Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Notes

A few thoughts that occurred to me this week:

-Here's an interesting piece on Teaching students how to combat traumas of poverty on the yoga mat (h/t: Alexander Russo) by PBS earlier this week that relates to my research on stress, poverty, and academics.  I'm certainly not going to stand here and insist that every student learn yoga, but the piece raises a whole lot of interesting questions and important issues.

-Really interesting move by TFA to pilot two programs in which corps members are trained for a year prior to graduation and, separately, supported during years 3-5 of teaching.  I'm not surprised by the move to support current corps members for longer, since they've always been touchy about the attrition rate, but I'm very surprised by the move to train future corps members for longer.  It will be interesting to see whether the additional training improves performance, but perhaps more interesting to see if it improves retention.  I could see it going either way -- teachers feeling like they need to serve longer because they put forth more effort up front to gain the position, or teachers feeling more burnt out after two years (which would now be three) because they've put in more time and effort at that point.

-One misconception I've seen in a few posts lately is that if we start focusing on non-cognitive skills it will mean we can teach fewer cognitive skills and, therefore, math and reading achievement (etc.) will suffer.  This seems shortsighted to me since a large part of the reason non-cognitive skills are so compelling is that they lead directly to better academic performance.   One of the first studies to draw attention to this notion, for example, found that "grit" had a stronger effect on GPA than did IQ (more on "grit" here).  Now, a rigorous new 3-year randomized controlled trial finds that teaching social and emotional skills resulted in students posting larger gains in reading and math achievement than those in the control group.  So, I think that's a pretty clear "no" in response to the theory that teaching more non-cognitive skills will harm achievement.

-I doubt we'll ever stop debating the merits of pre-school, and here's some pushback against Russ Whitehurst's recent skeptical review of the evidence.  I don't think there's any question that the evidence here is mixed, but what I find compelling is that more than a couple studies have found large effects decades past the intervention.  The vast majority of interventions in education yield small effects that fade out quickly, so even if it's only a few of the very best pre-school programs that are having these effects it seems worth trying again.

-Starting Monday, I'll be running a multi-part series on how poverty impacts academic performance.  I'm looking forward to some great dialogue around the series . . .

1 comment:

myurko said...

The responsive classroom study you linked to showed no effects from the treatment. Positive effects were only found for schools that faithfully implemented technique, which sounds good, except that schools that can faithfully implement responsive classroom probably have more non-observable expertise/capability. No causal conclusions can therefore be drawn.