College and Career Ready Workshop!!

This workshop will provide valuable information to parents and students. During this workshop parents will have the opportunity to raise important questions with a panel of educators from Columbia Public Schools, Mizzou & Columbia College.

Time: January 18, 2018

Address 1818 West Worley, Columbia, Missouri

Teacher perceptions and race

Fixed mindset compared to growth mindset.  Fixed mindsets work against the achievement of all students. When educators are of the mindset that all students cannot learn, he or she may be in the wrong profession.  This article from Brookings (Brown Center Chalkboard) sheds light on how teachers’ perceptions of their students can be harmful if teachers’ perceptions are fixed and they are opposed to a growth mindset.

(The young girl in the picture insisted on showing me what she learned in her ballet class.  I allowed her to demonstrate because I believed in her). Growth mindset. She was overjoyed to show me and her peers. Awesomeness!!

By: Dick Startz Monday, February 22, 2016

When it comes to student behavior, what’s polite or rude—what counts as acting out versus what’s seen as healthy youthful exuberance—depends not only on actual behavior but on how teachers read behavior. Black and white American cultures are still sufficiently different in that how teachers read behavior depends in part on the teacher’s race. New research shows that black and white teachers give very different evaluations of behavior of black students. When a black student has a black teacher that teacher is much, much less likely to see behavioral problems than when the same black student has a white teacher.

New research by Adam Wright, “Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Disruptive Behavior: The Effect of Racial Congruence and Consequences for School Suspension,” documents that black teachers have much less negative views of black student behavior than do white teachers. (Conflict of interest notice…hmmm no, braggin’ notice: Wright is one of my PhD students.) Wright looks first at teacher evaluations of behavior, and then at data on school suspensions. Let’s begin with the teacher evaluations.

Wright uses data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to follow the experience of more than 20,000 students in kindergarten, first, third, and fifth grade. During the elementary school years, teachers were asked to assess a number of noncognitive skills. The measure of interest here is “externalizing problem behaviors,” which asks how often the student “argues, fights, gets angry, acts impulsively, and disrupts ongoing activities.” Notice that we see a measure of teacher perception, rather than counts of disciplinary events. Wright focuses on externalizing behavior because this measure is highly correlated with school suspensions.

On a scale in which the average measure of externalizing behavior is normalized to zero, white and Hispanic students average -0.07, while black students average +0.37. (Asian students average -0.38.) So on average, black students are viewed as having much worse behavior—which presumably reflects some combination of objectively worse behavior and perceived worse behavior.

Wright does something very clever, taking advantage of the fact that students are observed several times and that we know which students are in which classes with which teachers. Wright asks how black students are rated by black teachers, controlling for both the average rating of an individual student by all his teachers and for the average rating a particular teacher of all of her students in a given class. What this means is that Wright can identify how a black student’s behavior is perceived by a black teacher as compared to how the same student is perceived by white teachers. The procedure also adjusts for the possibility that black teachers are just more “easy going,” because the average rating given in a class is effectively subtracted off. So Wright is arguably identifying a causal effect of black students being matched with black teachers.

BEING RACE MATCHED MATTERS A LOT FOR BLACK STUDENTS BUT NOT FOR OTHERS

Bottom line: black teachers are much less likely to find problems with black students than white teachers are with the same students. The difference is enormous, accounting for about half the black/white externalizing behavior gap. (Remember that the data does not tell us whether black teachers have different perceptions of black students or whether student/teacher race matching leads to objectively different behavior.) For black students, being matched with a black teacher matters.

How about white or Hispanic students being matched with white or Hispanic teachers, respectively? Nope, no discernable differences in externalizing behavior. (To be clear, black teachers rate white students about the same as do white teachers.) In other words, being race matched matters a lot for black students but not for others.

Wright drills down further. First—and this is probably unsurprising—the effect of race matching is entirely due to the evaluations given to black boys. There isn’t a noticeable difference for black girls. Second, the effect of matching is limited to the year of the match. When Wright checked reports of black students when they were assigned to white teachers following a year with a black teacher he found no lingering effects of that year of being race-matched. This suggests that the findings reflect teacher perceptions rather than real behavioral differences since we might expect improvements in behavior to persist the following year—and that’s not what happens.

HOW SUSPENSION RATES BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE STUDENTS PLAY INTO RACE MATCHING

Wright then turns to the question of suspension. As is well known, black students are much more likely to be suspended than are white students. Wright shows that the more times a black student is matched with a black teacher, the less likely that student is to be suspended. Unfortunately, the data does not note the grade in which a suspension happened. It is reasonable to speculate that most suspensions come in later grades and that the finding is due in part to the effect of student-teacher race matching in earlier grades. We can’t be sure of this however, and some part of the finding may also be due to fewer suspensions of black students during years they have black teachers.

