Media Mentions

One City Schools Gets $1 Million Grant for Long-term Study on Student Outcomes

October 17, 2019   |   By Scott Girard

From: The Capital Times

Charter school One City is hoping a study of its students’ outcomes could help guide improvements in early childhood education elsewhere.

One City and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health will partner with a $1 million grant, announced Wednesday, for a five-year study of One City’s educational methods and student outcomes.

The funding is through one of six Community Impact Grants through the Wisconsin Partnership Program, each for an initiative to improve health equity across Wisconsin. The news release announcing the 2019 grants states “education is a building block of healthy communities.”

“A grant to One City Schools supports the school’s work to advance health equity through an innovative model of early child education,” the release states. “Findings will be used to inform expansion of the preschool, inform the fields of early childhood education, and help support public policy and system changes around early childhood education.”

The grant will support a five-year “rigorous longitudinal evaluation of the school’s novel approach,” the release states, including its staff training, parent and community engagement and work with children. The study will “better illustrate how its model of early childhood education and family involvement can close educational and health gaps.”

The grant will be a 60-40 split, with 60% of the funding covering the study and 40% going to One City to support professional development for its teachers in its curriculum.

“We’re extremely proud of the grant,” One City founder, president and CEO Kaleem Caire said. “It will help us with our long-term goal to unlock educational innovation and transform public education for our children in Madison and Wisconsin and nationwide.”

One City received a charter in 2018 through the UW System under a new law allowing such authorizations. The school currently serves students in 4K through first grade, and plans to expand each year until it serves students up through sixth grade. Until it received its charter, it had been a private, nonprofit early childhood education center.


Fair Pay To Play Hailed As Game-Changer

October 10, 2019   |   By Roscoe Nance

From Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Fair Pay To Play Act that California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on Sept 30 is being hailed as a game-changer for collegiate athletics.

The Act creates the legal right for college athletes in California to be paid for use of their identities and goes into effect in 2023. That means student athletes can sign endorsement deals with shoe companies such as Nike and adidas, be paid for their autographs and receive money from the sale of paraphernalia bearing their image.

“It does change the game significantly because if student athletes are now going to be able to profit from their likeness, be able to obtain an agent, be able to obtain a contract to make money, the institution is not going to be the first choice those marketing companies, those branding companies go to to make those deals,’’ says Dr. Tomika Ferguson, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership in the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University and founder of Black Athlete Sister Circle (BASC).

Dr. Jerlando F.L. Jackson, Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, Department Chair and Director & Chief Research Scientist in the University of Wisconsin’s Equity & Inclusion Laboratory says that he is watching closely to see the impact of the legislation.

“If other states follow, it does address one of the chief issues in the pay to play dynamic,’’ Jackson says. “That dynamic is student athletes  will own their likeness, their name and the ability to put that in the market for themselves. That is probably our best pathway forward to recognizing their contributions.’’

If in 2023, no other state has passed similar legislation, Jackson says “in some ways it’s trading one set of problems for another. But within the context of pay to play, the option of allowing the market to be controlled by the players and what their capacity to bring resources, is of more doable options. The thought that athletic departments would be able  to generate enough resources to recognize and pay student athletes across all sports would certainly be more challenging and significantly impact the landscape of who would be able to maintain and compete.’’

Ferguson, a former track and field athlete at the University of Virginia who walked on but eventually earned a scholarship, says the Act was passed as the result of much tension, confusion and unanswered questions from those who have been fighting for fairness for student athletes in light of the billions of dollars generated by their labor, particularly in revenue generating sports such as football and men’s and women’s basketball.

The NCAA, coaches and athletic administrators are opposed to the California law. They base their opposition to their desire to preserve amateurism in college athletics. Ohio State University director of athletics Gene Smith told USA TODAY the Buckeyes and other schools would not schedule California schools if the Act goes into effect because those schools, in his opinion, would no longer be NCAA members because they would no longer satisfy the amateurism requirement.

Dabo Swinney, coach of the National Champion Clemson University football team, has said that he would leave college coaching if athletes were given access to more money. Swinney is the highest paid coach in the country with a 10-year contract that pays him $9.2 million a year.

“The law challenges where the NCAA is right now in terms of responding to current and former student athletes’ pleas for more attention to their profits and their share in the marketing  and profitability of college athletics,’’ Ferguson says. “However, it does counter the existing policy around being an amateur in college sports.’’

Ferguson says how the NCAA responds, and how quickly it responds, to show it wants to preserve amateurism will have major ramifications.

In the meantime, a number of other state legislators across the country are considering sponsoring bills similar to California’s Fair Pay To Play Act or have already introduced initiatives.  Those states include Colorado, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

“If it’s done (in other states), it will have to be done differently,’’ Ferguson says. “State legislators and colleges and universities will have to have conversations about how this is going to be implemented,  not only about how to preserve amateurism but to be done in a way that it will support state policy. There are a bunch of ramifications.  Will there be social security taxes? Is there a federal impact to this? Is there going be a state benefit? Will they be taxed?  Who will be their employer?  Where will they file? The NCAA will have to work with states and not just the institutions to have this done well.’’

Ferguson says student athletes will have to be a part of the conversations as well.

The Fair Pay To Play Act was sponsored by California Senators Nancy Skinner and Steven Bradford. It was inspired by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who argued that it is a violation of federal antitrust law for the NCAA to deny Division I men’s basketball and football players compensation for the commercial value of their names, images and likenesses.

Ferguson says it is unclear the number of student athletes who would actually benefit financially from the Fair Pay To Play Act.

“It’s really hard to say,’’ she says. “It’s going to be a small number because there are very few college athletes who become household names across all sports. There are only a few in all sports. I do believe when it’s an Olympic year sports that are not football and basketball like track and field, those athletes might get some attention. I do believe it will be only a few nationally because most college sports are really only popular within their conference and they are really popular within their region, unless they are a Power Five school, until you get into March like with basketball.’’


“No, Wisconsin!”

October 10, 2019   |   By Gloria Ladson-Billings

From Madison 365:

The fight song of the University of Wisconsin is “On Wisconsin.” It is played at all major sporting events and even in a medley at graduations. One verse says, “On Wisconsin, on Wisconsin fight on for her fame. Fight fellows fight, fight, fight we’ll win this game!” However, this past week the UW Alumni Association released a promo video to encourage people to come back to campus for homecoming that could only prompt me to say instead of “On Wisconsin”… “No, Wisconsin!”

