Archive for January, 2013

Financial Support From Parents Can Result In Lower GPA For Some College Students

A recent article from the website reports that financial support from parents during a student’s college years could, potentially, affect that student’s college GPA for the worse.  The differences in GPA for different levels of parental financial contribution were “modest”: parental contributions of nothing predicted a college GPA of 3.15, parental contributions of $16,000 predicted a college GPA of just below 3, and contributions of $40,000 predicted a GPA of 2.95. 

Although interesting, the results of this study probably aren’t shocking.  It makes a lot of sense that parental financial contributions could take away a student’s incentive to study hard, as well as provide a false sense of financial security that could be demotivating.  Read on for the full article from RedOrbit. 


Parents looking to assist their children with the financial costs of attending college face a paradox – they will likely graduate, but the more money parents provide, the lower their kids’ GPA will tend to be.

According to a new study from University of California, Merced, sociology professor Laura T. Hamilton, the road to lower grades could be paved with parents’ best intentions.

“Students with parental support are best described as staying out of serious academic trouble, but dialing down their academic efforts,” Hamilton wrote in the study that appeared in the latest edition of the American Sociological Review.

With college costs skyrocketing just as government-backed financial aid appears to be lagging, future college students may need to turn to their parents more than ever for financial support. Hamilton said she was curious about the overall effect of a parent-financed education.

“Regardless of class background, the toll parental aid takes on GPA is modest,” Hamilton noted. “Yet, any reduction in student GPA due to parental aid—which is typically offered with the best of intentions—is both surprising and important.”

Hamilton began her study by positing two different popular mindsets. The first, dubbed the “more-is-more perspective,” says that parents’ financial support fuels a student’s progress toward academic success. The second, called the “more-is-less perspective,” asserts that parents’ financial support creates a false sense of comfort and is actually a disincentive for academic performance.

To investigate which mindset is more valid, Hamilton analyzed figures from three large federal data sets that allow parental backing and grades to be compared. Her analysis took into account family socio-economic status and the different choices families make on their role in paying for college.

Hamilton found that parental assistance increased the chances of a student graduating within five years. While students with no parental aid during their freshman year had a 56 percent probability of graduating, students who received $12,000 from their parents were predicted to graduate at a rate of 65 percent.

However, parents’ financial backing was found to correlate with a lower average GPA, particularly for families earning more than $90,000. At that income level, parents’ not giving any support predicts a GPA of 3.15, $16,000 in aid predicts a GPA under 3.0, and $40,000 in support predicts a 2.95.

Hamilton posited that social distractions could be more tempting for students with less ‘skin in the game’ financially. She also noted that some parents acknowledge the freedom that college affords young adults, and even encourage them to enjoy their new found freedom.

“Some parents were 100 percent complicit in this,” Hamilton told the Associated Press. “They absolutely wanted their children to go to school and party hard. They told me explicitly it’s not about grades, it’s about having fun, the best years of your life.”

“Now for some families it all works out OK,” she said. “The ‘best years of your life’ idea has trickled down to what everybody thinks college should be. But not everybody can afford for college to be like that. And they pay for that for a long time.”

She added that wealthier families have the benefits of certain professional and social connections, buffering their children from potentially lower grades.

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ADHD Drugs Lower Criminal Behavior

The link between ADHD and poor performance in school, depression, anxiety, and an increase in criminal behavior is well established.  Although the benefits of taking a prescription medication must be weighed against the risks, a recent Swedish study reported on followed over 25,000 people diagnosed with ADHD.  The Swedish researchers looked at their medication records and their criminality rates, and found that people who consistently took their meds had a substantially lower risk of participating in criminal behavior.  Read below for key excerpts from the RedOrbit article:


A study by British and Swedish researchers recently found that medication for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could help reduce some instances of criminal behavior.

Medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and other drugs could help limit hyperactivity and elevate the ability to focus. Reuters reports that Ritalin is produced by Novartis, a Swedish drug maker, while companies sell other ADHD drugs like Eli Lilly (Strattera), Johnson & Johnson (Concerta), and Shire (Adderall and Vyvanse).

These medications could be beneficial for children past school and into their adult life.

“There definitely is a perception that it’s a disease of childhood and you outgrow your need for medicines,” Dr. William Cooper, a Vanderbilt University professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine, told the Associated Press (AP). “We’re beginning to understand that ADHD is a condition for many people that really lasts throughout their life.”

Based on the findings of the research project, the team of investigators found that, when the patients had been taking their ADHD medication, there was a drop of 32 percent in the criminality rate of men and 41 percent reduction of crime for females.

“We have shown that ADHD medication very probably reduces the risk of crime,” explained Henrik Larsson, an associate professor at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institutet, in a prepared statement. “However, we need to point out that most medical treatments can have adverse side effects, so risks must be weighed up against benefits and the individual patient’s entire life situation taken into consideration before medications are prescribed.”

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Wisdom of Learning



A few months ago, I was asked to review a new learning website called Wisdom of Learning.

Wisdom of Learning is an impressive tool for a wide variety of students.  The site is attractive and inviting, and takes a holistic approach to teaching students of all ages how to set themselves up for academic success.  The site considers planning, time management, and even how the health of our bodies (nutrition and exercise) affect our ability to concentrate and to learn high grades. 

