Overcoming Impact of Adversity on Learning
Poverty, neglect, or family stress can make it especially difficult for young children to develop the self-discipline and habits of mind they will need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Armed with research and a commitment to the whole child, Washington state has transformed the way its agencies work together and in partnership with researchers to address the effects of early adversity on learning and to help disadvantaged children build resiliency and other so-called executive-function skills they need to learn and grow.
In the process, officials hope to create a national model for rapidly translating new research in fields like cognitive and neuroscience into usable practice.
The Innovation by Design work, launched in 2011 through the Frontiers of Innovation initiative at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, focuses on the importance of executive function, the umbrella term researchers give a collection of skills—focus, working memory, decisionmaking, and self-control among them—which have been found to be associated with academic achievement as well as social and career success. Those skills are governed by the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain just behind the forehead that has been called the "control room." It is one of the areas that sees the most rapid growth...
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