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…)
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…)
CNN’s Education Overtime is a series focused on the conversations surrounding education issues that affect students, teachers, parents and the community. They dropped into our Poverty Workshop in North Carolina to ask about the classroom effects of poor nutrition.
“The lack of good nutrition is just one of the many issues children in poverty have to deal with,” said Eric Jensen, author of Teaching With Poverty in Mind. “These kids move around a lot, don’t have much adult supervision or routine in their lives, and sometimes suffer from mistreatment or abuse. So it’s no wonder studies have shown that low-income students tend to be low performers in school.”
If you’d like to learn more about overcoming the challenges of poverty in the classroom, download our free guide: Secrets of High-Achieving Schools with High-Poverty Students here.
Before you begin, grab something to record your answers with. Go ahead and get out paper… Are you ready?
1. How much of student achievement in kids from poverty is correlated with their parent’s IQ scores?
a) Significant amount
b) Moderate amount
c) Negligible amount
2. Classroom behavior problems from with kids from poverty are based in the very same issues as with the non-poor (need for structure, clear rules, and consistent enforcement).
True or False?
3. What is the biggest academic predictor (at age 5) for how kids will do at age 11?
a) reading and math scores
b) positive attitude about school
c) working memory
d) IQ scores
e) having parent participation
4. Many poor kids who show you an “attitude” when you are disciplining them typically need an authority figure to show them the rules and consequences.
a) That’s the truth
b) Some truth, but not all
c) Mostly untrue
5. Which 3 are the most common disorders among the poor?
a) Delayed development, stress and AD/HD
b) Dyslexia, oppositional defiant disorder and de-motivation
c) Dyscalculia, dyslexia and oppositional defiant disorder
d) Drug abuse, depression and dyslexia
You’re getting this quiz for a reason. In the United States, about 22% of all schoolage kids come from families of poverty. These kids form the largest identified subgroup in America with unmet academic and behavioral needs. While every school in America has SOME kids that are more poor the rest of the students, many of you are seeing those numbers continuing to rise. The trend is “up” everywhere.
Now, why did I ask you the above questions? Two reasons. (more…)
Brain-Based Learning can help to overcome the challenges of poverty teachers face:
Eric Jensen, author of Teaching With Poverty in Mind will present his session on poverty at ASCD’s Annual Conference & Exhibit Show in San Francisco, on Saturday, March 26, 2011, at 1:00-3:00 pm.
The ASCD posted a great 6-part series where Eric Jensen gives an overview on the challenges of teaching children in poverty, and how schools can help children overcome the challenges that poverty presents.
photo: Lisa Krantz/Express-News
Eric Jensen led a workshop on brain-based learning for Harlendale Independent School District teachers and administrators at the Boggess Center in July. Jensen spoke about techniques aimed at children from impoverished backgrounds, including helping them cope with stress, learn appropriate emotional responses and increase cognitive stimulation.
During the summer, about 200 educators in the Harlandale Independent School District experienced brain-based learning firsthand as they joined in a fast-paced scavenger hunt all while becoming acquainted with neuroscience research and teaching techniques from expert Eric Jensen.
Between activities meant to engage workshop participants, Jensen spoke about using brain-based techniques with students from impoverished backgrounds. Research has shown that socioeconomic status is associated with childhood achievement. He emphasized helping students cope with stress, learn appropriate emotional responses and increase cognitive stimulation.
What these teachers may not have realized was the basis for these strategies stretches back to experiments half a century ago.
Leslie Owen Wilson, professor emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point School of Education, said brain-based learning can trace its origins to the Split Brain Experiments of the 1960s, in which scientists discovered that the two brain hemispheres had different functions. But, neuroscience research has been slow to diffuse into classroom settings, said Wilson, who is based in Austin and is teaching an online course on the topic this fall.
“Generally, teachers teach the way that they were taught,” said Wilson, who added that an administrator who adopts brain-friendly policies can ease the transition.
For students to retain learning, they must practice, talk about and act upon the information, Wilson said.