One feature of the site that particularly impressed me was the feature that teaches students how to auto plan their weeks using a calendar that automatically blocks in need-tos (classes), have-tos (study time) and want-tos (exercise, movies with friends). I  read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity a year or two ago, and it transformed my life by teaching me time management skills that save massive amounts of time.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the book’s sentiments echoed on the website. 


Another impressive feature is the attention paid to physical health.  I know my own ability to focus is greatly enhanced when I eat right and exercise, but this is a fact often ignored by those who profess to help students to succeed.  The site encourages healthy habits that will lead to higher grades. 

I’d highly recommend checking out Wisdom of Learning – it could be just what you or your students need to achieve not just academic success, but success in many arenas!

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Pediatric Group Says Recess Just As Important As Math, Reading

In a not very surprising recent study, researchers have discovered the overarching importance of recess to students’ health – physical, metal, and emotional.  Recess allows students time for unstructured play, creativity, and social interaction – the beneficial effects of which are only now beginning to be fully understood.  As the pressures of increased academic loads threaten to continue to infringe upon students’ recess time, this study rings a cautionary note – do away with recess at great risk to the health and development of students! Read below for the full article. 


Ask a school full of children what their favorite part of the school day is and many will say recess. And while some education expertsmight feel recess is taking away from other important academic activities, at least one group is supporting play time at school.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement saying recess should never be withheld for punitive or academic reasons. Recess helps keep children’s mind and body active, and withholding play time is counterproductive to healthy child development. Recess is most children’s favorite period, and parents and teachers should be encouraging it, according to the group.

Not only is recess crucial for the body and mind development, it is also important for social interaction, said AAP in their policy statement.

“Children need to have downtime between complex cognitive challenges,” said Dr. Robert Murray, a pediatrician and professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and co-author of the statement. “They tend to be less able to process information the longer they are held to a task. It’s not enough to just switch from math to English. You actually have to take a break.”

Murray said increasing pressure put on educational systems to find more time for academics has led to “an erosion of recess time around the country.” After compiling a few decades worth of research, there is significant indication that “recess plays a huge role in a child’s life, and not just because it’s fun.”

Recess offers children “cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits,” he added, including better attention span, improved classroom behavior, and an important opportunity for free, unstructured play, creativity and interaction with other kids.

The AAP began research on the role of recess back in 2007. They expected their research would uncover how important recess is as a physical outlet for children. What they found, however, was that the scheduled breaks extended way beyond just physical interactions. As well as affecting social, emotional and cognitive development, recess also “helps children practice conflict resolution if we allow them unstructured play, and it lets them come back to class more ready to learn and less fidgety,” according to the policy statement.

The policy could invigorate schools to either bring back or extend recess. Schools have been increasingly trimming down school days and adding more academic activities in place of recess in recent years. These school systems could be inadvertently destroying a much needed part in childhood development.

A recent national survey published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that just six states—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Illinois and Iowa—adhere to standards from the National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) that schoolchildren participate in 150 minutes a week of physical education. And only three states—Delaware, Virginia and Nebraska—have 20 minutes of mandatory elementary school recess a day.

About 73 percent of elementary schools provide regular recess for all grades, but “it’s difficult to quantify at a national level exactly how many schools are taking it away as a policy,” said Catherine Ramstetter, a health educator at The Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Cincinnati and co-author of the statement.

Upwards of 40 percent of US school districts have reduced or eliminated recess to allow for more academic time, and one in four elementary schools no longer provides recess to all grades, according to studies cited by the policy authors.

A 2010 Gallup Survey of nearly 2,000 principals and school officials found that 77 percent of schools eliminate recess as a punishment and one in five cut recess time to meet testing requirements.

Ramstetter, who volunteers at the Catholic School in Cincinnati, OH, said she has personally encountered the challenges of maintaining regular recess. The inner-city school has no playground and only intermittent breaks either in the school’s gym or at a local park. And these intermittent breaks only occur up to fourth grade. She also reports that teachers will often withhold recess time as punishment.

Withholding recess as punishment is a big mistake, said the authors. Banning unruly kids from recess can backfire since these students are the ones who may potentially benefit the most from these break times.

It should also be noted that recess is not the same as physical education. Many schools use Phys. Ed. as means for replacing recess. Ramstetter said that while gym class offers children a chance to stretch their legs and get their heart rate up, it is still considered instructional time and has very different goals than those that come with unstructured recess.

She said it is also important to let kids play what and how they want, adding that playground monitors shouldn’t be stepping in and organizing playtime events. “When it’s structured, it’s not a break in the day,” she said.

While recess is important, the new AAP policy statement isn’t trying to force any hands. It is only calling for more studies to help determine how long breaks should be during the day. However, the statement authors said recess should be viewed as much an important part of the day as math and reading.

The policy authors said there’s a growing body of evidence that shows the power of recess improves overall concentration and creativity, not just for kids, but for adults as well.

Adults rarely sit down and spend two or three hours focusing on a single task. “We get up, we get coffee, we mix and match our tasks during the day so our concentration can stay sharp,” said Murray. “With kids, we have to schedule these breaks.”

Without such intentional periods of playtime, it is not just children’s waistlines that may suffer, but their ability to pay attention and their overall academic performance, according to the AAP authors.


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