The difference in suspension rates is large. Taking these findings at face value, Wright estimates that if we doubled exposure of black students to black teachers, the black-white suspension gap would fall in half. Because of data limitations, it’s not possible to test whether black students’ likelihood of suspension changes when they move from a black teacher to a white teacher. Instead, Wright looks at black students who enter the same school at kindergarten but are exposed to different percentages of black teachers through eighth grade. So the causal interpretations about suspensions are less certain than are the interpretations about behavior reports.

In summary, black teacher perceptions about the behavior of black boys is very different than the perceptions of white teachers. This doesn’t happen for other racial groups. None of this necessarily suggests malice or prejudice or favoritism on anyone’s part. It does suggest one more way that race still matters in our schools.

Study Shows Strong Racial Identity Improves Academic Performance of Young Black Women

 

This is interesting research that continues to make the case for what it takes to educate all students. We have to move beyond the theory and take actions that improve academic performance for all students.

A new study led by Sheretta Butler-Barnes, an assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, finds that young African American women with strong racial identity are more likely to be academically curious and persistent in school.

Researchers surveyed 733 adolescent Black girls from middle and high schools across three socio-economically diverse school districts in the Midwest. The study found that racial identity and positive perceptions of school climate were associated with greater academic motivation. Moreover, the researchers learned that racial identity acted as a protective factor in hostile or negative school climates.

“Persons of color who have unhealthy racial identity beliefs tend to perform lower in school and have more symptoms of depression,” Dr. Butler-Barnes said. “In our study, we found that feeling positive about being Black, and feeling support and belonging at school may be especially important for African-American girls’ classroom engagement and curiosity. Feeling connected to the school may also work together with racial identity attitudes to improve academic outcomes.”

Dr. Butler-Barnes joined the Brown School in July 2012 as an assistant professor. Before coming to the Brown School, Butler-Barnes was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan’s School of Education affiliated with the Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Dr. Butler-Barnes earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Wayne State University in Detroit.

The study, “Promoting Resilience Among African American Girls: Racial Identity as a Protective Factor.” was published on the website of the journal Child Development. It may be accessed here.

2018 ACT Personalized Learning Summit March 19-20, 2018

The Summit will feature action-oriented breakout sessions and motivating keynote speakers. Session topics include, but are not limited to:
Encouraging access and equity through technology
Successful K-12, postsecondary, and workforce partnerships
Increasing student preparedness for college and career
Social and emotional learning
Free resources from ACT
We are also happy to announce that Jaime Casap, Education Evangelist at Google, will provide an energetic kick-off to the Summit with his morning keynote on day one. You can check out his 2013 TEDx Talk here.
WHY YOU SHOULD ATTEND
button_register_blueEducation professionals will come together to discuss the diverse needs of today’s learners and learn a variety of methods to address these needs. You’ll learn about key education and workforce initiatives to help foster positive change throughout your community. Networking opportunities will provide time to get to know one another and discuss best practices in preparing all learners for college and career success.
DETAILS
WHEN
Monday, March 19, 2018 – Tuesday, March 20, 2018

ACT Personalized Learning Summit University of California Davis March 19-20, 2018

 

Last school year, I had the opportunity to conduct research with the help of the Class of 2017 regarding their perceptions of College and Career Readiness. ACT read some of my research work. As a result, American College Testing (ACT) has selected me to present my College Readiness research at the University of California ACT Summit. I will represent Columbia Public Schools in this awesome and exciting opportunity. I will have the platform which will allow me an opportunity to share some of the wonderful things happening in CPS. I too will have the pleasure of bringing back strategies that others are doing in the area of College & Career Readiness. My presentation will focus heavily on Non-Academic Factors. The description is below:

 

Non-Academic Factors Associated with College Readiness

First-Generation College Students (FGCS) and Non-FGCS more often than not focus on college preparedness through an academic lens and make major mistakes by overlooking non-academic factors such as family support, social integration, perseverance, and self-efficacy.  This session is designed to provide information and strategies regarding non-academic factors that have a colossal impact on students’ retention beyond first year of college (Brown, 2017).

http://www.cvent.com/events/2018-act-personalized-learning-summit/event-summary-b930d5cfa85c4d0286e6168322922fb5.aspx?lang=en&sms=3&refid=SHARE

 

Grambling State University to Establish Louisiana’s First Undergraduate Cybersecurity Program

This is fantastic news because is shows GSU is evolving in order to remain  relevant! I am so proud to have graduated from GSU!

