It may seem obvious to say that Student Learning is the goal of schooling. In some schools, however, the belief that all children can succeed--regardless of race or ethnicity, native language, poverty, or special needs--is lacking. Sadly, the achievement in these schools reflects this belief. But research has shown, time and time again, that given the right supports and strategies, every child can learn. These supports and strategies include:

A balance between student support and academic press. Schools exemplify the potential for change when support for students and families is at the forefront of school improvement efforts. “Helping students deal with their own personal challenges improve student connections to the school, and facilitating this support throughout the entire staff means that the likelihood of a student-to-adult connection can be increased,” observed an MSU K-12 Outreach staffer. But while student support is very important, work with Michigan schools revealed that a similar focus needs to be placed on academic achievement. Our experience shows that sometimes a school that excells at providing a caring and supportive climate and culture for students are hesitant to stress academics. But poor academic achievement of the students in a school is evidence that student learning needs equal time and effort. “There needs to be a balance with academic structure, curriculum and rigor,” observed an MSU K-12 specialist. One way to do this is to involve students in their own data. Several Michigan schools have adopted a system where students track their own data in notebooks. This gives them ownership of their data…and their learning. In some schools, students knew where they were in every subject in relation to where they needed to be

High-quality, student-centered teaching. The quality of classroom instruction is critical to student learning; in fact, it's the most important factor in student learning. It makes sense, then, that successful schools have systems in place to: monitor the quality of instruction in every classroom; provide ongoing, job-embedded professional development for all teachers; and create collaborative and collegial mechanisms for lesson planning and data review.

A high-quality, rigorous and aligned curriculum. This curriculum, related assessments and instructional strategies should be aligned to state standards, as well as within grade levels in a school and across a district. In addition, curricula and assessments should be vertically aligned from grade to grade. That is, each grade's curriculum should build upon the previous grade's curriculum so students work on expanding their skills and knowledge in a coherent fashion.

The articles and videos in this category of MSU K-12 Connect will explore these multifaceted dimensions of student learning.

“Don’t we know by now that poor kids can’t learn?  Their parents are really kids themselves. They don’t have resources at home. They can’t help that. They’re kids. Why are we putting so much pressure on them?  And if we are being honest with ourselves, it’s ten times worse if we lump in the ESL kids, the disabled kids and, Lord help me, those special ed kids!”

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