To Sleep, Perchance to Teach

by Robert Pondiscio
September 25th, 2008

More than four out of ten teachers report sleeping six hours or less per night, according to researchers at Ball State University.  Nearly half admit to missing work or making mistakes due to “serious lack of sleep,” according to the report in Teacher Magazine.

While the study doesn’t correlate teachers’ reported sleep problems with instructional quality or student performance, the researchers speculated that the potential effects on schools could be significant, based on what is known about job performance and lack of sleep. ‘Sleepy teachers are at higher risk of providing insufficient supervision and inferior classroom instruction,’ notes Denise Amschler, a professor of physiology and health sciences and co-author of the study.

It’s not discussed in the report, but I’ve often wondered if sleep deprivation is a factor in poor teacher retention rates, particularly in low-achieving schools. The relentless push for high achievement often feels physically unsustainable. It is very easy to find yourself going weeks on very few hours of sleep per night.

Roland Fryer’s Idea Lab

by Robert Pondiscio
September 25th, 2008

Roland Fryer is poised to become one of the most influential people in education research, leading a $44 million dollar effort to test the efficacy of various educational theories.  The New York Times reports the Harvard economist has quit his job as New York City’s “chief equality officer” to run the Educational Innovation Laboratory.  Funded largely by Eli Broad, the effort “is intended to infuse education with the data-driven approach that is common in science and business.” 

“If the doctor said to you, ‘You have a cold; here are three pills my buddy in Charlotte uses and he says they work,’ you would run out and find another doctor,” Dr. Fryer tells the Times. “Somehow, in education, that approach is O.K.”

Those who have followed his work will not be surprised to learn the first idea to be put under the microscope are incentive programs that reward students for good grades and passing standardized tests, an idea closely associated with Fryer in New York City.