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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'If things get hard, they just quit'

After three years of pandemic-disrupted schooling, students just don't care any more, complains a teacher on Chalkbeat's After the Bell column.

At the height of Covid, teachers were told to "give students grace," she writes. Assignments were excused. Expectations were lowered. Now students believe "there are no consequences" for refusing to do the work. "While I try to make lessons engaging and relevant, the lack of consequences is an added challenge for motivating students who are struggling. My students lack perseverance and grit — if things get hard, they just stop."

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

"Relaxing standards and lowering expectations does students no favors in the long run," write Adam Tyner and Christian Eggers on Fordham's blog.

"Effortful thinking" builds students' "cognitive endurance," extending their ability to stay focused and work through challenges, concludes a newly published working paper.

The study was conducted in low-income elementary schools in India where students cope with crowded classroom, frequent disruptions and little time for "focused cognitive activity." While a control group copied math problems in an unsupervised "study hall," another group practiced solving math problems and a third group completed challenging puzzles or mazes. The sessions were 20 minutes long several times per week over several months.

Researchers looked at how quickly students' performance declined when taking a 50-question test. Students from lower-income families show steeper rates of performance decline, international studies show. In the U.S., write Tyner and Eggers, "Black and Hispanic students demonstrated a 72 percent steeper rate of decline in successfully answering questions than White students."

In the study, both groups that faced cognitive challenges were slower to tire on the test and earned slightly higher grades in math, English and Hindi.

"Athletes benefit from coaches who hold them accountable for going to practice and trying their hardest," conclude Tyner and Eggers. "Students benefit from hard cognitive training too." They need opportunities to build their mental muscles. "Watering down homework, curricula, and expectations may be undermining the foundations students are laying for their future success."

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