Learning Through Playing

Parents would do anything to give their children a leg up in academics whether it be supplemental classes, extra reading and math at home, or educational programs. This is also reflected in kindergarten classes, which now resemble first and second grade classes. Educators are rushing kindergartners to read, write, and count when the student might not be ready yet. The pressure of standardized testing has taken the fun out of kindergarten and replaced it with with rigorous schooling.

By expecting kindergartners to read and count at the first and second grade level, the students and teachers get stressed out. The shift from playing to learning in kindergarten shows little research on student success in the future. However, by incorporating playing into learning, the kindergarteners are more engaged and less stressed out.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Collier says. “I know when they’re learning, and children this age simply won’t like learning if it’s not fun.”

Educators are fighting to keep kindergarten fun and playful. Although it may just seem like playing, but play encourages interpersonal and linguistic skills, which is necessary for academic success. Providing a fun and safe classroom environment will foster learning in kindergarteners, the learning just is not as obvious as in a regular classroom. For example, teacher Sharon Collier, has created a well balanced classroom between the kindergarten curriculum and kindergarten play. For example, when learning the alphabet, Collier asks students to act out a “snake” for the letter “S.” Learning does not have to be in a desk chair, it can be interactive and still effective.

At KlickEngage, we are working to ensure that children in low-income communities have equal opportunity to succeed academically. Want to learn more? Ask us a question here.

Building Communities Within Schools

Children attend school to learn. But what exactly are they learning besides reading, writing, mathematics, etc.? They are learning how to engage with other people. Schools can be viewed as a “mini communities”, a community where everyone is working to achieve the same goal. In order for the community to be successful, the participants, in this case the students, must work together efficiently.

Schools across the Unites States and even the world are adopting “community-building exercises” in the classroom. These exercises encourage students to interact with their teachers and peers more so than the average lesson plan would require. By building relationships with peers and teachers through exercises, the student develop a sense of belongingness.

In 2018, a video went viral of a teacher high-giving every student upon walking into the classroom. Another video showed a student doing the same thing. This small gesture, before teaching even began, lit up the faces of each student individually. A recent study mimics the results shown in the video. With the use of positive greetings at the door, improvements were made in students’ academic engagement and disruptive behaviors were reduced.

Examples of community-building exercises:

  1. Shout-outs

  2. Snowball Toss

  3. Paper Tweets

  4. Sharing Acts of Kindness

All these exercises focus on engaging with peers and getting to know each other more so than sitting in the classroom would. For example, “Paper Tweets” asks students to create a profile page and bio about themselves on paper. Students can create posts about what is going on in their lives and others can reply back to them.

Quick and simple exercises like these have the ability to boost a child’s confidence and foster interpersonal skills as well. Children learn through hands on experience how to interact with everyone in the classroom, not just their best friends. Acts of kindness are taught, applied, and encouraged in hopes of student’s eventually practicing kindness without promoting it. Overall, community-building exercises take up less than five minutes and benefit both the student and the teacher.

At KlickEngage, we are working to ensure that children in low-income communities have equal opportunity to succeed academically. Want to learn more? Ask us a question here.



The Benefit of Art Education

Typically, when a school has to undergo budget cuts, the first programs to go are the arts: drama, painting, music, etc. These programs are seen as expendable and worthless compared to sports and standardized test prep. However, a recent study conducted by the Houston Education Research Consortium found that that’s not the case.

The study examined 10,548 students’ art education experience and growth throughout the courses. Three significant results were found after increasing students’ art education experience:

  1. Reduced disciplinary infractions

  2. Increased writing achievement

  3. Increased students’ compassion for others

Art education for young children certainly has benefits. These benefits include: motor skill development, language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, and cultural awareness.

Other research shows that, in high school, the benefits differ. Students in high school art classes show higher standardized tests, higher graduation rates, more community service, less time watching TV, less time being bored in school, more office positions held, and less drop-out rates. Students in low socio-economic status that had art programs reported only 4% drop out rates compared to a 22% drop out rate from students without art programs.

“As a teacher, I know that the two main factors that contribute to a lack of arts education are funding and time. With a greater emphasis being placed on math and literacy skills and on standardized testing, fine arts have been some of the first programs to be cut from a school budget and curriculum. This is disappointing, considering the research that links literacy skills to music and points to an intimate connection between rhythm, speech recognition, and reading”

-Keira Quintero, Pre-K-5th grade general music at Forest Glen Elementary School

Trouble arises when schools lose funding and have to resort to cutting programs. Typically, the arts programs are the first to go. Options are available to schools in these situations such as grants and community programs. The National Endowment for the Arts in 2015 funded over $74 million to nonprofit arts organizations.

Learn more about the benefit of arts education and art education funding here.

