PROBLEM: So far as we're able to predict a child's likelihood of leading a successful life, it's no secret that the assets we're born with (intelligence) or into (socioeconomic status) are important. But to what extent do learned abilities, like basic academic skills, fit into that equation?
Two topics we've been hearing a lot about recently are reading (especially how the common core will change its instruction) and social/emotional learning (which many teachers believe can boost achievement--and which the common core does not touch). At an event in downtown Washington yesterday, panelists discussed a professional development program that attempts to brings the two together and, according to several studies, is having positive effects in both areas.
"I'd pull up, park, and the doors to the cafeteria would open. Teaching assistants herded the kids out to some grass. There was no real equipment, just a bin with 2 wiffle balls, no bats; 3 rubber balls, two deflated, no pump. The kids stood there for about 7 minutes and then got herded back in. I imagined herding cows out to graze. Except that they couldn't graze. They stood. I noticed the kids looked kind of sad, uninvolved, and not wanting to be there." And that, my friends, was those kids' recess.
Today I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. There are 1670 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every two weeks.
Newsletter Update: In this issue I have eight book reviews (three picture books, one early chapter books, two middle grade novels, and two young adult novels). I also have a one children's literacy roundup, and a post summarizing our experience with Screen Free Week....
Despite a dearth of reliable data on children's progress in those grades, school districts and states are moving ahead with new systems for evaluating teachers that require the inclusion of data on students' outcomes. The experiments are already underway as part of a national push to use students' test scores as one of multiple measures of how well teachers are doing their jobs. In the early grades -- pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first and second -- this is problematic, given that standardized testing data does not exist for such young children, and what does exist is primarily focused on basic literacy skills.
Supporters of the Common Core State Standards are moving to confront increasingly high-profile opposition to the standards at the state and national levels by rallying the private sector and initiating coordinated public relations and advertising campaigns as schools continue implementation. In states such as Michigan and Tennessee, where common-core opponents feel momentum is with them, state education officials, the business community, and allied advocacy groups are ramping up efforts to define and buttress support for the standards -- and to counter what they say is misinformation.
As the wildly successful "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site" has shown, stories about trucks need not be tough. There can be warm, fuzzy elements amid the concrete and scrap metal. Even a teddy bear can find its way in. Perhaps there's just something appealing about the juxtaposition of soft, fluffy animals and heavy-metal loaders, which feature in two new picture books this season. In both "Construction Kitties," by Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges, with illustrations by Shari Halpern, and "Dig, Dogs, Dig," by James Horvath, a crew of smiling pets get to work building -- what else? -- a playground.
What is the most important problem facing American children today? According to the Academic Pediatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is the effects of poverty on the health and well being of young people. But, they concede, there is no sustained focus on childhood poverty, or a unified pediatric voice speaking on the problem, or a comprehensive approach to solving it.