“A lot of kids physically have to do something in order to ingrain the learning at a permanent level,” Wilson said. “That takes a great deal of time and teaching artistry and, you know, it’s not on the test.”
Using new techniques
Melva Matkin said that when she became principal of Esparza Accelerated Elementary School in the Northside Independent School District more than 20 years ago, most students were functioning below grade level on standardized tests.
“We knew something had to change,” she said.
Matkin’s formula for creating an “enriched” learning environment included asking teachers to stay current on cognitive research and to use students’ emotional states to optimize learning and behavior management.
For instance, students might hear classical music playing during lunch. Matkin has observed that classical music calms students. The few times someone has slipped the wrong CD into the player, she’s seen the kids get really revved up.
She has also advised teachers to cater to students’ multiple intelligences. This translates to students building a diorama of the Alamo for history class — an activity that would appeal to their spatial intelligence — rather than just reading about the Alamo.
In North East Independent School District, the push toward brain-based learning is coming, in part, from the physical education and health department. There Rachel Naylor, assistant director for physical education, health and athletics, said teachers began incorporating brain breaks into classes last year.
“It could be anything from standing up, stretching, breathing and sitting back down, to going outside for a walk,” Naylor said.
Strategies that work movement into the school day boost blood flow to the brain and can create a domino effect that affects learning, quality of life and, potentially, test scores, Naylor said. A preliminary NEISD analysis from the 2008-09 school year found that obese middle school students had lower passing rates on both the reading and math portions of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills tests than students with a healthy weight.
Rather than lecturing to quiet lackluster learners, teachers may have to adapt to a classroom cacophony — a potential side effect of having engaged students — according to local educators who have made the switch.
But aside from managing energized students, there are other impediments to using brain-based learning techniques.
For instance, educators must first understand the scientific research to translate it into classroom practices, Wilson said.
Another downside is the amount of time it takes to teach using these tactics.
“If I zip through a textbook or indulge in round-robin reading, I can say I covered that material, but I can’t with any certainty say a child learned it,” Wilson said.
Alvarez said he found time management to be an issue when he took students outside to practice graphing, an activity that took twice as long as expected.
“There’s no other way, sometimes, to get through a lesson besides notes and lecture because there are time constraints,” Alvarez said.
Matkin acknowledges that brain-based learning is not a quick fix.
Though the success of these initiatives can be difficult to measure comparatively, Matkin pointed out that Esparza, a school of about 750 students, received an exemplary rating in the 2010 Texas accountability ratings.
Brain-based learning is “a philosophy and approach to education that’s kid-friendly and it’s, frankly, teacher-friendly,” the principal said. “It is not an easy way to teach, but it is a fun way to teach.”
Here’s a great video from am innovative teacher that is using technology to engage students that are in poverty. Many of his students speak English as a second language, and the blogging approach he provides aids in their development.
Favorite quote from the video below: “It’s not basics then enrichment… the basics can be addressed move covertly, authentically, and effective when those skills are developed in a meaningful and motivational context”.
From TED: Brian Crosby, a teacher for 29 years in Sparks, Nevada, guides the learning in a model technology classroom. Coming from a background in outdoor education and educational technology, Brian fuses his “at risk” students’ use of technology with field trips, art, hands-on activities and a problem-based approach, to build their schema of the world while at once connecting them to it.
Brian Crosby, a fifth grade teacher at Agnes Risley Elementary School in Sparks, NV, has a blog called Learning Is Messy.
You can also see his student’s blog here.
The brain is run by three things. First, behavioral geneticists estimate that about 30-40% of how we turn out is genetics. But that leaves 60-70% up to either the environment or environment and genetics combined (gene expression). Those who grow up in poverty experience a very different upbringing from middle or upper class kids.
Students who grow up amid economic insecurity often face many obstacles: parents without education, lack of healthy attachments, lag of cognitive stimulation, lack of enrichment activities, violent neighborhoods and lack of access to medical resources. The latest neuroscience science is showing how these emotions have effects on the brain and how they can directly impede learning. Some scientists and educators are suggesting ways in which kids and college students can combat the long-lasting effects of poverty-related stress.
