Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 12:11 PM ET, 10/ 5/2010

Report: Schools, teacher ed programs ignore how kids really learn

By Valerie Strauss

This post was written by James P. Comer, associate dean of medicine at Yale University and co-founder of the Yale Child Study Center School Development Program, and Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

At the request of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, with funding from a partnership between the Foundation for Child Development and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Comer and Pianta co-chaired a panel on developmental science issues for the national organization responsible for assuring the quality of programs that educate the nation’s teachers and school leaders.

The panel produced a report, "The Road Less Traveled: How the Developmental Sciences Can Help Educators Improve Student Achievement: Policy Recommendations," summarizing the panel’s two reports, all of which can be found here. It was released today.

By James Comer and Robert Pianta
Good teachers have always understood that students don’t learn in a vacuum: Kids can’t learn efficiently if they have to walk a gauntlet of gang thugs every day on the way to school, or if they suffer mental problems, or they were up half the night cowering from domestic violence.

Now a growing amount of developmental research confirms that as many of half of all students become chronically disengaged, contributing to the high dropout rates and achievement gaps that have plagued our schools for a generation.

There is good news: Research also shows that squarely addressing students’ emotional, social, and cognitive needs improves learning.

The problem is that this research isn’t being put to wide use.

So the question is this: What can educators and schools do to help students from challenging family backgrounds, or those who simply lack the motivation to learn?

That’s what we set out to answer in a new report commissioned by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and released today.
.
What we found was discouraging. Despite big advances in our understanding of how children and adolescents grow and learn, little of that knowledge has found its way into schools or educator preparation programs. If teachers don’t know how to address their students’ emotional, cognitive, and social needs, they face an uphill battle in improving student achievement, especially among “at-risk” populations facing persistent achievement gaps.

The blame lies mostly in the legacy of public education’s century-old roots, including the emphasis on outdated, industrial-era models of instruction and discipline. But over the last two decades, we’ve developed a strong base of research that compels us to be much more purposeful about putting actionable developmental knowledge in educators’ hands.

In classrooms where teachers address children’s individual emotional and social needs, you’ll see students doing challenging work at their own pace, either in groups or individually, as the teacher actively monitors and encourages their progress.

Research has shown a clear connection between these kinds of environments and student learning: A meta-analysis of 213 school programs that use developmentally focused approaches found an 11 percentile-point gain in student achievement, as well as reduced behavioral issues. Places where we’ve put such programs into place, such as Asheville City Schools in North Carolina, have also seen achievement gaps between black and white students narrow rapidly.

While such gains are encouraging, they are isolated. And we have failed to help teachers meld cognitive and social-development knowledge with instruction that also reflects what students are expected to know and be able to do.

Making matters worse, we’ve also failed to make these connections an integral part of what teachers learn as they prepare to enter the profession. Until we create a systemic way to verse teachers in developmental principles, we’ll be stuck with the scattershot approach to improving instruction that’s characterized much of education reform.

Putting our new developmental knowledge to work in classrooms will require more than just revising education textbooks. Translating scientific knowledge into educational practice takes research and real-world testing to identify teaching strategies that directly apply our understanding of students’ developmental needs.

The “connective tissue” bridging the world of scientific research and classroom instruction will need to be developed in schools of education, as will tools allowing prospective teachers to learn and test these practices in real-work settings before they enter their own classrooms.

We have an incredibly important opportunity to take this rapidly growing base of scientific knowledge and find the best ways to bring it to the classroom.

That’s especially critical in low-performing schools, where the evidence suggests that culturally specific knowledge of student development can help turn around schools serving high-poverty, high-need communities. The alternative is unacceptable: If we do not integrate what we know about how children grow and learn, we run the risk of losing another generation of learners.

-0-

Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | October 5, 2010; 12:11 PM ET
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Learning, Research  | Tags:  achievement gap, education research, james comer, research, robert pianita, student achievement, teacher education, teacher evaluation, teacher quality  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Jill Biden, Obama host summit on community colleges
Next: Ravitch: Why teachers should never be rated by test scores

Comments

FINALLY!!! I agree with an article you have posted! This is right on point...let's see if it gets posted on the Washington Teacher Blog...LOL!

Posted by: teacher6402 | October 5, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The headline is a little misleading. The teacher education programs I'm familiar with have incorporated emotional, cognitive and social development into their curricula, but it has not filtered into local schools, at least in part because school boards and older administrators have not kept up with the research, but mainly because school "reformers" have no interest in it, and they’ve had the most influence on education policy for the last 10 years. Remember TFA and Rhee/Duncan/Klein claim that "great teachers" (meaning TFA's with no exposure to this research whatsoever) can overcome any emotional, social and cognitive barriers. Meanwhile, corporate money is invested in charters, vouchers, small schools, KIPP, union-busting and SLANT. It's not the Ed Schools that are ignoring the research, it's the policy makers. Follow the money.

Posted by: mcstowy | October 5, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

THERE WILL BE AT LEAST 7.4 MANITUTE EARTHQUAKE IN THE WORLD IN 15 DAYS

Posted by: lifegeorge | October 5, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

THERE WILL BE AT LEAST 7.4 MANITUTE EARTHQUAKE IN THE WORLD IN 15 DAYS

Posted by: lifegeorge | October 5, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

THERE WILL BE AT LEAST 7.4 MAGNITUTE EARTHQUAKE IN THE WORLD IN 15 DAYS

Posted by: lifegeorge | October 5, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

The highly touted HCZ program in NY does attend to all of the issues around student needs noted in the article. The problem is it takes tens of millions of dollars in private donations to provide those services. That tens of millions is the tax dodge known as "foundation grants." For those to work for every child taxes will have to be raised on the wealthy and corporations. Let's hear the corporatists whine when it is suggested they fund the kind of education they say we need for the 21st century.

