Education Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.
The Savings of Pre-K Education
A new study from Duke University has shown that early childhood education programs may have a significant impact on students with learning disabilities and attention disorders. The research focuses on two North Carolina early childhood initiatives, Smart Start and More at Four. According to the study, a dramatic 39% drop in special education enrollment was shown in students who participated in these programs. The economic implications in this result are potentially significant, with the high cost of special education programs. While programs like Head Start have garnered criticism, this investigation suggests that early education’s benefits go beyond test scores.
Can All Children Become Calculus Whizzes?
A recent article in The Atlantic examines how the Howard County Public School System is rethinking the way it teaches math. With AP Calculus, or the readiness to take collegiate calculus right out of the gate, as the goal, school officials are counting the steps backwards to determine how students should prepare for advanced mathematics throughout their academic careers. This district wide effort has spurred elementary school teachers to place more students on a rigorous track. Students who find passion in math later in their academic careers will not be left by the wayside. There are opportunities to take summer classes or double-up to accelerate ahead at the high school level when many have matured and are able to focus on more advanced techniques.
Is Your First Grader College Ready?
When is the right time for students to start thinking about their path to college? An article from the New York Times explores schools from Texas to Maryland in their quest to get more kids thinking about college at an earlier age in hopes that it will inspire academic success with a long-term goal. Critics of these programs say that the concept of college is so foreign to first graders that the benefits are moot. This trend has also coincided with parents increasingly padding their students’ resumes developing an ideal candidate to top universities. For Kelli Rigo, a first grade teacher in North Carolina who was the first in her family to attend college, programs like these start the college conversation. “‘They have to understand there are lots of steps, that you can’t all of a sudden be a teacher,'” said Ms. Rigo.
How schools ruined recess — and four things needed to fix it
To round out this quartet of articles on early childhood, an article about deconstructing rigid boundaries: Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook, is a strong advocate for childhood engagement in nature. In her most recent Washington Post article on movement in classrooms, Hanscom argues that children need more opportunities for unstructured play. The four changes she would make are increasing exploratory space, improving adult-trust, more time, and opportunities for children to shape their play environment.