Scratching the Surface on Student’s Performance in School

Students learn at different paces, some absorb information quickly, or some analyze more efficiently more than his/her classmates, which are some ingredients of becoming a leader. Others poor performance can be attributed with a certain period of time when they either don’t feel like doing school activities and task, or many there are many more reasons behind?

Teachers cannot always be there for their students, and parents cannot always be present, so sometimes the evaluation on their performance and behavior may not show its true reason. Of course unless communication lines are open between student and teachers or parents and children. But what if they aren’t?

For example, a teacher can see performance of the student based on their scores in tests, the way they answer in discussions and observations when they interact with other students. A student may not be open in terms of emotions or situations in life, but when it affects their school performance and their possible studies in college, something has to be done.

A program named Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) is not your ordinary kind of program; it makes learning and education more personal. This is a good example of many other education programs that would make students from average to exceptional.

According to Linda Shaw of Seattle Times Education, AVID helps students become achievers in school and college from being a student with no vision and more laziness. The formula is getting personal, and sometimes, tough love. The aim of the program is more than to make an achiever out of every student, but a more prepared individual who is ready to go beyond comfort zones and explore new things.

To quote from the article:”Average students shine with help from AVID program” by Linda Shaw;

“AVID is one of many programs aimed at motivating lackluster students and closing the gap in achievement between middle-class students and those from poorer families. The program also is one of the oldest and has a strong track record.

AVID reports that close to 80 percent of its seniors are accepted at four-year colleges.”

With the aim of closing the education gap between students from the low-income families and the middle class, AVID is one of the strong programs that promote holistic learning. Students should learn that taking up a challenge, especially in school, would be good training because life after school has a load of challenges in every aspect of life. Better get ready than sorry.

Can Education Reforms Do More Harm than Good?

We see aspects of education that needs discussion. We even see debates going around the country with an aim to create viable solutions to educations and schools issues. But is it really good to be implementing change all at once? Or does it take a tortoise’s path to make sure we do things “slowly but surely?”

In reference to the article of Jay Matthews with the title: “How change can poison schools”, he said that a research paper by two scholars from Oregon may show that sometimes changes, especially in schools’ systems and standards, can do more harm than good especially for teachers.

To quote: “We see a bad school. We pray that it will change. It is an understandable reaction. But an acidic research paper by two scholars in Oregon raises the possibility that sometimes change is the worst thing that can happen to hard-working teachers trying to get their school on its feet.

Their paper—apparently a first attempt at a wider study—is a useful addition to a debate going on in many cities, particularly the District of Columbia, where one formula for change has made headway but has inspired significant opposition from equally well-intentioned people who think a different formula would be better.”

Because of so many arguments in many different issues, sometimes opinions of some policy makers, teachers and administrators stir more arguments thinking that their solutions are better than the suggested, and the cycle never ends…

As stated in the article, so many reforms in so little time is like a soup being “destroyed” by so many chefs with so many ideas. Same may hold true, not in the ideas of the reforms themselves, but in the clash of opinions.

There are under-rated opinions and over-rated opinions, which ones work which ones will “destroy the soup”? The lesson that may represent the article of reference is to create systems that would discuss many issues and implement reforms that would meet in compromise to different opinions.

This way it would save unwanted responses from all the sectors in education. A turtle’s path may be slow, but every step is sure. Same is true with education reforms, it is better to take one step at a time, one issue at a time.


A New Angle in School Reforms: Grade Levels No More?

In an era of many education reforms, there are small suggestions here and there and there are big steps like looking at teachers in relation to a school’s performance. Many issues aside, this article would look at the main beneficiaries of education; the student’s performance in relation to school reforms.

There are many programs in enhancing better quality of education in schools. One of the biggest ones as of date is putting away the traditional grade system where a student is along students of the same age with lessons given at the same time, whatever the degree or speed of learning a student has.

