Eric’s Latest Book: Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind

Engaging-Students-Poverty- Brain Based In this galvanizing follow-up to the best-selling Teaching with Poverty in Mind, Eric Jensen digs deeper into engagement as the key factor in the academic success of economically disadvantaged students. Drawing from research, experience, and real school success stories, Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind reveals:

  • Smart, purposeful engagement strategies that all teachers can use to expand students’ cognitive capacity, increase motivation and effort, and build deep, enduring understanding of content.
  • The (until-now) unwritten rules for engagement that are essential for increasing student achievement.
  • How automating engagement in the classroom can help teachers use instructional time more effectively and empower students to take ownership of their learning.
  • Steps you can take to create an exciting yet realistic implementation plan.

Too many of our most vulnerable students are tuning out and dropping out because of our failure to engage them. It’s time to set the bar higher. Until we make school the best part of every student’s day, we will struggle with attendance, achievement, and graduation rates.

This timely resource will help you take immediate action to revitalize and enrich your practice so that all your students may thrive in school and beyond. In Eric’s latest book, he shares student engagement strategies that are strongly tied to socioeconomic status. Learn the seven factors that are crucial to engaging disadvantaged students: health and nutrition, vocabulary, effort and energy, mind-set, cognitive capacity, relationships, and stress level. To address those factors, Jensen provides actions and solutions you can use in every day practice to:

  • Cultivate a high-energy and positive classroom climate that fosters success every day.
  • Build your students’ capacity to focus their attention, think critically, process content, and recall it from memory.
  • Create greater excitement that spurs student motivation and effort.
  • Develop students’ deep, sustained understanding of content.

The strategies in this book will empower you to automate student engagement efforts in your classroom and school so more struggling students succeed. You can get it at Amazon by clicking here.

Eric Jensen’s Extreme Schools: How Miracles Happen


This is an update on an “Extreme School” in Los Angeles County, California. Not long ago, this high K-5 poverty school had neighborhood drug dealers coming ON CAMPUS. The outside aesthetics of the school were deplorable, with deteriorating buildings. The district rates schools (academically) on a scale from 1-10 (with 10 as highest). This school was a “1” out of ten (the lowest possible ranking.

RESULTS? Today, it is the envy of the school district! What did they do and how did it turn out? Are you ready for another miracle? (more…)

Your Students’ Number One Life Skill

top skill students need

The Top Choice Every Effective Educator Already Uses — Do You?

Over the years, student behaviors which do or don’t contribute to success (habits, effort, attitude, etc.) have been called many things. Some refer to these attributes as their personality or even character. But what really drives success?

There’s one skill that’s absolutely critical for both students and, yes, staff, too. This research may surprise you because it deals with one of your brain’s “automated” systems. The number one school success survival skill is… (more…)

Secrets to Ramping up Student Effort:

The 10 Step Checklist Every Teacher Should Memorize.

Brain based

Over the years, student effort has been called many things. Some call it “motivation” and others call it “work ethic.” But no matter what you call it, students will never rise to their full potential without a strong effort. Here is what research tells us and how you can get the most out of your students. First…

The Research

Here is what research tells us about student effort. Effort can be internally generated (habits of mind, content knowledge, muscle memory, skills and intrinsic motivation) or it can be extrinsic (peers, novelty, rewards, etc.) There are three primary sources of effort and the first two sources are internal. (more…)

From Lowest Performing to “Extreme School” Success

Blackburn School Florida

There are 1,862 elementary schools in the state of Florida. We are featuring another “Extreme School” and its name is Blackburn Elementary. Last year, it was one the lowest performing (5%) elementary schools in the state (one of the VERY, VERY lowest).

Now, when we see schools struggle like this, there are many possibilities. First, we can debunk the most commonly mentioned myths about low-performing schools…

First, we can debunk the most commonly mentioned myths about low-performing schools. Which of these 4 possibilities is actually correct?

Possibility #1: Most all of the kids share some common genetic defect, which prevents them from succeeding at school.

Possibility #2: There is something in the air, water, plants or food in this zip code which is hurting the cognitive ability of the students.

Possibility #3: The parents don’t care about education or their IQ is low, so therefore the kids can’t learn.

Possibility #4: The staff of the school can influence achievement by making some changes.

I am guessing you picked #4, which is correct. I have often shared success stories of schools, so you could see the end “product” worthy of high-fives. But, this month is different. I thought you might be interested in the process itself. In other words, how are the principal and the staff mapping out the changes to build a successful school?