Filed in HBCUs on December 22, 2017

The Louisiana Board of Regents has approved planning for the establishment of a new bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity at historically Black Grambling State University. The new degree offering will be the first undergraduate program in cybersecurity in Louisiana.

Now the university will get to work to develop curriculum. Once this is completed, the university will return to the Regents for final approval of the new degree program.

“We have everything we need to launch this as a full degree program, including significant student interest, four tenure track professors already teaching computer science, nine related courses already a part of the curriculum and 12 courses moving through our university academics committee process,” said Rick Gallot, president of Grambling State University. “Two more faculty members are scheduled to be hired.”

Hands down, Numeric Literacy is the Global Language

Algebra: Gateway to College Success Starts in Middle School

Nearly every school district across the United States has a phrase in its school’s vision statement or related to preparation of students to compete on the Global Stage or to prepare for a Global Society.  When considering mathematics, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, results indicate American students are lagging behind other industrial countries’ students.  American students will have to compete with these same students in the future. When considering STEM jobs, much of the competition will take place on computer keyboards.  Many companies compete  across the globe and the employee is at home, in their office, or in some facility that has  wireless connection. To truly compete on a global stage, we have to do a significantly better job of educating our youth with numeric literacy.   “Numeracy is defined as the ability to access, use and interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of various situations in adult years. To be numerate is to confidently and effectively use mathematics to meet the everyday demands of life.” (Bendigo Kangan Institute, 2017).

Middle school and high school are absolutely necessary times for early postsecondary planning, and many educational institutions and the U.S. Department of Education suggest that students begin considering and planning for college as early as sixth grade (National Association for College Admission Counseling, 1999). Early planning gives students the opportunity to take the necessary middle and high school courses to ensure preparedness for postsecondary education, and align their educational benchmarks with their current course taking and educational planning. Schools can play a vital role in guiding early preparation for college or careers through fostering academic preparation and achievement, supporting parent involvement, providing college and career planning essentials, and aiding students through the multiple steps in college and career planning. Early postsecondary planning may not be the case for all students. Too many students are failing to engage in the early planning activities that can be extremely beneficial in getting ready for college. It could be considered too late to start preparing for college in the 11th or 12th grade. By this time, students have missed opportunities to take rigorous courses as well as all the math high schools have to offer.  Rigorous mathematics provide students with leverage to meet the challenges of college.

Middle school students who take rigorous courses such as Algebra I can obtain information about college opportunities and are likely to apply to a four-year university (Atanda, 1999; National Commission on the High School Senior Year, 2001). This is especially true among minority and first-generation college students.  Those who take higher-level math courses are more likely to attend college (Horn & Nuñez, 2000). As it relates to equity and Civil Rights, Kaupt (1998) suggests all should have the right to algebra. Having taken algebra by 8th grade allow students to take high school course sequences including calculus by senior year. Therefore, it is imperative students take algebra by 8th grade (Kaput, 1998).

Algebra is considered the gateway to taking advanced mathematics offered by high schools, which leads to knowledge and skills needed to meet Geometry, Algebra II, and Calculus rigor (Gaertner, Kim, DesJardins, & McClarity, 2013). The completion of these higher math courses aid students for success in college, technically skilled jobs, as well as more lifetime career earnings. Math Pathways and Pitfalls (2013) suggest students who complete challenging math courses double their chances of graduating from college compared to students who do not. “Failure in algebra is the #1 trigger of dropouts in high school” (Helfand, 2007).

The Importance of Algebra II

“The mathematics courses students take in high school affect their academic achievement and their admission to competitive postsecondary schools and professional programs” (Schiller & Muller, 2003, p. 300). Adelman (2006) states, when students complete high-level mathematic courses such as Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, and Calculus these are the most significant predictors of achieving in postsecondary systems.

DesJardins, Gaertner, Kim, and McClarity (2013), Preparing Students for College & Careers: The Causal Role of Algebra II looked at the impacts of taking Algebra II in high school.

Research findings suggest completing Algebra II is necessary for college outcomes for all post-secondary institutions, but not necessarily for career outcomes. Students who completed Algebra II in high school were more likely to be accepted to college, sustain higher grade point averages, remain in college, and most of all graduate from college. Moreover,  students who did not complete Algebra II do not achieve the same outcomes. Students who did not apply to college after high school, completing Algebra II was not essential to finding a job immediately after high school, earning occupational prestige, earnings, or career advancement (Gaertner, Kim, DesJardins, & McClarty, 2013).              Fong, Huang, and Goel, (2008) state students who complete Algebra II increase their opportunity for not needing remedial courses once enrolled in college. In fact, completing Algebra II was essential for improving college preparedness as it relates to minority students (Evan, Gray, and Olchefske, 2006).