The video features the University and its students… some of its students. You see students going to class, football games, biking, hiking, playing in the band, eating pizza—all things students do. However, there is no representation of students of color in the video. Unfortunately, this is a familiar racial faux pas for UW.

Some years ago the university photoshopped a Black student into the student section of the stadium. Its response was to apologize. More recently, a Black student was spat upon by another student and told she did not belong there (despite her incredible performing arts portfolio). About that same time, another Black student was arrested in class in front of his fellow student for doing anti-racist graffiti.

The list of racial microaggressions is too numerous to enumerate, but every day students of color are confronted with reasons they should not feel welcome or safe on the UW campus. UW-Madison is 13 out of 14 (University of Nebraska is worse) Big Ten Conference campuses in the number of students of color. Out of over 44,000 students there are only 593 African American undergrads and 255 African American graduate students.

Before someone thinks I’m hating on UW-Madison, let me be clear, I am not. I was a faculty member on that campus for 26 years. It afforded me a great career. I was the first African-American woman to earn tenure in my School (in 1995). I served for 7 years on the University’s athletic board and was the Big Ten faculty representative. But, I understand how institutions work. Some years ago, I was asked to conduct a workshop for practicing physicians who made the decision to enter academic medicine (become faculty at the Medical School). One of the first things I told them was, “Institutions have no capacity to love you back!” My point was no matter how much you love the university, it cannot love you back. I still believe that. However, just because the university can’t love you does not mean it has the right to abuse you.

What makes the video so egregious is the homecoming committee solicited many student groups to participate in the filming and groups of color did volunteer and participate. All of them were cut in the final editing and somehow no one saw a problem with that. This is a pattern that the university must break. It must stop giving lip service to “equity, diversity, and inclusion.” It must stop using the athletic department as its “diversity program.” It must stop pretending that students of color are all here under some “affirmative action” benevolence. Trust me, after teaching hundreds of students I have had my share of mediocre White students (I’ve had some outstanding ones, too, so save the White tears!).

I am always amazed (and proud) when I see Wisconsin students of color do great things despite their constant marginalization. As a part of the 100th anniversary of the “On Wisconsin” fight song, the university sponsored a contest to re-mix the song. It was the students of color who are a part of our award-winning “First Wave” Scholars program who won that award with an amazing update of the song (see below).

One of my Black students, DeShawn McKinney, not only led the campus’ “Black Lives Matter” effort, he won a Truman Scholarship for his civic engagement, was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, and a Marshall Scholarship winner which afforded him the opportunity to pursue his master’s degree in Oxford, England. Another of my students, Jonathan Williams won the national “Raise Up” competition designed to encourage high school students to stay in school. He later went on to win a fellowship for a highly selective Masters of Fine Arts Program at the University of Florida.

A few years ago, Sports Illustrated named the Wisconsin basketball team the most politically active one in the nation. Star Nigel Hayes regularly spoke out on injustice (and mounted his own respectful protest at the singing of the national anthem) and Bronson Koenig made his was to the protests at Standing Rock to both express his solidarity with other Native peoples and help conduct basketball clinics for the children there. There is not enough room in one column for me to detail all the amazing things I have seen scholars of color accomplish on our campus. The university must do better by them.

My undergraduate classes focus on preparing teachers to teach history and social studies. I remind my students that the rich, powerful, and privileged don’t really need democracy. They have ways of getting what they want whenever they want. No, democracy is what the marginalized, disenfranchised, and underrepresented need. It’s their only hope for true justice and a fair opportunity. So until the university recognizes its needs to attend to the concerns of the most vulnerable among its students (and faculty) we can’t really sing “On Wisconsin.” Our song will be, “No, Wisconsin!”


Report: Perfect attendance would have ‘very modest’ effect on Madison middle school achievement gap

September 25, 2019   |   By Logan Wroge

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

A study released Wednesday looking at Madison middle school attendance and absenteeism suggests perfect attendance would have a "very modest" benefit to closing academic achievement gaps.

The study, conducted by the Madison Education Partnership, looked at rates of attendance and any associated effects for Madison students in grades six through eight, finding that unexcused absences are likely to be "signals" to personal challenges a student is facing rather than a cause of poor academic performance.

It largely aligns with a finding of a similar study on elementary Madison students finished last year by the Madison Education Partnership — a collaborative research effort involving the Madison School District and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research within the UW-Madison School of Education.

"That was a little bit of a surprise," said Katie Eklund, lead researcher on the report. "There was some belief attendance problems had higher correlation with academic achievement as you move into middle school or high school."

Eklund said that while unexcused absences have a negative effect on academic outcomes, other factors like demographics, prior student achievement and time out of school for an illness have a bigger bearing on the gap.

The report also found a significant increase in the number of middle school students who were absent from school without a reason over the six-year period studied.

In grades six to eight, 59% of Madison students had at least one unexcused absence in the 2012-13 school year. The share of middle school students with an unexcused absence increased to 72% for the 2017-18 school year.

Eklund, a UW-Madison assistant professor of educational psychology, said researchers talked with middle school staff to try and get a sense of why more students are missing school, but no conclusion was reached. She said more qualitative information from students could help answer the question.

"It's not exactly clear why we see that increase, we just know that it is happening," she said. "That is part of the reason for diving deeper into why kids are missing school."

Controlling other factors

To determine the impact attendance has on the academic achievement of middle school students, researchers used a model of perfect attendance that takes into account demographics, prior academic outcomes and student health conditions.

The model was used to predict what the gap would be on GPA, reading and math outcomes for students of different races and economic levels compared with the overall student body performance if the attendance rate was the same for all students.

The largest change predicted would be a 0.17-point gain in GPA for black middle school students, representing a 24% reduction in the gap between African American students and the overall middle school student body. Gaps in reading and math performance were predicted to shrink by roughly 5% under perfect attendance for most groups.

The rate of unexcused absences also varies widely among racial, ethnic and economic lines, the study said.

Out of students who had any unexcused absences recorded, the median number of unexcused absences for white middle school students resulted in 0.4 days missed compared to a median of 3.5 days missed through unexcused absences for black students in grades six through eight.

In contract, excused absence rates remained relatively similar across demographic groups.

