On a spring morning at Ossining High School in suburban New York, a group of students gathered in a small classroom at the end of the school’s science hallway. It was a day traditionally known to the senior class as “skip day,” when most of the school’s 12th-graders play hooky and head to the beach to celebrate their impending graduation.
But in the classroom shared by teachers Valerie Holmes and Angelo Piccirillo, a half dozen students had opted out of “skip day,” to spend the day in the science research room, putting finishing touches on projects and chatting with their teachers and classmates.
After struggling to attract students when it first launched in 1998, Ossining’s science research program was thriving by 2001. Last year, the Intel Corporation chose the program out of 18 national finalists to receive the top prize in a contest celebrating excellence in science instruction.
It is a notable award, but only one of many recent accomplishments at a school with a troubled history. At the same time it was building a nationally-recognized science program from scratch, Ossining High—once the site of race riots—has pioneered new strategies for reducing racial tensions, closing achievement gaps and increasing graduation rates. So far, all seem to be working.
According to Education Week's Erik Robelen "The nation's 9- and 13-year-olds perform better in reading and math today than they did some 40 years ago, but that's not so for 17-year-olds."
"Overall, the nation’s 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds are better off academically today than they were in 1971 in reading, and in 1973 in math, the years when the long-term assessment was first administered, the results suggest. But for 17-year-olds, the average achievement levels are about the same when comparing 2012 data with results for the early 1970s in both subjects."
Two months ago, a group of Catholic university professors signed a letter urging Catholic bishops and diocesan school leaders to reject the Common Core. (RT @smarick: GREAT @kportermagee post re #CCSS & Catholic ed.
On a recent Monday, students in Jeff Thielman’s advisory at Cristo Rey Boston High School crowded into his crimson-walled office to take a test. These juniors, like their schoolmates, answered questions aimed not at measuring academic skills but at something that has captured educators’ attention lately: their grit.
The test—the 8-Item Grit Scale, developed by psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania—asks respondents how they approach goals and handle setbacks and yields a Grit Score (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as “grittiest”). It aims to assess character traits like resilience, self-control, and persistence—traits that research shows may matter more to academic performance than native intelligence.
The word “grit” risks being overused, but the suggestion that how students approach learning may be as critical as what they learn is resonating with educators. Consider it a quest for the “new” character education. This is not to dismiss teachings about moral and community values, but to frame, name, and share qualities hidden in plain sight, so-called performance character traits.
"A new study from Stanford shows that a simple teaching tactic may help close the achievement gap between Latino American students and their white peers...The matter comes down to overcoming the negative effects of “stereotype threat,” a phenomenon that researchers have identified and documented over the last two decades. What they have found – in numerous studies – is that the stress and uncertain sense of belonging that can stem from being a member of a negatively stereotyped group undermines academic performance of minority students as compared with white students."
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