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David Snyder

New Tools and Research on Healthy Schools

Be sure to visit the Whole Child Resource Clearinghouse frequently for links to helpful Web content on all aspects of the whole child. Some new items related to healthy schools include

David Snyder

Bully pulpit: New data shows key role of parents in reducing bullying

A fascinating new analysis of data on bullying appeared in the October issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. Looking at data from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) 2005 Survey, a nationally representative sample of grades 6–10, the article's author looked at the connection between various bullying behaviors and their association with sociodemographic characteristics, parental support, and friends.

The data shows that in the two months prior to the survey, students were most likely to have been involved in verbal and/or social bullying, either as a bully or victim; more 50 percent of students fell into those categories. About 20 percent were involved in physical bullying, and roughly 13 percent in cyberbullying.

All sorts of interesting, if perhaps unsurprising, breakdowns emerge. For instance, having more friends is associated with more bullying and less victimization, and girls are more likely to engage in social or "relational" bullying than boys, who tend more toward verbal and physical bullying.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the analysis is that parental support is associated with less involvement in all forms of bullying. It's yet another piece of evidence that parents play a critical role in creating healthy school environments.

David Snyder

New Resources on Schools and Communities

Like reading about supporting the whole child and clicking links? You're in luck: today we're rounding up some of the latest additions to the site's extensive Resource Clearinghouse, with a common thread of community involvement. Whether the community is integrated tightly with the school or simply having an effect on kids' lives, it's clear that it takes more than school staff to meet the needs of the whole child. Be sure to check out these hot links:

  • Impact of Community and Youth Organizing on Public School Reform, from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, looks at organizing efforts by residents of seven urban communities across the country to improve their public schools. It aims to document the organizing campaigns and measure the impact on three critical indictors of education reform: district-level policy, school-level capacity, and student outcomes.
  • Realizing the Promise of Promise Neighborhoods, from the Bridgespan Group. The U.S. Department of Education is preparing to issue RFPs for planning grants to create Promise Neighborhoods in 20 of the country's poorest communities. This paper discusses the lessons learned from earlier models and how policymakers and community leaders can benefit from this opportunity to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
  • A Look at Community Schools, from the Center for American Progress, overviews community school strategies in the United States and how community schools can decrease poverty's detrimental effect on students. Using examples of community school initiatives, it highlights where research shows community schools have had the most success. It also reviews England's extended school model and suggests ways the United States can expand community schools based on England's experience.
  • The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, from the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, shows that youth development programs like 4-H play a special and vital role in the lives of America's young people. Among the findings, 8th graders who participated in 4-H programs at least twice per month scored higher on civic identity and engagement measures and had a greater ability to express opinions on community issues.
David Snyder

New study shows Harlem Children's Zone closing achievement gaps

Education Week reports on a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which looked at student achievement results from the Harlem Children's Zone charter schools over three years. Remarkably, student results show that the New York City black-white achievement gap was eliminated in elementary math and language arts and middle school math, and halved in middle school language arts.

The study's authors emphasize that they were unable to conclude if the schools themselves, or the combination of the schools and community wraparound programs, such as parenting and anti-obesity programs, were responsible for the gains.

Although it will be interesting to see if research can prove the efficacy of such larger community programs, it's clear that the success of the HCZ charters isn't simply a matter of academics. According to Ed Week, Richard Rothstein notes "the report seems to underemphasize that the Harlem Children's Zone schools themselves offer some non-academic supports that may help explain their success...such as regular medical, dental, and mental-health services for students, as well as substantial funds for after-school programs."

In other words, focusing on the whole child has clearly had an effect here—regardless of whether it's the schools themselves or schools in combination with larger community initiatives that is driving such dramatic results.

David Snyder

New Resources on Preventing Dropouts

If you enjoyed this month's Whole Child Podcast, "Supporting Students to Succeed," or if you're just looking for solid research, statistics, and guides on supporting and engaging students—especially those at risk of dropping out—be sure to check out the latest items in our extensive Resources library. Here are some of our new additions:

David Snyder

Screen time on the rise for kids

New data from ratings giant Nielsen show that kids are watching more and more TV. Its analysis shows viewing among 2- to 11-year-olds is at an eight-year high, with kids ages 2–5 spending a whopping 32 hours a week staring at a screen, and they hypothesize that older kids watch slightly less simply due to longer school hours. (In an only-from-Nielsen data point, younger kids were also less likely to fast-forward through commercials during DVR playback, presumably to the delight of advertisers and the chagrin of most others).

What's more, these numbers don't even factor in the time spent online. The total "screen time" is likely to be substantially higher with the Internet factored in.

The LA Times has reactions from a variety of sources. Vic Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics, states concern with the view that TV is "harmless entertainment," adding that "media are one of the most powerful teachers of children that we know of. When we in this society do a bad job of educating kids about sex and drugs, the media pick up the slack."

Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, adds that young kids who watch too much TV "don't develop the resources to generate their own amusement, so they become dependent on screens."