This traditional setting has been a basis ever since schools and education were even invented. Learning has to be based on age, assuming brains of youngsters grow and absorb the same information at the same time.

But with today’s advancing young minds, the traditional setting has been put to the test. As to many authorities would look at taking a step further and make education standard based. This means, at one point students are grouped according to their efficiency of learning. This would allow really bright students to get along with other bright students and take it to the next level.

Along with its perks, some might say this system is risky. Others might say this is wonderful considering some students absorb and analyze information faster than other students. This would indirectly take away boundaries and let the minds of such students develop as fast or as slow as it may allow.

In fact there are many students attempted to adapt such system; based on an article: “KC schools will attempt a new way of learning” by Joe Robertson of The Kansas City Star, more or less 10,000 of them.

A great step in education reforms indeed. But most importantly, a student must be in a learning environment that cultivates his/her highest potential in analyzing information, creativity, imagination, absorbing and adapting to change. If a standards-based system would be helpful in attaining this goal, most school administrators should consider it.

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More Graduates = More Money?

All people realize the pros of attaining a degree in college. It can lead to a better job, a stable career, and more opportunities. Even the law makers are putting more attention on this importance that they may give more credit to colleges that produces more graduates.

A great school often equates to more graduates; or better yet: quality graduates. More often than not, graduates who perform in a well credited school have more doors opened and even more employers noticing.

As policy makers take notice on the importance of the number of graduates in a university, the pressure in on to improve programs to receives incentives like financial incentives to schools with more graduates, pre-determined depending on the money available.

Intentions are good, as to universities would be determined to increase the reputation and credibility if more graduates are made.

Bad comments on putting pressure

There might be some bad ideas when making financial incentive as the primary reason for a university to improve. An encouragement, yes, but hopefully a lower standard of evaluation would not be the answer to produce more graduates.

The opposite might even be a greater challenge to school administrators as the pressure might rise, the quality of education may be the top priority. It is like hitting two birds with one stone as it may build credibility of the university as well as getting government help to improve the school.

But the opposite may be a turtle’s path because it may take time to get more graduates along with imposing a challenge to increase the quality of education. But for long term reputation, it may be the best way.

Obviously this incentive of law makers is to also help encourage the schools who may be performing poorly, increase the quality of education and graduates based on the set criteria. It also helps point out strengths and weaknesses every institution must be able to discuss.

Graduates should not only be the main concern of every student and parent, but also a commitment of every academic institution and the government will give credit for such.

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The Benefit of Compromises

A compromise is one of the best solutions any opposing ideas could ever get at. a compromises is where an acceptable terms in a situation is mutually agreed upon two opposing parties. It may not be a comfort zone to both sides; at least agreeing on such terms would either ease the pain of the clash of opinions, or eventually make a good relationship out of it.

What does a definition of compromise have to do anything with education? One of the most controversial parties clashing in education are teachers and legislatives/critics who want to make great reforms on education, which includes budget cuts..

One side wants to fire many teachers, and based on many things, one of the main ones is budget cuts. Administrators can’t help in budget cuts, and teachers’ draws first blood more often than not. Many issues arise after that, issues like teacher performance, teaching quality and many more.

But compromise can still be made if both parties would agree, as to an example in an article titled: “Teachers union OKs one-year freeze on pay increases” by Emily Richmond.

“The teachers union tentatively agreed Thursday to a one-year freeze on pay increases based on experience, a move that will help the Clark County School District close the remaining $28 million in its budget gap.”

This is what they call a “temporary solution”, because there are still cuts to be made in other areas. The district in the jurisdiction of the article would still have to cut jobs one day, increasing the size of classes, but that is another issue.

The lesson learned: compromises can eventually lead to solutions. Although in this case there will still be cuts in teachers, but opening the table in discussion and agree on something would shorten the gap of two of the opposing ideas today in education: budget cuts and teaching jobs.

