Practice What We Preach

I receive a weekly report called the “Marshall Memo: A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education” that summarizes articles from 64 core publications (and branches out to other publications frequently; in 533 issues, there have been articles from a total of 285). Here are the publications that have provided 100 articles or more in the past:

Education Week – 703 articles

Educational Leadership – 576

Phi Delta Kappan – 367

Principal Leadership – 274

The New York Times – 268

Harvard Business Review – 181

Middle Ground/AMLE Magazine – 161

American Educator – 143

The Reading Teacher – 123

Principal – 118

PEN Weekly Newsblast – 116

Journal of Staff Development – 115

American School Board Journal – 112

Reading Today – 105

The Language Educator – 104

Chronicle of Higher Education – 102

Middle School Journal – 100

Two topics on parenting in this week’s summary caught my eye, first from ”Parental Involvement Is Overrated” by Keith Robinson and Angel Harris (The New York Times, April 13, 2014, p. SR7). Despite common assumptions that parents can help children do better in school, this research suggests that some basic parental attempts do NOT produce better results: observing class; contacting school about a child’s behavior; checking in with a teacher; attending PTA meetings; helping decide a student’s high-school courses; and helping with homework. None of these yielded better test scores or grades.  Actually, helping with homework resulted in LOWER achievement (probably since the parent, not the student, was engaged in learning). There were some cultures, however, where parent help raised grades but not test scores, mostly from Asian ethnicities. Still, the authors felt parents could be positive by, among other things, communicating the importance of education and discussing with the student what is happening in school.

The second topic that gives me more hope that we as parents really DO make a difference is from “Raising a Moral Child” by Adam Grant (The New York Times, April 13, 2014, p. SRI, 6-7). It is best to praise character, not praise or reward behavior (“you are a helpful person” rather than “that was helpful”); nouns work better than verbs (“Don’t be a cheater” sinks in deeper than “Don’t cheat.”); evoke guilt not shame by explaining your disappointment (make them feel remorse about their action, not about their character); and model caring and generous behavior (children learn more from observing than from being told how to act).

So, refrain from helping with homework – though it is still fine to discuss how your student will best structure and organize that work. Ask how the day/week is going, and remind your teenager that academic and personal skills developed at the Academy will help not only in college (including at BU) but also in life. And practice what we preach!

Warm regards,
James S. Berkman
Head of School