In summary, the data provides evidence regarding Algebra and the importance of algebra beyond the walls of school.  The importance of Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II and other advanced math courses are extremely important and significant predictors for college admission and sustainability beyond a student’s freshman year of college.

Advanced Placement Math

High schools throughout the country, now offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses in mathematics and science. These courses are known as pre-college readiness subjects. Adelman (2006) urges students to complete at least two years of AP courses in math. High school students who perform well on AP examinations triple their chances of obtaining a four-year college degree as opposed to students who do not pass the AP test (National Science Foundation, 2007). Subsequently, the percentage for completing a four-year degree is even higher for African American students. Many students, especially low-income students, misjudge what essential classes they must enroll to properly prepare themselves for two and four-year colleges. It is severely important for guidance counselors to ensure they are providing all students with valid information regarding the importance of Algebra’s impact on college preparedness.  Rigorous math course completion also improve students’ ACT scores (ACT, 2010; 2012).

Advanced Math Courses and the Minority Student

What is true for the high school population in general is true for African American and Hispanic students whose college graduation rates are more positively impacted than any other group through by having a rigorous curriculum and teachers competent in their subject area (Wimberly & Noeth, 2005). Students who complete Algebra II, double their chances of graduating from a four-year college as opposed to those students do not (Wimberly & Noeth, 2005). Furthermore, failure or less than mediocre achievement in minimum college ready courses such as Algebra is a major problem impacting urban secondary education, which also negatively impacts African Americans, Hispanics, and other students of color.

Stein, Kaufman, Sherman, and Hillen (2011), research findings suggest there are inequities regarding those who take  Algebra in 8th or 9th grade. This is common for minority students, lower income students, and students whose parents have minimum education (Filer & Chang, 2008; Gamoran & Hannigan, 2000; McCoy, 2005; Shakrani, 1996; Walston & McCarroll, 2010). According to research by Stone (1998), these demographic inequities in Algebra have been evident since the early 1990s in large urban school districts. The data disclosed a couple of reason for this imbalance, including under-preparedness and subjective placement factors. Not taking rigorous math courses in high school can have substantial ramifications for a student’s future job earnings and social success. If students do not take advanced math courses in high school, and they plan on going to college, “a student is effectively frozen out of the highly compensated, highly sought after fields of science, technology, engineering, and math known as STEM” (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013, p. 2).

Some studies revealed when students are selected to take advanced math courses, a host of minority and low-income students are excluded from taking Algebra, even if their test scores are proficient or advanced. Stone’s (1998) research shows that students of upper financial status are more likely to be enrolled in Algebra I and Geometry as opposed to their lower income peers who scored proficient or advanced with their test scores (Stein, Kaufman, Sherman, & Hillen, 2011; Walston & McCaroll, 2010). Horn and Bobbitt (2000) disclosed “fewer first-generation college students are taking eighth grade Algebra compared to students with parents who were college graduates” (Stein, Kaufman, Sherman, & Hillen, 2011, p. 461).

California considers taking Algebra a civil right for students. To ensure students are not being overlooked or misplaced due to origin or social economic status, the state of California educators may face substantial legal liability for misplacement of students in math courses. This is due to California based universities require college eligible math courses such as Advanced Placement Statistics or Calculus. “Purposeful placement decisions that disproportionately impact minority students violate state and federal laws” (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013, p. 4).

The opportunity to take these advanced math courses can only be achieved if students complete algebra by 8th grade and enters high school enrolled Geometry. Students not having the opportunity to complete advanced math courses can negatively impact college success and long-term opportunities forever (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013). The most alarming concerns California has with misplacing students in advanced math courses due to social economic status (SES) or race occurs when a student has adequately “completed Algebra I in middle school and is forced to repeat Algebra I in 9th grade. When this happens, the student is immediately made less competitive for college admission” (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013, p. 4). The research study conducted by the state of California for nine districts between San Mateo and Santa Clara counties research findings revealed 65% of students who completed Algebra 1 in 8th grade were mandated to take the same Algebra 1 course again in the ninth grade. The same study revealed more than 42% of students mandated to take Algebra I again in 9th grade earned a B- grade or higher while in 8th grade. The students were more often than not minority and low-income students (Brown, Hadjimarkos, & Rogers, 2013). In order for United States of America to remain an elite figure on the global platform, it must be a priority to ensure a larger percentage of our secondary students enroll in college and complete a degree in an adequate time period.

