What we know about homework

homework pencilNow that the school year is back in full swing, I find that our family needs to make time for homework almost every night of the week. And it’s got me wondering how much homework impacts children’s achievement in school. [Read more…]

New data on kids’ well-being

kids_runningEnsuring our youth grow up in healthy supportive environments is an important part of building a strong future for any society.  Even here in the United States, there are significant disparities in child well-being. [Read more…]

Evidenced-based learning: Play, play, play

My two oldest children received letters in the mail this week from their teachers – a sure sign that “back-to-school” is creeping closer. As I start wrapping my head around school supplies and book schedules, I thought back to this post about the importance of play in learning. I’m hoping that my kids’ teachers keep in mind the importance of play in the classroom this year.

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Do girls perform better in school?

School KidsWhen you think about an elementary school classroom, do any gender stereotypes pop into your mind?  Most of us have opinions about how boys and girls perform at school. Maybe you subscribe to some commonly held beliefs that girls are better at reading and writing, or boys are more successful in math. But what does the evidence say?

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Summer learning loss: Do kids miss out?

For most kids, summer vacation has begun.  This typically means more time spent at the park, swimming pool or beach, and often in front of the TV as well.  It also means less time engaged in educational pursuits like reading, math and problem solving. [Read more…]

Evidence on child well-being across the globe

Ensuring children grow up to be healthy, productive and fulfilled adults are major goals of every society. Children across the world today face complex risks and challenges including the wide availability of unhealthy foods, the prevalence of bullying and increases in drug and alcohol abuse. [Read more…]

The evidence shows preschool matters!

We have heard educators and politicians alike tout the virtues of early childhood education, and how it prepares kids for a lifetime of learning. With one of my own children in preschool and another one headed there shortly, I’m always interested in the evidence on this stage learning. Do activities like playing with blocks and paints, sitting through circle time and learning to share really impact a child for the rest of his life?

So I was fascinated to follow a series of reports on National Public Radio that detail some interesting evidence about preschool programs. While these reports didn’t include a systematic review, they did include several different longitudinal studies that make an interesting case about the importance of preschool.

On the show This American Life, host Ira Glass talks with a range of experts – a journalist, an Nobel-prize winning economist and a pediatrician – about the evidence on what researchers call “non-cognitive skills” like self-discipline, curiosity and paying attention.

One of the leading experts in this field is an economist at the University of Chicago named James Heckman. His work has found that these soft skills are essential in succeeding in school, securing a good job, and even building a successful marriage. Heckman found that children learn these skills in preschool.

One well-known longitudinal study followed a group of low-income 3- and 4-year-olds in Ypsilanti, MichiganThese children were randomly assigned to attend preschool five days a week, or not attend any preschool.  After preschool, all of the children went to the Ypsilanti public school system.

The study found  that children who attend preschool were more successful adults. They were half as likely to be arrested and earned 50 percent more in salary. Girls who attended preschool were 50 percent more likely to have a savings account and 20 percent more likely to have a car.

Another similar project conducted in North Carolina found that comparable results: Individuals who had attended preschool as children were four times more likely to have earned college degrees, less likely to use public assistance, and more likely to delay child-bearing.

There is more evidence too.  NPR’s Planet Money aired a show  earlier this year demonstrating further evidence about the benefits of preschoolAnd researchers at the University of Texas in Austin found that preschool reduces the inequalities in early academic achievement.

The take-home message seems to be: Preschool matters!

Gender bias in the field of medicine?

In the early- and mid-1900s, women were forbidden to attend medical school or practice medicine across the United States.   While our society has made great strides in encouraging women to join and even become leaders in professions like medicine, it is important to understand how these efforts are playing out in real life.

For a new review published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers conducted a survey of 4,578 full-time faculty at 26 U.S. medical colleges. They found that women made up only 19 percent of full professors and only 12 percent of department chiefs. Their survey also found that while men and women were engaged in their work to a similar degree and both groups had similar aspirations for leadership roles, women did not feel the same sense on inclusion in their profession and were not as confident about their ability to be promoted.

The study confirms research by Cornell Professors Wendy Williams and Steve Ceci, who have dedicated their careers to understanding why women are more likely to pursue advancement in science and technology fields like  physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering.

The husband-and-wife team has published a major systematic review that concludes women tend to drop out of math and science related fields because they shoulder more responsibility of caring for young children – and this duty often coincides with the most demanding years of their careers.

What’s the answer?  It’s clear that more research is needed to find out the support systems and environments needed to help women fulfill their career goals. From my perspective, more flexible schedules, accessible and quality childcare and longer maternity leaves would go a long way in helping women to achieve career advancement and raise their families at the same time.

A clearinghouse of education evidence

Parents across the nation send their children to public schools with the confidence that principals and teachers are providing an environment where children can learn, grow and thrive.

We hear so much about in the news about ways to improve our education system – especially in this presidential election year, when candidates are offering proposals and counter-proposals to fix our schools.

But is there any evidence as to what really works?  As a parent of young children, our schools are one important place where I want to see evidence-based guidelines put in place.

The best place I’ve found for evidence-based information on education is called the What Works Clearinghouse, an initiative by the U.S. Department of Education that conducts systematic reviews on education research to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions.

The project is a true treasure trove of information, with research reviews on a myriad of topics including dropout prevention, school choice, early childhood education and student behavior, to name just a few.

On a recent cruise through the site, several topics piqued my interested including:

I’m certainly going to share this amazing resource with my son’s teachers, and use to gather information about the curriculums he’ll be learning in elementary school.  As a parent, it’s a relief to know there’s a place to look for reliable, evidence-based information on education.

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