BACKGROUND: This school was the winner of the “Extreme School” prize in early 2013. They were a struggling, very low-performing school. I presented to this staff in August 2013. This is a progress report after five months.


Before her school enjoyed the “Complimentary Staff Development Day”, Principal Kathy Redmond began sharing a clear and compelling vision of success with her staff. The bar was set sky high and she started by “seeding” the faculty with a new vision for the school.

By August 12, 2013 the following had happened:

1) A school team of eight attended the 2012 Poverty workshop.

2) The principal spent extra time observing her staff during the 2012/13 school year to help her make better decisions about staffing for the following year. Then she worked with school leadership to develop a tentative school improvement plan.

3) She got the state test score data and assembled it in a user-friendly format for her staff. She looked at student data carefully, and then they had a faculty meeting to review the data.

4) Her school was the random winner of the “Extreme School” contest.

5) Three months prior to my August presentation she held a telephone conference call with four of her staff and myself (Eric). Goals were set and staff were getting on board.

6) Summer arrived and the principal had decisions to make regarding whether to renew each teacher’s contract. Several staff (who had been quite hostile to change and thought “those kids” couldn’t learn) were not renewed for 2013-14.

7) Book study time: the staff read the book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind, so the groundwork was laid prior to my visit.

8) Then, after all of this preparation, I arrived in August. The staff members were excited and ready to launch their plan. All I had to do was to steer them in the right direction and provide the missing strategies.

RESULTS? What is going on at the moment, 4 months after the “official launch” of the new school identity? I will let the principal, Kathy, give the update in her own words…

“It has been fantastic!”

“During the week that you (Eric) were here, we continued to build momentum.  We did several significant things… one, while working on our staff core values, a conversation evolved and our “Gaudy Goals” were brought up.

One of our leadership team members, at her table, suggested that we build core values that would drive us to become world famous.  Her group shared her idea and it has completely stuck.  We have shared it with parents, students and I even went on our local news declaring that our school will be world famous.  Of course, the superintendent, who was present during the interview, just smiled… and other district leaders think I’m crazy… but you know what, Eric? I’m not crazy. We ARE going to be world famous for the huge turn around we are going to make at this school!

And two, our second significant move that first week was creating a list of our most significant learning’s from our work with you…. and the purpose of the list is to put it in front of us as we do all of our work (especially our problem solving work) as we improve our instruction.  We now have a “Working Memory Activities” blog on our staff website.  I have added several of our learnings to the Prof. Learning portion of our school’s “Walk-Through” feedback form.  I have also added working memory activities as part of our lesson plan checklist.  Our monthly faculty meetings are going to have a short (less than 10 min. segment) on working memory activities.

Progress?  While working on our school improvement plan, we listed barriers to some of our goals (which we turned into Gaudy Goals… I can’t wait to explain that to our Florida DOE Differentiated Accountability Team!).  We identified the barriers we have no control over… like “that our kids get no support at home”… and “our kids come to us so low” and we cut those statements off the chart and I made a big deal about shoving them through a shredder.  We really have left those excuses behind…” (Principal Kathy Redmond).

(Eric speaking here). You and I know that it’s only a start… but it’s a GREAT start. There is, of course, no data at the moment, but this is the kind of excitement and momentum it will take to turn the school around. We will keep you posted on the progress. Remember this school is starting out at the bottom 5% of academic scores (among 1,862 K-5 public schools in the state). Let’s give it a bit of time before we check back in again.


Now, you’ve read about another “Extreme School” success story, and we have a question for you. What can you learn from the true story mentioned above? The only good that happens in this world is when you move things from inside your brain to the outside world. What ideas, principles or strategies were affirmed, OR, what was new to you? Could this be a topic of discussion at your next staff meeting?

Miracles do happen every day. Are you ready to be one of them?

FINALLY: If your Title 1 school has an “Extreme School” story to tell (whether you are near the bottom or the top) please email me your story to: In the subject line, put “Extreme School” story. Thanks.

Your partner in learning,

Eric Jensen
CEO, Jensen Learning
Brain-Based Education

How To Live While You’re Alive

Relecting on the past

Most, but not all, have regrets as they age. People wish they would have done things differently as they look back at their life. Seniors often look at broken marriages and say, “If only…” Many look at bad decisions and wish they could get an “instant replay” or second chance.  I thought it might be productive to ask someone who has heard from hundreds of people (both young and old).

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, Bronnie Ware heard the same five common themes over and over and over. (Excerpted from the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware).