Even though there are disparities in unexcused absences between student groups, the study said "most of the association between race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and student learning is accounted for by factors other than absenteeism, such as health disparities and prior academic achievement."

Eklund said part of the findings that stood out to her is students who had moderate to high rates of unexcused absences in fifth grade either stay consistent in their absenteeism or get worse through middle school.

"The message that sends to me is middle school is a great time to intervene and get on top of attendance concerns, because we know that if we don't, that trajectory just continues or gets worse," she said.

Climate survey

This year, the Madison School District is undertaking a campaign, called "Be Here to Get There," to encourage better attendance for students, including teaching parents how to check on their child's attendance through the student information system and encouraging parents to receive push notifications to their phones if the student is tardy or absent from class.

Student feelings of belonging, safety and respect within their middle schools also correlated to attendance, Eklund said, whereas students who felt more connected to a school showed better attendance.

As part of an annual climate survey, students responded to how likely they are to agree or disagree with statements like, "I feel like I belong in this school," "I feel safe at this school," and "The adults at my school respect the students."

For middle school students who reported they strongly disagreed with the statements, there was a significantly higher rate of unexcused absences.

For example, middle school students who strongly disagreed to a feeling of belonging had a median unexcused absence rate of close to two days as opposed to students who had a strong feeling of belonging having a median of 0.25 days missed through unexcused absences.

"Certainly examining aspects of school climate and engaging in future research on climate to look at that relationship a little bit more would be helpful," Eklund said.


Internships as a High-Impact Practice?

September 23, 2019   |   By Matthew T. Hora

From: Inside Higher Ed
 

College internships are widely viewed across the postsecondary landscape as one of the high-impact practices that campuses should adopt, scale and sustain. The designation of internships as a HIP is based on analyses of the National Survey of Student Engagement data, which show that such practices are significant predictors of student learning and engagement. That has led to a national focus on high-impact practices, along with growing interest in students’ career and transitions to the workforce, with many institutions encouraging or even mandating students to have internships.

But as a researcher engaged in a national study of internships and their relationship to student success, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to proceed with caution when advocating for the widespread adoption of internships. Recommending or requiring that college students have them can be premature, inequitable and potentially dangerous.

Why is this the case?

The first reason is that the evidence on internships is questionable. The National Survey of Student Engagement asks students about their involvement in internships along with co-ops, field experiences, student teaching and clinical placements -- all in one single question. Consequently, the survey might overstate the impact of internships by failing to differentiate among those distinct types of experiential learning that may be embedded in a student’s program. And while some studies on internships do show positive impacts on student outcomes, the effects vary considerably, depending on students’ disciplinary and institutional affiliations, socioeconomic status and the nature of the internship itself.

Thus, accounting for the high degree of variation within internship formats is crucial, but NSSE’s simple yes/no question about participation doesn’t capture such nuances. In our research at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, we’ve found that internships can last from a few days to several months, job-site supervision can range from exemplary to nonexistent, students may earn nothing or more than $15 an hour, and workplace tasks may vary from making photocopies to assisting with an archaeological dig in the field. That is why we aren’t interested in participation rates alone in our studies. Instead, we are exploring the relationship between student outcomes and specific design features of internships, like mentorship quality or duration.

The second reason is that too many campuses are not prepared to offer and monitor safe, high-quality internships. Some institutions in our nationwide College Internship Study do not have adequate staff to perform the quality control needed to ensure that internships aren’t simply a requirement to check off -- or worse, a shady if not illegal arrangement with an unknown employer.

Instead, to increase the prospects that an internship is truly a form of experiential learning, career services offices and departments need staff members and routinized procedures for recruiting and screening employers, ensuring that an educational component exists in students’ work, and for monitoring and evaluating students’ experiences and performance.

Many colleges and universities across the country, especially well-resourced private and public flagship institutions, have exemplary internship programs. But many more campuses are struggling with budget cuts or underfunded career services units that do not have those essential safeguards in place. Unfortunately, too many institutions don’t have the infrastructure to ensure that all internships are, in fact, high-impact practices.

The third and perhaps most troubling problem is the issue of equity and access to internship opportunities. Too many students lack the financial resources, social connections and time to find and pursue an internship. Our research shows that, of the students who have not had an internship, 64 percent wanted to but could not because of: 1) the need to work at their current job, 2) a heavy course load, 3) a lack of opportunities in their field and 4) insufficient pay. That those obstacles disproportionately impact low-income and working students, for whom an internship may be an especially important vehicle for social mobility, should raise red flags for campus leaders.

So what should colleges and universities do? I’m certainly not arguing that they should not promote internships. As a learning scientist who acknowledges how well-crafted experiential learning spaces can be transformative for students -- professionally, intellectually and socially -- one of my goals as a scholar is to see that high-quality internships are made available to every college student. But it is too early to label all internships as opportunities that students should or even must take before they graduate. Instead, higher education institutions should do three things:

1. Focus on institutional capacity first. Institutional leaders should pause any initiatives aimed at scaling up and/or mandating internships until they can take the necessary precautions to ensure those internships are safe, legal and carefully designed. The potentially negative impacts on students’ lives from an inadequately designed or supported internship are too great to rush what in practice are complex new programs.

Perhaps the single most important part of such a planning process is to ensure that colleges, departments or career services units have the capacity to offer safe and high-quality experiential learning opportunities at scale. That means that adequate staff members and advisers are in place to manage employer relations; ensure that intern tasks are meaningful and related to course work; and counsel and monitor students’ experiences before, during and after the internship. Essentially, when creating or expanding internship programs, institutions should invest the same care, time and resources they do to launch a new academic program.

2. Create support systems so that all students can participate in internships. To avoid internships being yet another vehicle for reproducing privilege and thwarting social mobility, institutional leaders should create and sustain support systems for low-income, working and/or first-generation students. Those students are at a particular disadvantage, given the predominance of unpaid internships and the important role that social connections play in securing an internship. Some solutions include only advertising paid positions, providing grants for students seeking unpaid positions and creating ample opportunities for networking.

3. Embed problem-based learning into all academic programs and courses. Finally, higher education leaders must recognize that two of the benefits of internships -- experiential learning and making professional connections -- are also available through well-designed problem-based learning in the classroom. By incorporating real-world problems of practice in hands-on classroom activities, students can apply their academic knowledge to authentic tasks while also sharpening their teamwork and communication skills. Bringing in guest speakers or professionals who can assess final project presentations also gives students opportunities to meet potential employers without leaving the campus.

