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Showing Students How Just Makes Sense (Nancy Salvato)

Throughout my career in teaching, there has been no shortage of colleagues who have made the remark that faced with a blank sheet of paper; kids don’t know what to do with it.  Sadly, many have not developed their imaginations enough to conceive of their own ideas.  Others believe they cannot draw and therefore won’t accept the challenge to create something on the paper.  With middle school students, I discovered that when asked to draw something that relates to a story we read in class, students still have problems getting started. It is as though they haven’t formed any pictures in their heads about what we read.  Some simply try to copy the artist’s depiction offered on the cover of the book. 

To achieve any modicum of success with an open ended assignment, whether it is writing, drawing, or through some other medium, requires some type of direction in order to nudge a student to begin.  Sometimes, this nudge can take the form of an outline which the class begins together, a brainstorming session to generate topics of interest, constructing the beginning as a group, and so on.  Research has indicated that students living in environments where the child is either over-stimulated for extreme amounts of time or under-stimulated because there is a lack of social interaction; often require more structure than others.  It is believed that safety and consistency provided through an ordered, structured environment allows children from disadvantaged homes to open up to new experiences. Furthermore, imagination and creativity can bloom in a structured, ordered environment.   

Many preschool teachers have been educated to follow a strict constructivist philosophy which dictates that in a developmentally appropriate classroom, teachers are not supposed to direct children’s activities and they are only supposed to facilitate their learning by

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Pre-K Fails to Perform (Jamie Story)

Organizations and lawmakers across the country are leading the charge for publicly-funded, universal pre-kindergarten.

Last month, “Pre-K Now” held its annual satellite conference, reaching more than 1,500 supporters in 35 states. The event included live interviews with the Governors of Connecticut and Tennessee, and legislators from Texas and elsewhere—all of whom heralded the benefits of pre-K for all children. 

Advocates claim universal pre-K will result in increased test scores, lower dropout rates, and students who are better prepared for a global economy. The evidence suggests otherwise.

United States fourth-graders perform well compared to their international peers – including France, whose fourth-graders trail the United States despite having access to universal preschool. But by the time American students reach high school, they rank near the bottom of all industrialized countries. At the same time, we spend more educating each student than almost any other country in the world. 

Our education bureaucracy is spending vast resources for dismal results. Further expanding this ineffective system to encompass toddlers is the last thing we should do – especially when evidence suggests our focus should be on the upper grades. 

Numerous researchers have studied the academic effects of preschool. While some studies have found positive effects for disadvantaged children, these benefits do not apply universally. Only one study has examined the long-term benefits of preschool on non-disadvantaged children. Its conclusion: children in programs not targeted to disadvantaged populations were no better off than those not attending any preschool.

In fact, research has shown preschool can actually hinder social development, especially for children from the poorest families.

In cases where students do benefit, the results are typically short-lived. Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara – in the largest-scale longitudinal research of its kind – found that the academic gains made

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School Choice and Racial Integration Go Hand in Hand (Dan Lips)

Opponents of parental choice in education argue that school choice increases racial segregation. But a new review of the research evidence suggests that giving parents the freedom to choose their children’s schools has actually increased racial integration.

More than fifty years have passed since Brown v. Board of Education outlawed racial segregation in American public schools. Many policies, including school busing, were implemented to promote integration in public education in the decades that followed. Yet many American public schools remain segregated along racial lines.

Even with years of improvement in race relations, this result shouldn’t be a surprise. The public school system assigns students to schools based on where they live, which means that a public school is only as diverse as its community. The combination of segregated housing patterns and location-based school assignment has created an environment in which millions of children attend largely segregated public schools.

But not all schools are stuck. In a new report from the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, Dr. Greg Forster reviews the research on school choice and integration and concludes that school choice improves school diversity.  He also explains why the “claims made by voucher opponents are empirically unsupportable” in two specific ways.  

First, empirical research finds “no substantial difference between segregation levels in public and private schools.” Instead, “at the classroom level, a preferable level of analysis, the research indicates that private schools actually are less segregated than public schools.” And “even at the school level, the research finds no substantial difference between public and private schools.”   

Second, school voucher programs do not lead to segregation. In fact, the opposite is true. In Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C., voucher students’ private schools are more racially integrated  than the public schools the students would otherwise have attended. 

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