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Measuring Academic Resilience

Last week, I listened to American Institutes for Research’s webinar “Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students Who Are Academically Successful: Examining Academic Resilience Cross-Nationally”.

Maria Stephens and Ebru Erberber, Senior Researchers at American Institutes for Research, observed the discrepancies between marginalized students and their ability to thrive academically. They investigated the prevalence of “academic resilience” internationally as well as the factors influencing this success. Sean McComb, 2014 National Teacher of the Year, discussed the implications of their analysis and results. He suggested ways to increase academic achievement among those who are underprivileged.

Erberber claimed that it is the school’s initial responsibility to expose students to higher educational options and various fields of study. Academic success thereby stems from student aspiration and teacher encouragement.

McComb then stressed the importance of personalized learning and professional development.

Stephens, Erberber, and McComb offered valuable insight about inequities within and across education systems. They briefly discussed policy implementation, but did not fully engage in a conversation about potential practices that could reshape the education landscape, which disappointed me.

Socioeconomic status should not be a determinant of a child’s academic success, but all too often, it is. I believe it would have been beneficial to talk about educational policy in relation to their findings and analysis. We need more policies to make schools responsible for student outcomes and not just enrollment. This strategy would incentivize administrators and teachers to provide students with all of the information they need to reach their goals, whether it be to graduate high school, go immediately to the workforce, or attend a two or four-year college.

Being fully aware of these options has unfortunately become a privilege, but every student is entitled to understand their choices. We cannot bridge the achievement gap between socioeconomic classes without increased accountability and greater transparency between students, teachers, and administrators.

Hayley Nicholas, CER

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Sports and School

John Gerdy, an accomplished philanthropist, author, and athlete, details the nature of sports, specifically football, in his book entitled Balls or Bands: Football Vs. Music as an Educational and Community Investment. Gerdy’s depiction of football acts as a call for school reform and the need to rework the traditional models of education to best suit the needs and interests of an eclectic group of students.

Gerdy notes, “…football programs are ‘factories’ and the young people who play the game are simply clogs in a machine. And when that clog is no longer productive, it is unceremoniously discarded. Simply another piece of ‘football wreckage’ left in the wake of a cultural behemoth.”

By substituting the word ‘schools’ for ‘football programs’ the same point comes across: traditional public school is not one-size-fits-all, and students are falling through the cracks. Schools fail students when students fall through the cracks and don’t graduate. Students who are not “productive” or proficient as it relates to the education context are often left behind to pick up the pieces on their own, resulting in high drop out rates and continued failure on behalf of these schools. Students are simply not just a member of a school ecosystem, but are individuals who should be noted and recognized by the school as such.

Gerdy’s reasoning why football and sports aren’t a good tool to build students up and set them up for success is the same reason why The Center for Education Reform (CER) does the work it does on a daily basis: to make sure America’s education system is set up so that it focuses on the individual and unique needs of every student by allowing them to find the right fit, regardless of their zip code, so they thrive personally and academically.

Charter schools, online learning

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Lifting Off With STEM Education

Yesterday, the CER interns were given the opportunity to complete a private tour of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), located in Greenbelt, Maryland. Touring the facilities was like getting a chance to go to Space Camp for a day, but for a group of college students! We were shown the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest space telescope currently in development. We were also shown around the facilities, which measure frequencies, vibrations, and light in order to best research how these devices will be used in space. We were given the chance to enter a space simulator that made it look – and feel! – like we were orbiting the globe.

Despite the space simulator and flashy gadgets, my favorite part of the day was a working lunch with Dean Kern, the deputy director of the GSFC Office of Education. A former charter school principal, Mr. Kern showed us not only the crucial importance of STEM education, but also how the traditional public school model fails students when it comes to STEM. Despite a modest budget, NASA’s Office of Education is working hard to close the well-documented STEM achievement gap, which fails marginalized minority groups in STEM opportunities. The statistics are staggering: 30% of high schools with the highest percentage of Black and Latino students do not offer chemistry; 25% of these high schools don’t offer Algebra II; and half of our nation’s high schools don’t offer calculus.

High schools should be the place students, especially women and minorities, first develop their interests and passions. With just 20% of the STEM workforce being comprised of women, African Americans, and Latinos it’s obvious NASA has its work cut out for them to truly integrate the field and provide equal opportunities to all. With high standards being set for K-12

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