The Future of Education Sometimes Means Letting Go

There are different needs and different predictions on the future economy. One thing is for sure: change is inevitable. Learning to adapt to these changes is a must for every humans if progress is wanted. In order to adapt these changes, sometimes, letting go of some things must be done in order to make way for new things.

Education is no excuse.

Reforms have been on the discussion board for quite some time now, some pains, some gains. There are many factors to consider: for one the quality of education and the ability of education administrators to give the best of the quality of education to a growing population and a rising demand for adapting to new innovative ideas.

How to improve the quality of education? Sometimes breaking some of the “old” rules would help. The traditional learning system of information spoon feed would be out the window, and in with enhancing imagination, innovation and analytic thinking along with up-to-date information.

A good example of this is a library at an American University of Cairo, where students are encourage to “finding the questions” rather than seeking the answers.

According to Michael Slackman in his article titled: “A Campus Where Unlearning Is First”, a library at an American University at Cairo encourages creativity, imagination, and question seeking, rather than the traditional method of learning, which is memorize and recitation.

Cultivating a good learning environment that encourages imagination and analytic thinking will not only help students get ready and be successful at their future careers, but would also help them create new dimensions in problem solving in their own lives.

Society has been taught to think a certain way through the traditional set-up of school of feeding information, rather than the drive to search for it. It is a good thing that places such as the library at the American University in Cairo encourages free flowing of ideas of young minds.

This is an adapting universe, and students would be encouraged to learn to adapt by starting to cultivate their minds in searching questions and answers themselves, rather than just accepting it.

Student Blues (part2): Help Me…I’m Feeling Down!

The first part in this series shows some factors that affect the outlook and performance of the student, both in school and out. In answer to such factors that causes depression and stress, parents and school administrators take part to help students.

According to USA Today, in an article entitled: “Survey: 10% of college students seek counseling” By Jennifer Epstein, there are many college students who seek counseling in dealing with anxiety, depression and stress, although it has become a bit more stable than that of a few years back, it is still a larger number of students than from the great depression era.

“The most common conditions seen in students were depression (seen in 37.5% of students visiting a counseling center), anxiety (36.8 percent) and relationship issues (35.9 percent). Nearly a quarter of patients seen in counseling centers were taking psychotropic medications.”

The good thing is that they seek help because mental health issues can affect almost everything in a student’s life. There is still a pre-conceived notion on going to a doctor for counseling, but smart as this generation is, it is more concerning to leave it alone.

We have seen and heard results of leaving mental issues hidden under the rug: there had been student violence reports that are at an alarming rate. Suicides, substance abuse and alcoholism are still rampant because not all students go into therapy or help with their problem.

Adolescence and childhood are the most critical stages to either avoid depression or to worsen it. Parents play an important role because at this stage values and character are formed so it is essential to have the right amount of support and guidance in this process. There are seminars and sessions where parents can be guided in handling their children deal with such problems.

Young minds, who feel guided, not overprotected, feel most secure with their feelings and thoughts. Parent’s balanced guidance and relationship one of the best preventive measures in deeper mental issues of students.

Student Blues: From Bad to Worse?

Students face different stress factors everyday, even at a young age. With different situations affecting their studies and life in general, this concerns most parents and educators because a study has shown that the number of cases of students experiencing depression and anxiety has increased in comparison the Depression era.

Definitely not a joke.

There are some factors that affect the student’s behavior which causes the so-called “Student Blues”:

Family Problems

Most students have many different situations, but one that can affect them the most is the family. Issues such as a broken family or marriages that are shaky can affect the students’ outlook in the concept of family. Understanding for students can be quite hard because sometimes “what you see is what you get”. The sad the situation, the easier it affects the student without even fully understanding the situation.

It is discussed in some articles the relationship of a happy family and the studies of a student. The more intact the family is, the better the outlook in life the student will have and so indirectly affect a student’s performance.

