouth to process. And even after I spoke, it would take me a good 10-15 minutes to calm down again. I just hated everyone’s eyes on me and the silence in the room as everyone listened, tuning in to every nuance of my shaking voice. It was just easier not to say anything!

Because I still remember how I felt, I was fascinated by Amanda Wynter’s piece in The Atlantic, “Bringing Twitter to the Classroom.” Chris Bronke, a high school English teacher in Downers Grove, Illinois, has developed a brilliant way to get his freshmen class to participate in class discussions — by having them on Twitter. While Bronke isn’t the first teacher to use social media to improve classroom learning, he is one of the few making progress in a positive and effective way. By relying on a social media platform the kids were already using, Bronke has encouraged his students to post photos, quotes, quick thoughts, questions about the reading. Hashtags, of course, keep the discussions contained in one thread. Along the way, kids “favorite” each others’ tweets and connect more with each other any time, anywhere, and from any device (mobile, tablet, or desktop). Bronke found that discussions were rich and robust, and that kids were more engaged with the reading and with each other.

Although Wynter’s piece didn’t mention whether Bronke noticed more participation from shy and introverted kids online, I can only imagine this has been the case. There’s no doubt technology helps people develop alter egos that allows them to voice things in a way they aren’t able to in person — just check out these New York Times and Washington Post articles on how shy and introverted kids tend to be more engaged and “extroverted” online. There is something liberating about being able to process and write your thoughts and feelings — without the pressure of eyes and ears — and vet them before sharing them with the world. For shy and introverted kids who struggle with speaking in class and having the spotlight on them, but who need to speak up because their grades depend on it (site note: I always hated this!), participating in online discussions may be a good outlet. These kids are more likely to blossom online and share their ideas and opinions without fearing how they look and sound, and how others are perceiving and reacting to them. Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” even interviewed a teacher in Canada who noted the benefits social media in classrooms for shy and introverted kids.

Of course, using Twitter (or any other social media) to promote discussions certainly has its potential problems — online interaction is still no substitute for real-world conversations, and over-reliance on technology can negatively affect face-to-face social skills (like being unable to identify social cues). As much as shy and introverted kids may be more vocal online, they also need to develop public speaking skills because “real world” situations beyond school necessitate in-person interactions. I know that if I was given the ability to participate on Twitter during school, I would have loved  having another outlet to make my voice heard. But I’m also glad that I didn’t grow up with that technology — I may have relied on it too much and hid behind it. Without it, I had to force myself to feel at ease with talking in front of people — even if it took years, and is still something I’m still working on.

Eventually, kids will need to make speeches and presentations, and give and go on interviews, so it’s always easier to sharpen and refine oratory skills (or any type of skills!) from a young age. Of course, it’s possible that being able to “talk” freely and being “favorited” on Twitter will boost kids’ confidence and make them comfortable talking in person. But teachers will need to make sure they strike a balance with having online and roundtable classroom discussions, and they would also need to make sure that online participation doesn’t become a crutch as the only way to earn good grades. After all, developing well-rounded communication skills will help kids throughout life in all situations (with family and friends), beyond the classroom. Ultimately, this would be the true mark of learning — and even success.

Share your thoughts: Do you believe social media has a place in the classroom?

3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student

Image: Twitter bird and hashtag symbol on black chalkboard via Shutterstock

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Why I Support President Obama’s Plan to Expand Early Childhood Education

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Early Childhood Education Teach for AmericaEditor’s Note: This guest post was written by Elisa Villanueva Beard, the co-CEO of Teach For America, a national nonprofit that works for the day when all children have the opportunity for an excellent education. Teach For America currently impacts more than 750,000 students in over 2,600 schools.

It’s part of parenthood to say “no,” to our children, to set boundaries and explain limits (No, you can’t stay up until midnight. No, you can’t throw that ice cream at your brother), but no parent should ever have to deny their child an education. Young children are insatiably curious, and they all deserve a chance to learn. This is why I was glad to see the President name early childhood education as a priority for 2014, during his State of the Union address last month.

