“Follow the science.”
Those three words became a rallying cry during the Covid pandemic. And at first blush, the message seems straightforward: Identify best practices according to the evidence, and then do them.
But as we all learned, it’s not quite that simple, whether the subject is how to respond to a deadly virus, how to educate our children, or how to do both at the same time.
Following the science, including in the realm of education, involves tradeoffs, value judgments, and the complications, compromises, and tough choices endemic in the real world.
Yet for all of its limitations and complexities, “following the science” is one of the primary ways that we humans have made progress over the centuries. It’s also one of the primary ways that we can improve our schools so that all children finally gain the opportunity to fulfill their potential and thrive in the world they will inherit. The urgency of this goal only grew during the pandemic, which cruelly disrupted the home and school lives of children around the world.
Follow the Science to School: Evidence-based Practices for Elementary Education, edited by Michael J. Petrilli, Barbara Davidson, and Kathleen Carroll, offers workable, evidence-based answers to key questions such as:
- How can young children make sense of the code that is the alphabet?
- How does “reading comprehension” develop?
- How can elementary students be taught to write effectively?
- What about elementary mathematics? Are there some ways to teach fractions that work better than others?
- What’s the appropriate role of homework?
- What’s the best way for teachers to establish a safe and supportive learning environment?
Not everything that makes an elementary school great can be pinned to “evidence.” Skillful teaching and inspired leadership are each an art and a science. And sometimes science can’t give us a single strong answer to every question. But it often does. The science is out there. The evidence can point the way. And there are good approaches to meeting the challenges that thousands of teachers and students encounter every day.
As the editors write in the book’s introduction, “Helping students recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic is likely the greatest challenge that most of today’s educators will ever face.” We hope this book will be a valuable resource to all elementary educators working tirelessly to do better by their students.