Monday, January 16, 2006

Building Better Brains

Daviess County, KY has a program to build better brains. Starting with the Class of 2010 -- that would be the Kindregarten class of 97-98 -- every student is taught and practices chess, every student studies a foreign language every year, and every child receives music lessons (usually keyboard piano). The idea is to simply build better brains, more neuronal connections, in every student.

Dance was quickly added in, which seemed non-academic to me at first, but does fit with the idea of building new motor and memory pathways.

So far, so good. Daviess County already had a pretty good school system when they started, placing at about the 60th percentile nationally despite having 35% of students qualifying for lunch assistance. More than halfway through the experiment, the district 7th graders are now just shy of the 80th percentile. (For comparison, the 10th graders are still just over 60). This number becomes even more remarkable when one considers...

Not all those tested in the project, called Graduation 2010, have been in the district the whole time. Like anywhere else, people move in and out.

Children entering kindergarten each year are about the same as before, at 60th percentile nationally.

The county had a tornado which did millions of dollars of damage to school buildings.

The superintendent who drove this whole idea has moved on to Fayette County, also in KY. Maybe your new masters won't have Asperger's. Maybe they'll have Kentucky accents instead.


Anonymous said...

Far too many educators and education professionals have cried for decades that the solution to the declining performance of American students is, of course, more money.

It is not until someone actually tries something different that actually has statistical proof behind it that a glimpse of what can be is visable.

Too often, we take the word of a professional because he is a professional without looking behind the curtain so to speak. In my counseling profession, I see far too many counselors willing to use "card games with kids" as a substitute for behavioral change, necessary for the child to succeed.

There is hope on the horizon, I can see it's bright glow from here.

DADvocate said...

Quite impressive (Daviess County). I compared it to my children's schools (Mason County, KY) which I consider pretty good and Daviess County's scores were far better at the 7th grade level even though Mason County had the help of my youngest son, who is in the 7th grade and "distinguished" in every category. (A little bragging.)

Anonymous said...

Don'cha love federalism and subsidiarity??!!

Imagine this program being hatched, administered, guidelined and [un]measured via some National Education Commissariat!

Incidentally, I think some kinds of dance and other coordinated rhythmic motion, have been shown to support development of the corpus callosum and other neurological benefits, especially where there is developmental lag.