Current/Recent Reading List

09 August 2006

In other news, schools without heat get really cold in winter.

Here's a helpful tip, and you don't even need to be a teacher who has first-hand experience with such things to grasp it:

Let's say your father is on drugs and not around, and your mother is on drugs and is around, and neither does much to show they really care how you do in school, or about much of anything else. Let's also say you are a middle or high schooler emulating them by doing drugs as well, and generally engaging in destructive behavior. Know what? You're going to fall behind in school. Not to be too shocking all at once, but you might not even graduate, and if you do it will have been charity (though not completely selfless - the school wanted to get rid of you, most likely).

I'm prompted by today's NYT piece ( via This Week in Education ) which glosses on research showing that home life affects school performance. It's easy to poke fun at researchers who uncover the obvious, but that shouldn't stop anyone from doing it. I love this excerpt:

"Yet a growing body of research suggests that while schools can make a difference for individual students, the fabric of children’s lives outside of school can either nurture, or choke, what progress poor children do make academically."

Really. Well, let me clue you in on this as well - it also makes a difference for those who are pretty wealthy, and all those in between. No math person here, but let's try this formula: parents who don't give a flip if their kids do well in school + kids who take their cues from said parents = crappy school performance (for starters). The rest of the article goes on to analyze this from the "government must eradicate poverty" perspective, blah, blah, blah.

Hey, find me parents from whatever background who show their kids they think life is worth living, and that they think the kids' educations are important (lip-service ain't going to cut it), and my non-gambling self will bet that you'll have a successful student on your hands. Not necessarily a genius, but successful.


Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. You might like to know a couple of other high school teacher-bloggers.

California Live Wire a group blog

Coach Brown, in Ukiah, California.

And yes, the NYT article was a bit vapid, but a needed counterweight to the "schools are the sole source of student achievement" mantra.

SMP said...

Thanks Liz,

Agreed that there is no school-based panacea for everything going on at home, and that is a major flaw in the NCLB blueprints.

I will be happy to check out your blog, and the others you linked.

Eric said...

Agree with you about the vapidness of the article. I did find heartening the Chicago study showing that spreading housing project students into suburbs demonstrably improves school performance, since a similar "diaspora" is happening in our fair city. We certainly appreciate the demographic changes that have low income students at our children's school (in an upper middle class neighborhood) coming from nearby apartment complexes rather than being bused in from a housing project far away.

carbonel said...

I was at a symposium on "youth violence and prevention thereof" (OWTTE) about 10 years ago at the University of Washington.

From two of the longitudinal studies came: (1) The single greatest factor predicting success (i.e. sidestepping the criminal justice system) was, yes, the presence of a caring, reasonably competant adult committed to the child/teen; and (2) The single greatest predictor of failure: criminal parents.

We seem doomed to recapitulate the obvious.

SMP said...


That reminds me of an interesting blog debate I caught earlier this summer regarding a scientific study that concluded parents don't have as much influence over children as friends and outside influences do, and one commenter, while still advocating for parents to do all they can, pointed out that only in the post-Freud generations have people believed parents were that important in the life of a child.

The rebuttal from another blogger, best I can remember, was that he didn't care what the science said, or if it were soundly researched. He simply asked: what has a deeper and broader effect on someone, when one of their parents passes away, or when one of their friends or outside influences does? The obviousness of the answer, to him, trumped the study's findings.

Not a real scientific rebuttal, but sounds about right to me.