Happy Holidays! Five Education Research Reasons to Be Merry Today

By Sarah D. Sparks — December 25, 2014 1 min read
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It’s tempting to get gloomy about the state of our schools and our children’s welfare. I freely admit that it can be easier to identify risks and early warnings of doom, and a lot harder to find clear benefits, in education research.

So, as my holiday contribution to peace, joy, and goodwill, here are five reasons from 2014 for more optimistic perspectives:

1) Children are being exposed to less violence. A study in JAMA Pediatrics found large declines since 2003 in the rates of children ages 2 to 17 who were assaulted, bullied, sexually victimized, or exposed to dating violence.

2) Students from racial minorities are (slightly) less often identified as having intellectual disabilities. Five-year trend data in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found significantly fewer black students and moderately fewer Hispanic students categorized as having intellectual disabilities from 2004 to 2008 than a decade prior. Sure, this is a little cherry-picked, as racial disparities in other categories remain unchanged, but give me a break; it’s Christmas!

3) Yes, the United States has a lot of work to do on college enrollment and completion, but Census data show how far we’ve come:

4) Infant happiness shows in adults. An article in the aptly named Journal of Happiness Studies, based on a 28-year longitudinal study, found “positive affect” in infants was significantly associated with later reports of workplace hope and optimism, but negative affect in infancy or adolescence did not predict adult well-being. (That’s a nice sign for all those dealing with mopey toddlers and teenagers.)

5) More parents are reading to their preschoolers. The latest KidsCount data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation show that the percentage of children ages 1 to 5 whose parents read to them less than three times a week continues to drop.

As a runner-up, my colleague Catherine Gewertz over at Curriculum Matters notes that there’s a little light even in one of the most contentious topics of the year: the Common Core State Standards. Several studies out this year note that as principals and teachers get used to the standards, they are becoming happier with them and giving them “higher marks.”

Anyone have some positive studies or data from this year to share?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.