Betsy Hill and Roger Stark posed the question in an article published on the Learning Counsel. They write …
During global Brain Awareness Week, some seven years ago in March 2015, The Kennedy Forum convened experts at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, MA to consider perspectives and review (then) recent findings on brain research. Representatives from the fields of neuroscience, pediatrics, psychology, mindfulness, neurocognitive behavior, education, healthcare, research, and technology gathered to explore ways to effectively convert brain health and fitness knowledge into high-powered tools for improving the well-being of the U.S. population. These experts agreed that focusing on early childhood development through neuro-supportive, school-based intervention models would maximize an investment in national brain health and fitness.
Even then, it was known that evidenced-based, brain-building activities are among the most accessible and direct routes to improving academic achievement and optimal mental health in our nation’s youth, especially when reinforced throughout childhood and adolescence. It was believed that effective brain health and fitness interventions would play a key role in revitalizing school learning and American society
Back in 2015, The Kennedy Forum suggested that a concentrated focus on brain health and fitness would improve the lives of Americans and restore our nation’s status as a global frontrunner in education, ensuring prosperity for citizens and country alike.
They weren’t wrong. The problem was, how do you get the nation to care? We’ve tried No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds. We’ve tried measuring and assessing. We’re tried increasing and decreasing funding. And the country still, on average, lags many other less affluent and less powerful nations in academic achievement.
Perhaps we should think back to what the United States did in the 1960s after Sputnik made it clear that we were not the frontrunner in space. Perhaps what we need is another Moon Shot of sorts, with a similar lofty goal at the end of the decade.
The challenge is, what shall the goal be? It is (relatively) easy to stand before the country and suggest the goal of putting a human on the moon and returning him home safely before the end of the decade. But cognitive training is less well known. We dare say the average American isn’t fully aware of the potential benefits of cognitive skills training to their children and their families. Still American parents do care about their children’s future and the parents of 65 percent of them know that their child isn’t reading proficiently at grade level. What if the moon shot was a declaration that the nation would double the percentage of students reading at grade level by the end of the decade? Not just increase a percent to two a year. Double it. Times Two!
That’s what happened with that group of 7th grade students who engaged in brain fitness training. The percentage of those students more than doubled, in just a year. In fact, we may know more about how to achieve that goal than we did about putting a man in the moon when President Kennedy announced the moon shot in 1961.
Perhaps cognitive training could be the fuel for Education’s Moon Shot.