After you read them, ask yourself, “Is there anything (at all) in my life that I truly regret?” And secondly, “Is there anything that I can do now, in the next days, weeks or months, to make my life full, complete and satisfying.

After all, we don’t always die according to our own plan. Well, here they are, all five regrets. (more…)

Can the Holidays Lower Our IQ?

Brain Basd Learning

For some, the holidays are quite stressful.  I’ll introduce you to an important concept that has a dramatic affect on your life. In fact, this concept can literally make you smarter (or dumber) and even dictate job success.

You’ll learn why this occurs, and what you can do to reduce the problem. Plus, I’ll make connections for your kids in school. The concept is grounded scientifically and I’ll show you the evidence. In fact, people joke about this concept all the time. They just don’t know that it’s actually REAL. The mind-blowing concept that can change your life (and raise student achievement) is… (more…)

Emotions in Students

Bullying in schools

Is the expression, “Fight, flight or freeze” a myth or science?

There’s an assumption that if a student in school feels threatened in any way, there’s going to be an immediate response we’ve all heard of before. Those might include “fight” (talk back to teacher, argue or even get physical), “flight” (try to get out of the situation, change seats, rooms or get out school), or “freeze” (quit participating and disconnect from learning).

However, recent research tells us there’s far more going on. In fact, you might be surprised what researchers have discovered about student emotions (and your own)…

Recent Discovery

There are many things you should know about our emotional system, but we’ll focus on just one area (the amygdala) and only the relevancy to school and your own life. Just maybe we can help out your relationships and add joy to your life!

First, there are gender differences in our emotional system.

You may have heard of the amygdala as if it’s singular, but we have two of them (on the left and right side of the brain). Technically, it should be referred to as the amygdalae (plural). Known as small, almond-shaped brain structures, they are highly involved in the fear response. These structures are located deep in the temporal lobes at the foot of the hippocampus in each hemisphere. And, they operate differently in males and females. (more…)

The Best Learning Motivator EVER!

Teacher feedback - Brain based learning

Quick: Name the Best Learning Motivator EVER!

Whether you’re an instructional coach, administrator, counselor or classroom teacher, you are asked to motivate. All of us adults can find our own energy or motivation dropping at times. There’s one factor, when used with another co-factor, that makes the highest contribution to motivation. The secret to motivation is… (more…)

Poverty & Student Achievement

overcome poverty in classroom

Five Things Most People Don’t Know About Poverty & Student Achievement

Also on Education Week’s blog. By Eric Jensen

Stop Looking to the Government for Help. It’s been 50 years since the start of the “War on Poverty” and enactment of 1965 ESEA legislative funding (Title 1- VII programs). Today, the U.S. Senate Budget Committee says we have 83 overlapping government welfare programs that together represent $1.03 trillion in fiscal spending by federal and state agencies (this year alone), based on data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). We now have 22% of all school age kids (12 million) from poverty in K-12 schools. The government’s approach, over 50 years, isn’t working.

The Real Causes of Poverty. Since 1970, the dollar has lost 80% of its purchasing power. Those in lower or middle class, on a fixed income, lose the most. The inflation is a result of government debt and printing money. While it’s true that depressed job markets have some correlations with greater poverty, the greatest factors are rarely talked about: (more…)

The “Bobby McFerrin Effect” on Your Brain

Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin is a singer and conductor known best for his 1988 hit song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. If you haven’t heard the song, go to YouTube or iTunes and listen to it. Pessimists dismiss the song as being “Pollyana” yet those more optimistic typically love the song. But let’s narrow this conversation down to your school and even the classroom. Which side is correct and which is actually better for student learning? You might be surprised at the answer…

The Research

Two game changing studies to report on. Each will answer the question about the “Be happy” effect. But the kind of happiness you’re feeling is what matters, because each type of happiness has a VERY different effect on your physical well-being and your genes.

To your brain, you feel happiness two different ways, producing two types of “happy.” The first is instant gratification from everything from eating great food, shopping, smelling awesome flowers, sex, entertainment and all other forms of “quick fun.” This is known as a “hedonic” experience, where a person seeks pleasure as the outcome.

The second type is different. With this type, pleasure is the by-product. It’s more of a joyful satisfaction, almost a deep smugness of pleasure. This type is called eudaimonic (pronounced “you – day – monic”). This kind of happiness comes NOT from consuming but from producing something. It comes from a sustained effort at working toward something bigger than you, seeking purposeful and meaningful goals. (more…)

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