BofEd Candidate Merrill Lunt's Response to Yale Study Query

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Metuchen Matters:  A recent Yale study claims that high schoolers are bored, stressed and tired from the contemporary curriculum. How do we ensure in our district that we will be able to engage our students and encourage them in rigorous academic challenge without increasing the amount of stress and anxiety the current system seems to create in their lives?  

Merrill Lunt: Hello Metuchen Matters, Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to this question.

As the survey was nationwide, we would need to understand how our High School students fit into this mold. There are 3 negative feelings in particular the study identified - Bored, Stressed, and Tired.  I will address each separately. Though the Yale study was focused specifically on High School students, these feelings may apply to students in younger grades as well.

Bored: If students are not being engaged in the classroom they are going to be bored. And some subject matter will be boring to some students no matter what you do. I believe what we can control includes the quality of instruction, the diversity of classes offered and the proper fit for each student in the classes they are taking.  Individualizing a student's learning through differentiated instruction will help maintain interest level and reduce boredom. I would also like to see added diversity in the offering of classes, clubs, and sports. The more we can engage a student in learning, both in and out of the classroom, the more likely we are to help them be successful. Adding a variety of different classes, including new subject areas, clubs, & sports would have the benefit of allowing our students to find what they enjoy and excel at. The enthusiasm of that discovery would engage them in the process of their learning as they realize they have what it takes to be successful.

Stressed: High school students across the country are told the minute they enter the high school everything they do, every class they choose, every test they take, every activity they participate in impacts their post-high school plans. This message in and of itself is stressful. Dr. Caputo has defined goals for our district that focus on the Whole Child. Two of these tenets - SAFE and SUPPORTED -have goals related to reducing student stress across all grade levels.  As a board member my role would be to continue to make sure these goals remain in place and are being measured, met and supported.

Tired: We are extremely fortunate our school district starts the High School day at 8:30 am. Other districts across NJ start their High School day as early as 7:00. That's something we definitely got right.  But many of our high school students are still sleep deprived.  According to the National Sleep Foundation teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Our students are encouraged to participate in sports and other after school activities.  This may get them home late to start their homework. Other school districts have programs such as allowing students to opt out of physical education when taking a high school sport and then have a study hall to give them time to work on their homework.  Is that something we could consider? As a board member, I would be asking questions like this to understand if it could help our students.

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to answer this question. I hope to have the opportunity to serve our community as a board member. My focus on diversifying the offerings in our curriculum would have a direct and positive impact on the well-being of our students. As we increase rigor we need to maintain our focus on the health and well-being of all students.


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