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Hot Button Issues in Education for 2016


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Hot Button Issues in Education for 2016

Whitney Glockner Black

Happy New Year and welcome back from your holiday break! 2016 is bound to be a year of historic debates, and those surrounding education are no exception. Here is the MyloWrites team's take on the top issues facing students, parents, and teachers in the new year.

Too Much Homework

Homework is a lightning rod issue that is front and center of the debate on student learning versus wellness. Just in the past month, cover articles of the Atlantic Monthly  and the New York Times have highlighted homework as a stressor that some parents and educators believe leads to teen depression and suicide. Still others defend homework as the necessary hard work students need to remain competitive in our global society.

teen with homework in library

Not surprisingly, there is research of merit that points to both the benefits and the detractors on homework.  The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) supports a measured view basically stating that “appropriate” homework is better than no homework, especially given our shorter school day in the United States. ASCD writes:

"Cooper and colleagues' (2006) comparison of homework with no homework indicates that the average student in a class in which appropriate homework was assigned would score 23 percentile points higher on tests of the knowledge addressed in that class than the average student in a class in which homework was not assigned."

But what constitutes good homework? And how can you tell if your students are doing work that will help them succeed versus work that just stresses them out? We turn again to the ASCD who provides this post on the hallmarks of good homework.

One thing we can predict for 2016 is that homework will not go away no matter how much students complain. If getting your student to complete homework is a struggle, here are tips from author of The Homework Trap, Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D., on how to establish and maintain homework routines.

Mind the Gap - College Prep

College readiness ranks as our second top issue for 2016. At the core of this issue is whether or not students leave high school ready to take on postsecondary work. The latest research estimates that 60% of students show up unprepared to do the level of work expected at their postsecondary institution. This leads to poor performance, higher than necessary drop-out rates, and even spiraling student debt. For the curious, the report published by the National Center for Public Policy in Education (June 2010) goes on to outline causes behind this gap. Regardless of why the gap exists, the more pressing question for parents and teachers is what to do about it.  

If high school performance is not an indicator of college readiness, then what do parents and teachers need to do in order to prepare their students’ success? There isn’t a single roadmap to success for any given student, but again we turn to the ASCD for guidelines on the foundation for college or career readiness. In “’What Makes a Student College Ready,” David Conley argues that,

"a comprehensive college preparation program must address four distinct dimensions of college readiness: cognitive strategies, content knowledge, self-management skills, and knowledge about postsecondary education."

He goes on to layout four principles that research has revealed create a college preparatory atmosphere. Although the article is geared toward educators, it’s also a great read for parents wishing to understand how to evaluate their student’s learning environment.

As a parent, you may be looking for more assistance on how to help prepare your child for college level work and guide them on their journey. We recommend taking a look at the wide array of content available on Edutopia’s College Readiness page.  Some of our favorite topics include how true grit as a measure of success, failing as an essential learning experience, and a series on the deeper learning framework. Each article contains further reading suggestions, so you can really dig deeply into topics if you choose.

Adolescent Independence

We are starting to move past the “helicopter parent” meme that has dominated the parenting critiques for the last several years. In its place is emerging a more productive conversation about how to positively promote adolescent independence based on a broadening understanding of the teenage brain and mindset.

The recent book by neuropsychiatric expert Daniel Siegel. In the book, Siegel argues that adolescent brain-growth is defined by four traits: novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity, and creative exploration. Parents and teachers often interpret these as threats to both the teen’s safety (as they often are) and threats to our relationships with teens as they naturally push us away. Though not thoroughly scientific in its approach, it is a measured inquiry into the topic and sets a foundation for understanding adolescent independence.

For another fantastic and shorter read on the teenage brain, turn to the National Geographic article from 2011.

In our opinion, the two best reads on the topic of adolescent independence on the market today are The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey and How to Raise an Adult by Stanford Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims. Both explore how concerned parents can serve their children best by letting go and letting them fail so they can grow from the experience and understand how to face failure and move past it before they experience it as adults.