Education Best of the Blogs

Blogs of the Week

January 10, 2012 4 min read

| NEWS | SCHOOLED IN SPORTS

Physical Activity Linked to School Success

Children who participate in physical activity also tend to benefit in the classroom, according to a new systematic review of 14 studies from the past few decades.

The review, published online last week in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, sought to discover a potential link between childhood physical activity and improved academic performance.

The review authors, based out of the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, examined 10 observational and four intervention studies, mostly from the United States and mostly focusing on physical education or school sports.

The sample sizes of the studies ranged from 53 to roughly 12,000 participants, anywhere from 6 to 18 years of age. The researchers highlighted two of the 14 studies as particularly “high quality.”

As it turned out, those two studies appeared to confirm the authors’ suspicions.

“According to the best-evidence synthesis, we found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance,” the authors wrote. “The findings of one high-quality intervention study and one high-quality observational study suggest that being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children.”

As the authors write in the background section of the review, this link could be caused by many factors: increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain, boosts in hormones such as norepinephrine and endorphins that help improve mood, and “increased growth factors that help create new nerve cells and support synaptic plasticity.”

However, there’s much more work to be done in this field.

The authors stress that only two of the 14 studies that they examined were deemed “high quality,” and thus, more high-quality studies that use objective measures of physical activity—rather than students’ or teachers’ reports—need to be conducted.

—Bryan Toporek

| NEWS | COLLEGE BOUND

Majors Matter in Prospects for College Graduates

Americans with a college education fare better in the job market than those with just a high school diploma or less—but just how much better depends on their field.

A new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, released last week, finds unemployment for recent college graduates is 8.9 percent, compared with 22.9 percent of job-seekers with just a high school education and 31.5 percent among high school dropouts.

Looking more deeply, the analysis finds that choice of major matters. Majors that are more closely aligned with particular occupations and industries tend to have lower unemployment rates, although there are exceptions.

The study found those with the highest jobless rates included:

• Architecture graduates (13.9 percent unemployment), likely linked to the construction industry, hard-hit by the recession

• Arts majors (11.1 percent)

• Humanities and Liberal Arts (9.4 percent)

• Social Sciences (8.9 percent)

• Recreation (8.3 percent)

• Computers and Math (8.2 percent)

• Law and Public Policy (8.1 percent)

Those with the most success in today’s job market:

• Health-care-related majors (5.4 percent unemployment)

• Education (5.4 percent)

• Agriculture and Natural Sciences (7 percent)

• Communication and Journalism (7.3 percent)

• Psychology and Social Work (7.3 percent)

• Business (7.4 percent)

• Engineering (7.5 percent)

• Life and Physical Sciences (7.7 percent)

The authors note that unemployment rates are relatively low for recent college students who majored in education and health care because these majors are attached to stable or growing industry sectors.

While jobless rates are encouraging for education, psychology, and social work majors, those fields do have earnings that are also low and only improve marginally with experience and graduate education, the study says.

—Caralee Adams

| NEWS | ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

Jailed Youths With Disabilities Need Support on Release

When young people with disabilities end up in the juvenile justice system, they’re less likely to return to youth prisons after their sentences are up if they have jobs or go to school quickly after being released, a new paper says.

But comprehensive programs that help these youths go from prison to the outside world are scarce, says this paper from Project Forum at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. And juveniles with disabilities have a high recidivism rate—higher than the 55 percent rate for youths without disabilities.

The report looks closely at the practices in four states—Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, and Oregon—when it comes to supporting all juveniles, including those with disabilities, who are leaving the justice system.

Some common practices the report found in states with programs intended to reduce recidivism for these young people include: a continuum of supports for youths that begins in prison and keeps going once they leave; transition facilitators or coordinators who are dedicated to working with these youths; and programs for reentering society that are comprehensive, addressing education, employment, social and behavioral skills, mental health, substance-abuse issues, housing, and transportation. Another common theme in the report? Budget problems often keep these programs from going long-term.

—Nirvi Shah

A version of this article appeared in the January 11, 2012 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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