Granted, these experiences may not be as influential as an internship. But they can be especially effective for students who can’t take time off work or who don’t have access to extensive professional networks.

I have no doubt that certain internships can be life changing for college students. But until we can guarantee that our institutions and employer partners are truly prepared and capable of offering robust, equitable and transformative experiences for all students, an indiscriminate embrace of internships could, in fact, be inimical to our students’ well-being.

Bio

Matthew T. Hora is assistant professor of adult and higher education and the director of the Center for Research on College Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.


WCER launches $1.5 million study of 6 Historically Black Colleges and Universities

September 20, 2019   |   By NBC15 staff

From: WMTV (NBC) Channel 15 

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A new partnership with the United Negro College Fund and UW-Madison's Counseling Psychology Department will be studying internship programs at six Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) that have a high number of STEM graduates.

The $1.5 million study was announced on Thursday. It will examine students’ experiences with their internships and how these experiences may impact their future wages, employment status and vocational self-efficacy.

The three-year study will be part of a larger College Internship Study by The Center for Research on College-to-Workforce Transitions (CCWT).

“At too many institutions, we simply don’t know enough about the quality of internships, and if colleges are prepared to support what are effectively complex college-employer partnerships," said CCWT Director Matt Hora. "The field especially lacks insights into how internship programs are structured and experienced in the unique socio-cultural and historical contexts of HBCUs.”

LaToya Owens, director of Learning and Evaluation for the United Negro College Fund said there is a real need in higher education for a study that zeroes in on the actual internship experiences of underrepresented students.

“We really don’t know what types of experiences African American students are having during their internships and how that translates to their ability to transition into the workforce," said Owens. "I believe this study will give us those answers.”

The study will include surveys and focus groups with students, and interviews with employers and career services staff at six HBCUs. Those include Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, Morgan State University in Maryland and Clark Atlanta University in Georgia.


UW professor says teaching is most important part of professor’s job

September 17, 2019   |   By Molly DeVore

From: The Badger Herald

University of Wisconsin philosophy professor Harry Brighouse spoke on strengthening education outcomes as a part of the Wisconsin Idea, Past and Present lecture series on Tuesday night.  

The lecture began with an introduction from sociologist and emeritus professor Cora Marrett who said part of the Wisconsin Idea is linking the state and the university and that UW should contribute to the state of Wisconsin.

Brighouse began by saying that the most important part of professor’s jobs should be teaching — that while research is important, the professors contribute to the state through teaching.

UW students go on to contribute to society, Brighouse said, who said UW educates members of the most valuable professions. 

Brighouse said because UW is a top college, many of the students it educates will go on to be leaders of those valuable professions, making their education even more important. 

“We educate them and they go on to serve the population of the state and beyond, and if they are better educated … then they serve the population better,” Brighouse said.

Despite the importance of educating UW students, their learning is often not valued enough, according to Brighouse. He said professors are not trained to teach and are not promoted for their teaching skills.

Brighouse said classes need to be structured around allowing students to practice what they learn and to discuss it with others. One barrier to student learning is a lack of good learning conditions, according to Brighouse.

Additionally, lecture halls with rows that don’t allow discussion are hard to learn in. These types of lecture halls cause students to get distracted, according to Brighouse, who also said the large nature of many UW lectures hurt student learning.

“I’m sure we can achieve more … than we do in the large lecture, but when I hear defeated students say, ‘well I’m not the kind of person who learns well in 300 person lectures,’ I find myself wondering who is that kind of person and whether there are 300 of them,” Brighouse said.

Brighouse ended his lecture by proposing some changes to the way college students are taught. He began by suggesting UW invest in financial incentives for professors to be better teachers as well as investing in pre-tenure teacher training.

Brighouse also said professors should not just wait for administrative changes but asked that they take it upon themselves to improve their teaching for the sake of the students.

He suggested they read the literature available on higher education teaching, film themselves and critique their own teaching, or even hire students to coach them in their teaching.

“I think the Wisconsin Idea requires systemic reform, but the Wisconsin Idea, first of all, doesn’t stop at systemic reform and secondly, continues — and should continue — to inform our practice even in the absence of systemic reform,” Brighouse said.


Making the first day of kindergarten a success

August 29, 2019

Channel 3, WISC-TV News at 4 p.m. August 29, 2019

Ways to make the first day of kindergarten a success (4 minutes)

Featuring Beth Graue, UW-Madison professor and director of WCER's CRECE, the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education.


Five ways parents can help their kids transition smoothly to middle school

August 27, 2019   |   By Phyllis Fagell

From: The Washington Post and New Hampshire Union Leader

Beth Houf, the principal of Fulton Middle School in Missouri, spent several days this summer visiting her 200 rising sixth-grade students at their homes. She would sing about her plans on social media, throw on school spirit gear, then hit the road with her assistant principal and her counselor. Houf knows that kids find the move to middle school difficult, and she hopes that the visits ease their anxiety.

Once students recover from the shock of seeing their principal at the front door, they spill their fears: How will I know where to go? What if I can’t get my locker open? Will I still see my old friends if they’re not in any of my classes? What if I have no one to sit with at lunch?

[How to talk to your middle-schooler (so they might actually listen to you)]

Parents can find the transition equally unsettling, whether they have painful memories of the phase, feel unsure of their role in the new setting or worry their child will struggle to make the developmental leap.

Mere months separate elementary from middle school, but the shift can seem seismic. Suddenly, kids must navigate a more complex world with multiple teachers, new routines and an influx of new peers. “My daughter is in fifth grade, and until she makes the transition, she only has to focus on relationships with one primary teacher and 25 classmates,” explains Shawn DeRose, the principal of Glasgow Middle School in Northern Virginia and a consultant with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). “But in middle school, she’ll have to interact with seven different teachers and more than 100 kids a day.”

Adding to the upheaval, many sixth-graders are already in the throes of puberty and feeling more self-conscious and less self-assured. Rather than subscribe to the conventional wisdom that this is a phase to dread, however, parents can use the following five strategies to help their child transition smoothly to middle school.