At KlickEngage, we are working to ensure that children in low-income communities have equal opportunity to succeed academically. Want to learn more? Ask us a question here.

Measuring Success from the Start

There is no denying that schools focus and measure their academic success with their 12th grade graduation rates. The idea being: the higher the graduation rate, the more successful the school is in educating their students. However, schools in Chicago are now taking a different approach to measuring and bolstering their success rates.

Based on the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, schools are implementing the “Freshman On Track Indicator.” Ninth grade students are measured and categorized after one semester or quarter in school. Components such as behavior, absences, and grades are compiled and categorized into green, yellow, and red indicators of being on track. Green is on track, yellow is sliding off track, and red is off track to graduation.

According to the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (2005), students predicted to be off-track in 9th grade have a higher likelihood of not graduating in 12th grade. The opposite also applies. On track students are more likely to graduate come their senior year of high school. Rather than using standardized test scores and background characteristics to predict graduation rates, educators now are able to more accurately catch an off track student and give them the resources they need.  The transition from middle school to high school is often a difficult one for students. Using this model, parents and educators would carefully monitor high school freshmen for any changes in behavior and grades. By being proactive, the students are given more time to improve slipping grades.  Students marked as “on track” are 3.5 times more likely to graduate than their “off track” peers. Tracking the grades and behaviors of students beginning their first semester in high school can drastically improve graduation rates. This method focuses on catching slip ups before students are ineligible to graduate.  For more information about the On Track Indicator, visit the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research  website .    At KlickEngage, we are working to ensure that children in low-income communities have equal opportunity to succeed academically. Want to learn more? Ask us a question      here     .

According to the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (2005), students predicted to be off-track in 9th grade have a higher likelihood of not graduating in 12th grade. The opposite also applies. On track students are more likely to graduate come their senior year of high school. Rather than using standardized test scores and background characteristics to predict graduation rates, educators now are able to more accurately catch an off track student and give them the resources they need.

The transition from middle school to high school is often a difficult one for students. Using this model, parents and educators would carefully monitor high school freshmen for any changes in behavior and grades. By being proactive, the students are given more time to improve slipping grades.

Students marked as “on track” are 3.5 times more likely to graduate than their “off track” peers. Tracking the grades and behaviors of students beginning their first semester in high school can drastically improve graduation rates. This method focuses on catching slip ups before students are ineligible to graduate.

For more information about the On Track Indicator, visit the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research website.

At KlickEngage, we are working to ensure that children in low-income communities have equal opportunity to succeed academically. Want to learn more? Ask us a question here.



The Merge of Schools and Communities

Everyone has heard of the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Schools and educators are now proposing that it takes a village to teach a child. Recently a new model of schools called “community schools” are popping up around the country.

What are “community schools?”

Community schools are a partnership between schools and resources from the community. This type of school model improves learning and quality of life for the student while encouraging stronger familial and student bonds with the community. The school is considered the center or hub of the community; anyone is able to enter, whenever.

How are kids being supported?

  1. Academically

  2. Physically

  3. Socially

  4. Mentally

Both children and parents are benefitting from community schools. Children and parents receive the help they need with problems that may be hindering the child’s success in school. Parents are given resources for lawyers, laundry machines, groceries, technology courses, etc. Children are given winter jackets, psychologists, optometrists, dentists, and other resources. The immediate benefits from these free resources are certainly life-changing. Not only that, children are able to build trust and relationships with professionals in the community. In turn, the children are benefiting and are learning their place in the community.

Do community schools work?

New York City is the forerunner of community schools, with over 247 schools. Since 2014 chronic absenteeism at community schools was reduced by 6.4%. Community schools just this past year in 2018 have reported higher passing grades of the statewide exams than regular schools.

“When schools both ‘support academic success and social, emotional and physical health’ and ‘offer a promising foundation for progress,’ the report concluded, research shows that students’ reading and math scores go up and they’re more likely to graduate. Fewer of them skip school. And they act out less often.”

-New York Times Writer David L. Kirp


Nationwide, more educators are rejecting the “No Child Left Behind” standpoint since it focuses mainly on test scores. A study conducted by Columbia University in 2018 shows that two-thirds out of 3,000 adults support the statement: “students cannot develop basic academic skills without community resources, health and social services.” The United States now is home to nearly 5,000 community schools and school districts.

Conclusion

By supporting the concept of “teaching the whole child” not just the student, community schools thus far have bettered the lives of families as a whole. Providing all the tools for success, not just the educational tools, the child is more likely to excel in school.

At KlickEngage, we are working to ensure that children in low-income communities have equal opportunity to succeed academically. Want to learn more?  Ask us a question here.









3 Suspension Alternatives for Positive Student Outcomes

Every year, over 1.5 million public school students face suspension or similar exclusionary policies due to behavior deemed “counterproductive” or “disruptive” by their districts or administrators.  For students of color, the odds of being suspended are roughly three times that of their white counterparts.