National Assessment of Educational Progress states the “overwhelming number of low-achieving students in Algebra are black and Hispanic and attend big urban high-poverty schools where they are more likely to fall through the cracks” (Loveless, 2008, p. 8). More often than not, low-income and minority students tend to be the least likely to engage in early and timely educational planning. Low-income communities may lack educational planning information (Freeman, 1999). Schools serving low-income districts have an urgent role and moral imperative to prepare students and help them plan for the future and narrow the opportunity gap.

STEM and Future Careers

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) require a strong foundation in math. Society moved from an agricultural society to an industrial society and people moving to the city from the countryside for better paying industry jobs realized they needed postsecondary training for the purpose of obtaining the newly created industry jobs.  Today, we are living in the information age.  An era which has created a host of STEM careers and require a healthy dose of numeric literacy. “We are all required to be numerate to maximize our potential and to make a positive contribution to society. In our exceedingly technical world, numeracy skills, in particular the ability to interpret data, are becoming increasingly more significant and are hugely sought after by employers. An absence of mathematical confidence and poor numeracy skills are obstructions to employment as numeracy tests are increasingly becoming a routine part of the recruitment process” (Bendigo Kangan Institute, 2017).  Math is the most important course in every country, Hands down.

References

ACT, Inc. (2010). Mind the gaps: How college readiness narrows achievement gaps in college success. Retrieved from http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/ pdf/MindTheGaps.pdf

ACT, Inc. (2010). The condition of college and career readiness. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.www.libproxy.wvu.edu/ehost/

ACT, Inc. (2012). Creating your explore and plan: Road map to student success. Retrieved from http://www.act.org/education/benchmarks.html

Adelman, C. (1999). Answers in the tool box: Academic intensity, attendance patterns, and bachelor’s degree attainment. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/Toolbox/index.html

Adelman, C. (2006). The toolbox revisited: Paths to degree completion from high school through college. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http:/www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/toolboxrevisit/index.html

Atanda, R. (1999). Do gatekeeper courses expand education options? Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs99/1999303.pdf

Bendigo Kangan Institute (2017). The importance of literacy and numeric skills. Retrieved November 28, 2017 from https://www.kangan.edu.au/students/blog/importance-literacy-and-numeracy-skills

Brown, G., Hardimarkos, S., & Rogers, A. (2013). Held back: Addressing misplacement of 9th grade students in Bay Area School math classes. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from http://www.lccr.com/?s=held+back

Evan, A., Gray, T., & Olchesfke, J. (2006). The gateway to student success in mathematics and science. Washington, DC: American Institutes of Research.

Filer, K. L., & Chang, M. (2008). Peer and parent encouragement of early algebra enrollment and mathematics achievement. Middle Grades Research Journal, 3(1), 23–34.

Fong, A. B., Huang, M., & Goel, A. M. (2008). Examining the links between grade 12 mathematics coursework and mathematics remediation in Nevada public colleges and universities. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Freeman, K. (1999). The race factor in African Americans’ college choice. Urban Education, 34, 4–25.

Gaertner, M., Kim, J., DesJardins, S., & McClarity, K. (2013). Preparing students for college and careers: The casual role of algebra II. Research in Higher Education, 55(2), 143-165

Gamoran, A., & Hannigan, E. C. (2000). Algebra for everyone? Benefits of college-preparatory mathematics for students with diverse abilities in early secondary school. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22(3), 241-254.

Helfand, D. (2007, January 26). Formula for failure in L.A. schools. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-medropout30jan30,0,405044,full.story?coll=la-news-learning

Horn, L., & Nuñez, A. (2000). Mapping the road to college: First-generation students’ math track, planning strategies, and context of support. (NCES 2000–153). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Kaput, J. J. (1998). Transforming algebra from an engine of inequity to an engine of mathematical power by “algebraifying” the K–12 curriculum. In The nature and role of algebra in the K–14 curriculum: Proceedings of a national symposium. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/ PDFS/ED441664.pdf

Loveless, T. (2008, September). The misplaced math student: Lost in eighth-grade algebra. Washington, DC: Brown Center on Education Policy at The Brookings Institution. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/ rc/reports/2008/0922_education_loveless/0922_education_loveless.pdf

McCoy, L. P. (2005). Effect of demographic and personal variables on achievement in eighth-grade algebra. Journal of Educational Research, 98(3), 131–135. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27548070

National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2011; 2015). The nation’s report card: Science, grade 12 national results. Retrieved from http://nationsreportcard.gov/ science_2009/g12_nat.asp?tab_id=tab2&subtab_id=tab_1#tabscontainer

National Association for College Admission Counseling. (1999). PACT: Parents and counselors together program. Alexandria, VA: Author.

