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Study Finds That College Readiness Decreases When Schools Focus On Test Scores

Study Finds That College Readiness Decreases When Schools Focus On Test Scores

“By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” — President Barack Obama, February 24, 2009

College opens door for its graduates and can be a path to greater economic security and civic engagement. Most of the fastest growing occupations need more than a high school diploma. A generation ago, America led the world in college graduates. Unfortunately that rank has dropped since. Even after President Obama sought to stir the nations’s competitive spirit with a pledge to retake the lead by 2020, the rank dipped from 12th to 16th in the share of adults age 25-34 holding degrees. This has caused more concern for the nation’s leadership who intend to increase the share of its 25 to 34 year olds with a college degree from 43 percent to 64 percent.

Desperate ambitions require desperate measures. This is why many American states have set attainment goals for their students over the years to boost the country’s chances in becoming a leader in post-secondary education attainment.

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Exit exams and college-going culture

Such educational reform policies channeled at penalizing schools who are not performing highly at their test scores led to a new study exploring efforts to promote a college-going culture at a Texas High School. The purpose of the study was to explore the impact of the mandates at Green High School, a pseudonym that was used by the authors for a school located in the outskirts of a major city in Texas. The study, which was recently published in The High School Journal, showed the behavioral and accidental consequences that school reform policies may have on students’ academic success.

Montrischa M. Williams, a researcher with the American Institutes for Research, and Anjale D. Welton, a professor of educational policy at the University of Illinois, looked at how these mandates may distort the instructional focus of schools and how they could actually hold a student back from being excited about college prospects.

Deterrants to college-readiness

Texas is one of 26 states that require students to pass an exam to receive a high school diploma. This exam is usually taken during junior year and used as a benchmark for a student’s capacity in math, science, reading and geography.

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While this action is meant to drive success, it has caused a negative response from teachers and students. Preventing teachers from focussing on a holistic tutoring approach is a pressure to produce improvement. They concentrate instructional time and resources on preparing students for the exit exam.

Three things discouraged a progressive learning attitude from students:

  1. Homeworks were not assigned to assess the students’ readiness for the exams.
  2. Low academic expectations for their students led to a lack of academic rigor.
  3. Poor social support from the teaching staff.

Williiams and Welton also believe that other schools across the United States could be experiencing the difficulties present at Green High School during the study period. According to Williams, “”Rather than centering performance problems on students and teachers, policymakers should take into consideration the systemic inequities and larger sociopolitical contexts in which schools operate.”

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She added, “We also need to be more aware of the impact of labeling schools ‘high minority, high poverty’ and ‘low performing,’ because these descriptors convey deficit connotations.”

Alternative methods of encouragement

While alternative methods are being pursued by other states to encourage students to pursue degrees, it should be noted that initiatives do not need an aggressive or a high cost approach. For example, college coaching, adopted in Chicago, has produced tremendous results. And similarly, you can imagine what would happen if some helicopter parents push their children too much…

Having students view brief informational videos had a similar effect, according to a Toronto study. After watching a three-minute video, students could anticipate a return on investment from pursuing a postsecondary education. Students did not make an excuse of not having enough money to fund their college education but rather found that the benefits of actually pursuing a college degree outweighed the costs.

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Featured photo credit: http://www.pixabay.com via pixabay.com

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Casey Imafidon

Founder of Caseyimafidon.com which provides actionable articles to make readers fulfilled and spurred on to achieve all that they desire in life.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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