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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!

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