Archives for September 2006

Busy and happy

Forget about the “overscheduled child,” concludes a Yale study. Children with organized activities thrive.

In a nationwide random survey of 2,125 5- to 18-year-olds, the study found that the more time children spend in organized activities, the better their grades, self-esteem, and relationship with parents and the lower the incidence of substance abuse. Even high school students with more than 20 hours of activities a week don’t suffer for it, (Yale psychologist Joseph Mahoney) says. The study defines organized activities as adult-led and having a purpose. It includes community service and after-school programs, as well as music, religious education, and sports.

Only 6 percent of the children in Mahoney’s study spend more than 20 hours a week in activities; 40 percent have no activities at all.

Word up

High school students can compete in the National Vocabulary Championship, sponsored by GSN, the network for games and Princeton Review.

Finicky moms

Anxious parents are nagging their nannies about what to feed the children, reports the New York Times. Even juice boxes are out. Too much sugar. Chicken nuggets? Not a chance.

Just a few years ago, giving lunch to a 1-year-old was a simple matter of popping open a jar of the Gerber mush du jour. But many parents now feed their children with the precision of chemists and the passion of Alice Waters, and expect sitters to do the same. Fruit juice, once a childhood mainstay, is now considered a sweet slosh of empty calories, and soft drinks are a potential firing offense.

Nannies find this nutritional nitpicking annoying.

“You have to prepare the meal from scratch,” said one older nanny who complained bitterly as she pushed a little boy on a swing set in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and then asked not to be identified for fear of losing her job. “It’s organic organic all the way, but even the YoBaby yogurt has too much sugar,” she said, referring to Stonyfield Farm’s organic line for babies. “You have to get special organic produce and then prepare each meal.” Nannies, she said, must now be personal chefs while also supervising mischievous toddlers, and all without an increase in pay.

Via Laura of 11D, who’s trying to combine child-raising with sanity.

Berkeley for all

Berkeley is putting dozens of classes online for free viewing via Google Video, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

“It’s click and play,” said Dan Mogulof, director of public affairs at the university.

Easy to view and accessible to everyone, the Web site offers more than 100 introductory-level lectures in subjects such as physics, biology, chemistry, information systems and bioengineering. Viewers can’t earn credit, but they don’t have to find a parking space either.


Worthwhile Canadian initiative

Alberta has the best schools in Canada and Alberta students rank among the best in the world, writes The Economist.

The curriculum has been revised, stressing core subjects (English, science, mathematics), school facilities and the training of teachers have been improved, clear achievement goals have been set and a rigorous province-wide testing programme for grades three (aged 7-8), six (10-11), nine (13-14) and twelve (16-17) has been established to ensure they are met.

. . . This is especially true in the province’s capital of Edmonton, which is noted for its innovative system stressing choice, accountability and competition. Funding there is based on the number of students in a school. Each school controls its own budget, spending money on its own educational priorities (such as improving aboriginal-student results), while following the provincial curriculum. Students are free to (and 57% do) attend any school in the city, not just in their own neighbourhood. They can seek out schools specialising in the arts, sports, leadership skills, girls-only education, aboriginal culture, Mandarin, and many other alternative programmes—or simply choose the schools with the best academic results. Students in every grade are tested annually and their scores published.

The rich send their children to public schools.

Via Education Gadfly, which is a fan of Edmonton’s “weighted” funding.

No, not for u

Teenage girls are wearing T-shirts with suggestive slogans to school, reports the Washington Post. Wimpy parents can’t say “no.”

Time to learn

Schools are increasing class time — through a longer school day or year or both — to give students more time to learn the basics without cutting art, music, PE and other electives.

Massachusetts is paying for longer days at 10 schools this year. Minnesota is considering whether to add five weeks to the school calendar.

. . . “A Nation at Risk,” the landmark 1983 report dissecting America’s education challenges, recommended that schools run seven hours (up from about six today) and 200 to 220 days (up from a current average of 180) to accommodate more rigorous instruction. KIPP charter schools, started in 1994, rely on longer days and Saturday school to teach students.

No Child Left Behind, which has spurred schools to beef up reading, writing and math instruction is behind the current push to increase class time, the story says. I’ll bet those high KIPP scores have something to do with it too.

‘Proficient’ by any other name

AB 2975 would have labeled California students “proficient” if they were on track to pass the state’s graduation exam, which requires partial mastery of 7th and 8th grade math and 9th and 10th grade English by the end of 12th grade. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto message was succinct.

Redefining the level of academic achievement necessary to designate students as ‘proficient’ does not make the students proficient.”

Not unless the word means “no more than four years below grade level.”

Don’t know much about history

In yet another survey — this one on American history — U.S. college students demonstrate cluelessness.

Among college seniors, less than half — 47.9% — correctly concluded that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” was from the Declaration of Independence. More than half did not know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the governmental establishment of an official religion, and “55.4 percent could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end” (more than one quarter believing that it was the Civil War battle of Gettysburg that had ended the Revolution).

The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Weintraub notes students are weak on current events too.

Even with their country at war in Iraq, fewer than half of seniors, 45.2 percent, could identify the Baath party as the main source of Saddam Hussein’s political support. In fact, 12.2 percent believed that Saddam Hussein found his most reliable supporters in the Communist Party. Almost 5.7 percent chose Israel.

For some people, it’s always the Jews.

At Rhodes College, Colorado State University and Calvin College, students made the biggest gains from freshman to senior year; students did worse over time at Cornell, UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins. However, the civic literacy group didn’t reveal the actual scores: Perhaps Cornell frosh outscore Rhodes frosh but don’t improve on their base. (Update: Linda Seebach sent me the link to the relevant table: Cornell frosh do outscore Rhodes frosh but Rhodes seniors outscore Cornell seniors.)

Here’s a pop civic literacy quiz. It’s very easy.


On this week’s Carnival Of Education, hosted by The Ed Wonks, HunBlog analyzes a new report on changes needed to improve science education.