What does this mean for the whole child? There are clear implications across the board. Healthy kids need plenty of physical activity, which probably doesn't coincide with TV viewing. What's more, can kids who become "dependent on screens" engage as easily with the kind of challenging curriculum that requires critical thinking and hands-on projects?

What role can schools, parents, and communities play in creating a healthy balance between screens and other diversions for kids?

David Snyder

Whole Child Blogwatch: Parent Engagement

If you've found the recent Whole Child Podcast on school-family partnerships to be useful and relevant to your work and want to keep up with the latest on the topic, a great source for regular information is teacher and author Larry Ferlazzo's blog Engaging Parents in School, which strives to go "beyond parent involvement."

The blog features vivid examples of engagement in the field, such as a post highlighting a back-to-school home visit program in Wichita, Kans. He points to video on the Wichita Eagle Web site showing educators visiting homes, greeting parents, and leaving packages of supplies. Another post spotlights recent recommendations for schools on building strong family involvement systems from FINE: The Family Involvement Network of Educators, a project at Harvard University.

Ferlazzo's eagle eye for news on family engagement makes the blog a valuable hub for research findings, podcasts, articles, and other resources that can be difficult to track down independently. 


David Snyder

Whole Child Blogwatch: Aligning preK

The Early Ed Watch Blog has a new post reviewing the book Leading for Equity, which describes the management strategies that led to higher student achievement in Montgomery County Public Schools. Perhaps the most prominent attention the book has gotten thus far has been from Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews, who admired the progress the school has made but expressed frustration at the book's emphasis on "process-oriented analysis of what goes on in schools."

Early Ed Watch, as you might imagine, shines a spotlight on Montgomery County's preK practices. The blog highlights Superintendent Weast's work to align curriculum in preK programs to the early grades of his schools, regardless of whether the programs are federally or locally funded: "He or she will experience the same expectations, quality, and teaching strategies, and the curriculum used in both types of preK programs is designed to build seamlessly into what children will learn in kindergarten." As part of an "Early Success Performance Plan," this work contributed to a signifiant reduction in the achievement gap by 3rd grade.

The blog connects this strategy to one of the major themes of Leading for Equity, shared accountability and cooperation. Have you seen similar examples of successful coordination in your school or district?  


David Snyder

Adolescent Motivation in the U.S. and China: What the Research Says

A new study published in the July/August issue of Child Development finds that both U.S. and Chinese adolescents experience a decline in academic motivation during 7th and 8th grades. The study looked at more than 800 students in the two nations and found that although the decline was universal, there was less decline in motivation among Chinese students, perhaps attributable to a greater social emphasis—at home and in school—on the value of academics. It is this difference that is grabbing headlines in press coverage of the study.

But what does this mean for the whole child? In a section of the report titled "Implications for the United States-China Learning Gap," the authors state that "although the sustained value and behavior among Chinese children may bode well for their achievement, it may take an emotional toll on them. As the quality of Chinese children's motivational beliefs deteriorates, they may come to experience their engagement in schoolwork as not only tedious but also pressured, which may cause emotional problems". 

Moreover, the authors attempt to explain the universal decline in motivation as evidence of "a poor fit between their developmental stage and environment" and state that "despite major innovations, American middle schools are often at odds with children's psychological needs." They see a similar mismatch in Chinese middle schools, with growing needs for autonomy and social acceptance going unmet.

While the headlines may seem to trumpet evidence of the United States falling behind other countries, the reality is much more complicated. In your opinion, how can middle schools best work to keep students motivated and engaged in schoolwork, while meeting their evolving emotional needs?

David Snyder

Whole Child Blogwatch: Expert Roundtable on the Gap

National Journal's new Education Experts group blog is debating how to close the achievement gap in light of new NAEP figures that show it persisting. Regular readers of this Web site will see some familiar themes.

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute replied by referencing the same study on the roots of the achievement gap that this blog recently discussed:

Whether children learn algebra has everything to do with schools. But which children learn algebra better than other children results from differences both in home background and in schools (with most of the impact from the former).

The Child Trends report concludes its documentation of the nine-month and two-year cognitive gap by recommending an emphasis on policy to address the cognitive shortcomings of disadvantaged children before they are ready for school.

Rothstein goes on to laud programs such as school health centers that provide preventative care and high-quality early childhood programs as promising in reducing the gap. Another blog contributor, NYU professor Pedro Noguera, states in a similar vein that

we can make tremendous progress in closing the gap if we do two things: 1) focus on the conditions of learning, namely the quality of instruction and the coherence, relevance and rigor of the curriculum, and 2) enhance the capacity of schools to meet student needs by increasing the availability of personalized academic support services, afterschool and pre-school programs and, most importantly, by enabling schools to respond to the non-academic social and emotional needs that invariably impact learning.

Read more prominent contributors' responses over at the National Journal, and contribute your own answer here. How can we best close the achievement gap?

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