National Commission on the High School Senior Year. (2001). The lost opportunity of the senior year: Finding a better way. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Programme for International Student Assessment. (2015). Results in focus. Retrieved November 28, 2017 from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf

Schiller, K. S., & Muller, C. (2003). Raising the bar and equity? Effects of state high school graduation requirements and accountability policies on students’ mathematics course taking. Educational Evaluation and Policy Studies, 25(3), 299-318. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3699497

Shakrani, S. (1996). Eighth-grade algebra coursetaking and mathematics proficiency (NAEP FACTS Vol. 1, No. 2). Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED396915.pdf

Stein, M., Kaufman, J., Sherman, M., & Hillen, A. (2011). Algebra: A challenge at the crossroads of policy and practice. Review of Educational Research, 81(4), 453–492.

Stone, C. (1998). Leveling the playing field: An urban school system examines equity in access to mathematics curriculum. Urban Review, 30, 295–307.

Walston, J., & McCarroll, J. (2010). Eighth-grade algebra: Findings form the eighth grade round of the early childhood longitudinal study, kindergarten class of 1998–99 (NCES-2010–016). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Wimberly, G. L., & Noeth, R. J. (2005). College readiness begins in middle school. ACT policy report. Ames, IA: ACT, Inc.

Executive Functioning Skills, College, and Career Readiness

Learning

For the purpose of making the case, it is helpful to open this article by presenting a biological perspective. Sociologist find it important to define Nature (biological) and Nurture (environmental). The Nature versus Nurture perspectives of human development have been an unrelenting debate between natural and social scientists for decades.  Even though there will be comparing and contrasting as it relates to the differing points of view of nature/nurture, the purpose of this article is not to defend either side.  Instead, an attempt to simply describe and explain several dimensions of learning and intelligence will be the focus. Each one of the dimensions will be defined before elaborating on the two dimensions of interest.  The six dimensions are as follows:

  1. Physiological process: Having the ability to acquire information and achieve operates on a biological stage of cells, circuits, and chemical in the brain (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).  The brain has infinite ability for processing new and old information.  The human brain and body are the same.  One does not exist without the other.  The brain craves plenty of valuable nutritional care and exposure to social experiences (Dickman & Standford-Blair, 2009).
  2. Social process: As millions of years passed, human’s brain became rich in social experiences and instincts.  The human brain demands attention and belonging to other socialized brains. Social nature allows for memory, language, empathy, sympathy, collaboration, and reasoning. The social component of the brain is expectant, dependent, extended, and oriented to virtue (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  3. Emotional Process: This part of the brain focuses on attention, judgment, motivation, and reasoning. These are considered changes in the mind and body. Additional changes to be considered are fear, madness, happiness, and enjoyment are all associated with the emotional process (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  4. Constructive process: the ability to take in new information and use it to your advantage.  The brain embraces patterns for assembling meaning to the incoming information.  The constructed information is habitually and emotionally assessed to see if it is valuable (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  5. Reflective process: this is a very interesting makeup of the brain.  The brain has the ability to be manipulative, authoritative, collaborative or unifying, as well as promising.  Reflection manipulates information and check choices prior to taking action. Having the ability to be reflective allows the brain to problem solve, socially interact, and make decisions (Dickman & Standford-Blair, 2004).
  6. Dispositional process: the ever amazing brain has the capacity to display its intelligence abilities in a way that is macro, mandatory, and maximizing or minimizing.  The brain is capable of taking on macro patterns of thinking.  Thinking dispositions are biological in nature but advance through social experiences or environmental factors.  Man ability to think, acquire new information, and make new advances is realized to the level to which there is a productive disposition in the driver’s seat (Dickman, Blair, & Bojar, 2004).

The six dimensions described above are all important as it relates to intelligence and learning, nevertheless, I will focus on Physiological and Social nature of learning.  These particular processes of intelligence motivate me to learn more just as the brain intended, always in search of additional knowledge.  The more the brain adsorbs the more the brain is driven to absorb.

