As we gear up for school and the subsequent stress for families, I thought I should take a minute to express Raymond School District's appreciation to parents and grandparents for all that you do for your children and grandchildren. One of the reasons that we began providing school supplies for all elementary students last year rather than having shopping lists for parents was to remove some of that stress. We are happy to continue that tradition this year. You've got enough going on!
We know intuitively that families are critical to children's educational development, and we also know through research. During the July 4th weekend of 1966, a report on education was released by the government regarding the effects of numerous variables on educational achievement. Known as the "Coleman Report," the 700-page study included more than 600,000 students, 60,000 teachers and 4,000 schools. It described and measured the various influences on student achievement (school funding, student background, socioeconomic status, etc.).
The researchers collected data both on the educational resources available to different groups of children and also on those students' achievement levels. This allowed them to understand the degree to which "educational inputs" (per pupil expenditures, size of the school library, newness of the school building, etc.) affect "educational output" (academic achievement). The research showed that while inputs mattered, differences in students' family norms and expectations mattered even more.
The finding that school resources make a difference in student achievement and families make an even bigger difference should not be surprising. Intuitively, we all are aware of the critical role of the family in preparing children for success. Families teach the importance of hard work, accountability, kindness, fairness and other such non-academic traits. Through their examples and by actively teaching, parent educate their kids about the importance of learning, reading and self-improvement. Numerous studies have shown that by the time children are in third or fourth grade, their personalities are largely formed.
More recently, a 2010 study conducted by Christopher Nave of the University of California, Riverside, compared data collected by teachers of students in grades 1-6 in the 1960s with video-taped interviews with those same students 40 years later. They then rated the individuals in four personality traits that were demonstrated in the original and subsequent data: talkativeness, adaptability, impulsiveness and self-minimizing behavior (being humble to the point of minimizing their own importance). (You will note that these traits are first learned and observed in the home.) The researchers found that:
- "Talkative youngsters tended to show interest in intellectual matters, speak fluently, try to control situations, and exhibit a high degree of intelligence as adults. Children who rated low in verbal fluency were observed as adults to seek advice, give up when faced with obstacles, and exhibit an awkward interpersonal style.
- Children rated as highly adaptable tended, as middle-age adults, to behave cheerfully, speak fluently and show interest in intellectual matters. Those who rated low in adaptability as children were observed as adults to say negative things about themselves, seek advice and exhibit an awkward interpersonal style.
- Students rated as impulsive were inclined to speak loudly, display a wide range of interests and be talkative as adults. Less impulsive kids tended to be fearful or timid, kept others at a distance and expressed insecurity as adults.
- Children characterized as self-minimizing were likely to express guilt, seek reassurance, say negative things about themselves and express insecurity as adults. Those who were ranked low on a self-minimizing scale tended to speak loudly, show interest in intellectual matters and exhibit condescending behavior as adults."
Of course, children do not come into the world as "blank slates." I have six children and every one of them has their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Parents also have an impact on all four of these areas. We affect talkativeness, adaptability, impulsiveness and excessive humility in numerous ways:
- Do we engage our children in meaningful conversation about their world, as well as ours, or do we just allow them to "space out" in front of the Playstation?
- Do we help our kids focus on how to take control of their own life, or do we complain about how unfair the world is?
- Do we allow our kids to experience the consequences of their decisions, or do we try to shield them from the results of their mistakes?
- Do we encourage a healthy sense of self, or do we often berate their abilities?
We appreciate the hard work that so many parents put forth to give their children the tools they need to be successful. We are honored to support you and build on the solid foundation you have built.