Suspensions are a common disciplinary practice because they’re convenient and inexpensive in comparison to restorative measures.  The problem? Suspensions aren’t effective in improving long-term student outcomes. In fact, the U.S. Department and Education and the DOJ released this joint statement on suspension effectiveness in 2014:

“Studies have suggested a correlation between exclusionary discipline policies and practices and an array of serious educational, economic, and social problems.”

In this post, we’ll examine three suspension alternatives that can be easily integrated into existing school policies at virtually any scale:

  1. Buddy Classrooms

  2. Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEPs)

  3. Restorative Justice

1.Buddy Classrooms

The concept of a buddy classroom is simple enough -  students demonstrating disruptive behavior are provided a change of scenery and de-escalation activity in another classroom. In practice, however, an effective buddy classroom system requires deliberate planning and consistency.

Classrooms should have designated de-escalation areas, predetermined activities, and periodic teacher check-ins.  Perhaps most importantly, students must have a clear understanding of the buddy classroom process. It’s critical for students to understand that this is not simply an opportunity to reduce time spent on rigorous academic activities and that they’ll be expected to complete all activities missed in order to achieve their long-term academic goals.  

The specific processes in place for a buddy classroom can (and should) vary based on the unique characteristics of your community’s student population, but an example might look something like this:

The fourth-grade team at Langston Elementary School has agreed to implement a buddy classroom system. Ms. Newton and Mr. McKee will partner up, as will Mrs. Jackson and Ms. Wilson.  Each teacher implements a “cooldown area” in the corner of their classroom. When a student arrives from a buddy classroom, they have all the resources they need to articulate (in writing or drawing) the emotions they’re feeling. Students know that the buddy teacher will check in with them every 15 minutes with the expectation that the student will be ready to return to their classroom after 3 check-ins maximum. Students are expected to complete all missed academic work during recess (or after school, lunch, specials, etc).

For students who require buddy classrooms on an increasingly frequent basis, a more structured solution may be preferred.

2. Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEPs)

Buddy classrooms are a great option for students who require occasional time and space to de-escalate from disruptive behaviors, but this policy will likely prove unsustainable for students who require significant behavioral support several times per week (or per day). This is where Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs - or DAEPs - come into play.

As the name suggests, these programs acknowledge that traditional disciplinary measures (detention, suspension, expulsion) do little to help students self-correct disruptive or destructive behaviors. These traditional methods of discipline are focused more on convenience - isolate the student creating a disruptive environment to ensure that others can learn effectively. Rather than continuously suspending (and ultimately expelling) students with behavior issues, DAEPs are implemented to ensure that students are given the resources and support they need to achieve academic objectives while also preparing them for productive roles in a larger society.  

Looking for specific examples? The most effective DAEPs are highly customized - often tailored to the needs of individual students. Many school districts, like Bryan ISD in Texas, post their DAEP vision and goals online.

3. Restorative Justice

Through restorative justice - also called restorative practices -  stakeholders (teachers, administrators, classmates) seek to strengthen their relationship with a disruptive student rather than removing that student from the classroom environment, thereby eroding trust between the parties involved.  

A policy of restorative justice must be implemented at the school-wide level, and requires a fundamental shift in approach to disruptive student behavior.

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An example of restorative justice in action might look something like this: During an art project, Jordan gets up from his desk to get a pair of scissors. As he does, he accidentally slides his chair into Kyler’s back. Before Jordan can apologize, Kyler shoves Jordan against his desk, spilling paint everywhere in the process.  

In a school with traditional disciplinary processes in place, Kyler could face suspension for this confrontation. However, research indicates that the restorative benefits of suspension are essentially nonexistent for the student exhibiting disruptive behavior, while the drawbacks - less instructional time, increased likelihood of chronic absenteeism, social alienation - are rampant.  

If Jordan and Kyler attended a school with a policy of restorative justice in place, then suspension wouldn’t be the default outcome in this instance.  All post-altercation decisions would be made through the lens of rebuilding the relationship between the two students and empowering Kyler to learn from his mistakes.  

For example, Kyler, Jordan, and their teacher might set some time aside to talk through what happened and how the situation escalated. As an outcome of this conversation, Kyler may realize that it’s important to understand a situation before reacting to it.  Because restorative justice seeks to repair the damage caused by a conflict, Kyler may also help the custodian clean up the mess caused by his altercation with Jordan.

Conclusion

There’s a mounting body of evidence that exclusionary discipline practices like suspension are ineffective when it comes to improving student outcomes. Alternatives to suspension can be systematized, efficient, and most importantly, effective when planned and executed properly.

At KlickEngage, we are working to ensure that children in low-income communities have equal opportunity to succeed academically. Want to learn more?  Ask us a question here.