Wealth and Career

The economy is no doubt facing one of the most challenging times in life. A student often times feels the pressure of doing well outside of school because success is often equated with money. Some might think that the goal of finishing at a good school, with good grades, is to get a good job and have a lot of money.

No wonder after school there are people still getting classes because they would equate a better diploma in a good job. But today’s unemployment rate shows the scarcity of jobs and keeping a job takes more than good grades.

Looks and Outlook in life

Most media and technology has been the unseen culprit in causing another type of stress in students. The pre conceived idea of having to look good and be judged when not can create introverts, vain and low self-esteemed students. The learning experience is compromised because it seems the society is a hindrance to how a student will behave.

More problems are being dealt with everyday. It does not mean it cannot be helped. Changing one outlook at a time can really go a long way to a more satisfying and happy life.

Taking off Steam: Helping Teachers by Appreciation

This education system we are enjoying, with all the faults, is nothing without the teachers. More than firing them within a hint of poor performance, why not dig into the cause before making any value judgment? Teachers face many different personalities at crucial stages of life such as adolescence and toddler years. Humans as like we all are, teachers get stressed out, depressed, or even sad when they experience any form of bullying from anyone.

This article is in line with Teacher Appreciation Day. A well deserved “break” from teaching activities for more appreciation activities. Gifts, programs and even small eating events are prepared by students, administrators and even parents.

Parents may show appreciation for teachers who truly inspired their child. Most of the time spent on school, parents would expect nothing less but a good set of moral values and other lessons in life a student will put to good use after graduation. Teachers are second parents to students in one way or another. So like any Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, teachers also deserve the respect and gratitude.

Teaching is truly one of the noblest professions a person could belong in. It may be very rewarding in exchange of hard work, patience, humility and understanding to different students. One of the best “gifts” a teacher would appreciate is a simple smile, a compliment or even a group effort in class.

One teacher can make a huge difference in this economy. Be sure to say “thank you” every now and then.

Virtual Diplomas: A Healthy Alternative or Substitute?

We are all aware of the technological advancement in education, from the teaching style to mode of learning; technology has always guaranteed convenience and awareness of this generation.

But in relation to technological advancement, the internet has one of the most used technologies of students, from social networking to research and study, and the latest is “almost” changing the way we look at classrooms.

Classrooms are now not only with chairs and blackboards and teachers, but more portable to some. There is a rise in virtual classes like open classes in some universities. Before it was to help working people who want additional learning or even the handicap who still want to take lessons but are having a hard time physically going to school every single day, but now is seen to replace the real classroom setting.

It may be to farfetched to assume that it will change the traditional classroom setting, but some universities are actually taking advantage of such accessible media for some of its advantages; accessibility of which is one of its most important.

According to an article titled – Potholes in the Road to Virtual Schooling by Professor Gene Glass:

“Virtual schooling is a rapidly growing and, too many, an increasingly troubling phenomenon. In a decade, online education has grown from being a novelty act to an established mode of education, consisting of asynchronous, computer-mediated interaction between a teacher and students over the Internet.”

It may be troubling for some because some think or depend that virtual schooling can replace the holistic learning experience of the classroom setting. Sure there are things that can be learned from teacher and student over the internet. Things like math, language and other subjects that would be normally taught by discussions, but what about subjects that require physical presence such as experiments in science or even physical education?

The internet idea is still made by a student who grew in a classroom. The internet can show a million possibilities in making life (or education for that matter) more convenient, but there are some things learned with experiencing it first hand and talking to teachers personally.

Hands down; virtual schooling cannot replace that traditional school setting. But it can:

– Help people incapable of being present all the time in school access subjects, exams and lessons.

– make a deeper connection between teacher and student outside the school. For example a student would want to ask a question, the internet would be a great way to connect.

– And many more.

The future education system is a hybrid of virtual media and the traditional setting. It may be a long way before we get solutions we are currently facing, but academic leaders would tread carefully, an issue at a time.