Funding, policies, and regulations can only go so far. Without a desire to learn, America's students will continue to stagnate.
Amid the dizzying crush of school improvement efforts -- federal incentive grants, new regulations for teacher evaluations, proposals to raise state curriculum standards -- how often do you hear discussion about student motivation as a factor in academic achievement?
A new report from the Center on Education Policy suggests student motivation is a potential missing ingredient in campus improvement, and that it deserves more attention from educators, parents, community organizations, and policymakers.
In examining a wide swath of research, CEP found some common themes among initiatives that were successful as well as those that fell short of expectations, said Alexandra Usher, a senior research assistant at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank and the report's lead author.
"It's important to remember that we haven't found the magic answer to how to motivate all students," Usher told me. "But what we do know could help guide policy decisions."
Schools nationwide are experimenting with initiatives aimed at boosting student motivation, incorporating new programs aimed at piquing their interest or helping them feel more connected to the material they are being taught. In some instances, and not without controversy, schools have resorted to outright bribery, offering students cash and other rewards in exchange for greater effort and achievement.