School & Non-School Factors Leading to Success in School

In the last article in the series, Future of School Reform, Jeffrey R. Henig and S. Paul Reville, write about the importance of non-school factors in determining success in school.  Their article, Why Attention Will Return to Non-School Factors, argues that we have paid far too little attention to the critical nature of non-school factors in determining whether a student is able to succeed in school.  They also discuss the tendency of politicians and educational leaders to ignore non-school factors while focusing on school factors such as type of curriculum, type of instruction, accountability, and high-stakes testing.  These factors may be somewhat important, but they argue that the non-school factors (shown in the diagram above) trump the school factors every time.  In fact they write:

Our vision of the future of education reform is simple: American schools won’t achieve their goal of “all students at proficiency” unless they attend to non-school factors.

It will be “many children left behind” unless we are honest with ourselves and correct the course on the non-school factors.

  • Promoting in our society the strong connection between good nutrition and healthy living. Michelle Obama’s efforts are one example.
  • Emotional well-being of our children and their parents.  Programs for managing stress and a more open society to therapy as a pathway to emotional well being.
  • Stability in a child’s life.   Parents who are fully employed in jobs that bring meaning.  Our society needs to find a solution to the job crisis in America.
  • Safety in home and schools.  Children who are fearful will not learn effectively
  • Parents who support their children throughout their schooling and are involved in their child’s school-related life.  Parents who read and play with their children.
  • Parents who take responsibility for their children nurturing productive relationships with peers.  Hands-on policy that helps children develop the confidence to say no to risky behaviors.
  • Parents who have sufficient resources to provide their children with enriching activities and communities that are not averse to spending tax dollars to develop sufficient community resources to support after-school programming (parks, swimming pools, community centers, etc.)

The authors point out in their article that our fixation on improving “school-only factors” has not done much to close the achievement gap over the past 20 years.  They site a number of studies and results which demonstrate that our focus on content, standards, preparation for tests, and accountability measures has done very little to close the achievement gap for students from low-income versus affluent families.  When will we stop and ask ourselves, “What should we be doing differently?”  Henig and Reville offer a vision for the future of school reform linked to non-school factors.