Teachers can make a difference for low-income students, writes Eric Jensen in Ed Week.
Jensen, the author of Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind, just finished a study of 12 high-poverty schools. Half scored in the top quartile in their state; the other half were in the lowest quartile. The demographics were the same for the high and low performers. The values were similar.
When I offered statements such as, “I believe in my kids,” both school staffs said, “I strongly agree.” So, what was different?
It’s not poverty that makes the difference; it was the teachers. The difference was that the high-performing teachers actually “walked the walk.” First, the classroom and school climate was MUCH better at the high-performers. Secondly, the teachers at the high-performing schools didn’t complain about kids not “being smart” or being unmotivated. They made it a priority and built engagement, learning, thinking and memory skills every day. In short, they didn’t make excuses; they just rolled up their sleeves and built better student brains.
His list of “what we have learned (so far) to boost student achievement in high-poverty schools” includes:
High expectations are not enough. Help students set crazy high goals, and then actively point out to them how their daily actions connect to their long-term goals.
The most important cognitive skills to build are: 1) reasoning, 2) working memory, and 3) vocabulary usage.
Increase feedback on the learning and zero it in on the specifics of effort used, strategies applied or attitude engaged.
A positive attitude is “priceless,” if it leads to action, Jensen adds. If it doesn’t, it’s “useless.”