Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Student Achievement Gap, Stress, and Self-Regulation

Jonah Lehrer dissects and builds on a New York Times article on the education Achievement gap. Quotes from Jonah’s post:

  • “most of the research suggests that the “achievement gap” has real neurological roots, which are caused by distinct home environments: Hart and Risley showed that language exposure in early childhood correlated strongly with I.Q. and academic success later on in a child’s life.”
  • “This is really important research, but I can’t help but think that part of the equation is missing. While Paul Tough, author of the Times article, focuses on gaps in environmental enrichment – poor kids are exposed to fewer words, have less stimulating conversations, etc. – he ignores what might be an even more potent variable: stress.”
  • “Gould’s work implies that the symptoms of poverty are not simply states of mind; they actually warp the mind. Because neurons are designed to reflect their circumstances, not to rise above them, the monotonous stress of living in a slum literally limits the brain.”

Dave writes How to educate those who seem uneducable, building on Jonah’s post and linking to “research by Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman showing that self-discipline is more important than high IQ in student achievement.”

I agree that the importance of stress management and self-discipline (or emotional self-regulation) are often overlooked, which is precisely why we are focusing there. You can read a Technology & Learning magazine article on Biofeedback for Emotional Management and Peak Performance, and a post on Cognitive Neuroscience and Education Today, where we mentioned:

(new programs help address) Anxiety and stress: not only test anxiety, but overall high-levels of anxiety that inhibit learning and higher-order thinking: a program already used in many schools, and with promising research results, is the Institute of HeartMath’s Freeze-Framer. Read How stress and anxiety may affect Learning Readiness, and Why chronic stress is something to avoid.

Good night,


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5 Responses

  1. Ben Richards says:

    The achievement gap is linked to the IQ gap. See the Dreary study discussed on Gene Expression:

    “Deary took the analysis a step further however and did a little latent variable modeling. As the IQ test had three components/subtests (verbal, nonverbal, quantitative), he correlated a latent g factor with a latent academic factor using the following subtests: English, English Literature, Math, Science, Geography, French (n=12519). The correlation between the latent factors was .81. That is: 66% of the variance in latent (general) academic achievement can be explained by latent cognitive ability—measured 5 years previously. While he hypothesizes that such things as “school ethos” and “parental support” are good areas to search for the other 34%, based on Rohode’s work, it is likely going to be found in residual, first order factors (see Carroll or McGrew).

    Take home message: While general cognitive ability and academic achievement are not isomorphic, the former is necessary for the latter, while the converse is not necessarily true. Spearman suggested this more than a century ago, and, to quote the last sentence in Deary’s work – These data establish the validity of g for this important life outcome.”

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