How Chronic Stress Derails the Brain
Out of all the issues, one of the greatest is acute or chronic stress.
Occasional stress is good for us. Cortisol is actually a molecule of energy. But in response to fear or stress, the brain quickly releases adrenaline and cortisol, activating the heart, blood vessels and brain for life-saving action — fighting, flight or freeze. At school most kids don’t fight or flight, they just freeze up in class and do nothing.
The most severe stressor is a threat. The brain gives the threat priority over anything else — including schoolwork — and it creates powerful memories to help prevent future threats.Fear also interferes with learning. A study published in the February online journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience shows that students raised in low-income homes have stronger fear reactions — with potential consequences for concentration.”All families experience stress, but poor families experience a lot of it,” says Martha Farah, psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. David Diamond, a professor at the University of South Florida, has studied the effects of stress-related hormones in rats for decades and spoken at Jensen conferences. He found that high cortisol levels affect the hippocampus — a key learning center in the brain — in three ways. They suppress electrical activity, decrease efficiency and reduce new cell growth. In fact, chronic stress actually shrinks the hippocampus. That impairs learning, memory and mood.
These effects, thought likely to occur in humans as well, might be one reason it’s hard for impoverished students to concentrate and learn — especially if there is extra stress, violence or abuse in the child’s environment, Diamond says.
Has anyone actually compared the brains of middle class kids with those from poverty?
One researcher reported that growing up in poverty affects thinking processes associated with several brain systems. Sixty healthy middle-school students matched for age, gender and ethnicity but of different socioeconomic status took tests that challenged brain areas responsible for specific cognitive abilities. Researchers found that children from low-income homes had significantly lower scores in areas of language, long-term and short-term memory, and attention.
The research, Farah says, suggests that the effect of stress on the brain may be the reason for these detected differences and disadvantages. “Growing up in a socially disadvantaged environment often exposes people to threats to their health and well-being,” says Peter Gianaros, an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, who headed the research.
Can Teachers Change the Brain
There are science-supported ways to mitigate these accentuated fear and stress responses and nurture the brain, researchers and educators say.
“Change the experience, and you change the brain,” says San Diego-based educator Eric Jensen, author of the book “Enriching the Brain: How to Maximize Every Learner’s Potential,” who has developed a teachers’ training program, “Teaching with Poverty in Mind.”
“Many good schools have shown they can create experiences that change the brain for the better.”
Among those experiences:
* Targeted preparation. To help children succeed in school, Jensen teaches educators to build students’ brain capacity in areas shown by science to be lagging: attention, long-term effort, memory, processing skills and sequencing skills. He recommends a slate of activities for each — for example, compelling stories, theater arts and fine-motor tasks all build attention skills, he says.
* Foster a mind-set of hope, determination, change and optimism — and security. There are many ways to foster hope, Jensen says, including asking about and affirming a student’s dreams, bringing successful students back to talk to new ones, giving useful feedback on schoolwork and teaching students how to set and monitor their own goals.
Studies by Dr. Helen Mayberg of Emory University have reported lower activity in the thinking parts of the brain in people with depression, and research has uncovered brain changes as people get better, either with medical treatments or psychotherapy.
Dr. Eric Kandel, a Nobel laureate and neuroscience professor at Columbia University, found that positive emotions — safety and security — affect learning capabilities of mice.
“Behaviors and thoughts that relate to hope, love and happiness can change the brain — just as fear, stress and anxiety can change it,” Kandel says. “It’s completely symmetrical.”
If you’d like to learn more about how to successfully teach and reach kids from poverty, you may want to attend Jensen Learning’s “Teaching with Poverty in Mind. Early bird or group discounts may apply.
Host a staff development workshop on your own, using Jensen Learning’s workshop to go. It’s a program that you can deliver school-wide with positive, practical, research-based methods that can skyrocket student achievement scores.