Posted by: pftpres | October 5, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

The HCZ model in NY provides the kind of wrap-around sevices needed by students in struggling communities. The problem is it requires tens of millions in extra dollars to do it. HCZ does it through the tax dodge known as foundation grants. I assume the whining would go off the scale if it was suggested corporations, and the wealthy tinkerers in education, have to pay the kind of taxes that will provide the kind of education they say they want.

This is, of course, if we make it through the earthquake.

Posted by: pftpres | October 5, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Investing in kids' social and emotional needs is clearly important and I am glad that we now have data to prove it.

I don't think the blame for not recognizing the importance of emotional health and connections should go to the industrial roots of schools, rather, it is seen as unnecessary to many people or "too soft" by others.

Currently, social and emotional aspects of classroom teaching are being ignored because they are "not on the test".


I think the evidence is out there that "culturally specific knowledge of student development can help turn around schools serving high poverty, high needs communities."

Great article, glad to see it.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 5, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

In classrooms where teachers address children’s individual emotional and social needs, you’ll see students doing challenging work at their own pace, either in groups or individually, as the teacher actively monitors and encourages their progress.
________________

INDIVIDUALIZATION......that's the basic concept pointed out here. I wonder what the student/ratio was in the classrooms observed here. In Special Education, where classes are generally held to about 9 students per class, individualization is what it's all about. It's extremely difficult for one teacher to keep up this approach with regular sized classes without an assistant or two over the course of a year.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 5, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

This is "true school" reform.

Too bad the people in power are so focused on test scores. They are out of touch with what is going on in schools.

Posted by: educationlover54 | October 6, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

If we are able to bring the wild horses to the river, we've got to find ways to tame these horses to drink the water. These ways can include exploring the emotions that can glue us to the horses.

Posted by: reyllena | October 6, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

If we are able to bring the wild horses to the river, we've got to find ways to tame these horses to drink the water. These ways can include exploring the emotions that can glue us to the horses.

Posted by: reyllena | October 6, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Kids can’t learn efficiently if they have to walk a gauntlet of gang thugs every day on the way to school,
..............
But the reality is that many kids do walk a gauntlet of gang thugs to and from school every day.

In fact many of these gang thugs are also in the same schools with the students that are not school thugs.

The idea that known gang members should all be isolated in schools by themselves is too simplistic for the experts.

Typical with a new solution that simply ignores reality.

Yes these ideas would benefit middle class high school students that are disengaged but let us stop the pretense that they will be effective in schools with serious problems that are simply ignored.

The ideas on public education for the poverty public schools always remind me of a house that is literally falling apart and the owner believes a new paint job is necessary.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 6, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Teacher prep classes do guide pre-service teachers in preparing for the situations described in this article. It is up to the in-service teacher to use those skills efficiently and effectively. Teaching is an art form that does not get the credit it deserves. Highly effective teachers want to be empathic to the students issues that they carry into the classroom, and these teachers incorporate strategies that reach at-risk students. The flexibility of the teacher to identify student issues, address the curriculum, and effectively manage classroom behaviors adds the art of teaching. Solid teachers are the masters of multi-tasking and counseling, yet they are consistently expected to add more to their to-do list and maintain test scores. When the focus shifts toward one end of the spectrum such as test scores, the empathic aspects will falter. Balancing both does not seem to match the political goals and social goals of the community. When will the powers that be make up their minds and give clear directions to pre-service teaching programs, so that they will have clear expectations before they enter the classroom?

Posted by: mengel2 | October 6, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Throughout my teaching career these issues have been as obvious as smog in Los Angeles. Yet Comer & Pianta state that children can perform 'challenging work at their own pace' conflicts with our end-of-year testing environment, which requires students to demonstrate mastery of specific content within a specific amount of time. So many children come to our schools with such emotional/social burdens, and we can teach them to manage and overcome them, but we cannot expect most of them to master A.P. Calculus or Physics in 4 years of high school. They will learn, they will grow, but in 4 years most will not obtain the same level of academic achievement as those students who do not have those burdens. It may take them 6 years, or 8, or 10, which is ok, but we must be patient and accepting of this versus labeling schools and teachers as 'failing.'
Ultimately the customer, be it the parent or the child, will recognize and appreciate the effort you made to help them learn and grow. Teachers must have practical, workable skills to help these children, but most of all they must have the DESIRE and COMMITMENT to help these young people in their classrooms.

Posted by: pdexiii | October 6, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

"So many children come to our schools with such emotional/social burdens, and we can teach them to manage and overcome them, but we cannot expect most of them to master A.P. Calculus or Physics in 4 years of high school. They will learn, they will grow, but in 4 years most will not obtain the same level of academic achievement as those students who do not have those burdens."

Wow, someone with common sense who knows what is going on. You are absolutely right--you can you are individualizing and letting kids work at their own pace, but in the end, you have to give a state test! And now politicians want to dock your pay or fire you if those same kids, demonstrably intellectually impaired, can't keep up. It's meant to pave the way for a national public-private school system, not help children.

Only other thing I would add: the customers are never the students or parents, which is obvious. The customers are corporate America and the military-industrial complex.

Posted by: specialeducator | October 8, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company