Education

Education
5:06 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

When kids bring trauma to school with them

For kids who bring trauma to school, their "learning forecast" is far less than 100%.
Credit Krissy Venosdale / Flickr

There’s a reason we talk about trauma so much at State of Opportunity: It has a huge impact on kids.

When we say “trauma," we’re referring to a child’s emotional response to an absolutely terrible event, like witnessing violence or living with an alcoholic parent – two examples of traumatic experiences described in the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (and ACES test) we reported on earlier this year.

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Education
8:00 am
Fri November 14, 2014

Michigan children are guaranteed a free education, but not necessarily a quality one

Credit user: Bart Everson / flickr

The type of education a child in Michigan gets depends in large part on where he or she lives. That's because Michigan is under no legal obligation to provide an "equitable" or "adequate" education for all its citizens. The only thing Michigan is legally required to do in terms of schools is provide a "free" education. And we all know that free does not necessarily equal quality. 

Here is what our state constitution says about education: 

Sec. 2. The Legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin. 

So, we've promised our children a free education, but is it equitable and adequate? That's the question we posed in our documentary, The Education Gap. (If you haven't heard it, click on the link and take a listen. You may be surprised at how much of a difference your zip code makes in terms of educational opportunities.)

The equitable and adequate question is also at the heart of a recent lawsuit against the Highland Park school district. As my colleague, Kate Wells, reported last week, the ACLU sued the district and the state of Michigan, saying students were not taught basic literacy skills. Here's an excerpt:

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Education
2:02 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Michigan's students leave college with some of the highest debt levels in the nation

Credit Flickr user Schlüsselbein2007

$29,583. 

That is the average amount owed by each student who graduated college in Michigan last year. The number comes from a report released today by the Institute for College Access & Success's Project on Student Debt. The report reveals that 63% of college graduates in Michigan last year had at least some debt when they graduated. Michigan ranked eighth in the nation for the average size of that debt. 

And the institutions where students graduated with the highest amount of debt may not be the ones you'd guess. 

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Education
2:20 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

What makes one Head Start program better than another? Here are some answers – maybe

Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Head Start is one of the most important, and confusing, anti-poverty programs in existence. It serves nearly a million kids a year, at a cost of about $8.5 billion dollars this year to the federal government. It's been in place for a half century. And we have no solid idea if it really works. 

Which is not to say that there isn't research on Head Start. There's a pile of research on Head Start. But the findings of various studies are contradictory. And the biggest, most-widely cited study of Head Start's effectiveness is routinely misinterpreted

One of the problems with assessing Head Start is that Head Start isn't one thing. It's run as a grant program. That means the government sends a check to a local group to operate its own Head Start classrooms. There are rules for how those classrooms should be run – lots of rules – but each Head Start grantee does have flexibility in choosing a curriculum, offering certain services, and in hiring its own teachers (actually, Head Start parents get a big voice in choosing teachers, but that's another thing altogether). 

That creates a challenge for researchers, because there can be wide variation between different Head Start centers around the country. And some Head Start centers seem to provide much bigger benefits to kids than others. 

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Education
12:06 am
Fri October 24, 2014

If learning starts at birth, teacher training has to start earlier too

This daycare center in Detroit is one of the places where teachers are undergoing training as part of a new initiative.
Credit Sarah Carr / Michigan Radio

Sarah Carr is editor of The Teacher Project, an education reporting initiative at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism dedicated to covering issues facing America's teachers. While in Detroit she put together this story for State of Opportunity.

In Detroit and across the country, pre-school instructors are being asked to teach more formal academic skills so their students can get off to a strong start in school and life.

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Education
5:30 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Is how we talk about race worth talking about?

Is there more to teaching kids "how to get along"?
Credit Barnaby Wasson / Flickr

Browsing the comments on Facebook in response to Dustin Dwyer’s piece on race makes it clear we are all over the map on how we talk about race. Some tread lightly around these issues and things like privilege and oppression. Others believe racism doesn’t exist anymore. And some people don’t like talking about it at all.

How much of this depends on how we are taught to talk about race?

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Education
6:00 am
Wed October 1, 2014

You want the cookie. How can you resist? One psychologist's strategy, and why it matters

Can you resist the temptation?
Credit flickr/ginnerobot

Today, we have a story about the time one of the most famous television characters in history re-enacted one of the most famous psychology experiments in history.

The character is Cookie Monster. And the experiment, well for Cookie Monster, it was called a game:

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Education
3:10 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

One popular strategy to help boys succeed in school: Just expect less from them

A future underachiever?
Credit Dustin Dwyer

If you follow our work here on State of Opportunity, it will not be news to hear that girls currently outperform boys on most academic measures

A piece published a few days ago over at The Atlantic points out that this isn't just an American phenomenon; girls are doing better than boys in schools all around the world. This disparity has immense consequences for our education system, in part because, as I reported last year in our documentary "Be A Man," gender acts as a multiplying factor for other types of educational achievement gaps. The gaps we see between students based on family income and race are both much worse for males than females. If we want to tackle these achievement gaps, we can't ignore gender. 

So how can we help boys catch up to girls in school? One idea that seems to have a lot of traction lately is just to let boys get away with doing less. 
 

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Education
8:38 am
Wed September 3, 2014

When you want to play, but you have dreams that require work

Musa, a new fourth-grader.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

On the last lazy Sunday of summer, Musa lies down on the living room floor to play with his cat Romeo. Later today there will be shopping for school clothes, and maybe some time to play. But for now, Musa just hangs out, not using any more energy than is absolutely necessary.

"Tell me about your summer," I say.

"It was all right," he says.

"What’d you do?"

"Uh, nothing really," he says. "I just really played outside."

"Did you have fun?"

"Yeah."

"Did you forget everything you learned in third grade?"

"Nope."

"Are you looking forward to going back to school?"

“A little.”

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Education
12:37 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

What can parents do to help close the achievement gap?

Credit user Andrew Taylor / Flickr

Thousands of children across Michigan will start kindergarten next week, and the truth is many of them won't be prepared to learn. For many low-income children, this will be their first time in a classroom, so they're playing catch-up from the start. From there it's a short hop, skip and jump to a full-blown achievement gap between low-income kids and their more wealthy peers by the time they're in middle school.

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