Create an action plan

Find out your child’s biggest concerns and extinguish their anxiety with small exposures. If they’re afraid they’ll get lost, visit the school at a quiet time, walk the halls and peek into classrooms. Sign them up for any orientation programs or mock school days. If they’re overwhelmed, set up a meeting with their school counselor.

Help them prepare for different scenarios. If they get lost, for example, explain that they can stop an adult, establish eye contact, then firmly say, “I’m new and don’t know where to go.” If they’re worried about lunch, you might suggest they meet a friend outside the entrance of the cafeteria.

“At the core of resilience is self-efficacy,” says psychologist Mary Alvord, the author of “Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens.” She created the Resilience Builder Program, a curriculum that hones students’ sense of agency. “You can’t control your schedule, where the classes are or what teachers you get, but you can control being prepared, listening and finding academic buddies you can call if you miss something.”

Normalize feeling out of place

“In middle school, you start to think about how everyone else views you,” says social psychologist Chris Rozek, a research associate at Stanford University. “Kids’ friendships become more unstable and they’re more sensitive to social rejection.”

If a new sixth-grader has no one to sit with in the lunchroom one day or bombs a test, “they may start to question whether they fit in socially or can succeed academically,” notes Geoffrey Borman, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Borman and Rozek conducted research to see whether it was possible to bolster kids’ sense of belonging by underscoring that all students have difficulty at the start of middle school but eventually feel better.

The students read and reflected on comments purportedly made by seventh-graders, who said things such as, “I felt like I had a knot in my stomach in my first few months and was afraid to talk to my teachers. I worried that they thought I was dumb, but they believe in you even when you get bad grades and want to help you get better.” The results of their study, published in the journal PNAS, show that students who got the intervention liked school and trusted their teachers more and were more invested in doing well.

Parents may get similar results by sharing times they experienced self-doubt in middle school. You also can give your child books that normalize feeling out of sorts. Lori Steel, a librarian at National Cathedral School, recommends “How to Survive Middle School” by Donna Gephart and “Awkward” by Svetlana Chmakova, two stories that “use much-needed humor to reassure struggling students that they’re not alone during this challenging rite of passage.”

Preview potential challenges

You can prepare your child to resist future persuasion “much the same way vaccines prepare our bodies to resist future viruses,” says Joshua Compton, an associate professor of speech at Dartmouth College who researches inoculation theory.

If you preemptively talk to your child about behaviors such as cheating, bullying or peer pressure, they’ll be less likely to be caught off guard, he explains. Discuss what their friends might argue to persuade them to engage in risky, unkind or unethical behavior, then provide a compelling counterargument. To discourage gossiping, for example, Compton recommends saying, “After we hear a rumor, our first thought might be to tell our friends as soon as possible. It feels good when others think we have interesting things to say. But spreading rumors hurts people, and it’s a much better feeling to know that we are someone people can trust.”

Give them a runway to share daily experiences

Sixth-graders are flooded with highs and lows and need time to process them, says Katie Powell, a sixth-grade reading and English teacher at Southmont Junior High in Crawfordsville, Ind., and the author of “Boredom Busters.” “One moment they’re excitedly talking about their favorite cartoon, then crying because the girl they liked now likes someone else, then doing Fortnite dances in the hallway.”

She once abruptly stopped a lesson because she overheard a girl say she sees better with glasses but worried people would think she was ugly if she wore them. “I said, ‘All right, y’all, it’s time for Life Lessons with Mrs. Powell,’ then shared my own experiences being reluctant to wear my glasses when I was a young teen.”

Open a conversation if your child expresses vulnerability, and mine school newsletters and social media feeds for clues about their daily life. Houf, a NASSP Digital Principal of the Year, told me she posts more than 100 pictures a day. “Our staff is relentless,” she says. “We want families to have talking points, to know, ‘Hey, my kid was dissecting frogs today.’ ”

Get involved, but mindfully

DeRose recommends that parents join the parent association, get to know school staff and “join the conversation,” but he knows parents can get mixed messages. When his oldest daughter went to middle school, he remembers feeling as though he should back off. “I had this sense that she was becoming a teenager, and that I shouldn’t get as involved because she didn’t seem to want that,” he recalls. “But when I put on my principal hat, I know the exact opposite is true. The most successful parents are right there alongside their child — but they’re supporting them, not fighting their battles.”


Experts share how to make transition back to school as smooth as possible

August 27, 2019   |   By Isabel Lawrence

From: WMTV (NBC) Channel 15 

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Whether students are hopping from school to school, or grade to grade, getting back into the new school year can be a challenge. However, an expert says there are ways families can work ahead of time to make sure the transition is smooth.

Beth Graue, Director at the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education at UW-Madison, said it's important for parents to realize that it's not only students who go through a transition.

"It's important for parents to understand it's a transition both for the child, and for the parent, because what the parent is doing will change, because the child has changed," Graue said, especially of students leaving daycare and 4-K and going into kindergarten. "Helping parents realize there's a lot that you can do to ease the transition is really important."

Graue said parents can ask their students what they're excited for, and if they're nervous for anything, that way they can help talk through any concerns. She also said that parents should be careful not to put any worries or anxieties they're feeling themselves, on their kids.

Graue said one of the things you can do ahead of the school year is get students familiar with a routine, and make sure your student knows where they're supposed to be both getting to school, and when they arrive.

"Doing things like, have the child go to school the way they will be going to school when school starts," she said. "If they're going to be walking, practice walking. If they're going to be getting off the school bus, take the car and drive the route the school bus is going to ride. It puts sign posts for them so they know what to expect."

One family that will be going through a change in routine will be the Zellmers, whose oldest son, Tyler, will be heading into kindergarten in the Madison Metropolitan School District this year.

"A little nervous, going into the next step is a little uncharted, he's our oldest so we're just going with it," said Jeff Zellmer, Tyler's dad. "He's not nervous about it, so that helps us too."

The Zellmers said they're excited for Tyler to go to school and learn things he can take home and show his little brother and sister, in addition to all the new students he'll be meeting in his class.

"Lots of opportunities to meet new kids and form new relationships, to practice social skills," said Jenny Zellmer, Tyler's mom.

That social growth is an important part of the transition into kindergarten and new years, said Graue.

"The kind of social network that the child has, shifting in a huge way, is an important thing to pay attention to," Graue said.

Graue also said that it is normal for students to come home from school exhausted at first, due to the new schedule and all the new students they'll be meeting.

