What Do Top Students Do Differently?

When asked why the top performing students do so well at school, there are a couple common answers—high IQ and hard work. Douglas Barton and his team at Elevate Education wanted to find out if that was actually the case by spending 13 years studying the most effective practices used by the top students in Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States.

The team’s research had three key findings:

  1. The top students don’t necessarily do better because they have a higher IQ or because they are smarter than everyone else.
  2. There are a small set of skills that are statistically significant in explaining why the top students do better than their peers, and these skills are relevant across countries.
  3. These skills can be taught to and used by any student to improve their academic performance.

One of the key skills that was incredibly predictive was taking practice tests. The research found that the number of practice tests a student did could be used to accurately predict not only how a student would perform but also could accurately rank an entire class based on that measure alone. Top performing students take far more practice tests than their peers, and that doing so helps the student move beyond just memorizing material.

Another key skill was not just working hard. Top student do work hard, but the research showed that many students who worked just as hard or harder didn’t perform as well. The reason for the difference is that it is important to work hard at the right things. Poor study skills applied more diligently won’t lead to better performance, but leads to disengagement as the student notes that they worked harder but still got poor results.

So what are the right things to work hard at? Barton’s team identified 13 key skills that top students used to differentiate themselves from their peers. In his TEDxYouth@Tallinn talk, Barton highlighted two of those: doing practice exams and creating a study schedule.

While the majority of students review their notes out of a fear of forgetting something during an exam, the top students do practice tests that require them to apply what they remember, which better prepares them for their exams. Similarly, many students create study schedules, but the vast majority of them stick to that schedule for less than a week. The top students, on the other hand, typically stick to their schedule for over month. These top students stick to their schedule by creating it in a different way—they put in the things that they like to do first (e.g., hobbies, sports, socializing, etc.) before they put in their study times. This ensures that they have time scheduled to enjoy things, which makes studying not seem like a chore that is taking them away from the things they want to do. You can view Douglas Barton’s TEDxYouth@Tallinn talk below.

 

 

Supporting Your Teen at School

Your child spends almost one-third of their day at school, which makes it an important influence on their life. In the teen years, that influence likely grows as their friends opinions begin to play a more central role in their lives. One of the most powerful indicators of teenagers’ success in school is their connection to school—feeling like they belong at the school and are close to others there, including teachers. Attachment to school is associated with lower use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana, as well as lower rates of sexual activity, fewer thoughts about or attempts at suicide, and lower levels of violent behavior.

Research shows that even in the teen years, parents who are involved in their child’s education improve their academic success. Yet many parents become less involved as their child reaches middle and high school. While your child may be breaking away a bit more as they reach the teen years and look for more independence, there are still ways for you to be involved. The extension office at the University of Minnesota has some suggestions:

  • Expect success
  • Communicate with teachers
  • Support student activities
  • Volunteer in the school
  • Involve both parents
  • Encourage your teen to tutor or mentor others
  • Recognize your teen’s academic accomplishments
  • Create a positive home environment that encourages learning
  • Establish quiet time every night for studying, reading, or writing
  • Provide extra support to your teen during transitional times
  • Talk with your teen about their school classes and activities and monitor their attendance
  • Keep a calendar that lists school events, projects, and activities, as well as family events
  • Use screens wisely
  • Know how and where your kids spend free time, especially after school

For more information on these points, see the full article from Minnesota extension.

Local Unit Spotlight: STEPS PTSA Takes On The World!

Today’s post kicks off a new series highlighting the good things that our local PTAs and Councils are doing. If your PTA or Council would like to brag a bit about what they are doing, send a short write-up to your District or Region Director, noting that it’s for One Voice Illinois. Don’t forget to send us some pictures of your event as well!

STEPS PTSA, servicing the Indian Prairie District 204 transition program for young adults with disabilities, kicked off the 2018 school year in style! More than 50 PTSA members, including parents, teachers, students, alumni, administrators, and school board members were on hand to celebrate a summer of successful and noteworthy achievements.

The STEPS PTSA recognized 17 students and coaches for their accomplishments. Their accomplishments included Special Olympics state qualifiers, members of Team USA—Unified Cup tournament, Special Olympics USA games, Special Olympics World Games, keynote speaker at the National Best Buddies conference, keynote speaker at the Special Olympics Women in Leadership breakfast, MLS All-Star athlete, and members of the Chicago Fire All-Star soccer team. The students and coaches each shared their amazing experiences with the audience and each brought memorabilia, photos, medals, uniforms, and newspaper articles to display. The audience cheered them on waving pom-poms and rally towels. It was a wonderful celebration of student abilities and a fantastic way to start the year!

The STEPS PTSA was formed in 2017 with the goal of focusing on the unique abilities of these young adults and supporting the STEPS Transition Program. The STEPS PTSA works to create social opportunities, activities, and events that allow their members to get involved in the community. STEPS Alumni are an important part of the PTSA. They are invited to join the PTSA so that they will continue to have access to social and community activities and events. The STEPS PTSA knows the importance of building an inclusive culture and breaking down barriers. The sky is the limit for the STEPS PTSA students and alumni!

8 Actions Parents Can Take to End Bullying

It can be difficult as a parent to help your child through being bullied, and even harder when it turns out your child is the bully. Add in cyberbullying, which wasn’t even possible when most of today’s parents were kids, and it can be easy to feel at a loss about what to do.

With recent studies showing that at least half of all children are directly involved in bullying either as the victim, perpetrator, or both, there’s a high likelihood that your child will come in personal contact with bullying. Think Kindnesshas a list of eight actions parents can take to end bullying:

  1. Talk with your kids—every day.
  2. Spend time and volunteer at your school.
  3. Be a good example of kindness.
  4. Learn the signs and symptoms.
  5. Create healthy anti-bully habits early.
  6. Establish household rules about bullying.
  7. Teach your children to be a good witness.
  8. Teach your child about cyberbullying.

The article has additional information on each of these pointsto help you take a pro-active approach to bullying with your child. In addition, your PTA may want to implement PTA’s Connect for Respectprogram at your school. The program provides your PTA with the tools to have a meaningful and productive conversation on bullying with both students and families.