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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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What Parents Think About Student Achievement

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

When I talk about student achievement in the academic community, the first thing that usually comes to mind is test scores: How well does this school perform relative to others? Are students on track for college? How prepared are they for the SAT?

Surprisingly, the discussion shifts when I talk to parents. Certainly, parents want to know about important things, like test scores and grades. But once parents are confident that a particular school meets their academic criteria, they usually have a lot more questions. At the end of the day, what parents really want to know is this: "Will your school help my kids become successful, happy, and good people?"

In my view, this question is just as important as test scores and other achievement benchmarks that are more easily quantifiable. I've found that what parents usually identify as attributes of "a good person" include many of the same skills needed for success in our evolving global workforce.

To succeed in college and beyond, students must be able not only to recite a certain set of facts or perform a specific set of calculations but also to apply these skills to the real world. This achievement involves more than just critical thinking and an active, engaged learning style. It requires students to be respectful and empathetic listeners who can work well with others and carry a project through from start to completion.

At Envision Schools, we help students develop these skills through an interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes both knowledge acquisition and teamwork in both a fun and motivating way. I've written more about our programs in my previous Edutopia.org blog posts "Balancing Life Skills with Academics" and "Project Learning Creates a Win-Win Situation."

How does your school help students master life skills alongside academic content? Let's collaborate and discover together what works best: Please share!

Comments (7)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Cathie Klein's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see this topic appear on my Twitter feed today! I had the good fortune of being part of a new school implementing a new class which provided students with an opportunity to begin thinking about life after high school as they entered their freshman year.
My charge was to help students discover their talents, interests and values, and link those to career clusters that would provide them a slice of the pie to begin exploring. This gave students ideas as to the kind of academic education they would be needing; vocational training, university education, on the job training, etc, and discovering the importance of their current academic studies. That the building blocks of their educational base, did in fact aid to their success beyond the classroom.
In addition, we talked about those soft skills needed in the workplace and in the classroom.
I would love to collaborate with educators working toward the same goal, as I am hungry for ideas, advice, technology inspiration, to continue to create this class and help my students be prepared for their life after high school, both academically and in the work world.

BLamont's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I go to an online university which I found through a degree portal, and I have to say they offered a good amount of life skills through their online content.

Carla Anderson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Cathie,
Excellent project! Starting with Freshman is the best way to insure they will be prepared as seniors. My suggestion: Find ways to educate and collaborate with the students' parents at the same time. Bring one or two parents into the planning of the course and ask them to develop a "phone or email group with other parents to convey essential information, dates and deadlines including: student interest inventories, career exploration activities, pre-SAT, SAT deadlines, college visitation, college application requirements, FAFSA and scholarship apps. etc. Parents are critical to student transitions into post-high school success. If you empower parents to partner with you, you will experience greater success with your students.

Carol Bauer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Very interesting, thanks.

Alicia's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi! I teach third grade in Japan and agree that students need to understand how what they are being taught will affect their lives. I have built a classroom that the children are in charge of. We elect a president, governor and four mayors at the beginning of the school year. Each of the positions have a list of duties that they must maintain during their time. The students gained the experience of how difficult it is to gain votes without bribery and having to hold up to their responsibilities. When I have to be out of the classroom, I do not worry because I know my students know how to maintain a postive and quiet atmpshere. I think the only downfall of this is not all of the students are given this opportunity of leadership in the classroom. I am thinking that I am going to change this by changing the roles monthly even though this will take up more time.
I also try to relate the different things we learn in class to their everyday lives especially in math. I ask the students weekly how what we have learned will help them now when they are not in school. It is amazing what some of the students come up with.
I believe high school is an important time in young adults lives to start thinking about what they are going to do after they graduate. It is amazing how many students will tell you that they have no idea. I am glad to hear their are several teachers out their trying to make a difference and help these students figure out what to do!

Artimis Jackson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

At the end of the day, Google is asking the artists to do a job. If everyone else goes to work and gets paid for doing their jobs, why should artists be any different? Regardless how much exposure is involved, it's unprofessional and pretty insulting to ask an artist to do work for free when the work is the persons livelihood. I was once asked to do 30 seconds of animation for free for an ad campaign because "working with that award winning art director would be such great exposure for me". I make a living off of freelance so I had to decline because I couldn't afford to spend two weeks unpaid, on top of which if the director was so amazing and successful and really took his work seriously, he would have had the means to pay something for the work he wanted me to do. mmorpg

RyanT's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Teachers have a significant impact on student achievement. Teachers directly affect how students learn, what they learn, how much they learn, and the ways they interact with one another and the world around them. The effect the classroom teacher can have on student achievement is clear because student achievement begins and ends with the quality of the teacher, the instructional program, and his/her leadership.

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