While the Zellmers, like many parents, are a bit nervous about the big day, they said it's more about seeing the growth of their child.

"He's getting so big so fast, he's going to be driving soon," Jenny Zellmer said.


Why mentoring is important for biotech careers

August 22, 2019   |   By Don Potochny

From BioSpace:

You have heard about the benefits of mentoring in the business world. Do the same benefits apply to professionals that work in biotech positions?

The answer might surprise you.

Mentoring Benefits for Biotech Professionals

The most important mentoring benefit for biotech professionals is being able to ask questions and in turn, receive advice on how to handle career decisions. Your mentor in the biotech industry can help you resolve difficult career decisions, such as determining the path of your education.

Here are some other reasons why mentoring is important for biotech careers.

Improve Technical Skills

Yes, your education has given you a vast arsenal of technical skills to embark of a productive career. However, you educational journey has just started. A mentor is a strong resource for improving your technical skills in a field where technical skills are a vital component of career growth.

Someone to Confide in

Biotech jobs are typically stressful occupations that leave us gasping for air as we move towards the end of a project. Having a mentor available to confide in is an important part of navigating a biotech career.

A Different Point of View

After a couple of years in a biotech position, you might fall into a routine that closes off your mind to other points of view. Having a mentor around ensures you keep your mind open to new and innovative biotech concepts.

Grow Your Professional Network

Networking is an important part of any career, but it is especially for biotech professionals that have limited exposure to other professionals in the field. A mentor can be a conduit to other biotech professionals that can offer you several different research perspectives.

Enhanced Confidence

You know biotech is not a field for the timid. You have to make bold decisions on how to conduct research, as well as where to go for new ideas. Your mentor will gently move you along the right research path, which should help you gain more confidence in your decision making ability.

Mentoring Proteges in the Biotechnology Field

Mentoring in the biotechnology field is not an activity that benefits just one person. Mentors also receive benefits by giving proteges help in advancing their careers. Like for other professional fields, mentoring is a team-focused approach that enhances the careers of both mentors and mentees.

Why a Mentoring Program is Important for Lab Work

Christine Pfund, who is an associate scientist in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, commented on the importance of mentoring biotech professionals that are in the early stages of their careers. “In short, good mentorship impacts who does science, how productive they are, and how satisfied they are on a science career path,” she said.

Although early-career biotech professionals bring technical skills and scientific theory into the lab, it is the presence of mentors that help them learn how to behave with the proper professional decorum. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware, Joshua Morgan summarized the importance of mentoring in a biotech lab. “Research is uniquely frustrating, and without positive mentoring, it can drive good scientists away from the lab, or worse, to ethically questionable choices.”

Establishing a Powerful Mentoring Relationship

Not everyone is cut out to be a biotech mentor. It requires a dedicated spirit to teach, as well as an infinite amount of patience to tolerate inevitable failures in performing biotech research. The first thing an effective biotech mentors does involves creating an achievable set of expectations from the beginning of a mentoring relationship. Morgan stated during an interview that honesty is vital for developing a mentoring relationship in the biotechnology field. He said mentors must be honest in the type of support they can offer, as well as determine the areas where mentees need the most professional development.

Where to Turn for Becoming an Effective Biotech Mentor

As a National Institute of Health (NIH) funded program, the National Research Mentoring Network operates to increase diversity in biomedical sciences, as well as provide a large number of online resources that are devoted to helping mentors develop their mentoring skills. In addition, the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) offers a vast collection of curriculum that trains aspiring mentors in the biotech field.

Morgan explained the importance of mentors receiving the training required to help early career biotech professionals advance their careers. “Everything is theory until you put it into practice: work with students, get feedback from them about what helps and what doesn’t, and be self-critical! If you’ve had a tough conversation with a student, ask yourself what you could have done differently. If a student isn’t learning, don’t throw up your hands and say they are unreachable, but figure out a different strategy to reach them. I think the best training is doing it and questioning yourself as you do.”


How grad schools became the hidden culprit behind America’s student-debt crisis

August 22, 2019   |   By Allana Akhtar and Hillary Hoffower

From Business Insider:

At $1.5 trillion, the nation's student-loan debt is at an all-time high.

The climbing cost of undergraduate school often bares the brunt of the blame, but graduate school is also a key player in the student-debt crisis.

More students are attending graduate school than they did a decade ago. This has led the amount of government debt shouldered by grad students to increase from 32% in 2002 to 40% today, according to NPR.

What's more, households with at least one advanced degree carried over half (51%) of overall student debt in 2016, according to"Inequality and Opportunity in a Perfect Storm of Graduate Student Debt," a paper by the Wisconsin Center for Education and Research.

"We already know that the economic returns to graduate and professional degrees have been rising at a faster rate than returns to undergraduate degrees," wrote Jaymes Pyne, co-author of the paper. "Combine increasing returns and increasing enrollments with a policy environment that views advanced degrees as a private rather than a public good, and you get more debt."

Here's how the nation's ongoing student loan crisis has affected graduate students.

More people enroll to get a master's degree now than they did a decade ago, according to data from the Council of Graduate Schools. Since 2006, total graduate school enrollment increased by about 1.1% each year.

Some of the growth can be attributed to more underrepresented minority students going to grad school, though international student enrollment flattened. Degrees awarded in earth sciences, engineer, and computer science increased the most over the last five years, CGS found.

As more people get a master's degree, the cost to attend graduate school rose faster than for undergraduates.

The net price students pay for a master's degree — meaning the tuition and fees minus any grants they receive — increased 79% since 1996. The net price for a bachelor's degree increased by just 47% within the same time period, according to the think tank Urban Institute. The average net price of a master's degree was about $16,000 a year in 2016, compared to $8,000 for a bachelor's degree.

In 1992, 45% of advanced-degree households comprised the national $41.5 billion student-loan-debt total (in real 2016 dollars); in 2016, 51% of advanced-degree households comprised the $1.3 trillion in debt, according to "Inequality and Opportunity in a Perfect Storm of Graduate Student Debt," a working paper by Jaymes Pyne and Eric Grodsky.

More graduate students are enrolling in master's programs, borrowing more when they do, and completing them, according to Pyne and Grodsky.

Graduate student loans work differently than for undergrads.

