More physical activity improved school performance

The scientists…at the Centre for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have tested the hypothesis that increased physical activity stimulates learning and improves school performance.

In the study, published in the scientific periodical “Journal of School Health,” 408 twelve-year-olds in the Gothenburg region were given two hours of extra play and motion activities per week, in collaboration with a local sports club. This was approximately twice the normal amount of curricular physical activity.

The effect of the intervention was evaluated by comparing the achievement of national learning goals by the children four years before and five years after its implementation. The results were compared to control groups in three schools that did not receive extra physical activity.

The results are clear, according to the scientists: A larger proportion on students in the intervention school did achieve the national learning goals in all subjects examined — Swedish, English and mathematics compared to the control groups.

“You can express it that two hours of extra physical education each week doubled the odds that a pupil achieves the national learning goals. We did not see a corresponding improvement in the control schools, where the pupils did not receive extra physical activity — rather the contrary, a deterioration,” says scientist and neurologist Thomas Linden at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

“Our hope is that planners and policy-makers will take our results into consideration,” says Lina Bunketorp Käll the researcher and project leader of the study.

Guess what? In Sweden that might actually happen.

In a parallel effort, a planned 5-story elementary school was changed to a 4-story school as built. Instead the building was constructed around an atrium for exercise and dance with running tracks on the rooftop. In China.

All the new tests for teachers give high passing grades

Across the country, education reformers and their allies in both parties have revamped the way teachers are graded, abandoning methods under which nearly everyone was deemed satisfactory, even when students were falling behind…

The changes, already under way in some cities and states, are intended to provide meaningful feedback and, critically, to weed out weak performers. And here are some of the early results:

In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations. In Tennessee, 98 percent of teachers were judged to be “at expectations.” In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better.

Advocates of education reform concede that such rosy numbers, after many millions of dollars developing the new systems and thousands of hours of training, are worrisome…

The teachers might be rated all above average, like students in Lake Wobegon, for the same reason that the older evaluation methods were considered lacking. Principals, who are often responsible for the personal-observation part of the grade, generally are not detached managerial types and can be loath to give teachers low marks…

But even the part of the grade that was intended to be objective, how students perform on standardized tests, has proved squishy. In part, this is because tests have changed so much in recent years — and are changing still, because of the new “Common Core” curriculum standards that most states have adopted — that administrators have been unwilling to set the test-score bar too high for teachers. In many states, consecutive “ineffective” ratings are grounds for firing…

The new evaluation systems have been closely scrutinized in the education world by policy makers, publications like Education Week, and foundations that have provided money to help perfect the methods…

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that even though the data from these systems “was not ready for prime time,” it proved what she had long argued: That the majority of teachers are very good…

RTFA for lots of anecdotal information – which, in my mind, doesn’t answer any questions about the lousy overall capabilities of graduates. None of this addresses dropout rates. None of this seems to confront the whole decline in education over the past half-century.

What has been discussed to death is how to blame the teachers. That seems to bear no fruit at all. What hasn’t been discussed especially is what constitutes a useful curriculum – and how much teaching professionals don’t get to participate. Between Congress, the White House, state and local school boards, we have no end of politicians chiming in. They don’t even take the time to examine what worked in the past, what works, now, in other lands.

I’ll offer something I rarely do – the “back in my day” examination. Aside from walking to school in knee-deep snowstorms and the other crap that people think they recall 🙂 – a couple of facts are incontrovertible. The elementary school I attended in a New England factory town was mostly kids from workingclass families. Pretty average teachers – probably not unlike today’s flavor. Dropout rate was less than 5%. We completed the tasks assigned.

I attended high school in the next town over – we moved. A semi-rural town rapidly becoming a commuter suburb. Teachers were about the same. Dropout rate was less than 3%. We all completed the curriculum. I enjoyed school, learned a lot, probably learned even more on my own or in studies with my parents; but, they and I wanted more than acceptable.

Now, living in northern New Mexico, the school system truly hopes to get “up” to the national average of 20% dropouts. We couldn’t get a law passed allowing schools to hold back students with failing marks to repeat the grade. Mom and dad can overrule the school and demand their child be bumped ahead into the next grade even when unable to do the work.

From my perspective, this fits into the phenomena I saw happening broadly across our education system starting in the 1960’s. If the kiddies felt learning something was too hard, too difficult, the schools were mandated to pass them along, anyway. You weren’t to hurt their sensibilities – though, frankly, I never saw anything sensible coming from kids who preferred not to learn.

That’s only a small subjective look at the question. I wanted to offer it because I don’t see anyone who’s in charge doing anything at all useful. That includes BTW the whole Charter School copout. Which has a failure rate worse than our public schools.

Decades later, universities are still staring at their navels wondering what an “A” means

Andrew Perrin, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, [says] “An A should mean outstanding work; it should not be the default grade… If everyone gets an A for adequate completion of tasks, it cripples our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship.”

Mr. Perrin nails it right there. Schools either make it so, or they don’t. It’s mind-boggling that schools are still rehashing these issues.

As part of the university’s long effort to clarify what grades really mean, Mr. Perrin now leads a committee that is working with the registrar on plans to add extra information — probably median grades, and perhaps more — to transcripts.

With college grades creeping ever higher, a few universities have taken direct action against grade inflation…

Others have taken a less direct approach, leaving instructors free to award whatever grades they like but expanding their transcripts to include information giving graduate schools and employers a fuller picture of what the grades mean…

“It’s generally recognized that an A by itself is not very meaningful,” said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. “Giving statistical context to assist recipients of a transcript in understanding the grades is definitely helpful.”

But as a practical matter, it is not so easy.

And on and on. You can read the full article at your leisure if you wish, though it’s not really necessary. Lots of “examples” to illustrate their “points”, which always seem to come back to a state of general confusion and sense of helplessness.

It sure sounds as if the article begins by answering its own question, then giving examples of how schools create paperwork to avoid having to get at the root of the problem.

By the way, I’m not advocating a grading system at all. But if you’re going to use one, be consistent.

Hell, I’ve got lots of opinions on this topic. Too much to take on here.

Morningness is a predictor of better grades

Morningness is a predictor of better grades in college, according to a research abstract that will be presented on June 9 at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

The study, authored by Kendry Clay, of the University of North Texas, focused on 824 undergraduate students who were enrolled in psychology classes.

According to the results, college students who are evening types had lower GPAs, while those who are morning types had higher GPAs.

“The finding that college students who are evening types have lower GPAs is a very important finding, sure to make its way into undergraduate psychology texts in the near future, along with the research showing that memory is improved by sleep,” said Daniel J. Taylor…who developed the concept for this study.

“Further, these results suggest that it might be possible to improve academic performance by using chronotherapy to help students entrain their biological clock to become more morning types.”

ZZZZZzzzzzzz…