There is another part of the hemisphere I am concerned about known as the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is of importance due to the executive functioning of the frontal  lobe which is able to anticipate future consequences resulting from current actions, to choose between good, bad, better, best, deny inappropriate social actions, as well as, measure similarities and differences.  The frontal lobe impacts critical thinking, problem solving, and complex reasoning (Dickman, Blair, & Bojar, 2004).  Now that I have described the functions of the frontal lobes, I will focus my attention on Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and weak Executive Functioning Skills.

Executive Functioning Skills

First, it is important for me to point out, my wife and I are educated parents of two young men. Educated parents who do not believe in snake oil remedies. Though both of our boys are great young men ages 17 and 21, one of our boys was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors.  Research shows that those with ADHD have abnormalities in how the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine work to facilitate communication between neurons and activation of various brain functions. Differences in the communication route related to reward and consequence, a pathway involving dopamine activity (Volkow, et al, 2009) have been found to be particularly problematic in the brains of individuals with ADHD, as have brain networks involved in the engagement and regulation of attention. Disruptions in serotonin levels and activity may also play a role, particularly in affecting the modulation and regulation of the dopamine system.  There are skeptics who say ADHD does not exist. If ADHD does not exist, well I have no idea as to what my son and family have dealt with starting from kindergarten through grade 15th and most of all I guess Dobermans fly. Not only does it exist, its functions are in the frontal lobe of the brain. It is important for me to point out we are educated parents and have a more than average educational status with health care, dental, and vision insurance. I mentioned my status for the purpose of providing clarity. In other words, we have been blessed to provide the very best as parents and provide them with the best supports when needed. When we did not have the answers or concerns, we sought help. Skeptics also say ADD & ADHD are all due to poor parenting or uneducated parents. Well, we are not uneducated and though not perfect I would like to think our parenting skills were/are pretty good.

An exceptionally large portion of school age children suffer from poor executive functioning skills. Executive functions are found in the frontal lobe of the brain.  This is valuable information for all educators to understand. Understanding students’ disorders which may impact students’ academic performance and overall behavior, mandate teachers to know the readiness levels of their students for the purpose of differentiating classwork, homework, and understanding the whole child. Executive Functional Skills are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal.  “It is an umbrella term for the neurologically based skills involving mental control and self-regulation” (Kahn, & Dietzel, 2008, p. 10).

Dr. Gioia (2002), has identified and defined eight executive functioning skills that are essential to everyone, everyday, and every working moment.  Executive Functioning Skills are as follows:

  1. Inhibition—The capability to prohibit one’s own behavior at any giving time, this include avoiding inappropriate actions and thinking. However, there is another side to inhibition known as impulsivity.  If you have poor ability to prevent yourself from action on your impulses you are considered “impulsive” (Gioia, 2002).
  2. Shift—The ability to move at will from situation to another while behaving appropriately to the situation (Gioia, 2002).
  3. Emotional Control—Having the capacity to modulate emotional responses by bringing rational thought to bear on feelings (Gioia, 2002).
  4. Initiation— The ability to initiate a task or and to individually generate thoughts, responses, and problem-solving techniques (Gioia, 2002).
  5. Working Memory—Capacity to retain and recall information in order to follow through on a task (Gioia, 2002).
  6. Planning/Organization—The ability to oversee present and future-oriented task demands (Gioia, 2002).
  7. Organizational of Materials—Having the ability to be orderly on work, play, and storage spaces (Gioia, 2002).
  8. Self-Monitoring–The ability to measure self’s performance and to compare it against some standard of what is needed or expected (Gioia, 2002).

When students suffer from weak executive functioning skills as a result of nature, all responsible for educating the child in a given year, should be aware of the students’ disorder, disabilities, strengths, or weaknesses in order to effectively educate students.  For example, Differentiated Instruction is a research-based framework that puts a huge amount of attention on variance and diversity.  Differentiated Instruction is designed to properly meet students at their readiness level and nurture their learning towards the intended targets. Every hour on the hour, teachers are to be aware there are different groups of mixed-ability learners.  Therefore, superintendents, administrators, teachers and other stakeholders must ensure instructions are consistently adjusted to meet students’ readiness level (Tomlinson, 2000).  This is a non-negotiable.  Nevertheless, this can only happen if strong leadership is presence at the building and district level. To promote consistent and balanced effectiveness of “How we teach,” district and building administrators must allow for professional development, implementation of research-based strategies such as “Differentiated Instruction” and “Response to Intervention practices in each and every classroom, and ongoing collaboration with colleagues. Many times the collaboration opportunities must include teachers modeling proven techniques for one another.  Effective teachers should be knowledgeable of their subject matter and have the ability to use an array of instructional strategies to adhere to students’ culture and learning styles (Stronge, 2007). It is imperative for educators to adhere to students who suffer from disorders associated with the frontal lobe matters such as Attention Deficit Disorder or processing of information.  District administrators should regularly equip building principals with professional development that focuses on current research-based strategies which enables administrators to work with their entire building staff.  If students with Tourette are considered, it is important to know 70% of students who suffer from Tourette have other concerns such as learning disabilities, processing or ADHD.  More than not, boys tend to suffer from ADD as well as suffer from weak executive functioning skills and in many cases girls go unnoticed when there are concerns, because girls tend to be less active (Kahn, & Dietzel, 2008).  I find this to be valuable knowledge and information that should be used by administrators and teachers in order to meet students were they are both academically and socially.