For one, graduate students receive less financial aid, particularly from federal, need-based Pell Grants. Many low-income students who relied on this type of funding to pay for undergrad will have to take out debt for grad school, according to US News & World Report.

Plus, graduate-student loans have higher interest rates, as well as a higher borrowing limit than undergrad aid. Loan limits can even reach over $200,000 for students in certain health fields, US News found.

Since graduate students attend school later in life, many have higher rent to pay and families to provide for — factors that make paying for school more difficult, according to NPR.

"If graduate students aren't paying off all their interest on time, then their debt can really add up," NPR's Cardiff Garcia said.

While graduate students may shoulder more of the loan burden, they tend to pay off their loans after getting jobs.

People with graduate degrees are less likely to default on their loans than those who never graduated undergrad. Drop-outs with low debt levels tend to default due to their inability to find a high-paying job without a degree, writes MarketWatch's Jillian Berman.

As of 2018, 37-year-old orthodontist Mike Meru owed $1,060,945 in student loans, the Wall Street Journal reported— a small sum compared with the $2 million loan balance he's expected to face in two decades.

Meru pays about $1,590 a month — 10% of his monthly income, but not enough to cover the interest. At this rate, his debt grows by $130 a day, according to the Journal.

As the graph above shows, dental school is the most expensive professional-degree program in the US. During the 2015-16 school year, private nonprofit dental schools charged on average more than $71,000, while public in-state dental schools charged about $38,000,according to the Urban Institute.

Average tuition for private medical schools charged $53,240, and public in-state medical schools charged $28,720. Law-school tuition isn't far behind. Private law school cost $47,450 on average in 2016, and public in-state tuition was nearly $19,000 less.

While dentists, doctors, and lawyers make six-figure salaries, many have student debt that outweighs their income. Though dental school has the highest price tag on average for a professional degree, dentists aren't the highest-paid professionals. The median-earning dentist in the US makes $151,440 a year, and the median-earningphysician makes at least $208,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Wisconsin should rethink its entire teacher certification process

August 20, 2019   |   By Mark Schug and Scott Niederjohn

Milton Courier

In an attempt to address perceived teacher shortages, a bipartisan group of state legislators have introduced a bill that would make it easier for qualified teachers from other states to become licensed in Wisconsin. While there may be as many surpluses in the wide array of teaching disciplines as there are shortages, this bill advances a worthwhile reform.

Much more, however, can and should be done to overhaul Wisconsin’s deficient teacher certification process.

We have written reports critical of Wisconsin’s approach to teacher certification. One of us (Schug) worked for decades at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, administering aspects of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) certification rules. The other (Niederjohn) is a higher education administrator who understands firsthand how the fossilized DPI teacher certification rules affect students.

In a 2017 Badger Institute report titled Government’s Love for Licensure, we recommended that “The Legislature should allow teachers who have been certified in other states to be granted an appropriate Wisconsin teaching license with a minimum of hassle.” AB 195 is a good start.

The bill requires DPI to issue a teaching license based on reciprocity to an individual who holds a license from another state if the person taught in Wisconsin under a temporary license issued by DPI for at least two semesters and the school employer confirms that the applicant’s teaching experience was successful. It also changes a reciprocal teaching license from an initial license to a provisional license.

What is the national picture on teacher license reciprocity?

Thirteen states have full reciprocity (or something very close and with minimal burdens) by statute for out-of-state teachers.

Twenty-nine states have additional coursework requirements in place for out-of-state teachers.

Ten states have a test-out exemption for additional coursework for out-of-state teachers.

Fourteen states require out-of-state teachers with experience to provide evidence of effectiveness.

Some states have several of these requirements.

AB 195, based on the assumption that Wisconsin faces a severe teacher shortage, would move the Badger State from the category that requires out-of-state teachers to complete additional coursework to the full reciprocity category. We have had chronic teacher shortages in some fields for decades. Ever try to hire a talented math teacher to teach in inner city Milwaukee? It’s almost impossible.

But, for all of the media hype regarding today’s teacher shortages, recall that we also have a long history of chronic teacher surpluses. The surpluses in some fields were staggering. Dozens of new teachers would apply for one elementary school teaching position or a middle school social studies vacancy.

Why was there such a mismatch between supply and demand? For decades, K-12 teaching was treated as one labor market — the market for a generic teacher. The old step-and-lane salary schedule long favored by teachers unions compensated all teachers in the same way (years of teaching experience and level of education) as if they all had the same skill set and classroom ability and faced the same opportunity cost (the next best job choice).

For example, the next best job choice for an early childhood teacher might be working in a day-care center. The next best choice for a high school chemistry teacher might be working at a chemical company. Clearly these are different labor markets.

The step-and-lane salary schedule was insensitive to the real labor market conditions for teachers and, over the years, did enormous damage. Prospective teachers spent years completing certification programs only to discover there were no jobs. Schools of education had high enrollments and became “cash cows” for universities. In the meantime, potential math and science teachers just walked away. Hardly anyone had an incentive to rock the boat.

Only recently has the labor market for teachers begun to function somewhat normally. Wisconsin’s Act 10, enacted in 2011, created a labor market for teachers that was much freer than what existed before. Younger teachers and those with skill sets that are in high demand are receiving improved compensation, benefits and respect. Valued teachers are being “re-recruited.”

Supply and demand

Let’s examine the supply and demand situation today. In January 2018, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in the School of Education at UW-Madison released a rigorous working paper titled Supply and Demand for Public School Teachers in Wisconsin. The report is nuanced, but some generalizations stand out.

The authors state that there is no statewide teacher shortage. They conclude: “The supply data show a net excess of applicants across nearly all positions.” That said, teacher preferences are important, and some districts receive more applications than others. Districts with trouble attracting sufficient applicants have increased the use of emergency credentialing. While teachers tend to relocate in the same region of the state, there has been an increase in inter-district teacher mobility. Finally, the labor market is complex (but not unexpected). For example, there is:

A shortage in areas such as bilingual education, special education (visual, emotional), world languages and tech ed.

A more consistent supply in areas such as science, special education (speech, deaf) reading, math, English and health.

A surplus in areas including childhood, music, special education (general), elementary and middle school education, physical education and social studies.

AB 195 may help to alleviate some of the supply concerns. Now would be a good time to rethink Wisconsin’s entire teacher certification process. To become a teacher here, an individual has to comply with what many Wisconsin school leaders describe as the onerous provisions of licensure rules called PI 34.

