The following are topics that deal with different aspects of the school learning environment and student supports: Afterschool Programs, Class Size, Physical Environment and Learning, School Counselors, School Lunch, and School Start Time
Afterschool programs are not only a way to ensure that children have a safe and secure destination immediately after school, but they are also a way for students to further engage in academic, social, and physical activities. Studies have shown that afterschool programs have positive effects on students’ academic performance. This topic is closely related to summer learning and time and learning.
- Afterschool Alliance – The Afterschool Alliance works toward ensuring that all kids have access to affordable, quality afterschool programs. This site has research and policy briefs on afterschool programs as well as information about afterschool programs in each state.
- Strengthening Afterschool for Older Youth through Policy and Practice: A Policy Brief – This brief by the American Youth Policy Forum cites reasons why afterschool programs are important aspects of education and demonstrates ways that policy can help develop and enhance afterschool programs and increase their availability to all students, especially those who are disadvantaged or older.
- After School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What it Takes to Achieve It – This brief by the Harvard Family Research Project provides an overview of some benefits of afterschool programs: increased academic performance; social/emotional development; crime, drugs, and sex prevention; and promoting health and wellness. It also describes what it takes to make an afterschool program successful: access and sustained participation in programs, quality programming, and strong partnerships.
Reducing class sizes, when paired with adjusting teaching practices to include more frequent feedback and interaction, can have positive effects on student achievement. Since reducing class sizes can be costly, ample research has been conducted to determine the most cost efficient means of managing class sizes.
- Education Commission of the States: Class Size – The ECS was created to improve education by facilitating the exchange of information and ideas among school leaders and policymakers. This site has research about the impacts of class size on student learning and information about state policies concerning class size.
- The Center for Public Education: Class Size and Student Achievement: Research Review – The Center for Public Education provides up-to-date research, data, and analysis on current educational issues. This site contains review of the literature examining the effects of class size on education.
Physical Environment and Learning:
Studies have shown that the physical environment of a classroom or other learning space has an impact on students’ learning. Inadequate physical conditions – temperature, lighting, air quality, sound control, etc. – can have detrimental effects not only on a student’s achievement, but also on his or her mood, attendance, and behavior. How a classroom is arranged can also affect student achievement.
- The Effect of the Physical Learning Environment on Teaching and Learning – This report by the Victorian Institute of Teaching draws upon other literature to explain the effects of the physical environment on teaching and learning.
- The Impact of School Environment: A Literature Review – This report by the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the School of Education, Communication and Language Science of the University of Newcastle investigates the effects of the physical environment on learning and concludes that in a changing world, no school design will last forever and that we must be able to adapt to new educational demands and new cohorts of teachers and learners.
School Counselors are responsible for providing academic, career, personal, and social counseling for students. Effective counselors can have positive impacts on a school’s climate and on students’ personal and academic success.
- Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Guidance and Counseling Research – This site has a list of recent studies and publications about school counseling.
- California Department of Education: Research on School Counseling Effectiveness – This site contains a list of research conducted on the effectiveness of school counseling.
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides free meals for students from families that make less than 130% of the poverty level and provides reduced-price meals for students from familes that make between 130% and 185% of the poverty level. Since school-aged children receive lunch and sometimes breakfast from their school, it is important that the meals provided are adequately nutritious.
- USDA Food and Nutrition Service: School Meals – The USDA Food and Nutrition Service runs the National School Lunch Program and is in charge of setting nutrition standards for school meals. Here you can find information about the NLSP, information about nutrition, and relevant policy memos.
- Healthy School Lunches – The Healthy School Lunch Campaign is sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It’s goal is to provide school lunches that promote the health of all children. This site has research articles about school lunch nutrition, recommended changes, and report cards that analyze the nutritious value of lunches provided by some of the nation’s larges school districts.
Research on the circadian rhythms of teenagers and young adults has shown that adolescents are biologically programmed to fall asleep and wake up later than adults; however, school start times do not reflect this. Experiments with later school start times have shown positive results: when the beginning of school was delayed, kids are less sleepy, less depressed, more motivated, and better behaved. Later school start times also improve academic achievement.
- Dr. Paul Kelley on Circadian Rhythms and Learning – Dr. Paul Kelley is an education innovator who argues that science, not tradition should shape education policy. This site has blog posts about his research, experiments, and results with later school start times.
- National Sleep Foundation: School Start Time and Sleep – The National Sleep Foundation aims to inform the public, healthcare providers, and policymakers about the necessity of adequate sleep. This site provides research showing that too many school children are sleep deprived and that later school start times has many health and learning benefits.
- Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior – This article by Judith A. Owens, MD, MPH; Katherine Belon, BA; and Patricia Moss, PhD investigates the impact of a 30 minute delay in school start time on adolescent sleep, mood, and behavior. The authors conclude that the 30 minute delay was associated with significant improvements in adolescent alertness, mood, and health.