Lucio Masthead Graphic
August 16, 2006
Contact: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
(512) 463-0385
Study techniques may reduce dropout rate in Texas

As we ready our children for the beginning of school, we face the challenge of ensuring that they study regularly and properly. While we all know that studying is tantamount to academic achievement, how many of us can honestly say that when we were in school, we practiced the most efficient study techniques and habits?

Most of us never knew what those techniques were. Parents, despite their best intentions, are often perplexed as to proper study skills and often feel inadequate in training their children for this component of academics. Parents often rely on schools to train their children how to study and schools on parents. This can be equally frustrating for teachers and parents.

I, for one, feel that I would have performed at a higher level in school had I been taught how to study at an early age. And I believe that many of our students who get discouraged and drop out lack the skills to study effectively.

Unfortunately, I frequently hear complaints that we are teaching to the TAKS (the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) exam. Teachers are required to teach children techniques for passing this exam. Some of these study techniques may be ideal to utilize for overall academics, mid-terms, finals and even the dreaded pop quizzes.

Currently, school districts may choose to offer the Reading Application and Study Skills course to high schoolers. Students enrolled in this elective subject can acquire techniques for learning from texts, including studying word meanings, producing effective summaries, identifying and relating key ideas, drawing and supporting inferences and reviewing study strategies. Although this sounds like an essential component of a high school curriculum, the course is optional and not mandatory for either school districts or students. However, there is interest in this subject. During the 2004-2005 school year, 130 school districts out of 1,227 offered the course. Of the school districts in my Senatorial District (27), five offered it. Perhaps this class could be the foundation for teaching kids how to study for other subjects like mathematics or foreign languages. Maybe we could tailor such curriculum to include the elementary grades, building upon the information from year to year.

Although I am just beginning to research this idea, and I realize funding and time constraints pose the greatest challenge, I will continue to explore mandatory classes that teach children how to study beginning at an early age. For now, I urge school districts to consider offering the available elective course, especially in areas with high populations of at-risk students.

Another program that originated in San Diego, CA. and is gaining popularity in South Texas and other parts of the state, is the Advancement Via Individual Determination, known as AVID. Schools can apply for this program, administered through the University of Texas Pan-American, using funds from sources like Comprehensive School Reform Grants, Title Funds, local funds and even funds from House Bill 1, the recently enacted public school finance law.

AVID is an in-school academic support program for grades 5 through 12, and incorporates study methods that target underachieving students so they can succeed in school and in taking college entrance exams. While AVID is more comprehensive than a study technique program, it does incorporate study skills, providing academic and motivational support. I believe that a key ingredient to effective studying is motivation, and that should be part of any curriculum involving study skills.

AVID is in 226 Texas schools, spanning 50 districts. And its results are impressive; participating seniors had a 99.3 percent graduation rate, compared to the statewide rate of 84.6 percent.

The federal government passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, intended to improve failing schools. According to this Act, all schools in the nation are expected to perform at 100 percent by the 2013-2014 school year. It would be a travesty if we failed to reach the mark simply because children don't know how to study well.

Every time a child cannot meet his or her potential, or a child drops out of school, we have failed. Teaching a child strong study habits may avoid both situations and make Texas a leader in public education.

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.