Academic…Success: What’s Your Definition?

Empty asphalt road towards cloud and signs symbolizing success a

What’s going on in your academic life these days?

If you noticed that this question wasn’t directed at a particular age group, please know that that was by design rather than mistake. Why? Because the “next big academic move” for any member of the family often becomes an endeavor for the entire family these days!

Yet, should this be the case? Is the choosing of one school over another a legitimate cause of such concern? Challenge Success, an organization out of Stanford University that focuses on reducing student stress and, instead, creating a healthy, balanced life, provides a wealth of research that informs us that this might not be the wisest route for anyone.

According to their information, quoted verbatim here:

  • According to a study of children at more than 60 schools, by the end of 4th grade, those kids who had attended academically-oriented preschools earned significantly lower grades than did those who had attended more progressive, “child-initiated” preschool classes, where the emphasis was on play.
  • A review of research on homework showed almost no correlation between homework and achievement for elementary school students.
  • 9- to 13-year-olds said they were more stressed by academics than any other stressor—even bullying or family problems (36% said they were stressed out the most by grades, school, and homework; 32% said family; 21% said friends, peers, gossip and teasing).
  • 73% of students listed academic stress as their number one reason for using drugs, yet only 7% of parents believe teens might use drugs to deal with stress.
  • 29% of children aged 13-17 report that they worry about getting into a good college and deciding what to do after high school, while only 5% of parents of 13-17 year-olds believe this is a source of stress for their child.

Reviewing these few facts leads one to realize that the “top academic schools” may not actually offer what is truly best for your child. Instead, try considering the following:

  • Does the school offer a solid program for social-emotional learning as defined by Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning (CASEL): self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; relationship skills; and responsible decision-making?
  • Consider what your child will be learning, how your child will be learning, and any practical matter specific to your child and your family.
  • Ask how the school assesses students, whether multiple types of assessment are encouraged, and how the school celebrates student successes.
  • Are there multiple opportunities for parent involvement that include both the working parent and the non-working parent?
  • How often is professional development offered to educators, and what is done to promote appropriate, positive relationships between student and educators, and the school and home?

While these suggestions are not all-inclusive, it is always wise to keep the information gleaned from organizations such as Challenge Success or CASEL at the forefront of your consciousness. Just remember, you want to consider the “whole” child, including not only strengths, but also the opportunities for growth.

Look at it this way: Are you hoping your child will become the next world genius, or do you just want him to be a happy person who is able to successfully manage in the world around him, have friends and family, and live life to the fullest?

Maybe that’s what you should keep in mind when you’re choosing a school for your child.


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