Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back to school reveals that we need to refocus on what matters for success

This American Life episode of Back to School questions what really matters when it comes to helping students find success and looks at what teachers can truly be responsible for.  Host Ira Glass asks are we really measuring the right thing and takes a look at if test scores really matter or do they just tell us what we already know.

Not surprisingly what Glass uncovers is that when we focus on test scores not only are we focusing on the wrong thing, but we are completely missing the boat when it comes to helping our students succeed who need it most. Need translates into youth living in poverty who do not have support at home and are being raised in an unstable and chaotic setting. Glass looks at how poverty-related stress affects brain development and provides a birds eye view from the perspective of a teenager who had this experience growing up. 

Experts like Paul Tough, author of the new book How Children Succeedeconomist James Heckman, and doctor Nadine Burke Harris discuss more effective ways to meet the needs of school children and it doesn't have anything to do with test prep or scores.  Instead of viewing students as data points what we need is to help young people with the development of non-cognitive skills like tenacity, resilience, and impulse control.  Tough discusses research that suggest these skills can be learned and points to the success of various programs that revolve around early interventions both in the home and in school. Economist James Heckman then discusses they ways in which this shift in emphasis could change the way we practice education and the way we think about learning.

This is an important program for all those accountability, high-stakes testing nuts to pay attention to.  If you know one of them, send them a link to this show.

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