Fifteen years after DPI approved PI 34, the regulations have yet to earn national respect. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), Wisconsin has flat-lined in its teacher preparation policies. In its 2017 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, Wisconsin received an overall grade of D+. Wisconsin earned a D in 2009, a D in 2011, a D+ in 2013 and a D in 2015.

Many of our neighboring states are ranked somewhat better. Minnesota gets an overall grade of C, Illinois a C+, Iowa a D+ and Michigan a C. Thus, making it easier for teachers from other states to become licensed in Wisconsin is a good thing, but it is unlikely to substantially improve the quality of Wisconsin’s teacher corps without additional reform .

Our recommendations in Government’s Love for Licensure included:
fine-tuning salary scales to reflect the reality of multiple teacher labor markets
the repeal and replacement of PI 34
allowing districts to develop their own teacher licensure programs, and
authorizing existing charter schools to hire teachers based solely on candidates’ experience and their ability to teach.

AB 195 suggests that there is bipartisan interest in common-sense teacher licensure reforms that make it easier to attract high-quality teachers to Wisconsin’s traditional public and charter schools. Now would be a good time to finally take action and reform PI 34.

Mark Schug, Ph.D., is an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Scott Niederjohn, Ph.D., is dean of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Lakeland University in Sheboygan.


Study links positive messages about middle school to better grades, behavior

August 12, 2019   |   By Linda Jacobson

From Education Dive:

Dive Brief:

  • Sixth-grade writing and reflecting exercises that communicate how it’s normal for new middle schoolers to be anxious and worry they don’t fit in — and that these feelings are temporary — can contribute to better attendance, behavior and academic performance, according to a new study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Led by Geoffrey Borman from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and conducted in all middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District, the intervention involved students reading messages that communicated how every new 6th-grader experiences uncertainty about academics and social acceptance, and that adults and other students are available to help. The students also wrote responses to what they read.
  • Compared to those students in the control group — whose assignments focused on more general topics — the children in the treatment group had 545 fewer absences (increasing attendance by 12%), 507 fewer behavioral referrals (reducing disciplinary incidents by 34%), and 67 fewer D or F grades (reducing failing grades by 18%) by the end of the school year.

Dive Insight:

The transition into middle school is often marked by a decline in academic achievement that is further complicated by the physical and social-emotional changes children experience in early adolescence. That’s one reason why the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, for example, has launched an initiativeto revamp a pilot group of nine middle schools with features meant to support student engagement and mental health. The district has seen a trend of families choosing K-8 schools over middle schools. 

Efforts are also increasing to reframe the middle grades as a time of opportunity for youth rather than one of increased risk. And earlier this month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report that includes recommendations for the education, health, child welfare and juvenile justice systems related to reducing inequities during the adolescent years that can lead to poor outcomes.

Increasing students’ sense of belonging in school at this critical time can reduce the chances that they experience academic and discipline problems, Borman and his coauthors write. Another recent study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that the more students report feeling a part of the school community, the less likely they are to report that they have bullied someone. The authors recommend school clubs for students with particular interests and emphasize the role parents play in fostering family belongingness as well.

Borman and coauthors write that their theory on “targeted reappraisal messages” was drawn from similar research conducted at the college level. But they conclude that for middle schools, the intervention is a “highly cost-effective and scalable approach.” 


Easing the middle school transition

August 11, 2019   |   By Tribune News Service

From Guam Daily Post:

A new study from education researchers has come up with a deceptively simple, yet surprisingly effective way of helping students cope with the infamously stressful transition from elementary to middle school:

Let them hear from other kids that, sure, middle school is tough. But it gets better, help is out there, and they can do this.

What could that possibly accomplish? Apparently a lot.

The intervention devised by education researchers with the University of Wisconsin at Madison and administered to over 1,300 sixth graders in all 11 of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s middle schools correlated with better grades, higher attention and fewer behavioral problems compared to students who didn’t get the intervention.

And it was cheap. The average cost was $1.35 per student.

“We were attempting what psychologists would call normalizing the adversity that students experience in the beginning of middle school,” explained lead study author Geoffrey D. Borman, a professor of educational leadership at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

For those who don’t remember, middle school for many youngsters can be a scary place. Students go from having one teacher to several. Often they are going to a new school further from home than their elementary school. The tests can seem harder, with higher stakes. They may have to make new friends. And on top of all that, they are going through the profound developmental, psychological and physical changes that go with approaching adolescence.

The Wisconsin researchers set out to create an intervention, in the form of reading and writing exercises, that would seek to address and allay some of the stress of the middle school experience.

In a randomized trial, about half of the students were given two reading and writing exercises at the start of their first year of middle school on a relatively neutral topic.

The other half got the intervention exercises – one in the first couple weeks of school, the second about a month later. Written as if they were from students who had already completed their first year of middle school with the help of student focus groups, the intervention materials convey that the angst students may be feeling is normal and temporary, that there are teachers and others willing to help in their new school, and that in time they will fit in and find friends. The students were also given writing assignments to help reinforce the reassuring messages in the reading materials they were given.

The intervention exercises were personalized to each school; the messages were attributed to theoretical students from the study participant’s school.

At the end of the school year, the researchers surveyed the students on their attitudes and their experience of their first year. They also collected data from schools about the student. The intervention students reported a greater sense of belonging, less test anxiety, and more trust in their teachers.

There were also more tangible results. The students in the treatment group had 34% fewer behavioral referrals, 12% fewer absences, and 18% fewer D and F grades than the students who got the neutral assignments.

“One reason I believe these exercises are so effective is that the messaging is not coming from an adult,” said Borman. “And it’s not advice – telling students you should do this, you should do that. Instead it’s providing an example of what other kids went through, how they navigated this transition and what turned out to be successful for them. Kids tend to take advice and ideas from their peers more readily than from an adult.”

The findings from the study were published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the journal of the National Academy of Science. Borman said they had similar results with students in an Arizona school district. He said his team is looking for other districts willing to test out their approach.

The results of the study could send a message to education administrators and leaders, said Borman.

“Middle school has a rather notorious reputation as a difficult place for these emerging adolescents,” Borman said. “I think we have to be more sensitive and more caring for these transitioning middle school students and understand what they’re going through.”