Addressing Issues In The Classroom
A formal discussion at NYU recently, addressed how issues at home are affecting the chance of success for many children inside the classroom.
The main topics throughout the morning included challenges which children bring with them into the classroom, how these realities frame their learning experiences and opportunities, and what efforts should be implemented to help overcome these obstacles.
The discussion was led by Clancy Blair, a professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt, Michael Rebell, a professor of law and educational practice at Teacher’s College, and Carla Suarez-Orozco, a professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt.
“It’s important for us to understand the whole child in context,” said Suarez-Orozco, “When schools fail our children, it’s not just an individual loss. It’s a societal loss.”
Blair spoke about finding an optimal zone of arousal in motion, attention, and physiology that would allow children to reach their peak performance in the classroom.
However, Blair said that a series of alarming trends among children may be preventing this from happening. These included the large increase of off-label use of psychotropic medication with children under the age of 5 years, an increase in the rate of preschool expulsions, and a recent study in which half of teachers surveyed said that half of their students were not ready to be in school when they arrived.
In addition, Blair also spoke about challenges from outside the classroom that made optimal performance in the classroom not possible. These included economic pressures, single parenthood, and an increase in stress levels.
“With continuing social problems, this issue will only increase,” said Blair.
The subject of No Child Left Behind was also discussed at great length throughout the morning. While Blair said the program had the possibility of improving education in the US if mechanisms to ensure quality were put in place, Rebell was less optimistic.
“No Child Left Behind is a way to wave a wand and say ‘It’ll Happen,’” said Rebell. “If we work people long enough and hard enough, it will work out.”
Rebell said that the policy makers for No Child Left Behind ignored critical factors such as the high rate of poverty in the US compared to other developed nations, issues with eye care, and the extent to which some parents are committed to the education of their children.
Several examples of these problems can also be found in New York City. Rebell said that only 13 percent of lower income children were enrolled in after school programs and 14 percent of eligible NYC children were enrolled in Pre-K programs.
Rebell said that these issues make NCLB’s primary goal of 100% efficiency in 12 years an impossibility.
“100 percent efficiency in 2014 is a myth,” said Rebell. “We’ll never get there. Let’s have 100 percent meaningful education opportunity first and deal with that later.”
Despite having opposing views on certain issues, all three speakers were united in their belief that self-regulation can be promoted and challenges can be minimized, as well as the fundamental importance of a free and universal public education.
“We’ve got to stop talking about children’s needs in terms of grant aid and programs,” said Rebell. “We’ve got to talk about it as their right.”#