Getting started

Education Post hopes to create “a new conversation” about improving education, writes Peter Cunningham, who worked for Arne Duncan in the Education Department and Chicago Public Schools.

With the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, we are launching a new organization called Education Post to provide a strong voice for those who believe the current education system needs to get better.

Education Post will give voice to parents, teachers and students who are often drowned out in the current debate and amplify the voices of a diverse group of leaders who have dedicated their lives to bringing opportunity to communities that need it most. Those leaders include Democrats like former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Republicans like former Louisiana Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek, and educators like Montgomery County school teacher and 2006 National Teacher of the Year Kim Oliver-Burnim.

Here’s the first day of school at a Montessori charter in Chicago.

Smart studying

Most of what we know about learning isn’t so, argues Benedict Carey in How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why It Happens.
how-we-learn

 Learning doesn’t have to be arduous, isolating or stressful,  Carey tells MindShift.

Forgetting — and working to remember what’s important — is “a critical part of learning,” Carey says.

Nose-to-the-grindstone cram sessions aren’t very effective. Students learn more when they break up and space out study time over days and weeks.

It helps to vary the study environment and to take short breaks to go for a walk or “trawl on social media.”

Distractions and interruptions can allow for mental “incubation” and flashes of insight — but only if you’ve been working at a problem for a while and get stuck, according to a 2009 research meta-analysis.

When students quiz themselves on new material, they learn more than if they just re-read it.

Practice makes … a 12% boost

It takes 10,000 hours of practice to be a success, writes Malcom Gladwell in Outliers.

The 10,000-Hour rule is nonsense, responds Richard Kunert on Brain’s Idea. He cites a new meta-analysis published in Psychological Science.

Overall, practice explains 12 percent of performance, the study concludes. That varies by the task.

. . . if the context in which the task is performed is very stable (e.g., running) 24% of performance is explained by practice. Unstable contexts (e.g., handling an aviation emergency) push this down to 4% .

The value of practice peaks for games at 26 percent and hits 21 percent for music. It accounts for 4 percent of performance in education, the study concludes, and less than 1 percent in the professions.

First day of school

From the Huffington Post:

Open-source textbooks lower costs

Free “open-source” textbooks are lowering students’ costs at a Virginia community college.

Armed teachers

Schools in Argyle, Texas have armed teachers and other staffers to protect campuses from intruders.

A Texas school district has posted signs warning possible evil-doers that their staff is armed and "may use whatever force is necessary" to protect students. (Image source: Screen grab KDAF-TV)

Don’t Nerf me, bro!

Scott and Ramsey McDonald with the fourth grader's Nerf gun.

Scott and Ramsey McDonald with the fourth grader’s toy.

Fourth-grader Ramsey McDonald was told to bring a favorite toy to his Houston school to share with the class. He brought a blue, orange and green Nerf gun.

He received a three-day in-school suspension for bringing “something that looked like a weapon,” a school official told Ramsey’s father, Scott McDonald.

Houston School Supt. Mark Scott said school officials realized the Nerf gun wasn’t dangerous. “We never viewed that as a weapon.”

At least, they didn’t call the cops.

Big Nanny explains how to roast marshmallows

How Does Your Marshmallow Roast? asks the U.S. Forest Service. The advisory tells parents to keep children 10 feet from the fire and “use a roasting stick of at least 30 inches in length.”

That would prevent the marshmallow from getting overcooked — or cooked at all.

Yet the illustrative photo shows two girls holding short sticks and standing very near the fire.

Madelyn Morrissey (left) and Katie Roth roast marshmallows near the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest. (Courtesy Adrian Roth)

Madelyn Morrissey (left) and Katie Roth roast marshmallows near the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest. (Courtesy Adrian Roth)

After providing the traditional recipe for s’mores,  the feds urge readers to “grill thin slices of pineapple and substitute chocolate for the sweet, warm fruit.” (Perhaps the writer means: Grill pineapple, throw it away and stick with the chocolate.)

Don’t use too much marshmallow, the advisory goes on, and try “slices of angel food cake instead of graham crackers” to cut more calories.

What’s the point of low-calorie s’mores?

Or the kiddies might enjoy not roasting marshmallows.

 Grab a small bag of chocolate or peanut butter chips – or a combination of the two. Take a banana and slice one side open, exposing the fruit but leaving the peel intact. Slice the banana, add a few chocolate chips then top with tiny marshmallows. Or substitute the chips for blueberries from the local farmer’s market. (Again: Throw away the blueberries and stick with chocolate chips.) Place the banana in aluminum foil and wrap tightly. Place the foil-wrapped fruit next to but not on the flames. Wait five to 10 minutes or enough time for the chips and marshmallows to melt. Open and enjoy with a spoon.

Another way to limit the amount of marshmallows used is to substitute them with marshmallow crème, a spreadable version of marshmallows that helps you more easily regulate portion. (“Substitute with”? No.) For healthier treats, use large strawberries, apple slices, banana chucks, pineapple or other fruit. Put a piece of fruit on a roasting stick, dip quickly in the crème and roast over indirect heat until a delicious golden brown. You’re still having campfire fun, but the focus is on a healthier evening snack.

The Blaze mocks the nearly 700-word article on how to do — or not do — something Americans have successfully done for close to 100 years.

A commenter nails it: “S’more-ons.”

Poverty casts a long shadow

Poor kids usually grow up to be poor adults, concludes The Long Shadow. Johns Hopkins researchers followed 790 Baltimore first-graders until their late twenties. Nearly half had the same income status as their parents; only a third of the poorest moved out of poverty.

Four percent of those from low-income families had a college degree at 28, compared to 45 percent of their higher-income peers.

Baltimore’s low-income blacks do worse than low-income whites, writes Michelle Gininger.

Forty percent of blacks who dropped out of high school were now working, compared to 89 percent of white high school dropouts, the study found.

Black and white women both earned less than their male counterparts, but white women tended to be better off financially with the benefit of marriage or a live-in partner. Black women earned less than white women and were less likely to be in stable relationships.

Growing up poor affects adults’ sense of control, concludes a new study. Even those who’ve reached the middle class may be more likely to make impulsive decisions and “quickly give up on challenging tasks in uncertain situations,” according to lead author Chiraag Mittal, MS, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota.

Showing participants a photo or news story about economic uncertainty decreased persistence for those who’d grown up poor. So did asking them to recall feeling uncertain about their own finances.

Participants were more likely to persist — even if they’d grown up poor –when asked to recall a time when they were in control of a situation.

“Persistence is directly tied to myriad important outcomes, including self-control, academic achievement, substance abuse, criminal behavior, healthy eating and overspending,” said study co-author Vladas Griskevicius, PhD, also of the University of Minnesota.

However, persistence at an impossible task isn’t necessarily a good thing, the researchers concede. “Time and energy are limited resources, and sometimes it is adaptive to stop expending effort on an endeavor one cannot control in order to pursue more promising opportunities.”

Too many non-teachers?

Thirty-one percent of school employees implies are support staffers — clerks, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, security guards — and another 12 percent are aides, reports Fordham’s The Hidden Half.

Their salaries and benefits absorb one quarter of school expenditures.

Is it worth it?