The Social nature of intelligence is the next of six dimensions I care to expound upon.  The majority of learning comes from observation of others.  The brain has a craving to be social with other like brains.  Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do.  Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guided for action however, difficult for many students (Bandura, 1977, p. 22). These are only a few examples to describe the importance of social nature of intelligence.

Expectations of College

College can be the best four years of one’s life, however, it is a time when students must adapt to obscure situations filled with new challenges and barriers. This transition separates students from their childhood friends. Students are forced into challenging new task, roles, routines, and relationships. It is time for students to put into practice all of the social skills, norms, and expectations taught by their immediate family, because college life allows for more freedom, independence, and responsibility.

Students who suffer with weak executive functioning skills such as organization, working memory, planning, and self-monitoring will have an extremely difficult time in high school and this is especially true when attending college away from home.  Therefore, it is important for students with such concerns to disclose this information to the university staff. The majority of postsecondary systems take a Response to Intervention approach. However, colleges consider students to be adults and cannot mandate students to take advantage of the interventions provided by colleges. Students who suffer from weak executive skills tend to not reach their full potential if they do not take advantage of such offerings and opportunities by improving their weak EFSs and many consistently fail at task. This failure could also lead to learned helplessness and students may drop out of school. Therefore, superintendents, administrators, teachers, parents, colleges, and the community are all necessary elements for educating all, despite disabilities or disorders.  Cortese (2007, p. 1) states, “If we truly want to close the achievement gap we have to find ways to make sure children get a better-than-average education.”  I totally agree with Cortese.  I also understand this nurturing begins with parents, community, educators, and the CEO of the district.

Make no mistake about it, students who suffer from weak executive functioning skills should continue to work on their skills beyond college. The great news is there are interventions and strategies to help with these concerns.  If students disregard improving their skills, it is possible for students to have problems on their jobs and throughout their careers. Poor planning, lack of organization, and weak emotional control can very well lead to departure from school and jobs.

As parents who have a child who deals with ADHD, I find it important to enlighten others who have children dealing with the same concerns or similar concerns. As the adult it’s important to help your child with improving weak executive functioning skills. Parents must be organized and consistently clear for understanding. Work with experts and counselors who will provide the child and family members with strategies that help the child succeed. Family members must continue to be there as long as needed.  Finally, keep your child’s school and teachers in the know, especially if there have been noticeable changes in your student’s behavior or academic performance.

References

Bandura, A. (1997). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Calvin, W. H. (1996). How brains think: Evolving intelligence, then and now. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Cooper-Kahn, J., & Dietzel, L. (2008). Late, lost, and unprepared: A parent’s guide to helping children with executive functioning. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.

Cortese, A. (2007). Get real: Here’s the boost that poor children, their teachers, and their schools really need. Retreived January 5, 2012 form www.aft.org/news

Dickman, M., & Standford-Blair, N. (2009). Mindful leadership: A brain-based framework.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Dickman, M., Standford-Blair, N., & Rosati-Bojar, A. (2004). Leading with the brain in mind: 101  brain-compatible practices for leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Gioia, G. (2002). New perspectives on educating children with adhd: Contributions of the executive functions. Journal of Health Care Law & Policy, (5), 124-163.

Mithen, S. (1996). The prehistory of the mind: The cognitive origins of art, religion, and science.  London: Thames & Hudson.

Parent, A., & Carpenter, M.B. (1995). Human neuroanatomy.  Baltimore, MD: Wilkns & Williams.

Sherer, M. (2001). How and why standards can improve student achievement: A conversation  with Rober Marzano.” Education Leadership (September 2001): 14-18.

Stronge, J. (2007). Qualities of effective teachers. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2000).  Reconcilable differences: Standards-based teaching and differentiation. Educational Leadership, 58(1), 6-11.