For more than a decade numerous policies, meetings, articles, studies and debates have been centered on a simple declarative statement — all children in America will start school ready to learn.[i] Coined under the Education Summit of 1989′s six “National Education Goals,” it was the beginning of our nation’s commitment to improving educational achievement across the board.
Fast forward twenty-two years and thousands of children in spite of our efforts continue to funnel into the American school system each year ill-prepared, causing teachers to devote what is already limited classroom time to playing catch up with students not performing at peak potential. Clearly the system isn’t working; the goal remains the same but it is time Americans take a different approach to school readiness and academic achievement.
Through breaking down the conventional methods by which we understand the learning process and looking at the physiology of the child we can come to understand why previous initiatives have failed and why more and more children are entering the classroom ill-equipped to learn. Modern brain research can be applied to parenting, teaching, and education policy to improve school readiness and bolster academic achievement.
When it comes to impact on education, neuroplasticity is one of the most important and groundbreaking discoveries about the brain that we have to date. Intelligence is not fixed as we once supposed; rather, it develops and changes throughout our lives. Neuroscientists know and accept the importance of motor development and its effect on learning readiness.
Research gives strong evidence that daily physical movements integrated into the curriculum increases academic scores.[ii] In one study on perception-motor development and school readiness in kindergartners, the resulting correlation confirmed that variations in perceptual-motor skills explained most of the variations in learning readiness. It also demonstrated the clear linear relationship between independent visual functions and school readiness as well as the additive nature of perceptual-motor skills and their correlation with reading ability.[iii]Or as educator Eric Jensen puts it, “today’s children do not get the early motor stimulation needed for basic much less optimal school success.”[iv] In order to allow the brain to function normally, we must adapt to the 21st century learner and address the physiological deficiencies that are arising in children due to limited physical movement and other detrimental hallmarks of modern society. Much like a car needs a motor, tires and gas in order to run properly, children must be physiologically put together before they can learn.