Every minute, the brain of a young child gains 700 neural connections, which is why early childhood education is important in order to support academic and social growth before kindergarten. It matters. As a parent, I’ve also seen my own kids grow immensely through early education. I’m reminded of a day last spring when my oldest son returned from preschool, eager to tell me what the biggest country in South America was. He also wanted to tell me the official language and the names of all the neighboring countries. Langston was so proud to share what he’d learned. He was empowered by his knowledge. Though he could rattle off the facts perfectly that day, I knew that in 10 years, he might not remember the details. But what mattered at the moment was the memorization skills and academic confidence he’d gained, plus the global perspective the school lesson spawned.

And as a former teacher, and someone who has devoted her entire professional life to supporting educational equity, I’m certain that Obama’s call for early childhood education isn’t just important — it’s urgent. The 6-year-olds I once taught were brilliant and motivated, but they hadn’t been to preschool, so we often struggled together, rushing to catch up with other more affluent peers nationwide. Disparities that start at 6 (or even as young as 2 or 3) years old only grow over time. We’re facing inequities today in our education system that have nothing to do with the will or intelligence of students, parents, and communities. What we’re seeing — the gap in test scores between students of color and white students, or between low-income and high-income regions — is the result of a system that’s not designed to serve all kids. We can, and must, change the system, and expanding early childhood education will be a part of that change.

The focus on early childhood education is not just good citizenship — it’s good politics and economics, too. And it’s also simply the right thing to do. Kids who attend preschool are 70% less likely to be arrested before the age of 18 than kids who don’t, and they earn, on average, 33% higher salary in adulthood. Increased salaries and decreased arrest benefit the nation at large; it’s clear that our investment in preschool will be paid back in spades. There are multifaceted reasons the gap, but generally kids who miss out on early education often miss out on other crucial starting blocks, like adequate healthcare and nutrition. So it’ll take systemic change to give kids a shot at a better life, and preschool is a great start.

Young children hold fast to ideas of what’s “fair” and what isn’t, and it often comes down to things being exactly equal. (Parents of preschoolers know the perils of giving one child a slightly bigger handful of goldfish than another.) So if one child gets an education, another should, too. Simple. We take it for granted that all kids deserve a free public education. Over a century ago, we decided that K-12 was enough, but today, we know children need more than that: modern research and modern times have shown us the best education starts early. It’s not only smart to provide this, it’s also what’s fair. Let’s make it happen then — our children expect nothing less.

>> What career will your child have? Take our quiz to find out.

The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years

Photo Credit: Jean-Christian Bourcart

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Common Core Controversy

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

A few months ago Parents addressed the growing rebellion against standardized tests, which are taking over curriculums at elementary schools due to both No Child Left Behind and the new nationalized standards known as the Common Core. If your child isn’t in grade 3 or higher, you may be wondering what the fuss is all about. Well, I have a fourth-grader, so I know. And it isn’t pretty. Recently, my daughter was given a division problem that, at the same age, I could have done in my head. Instead, she was instructed to guesstimate using multiplication and add up the numbers again and again in a column until she came up with the right total. It took me a while to even figure out what she was doing and a good five minutes plus for her to solve it. Then I realized: She was being forced to make simple math more complicated. Why? Because it’s essential practice for the Common Core exam in the spring. Unless she used the prescribed method and showed her work, she wouldn’t get credit—even if she got the answer right. Sheesh! I love math, but I’m pretty sure if I had to do it the way she’s being taught, I’d hate it.

I’m far from the only one. Objections to the Common Core—which isn’t a curriculum, per se, but rather a set of standards our kids are expected to meet, grade by grade—are widespread. Four states have opted out, Minnesota chose not to adopt the math standards, and 20 states have experienced strong opposition, including public forums and legislative bills that attempt to reject the standards. Parent protests have become, well, a common occurrence. The emphasis on the results of a single uniform exam forces schools to teach to the test (and crowds out other subjects not measured by it). Plus, a number of observers who’ve seen the exams (or practice ones) say many of the questions are worded in a way that seems obtuse to adults, much less the kids they are targeted for. So a child who knows how to do the math can still easily get the wrong answer.

We all want our kids to achieve more in school and to be able to compete with their international peers. But whether the Common Core will truly help them do so (or even whether it will survive in its current form) is very much up for discussion. Meanwhile, if you want to hear (actually see) more arguments against its implementation, watch this video of an impassioned Arkansas mom or this one of a Tennessee high school student who believes the Core is rotten.

We Need More Physical Education in Schools
We Need More Physical Education in Schools
We Need More Physical Education in Schools

Young boy showing stress with schoolwork via Shutterstock

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