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Press Room

August 15, 2019

Most Recent Press Release:

New Report Explores Why Adolescents Seek to Change the World and How Educators and Adults Can Support Them

WASHINGTON, DC— Changes in their brains, combined with a greater awareness of peers and events around them, make adolescence a key time for students to figure out who they are, what they aspire to be, and what they want to do in the world, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed). The report, Science of Adolescent Learning: How Identity and Empowerment Influence Student Learning, explores the research explaining these changes and offers ways that educators and policymakers can support students during this critical time.

“Physical changes in adolescents are readily apparent. Less obvious are the subtle changes they make internally as they develop and experiment with various feelings and reactions to the world around them,” said Deb Delisle, All4Ed’s President and CEO. “During this critical time, educators can support adolescents by creating safe spaces for them to employ still-developing skills, provide support and guidance as they grow, and help them learn about their brain development. Most importantly, adolescents should never be made to feel as though they are the only ones experiencing a range of emotions or reactions to situations previously familiar to them.”

According to the report, a variety of skills emerge during adolescence, attributed to the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, that allow adolescents to contemplate their identities and provide opportunities for educators.

“Connecting academic learning experiences to adolescents’ identity development can raise the value of those experiences for students, increasing the likelihood that they will remember what they learned and motivate them to advance their learning in those areas,” the report reads.

Historically underserved and marginalized students face unique challenges as they develop their identities and seek purpose for their lives, the report notes. Often, the larger society in which these students live rejects, demeans, or ignores the identity groups to which they belong. Additionally, course material in school rarely reflects the history and contributions of people with whom they identify. Thus, the possibility of their finding relevance in their coursework hinders a much-needed focus on their academic pursuits.

The report offers a variety of recommendations for educators to support adolescents. For example, basic needs, such as food, acceptance, and feelings of safety, are important. So is creating time and space to model, teach, and practice or role-play times of stress, anger, pain, or discomfort. Authentic learning experiences, such as field trips or guest speakers with diverse backgrounds, allow students to connect with the real world. Conversely, practices that isolate students for academic catch-up or discipline are at odds with adolescents’ social and emotional development.

Policymakers should seek opportunities to support work- and project- based learning and help all students, especially first-generation college students, feel that postsecondary education is within their grasp. For example, supporting dual enrollment programs—in which high school students take college courses—reduces college costs and helps students recognize their academic promise.

By understanding the range of neurological developments and environmental factors that affect adolescent learning, educators and policymakers can support adolescents as they navigate increasingly complex social and political systems, ensuring adolescents’ academic achievement, postsecondary success, and overall healthy development.

“During adolescence, students are seeking opportunities to be change agents in the world,” said Delisle. “Over the last year, we’ve seen students from Parkland, Florida and across the country become tremendous advocates for school safety. It is incumbent upon us, as adults, to provide students with support and guidance while also equipping them with the knowledge and skills to make a positive difference in our society.”

Science of Adolescent Learning: How Identity and Empowerment Influence Student Learning is the last of four reports in All4Ed’s Science of Adolescent Learning series. The first report examined changes in the body and brain. The second report focused on adolescents’ risk taking, peer dependence, and changing motivations. The third report explored how culture and multiple environmental factors influence classrooms, schools, and student learning.

Science of Adolescent Learning: How Identity and Empowerment Influence Student Learning is available at

For more information on All4Ed’s Science of Adolescent Learning initiative, visit

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The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization committed to improving educational outcomes—and lives—of students, with a focus on those in middle and high school. We embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion and specifically advocate on behalf of all students who are historically underserved or marginalized.

Categories: Science of Adolescent Learning, Science of Learning


June 5, 2018

Most Recent Op-Ed:

GradNation Opinion: We Can’t Let Progress on High School Graduation Rates Mask a Deeper Problem

By Bob Wise, Robert Balfanz, John Bridgeland, and John Gomperts. As thousands of high school students walk across the graduation stage this month, deep concerns exist for the many students who are not walking with them. While the nation has seen graduation rates rise from 71 percent in 2001 to 84 percent in 2016, with 3 […]

Categories: High School Graduation Rates and Secondary School Improvement
June 5, 2018

More Op-Eds:

Bob Wise & Daniel Cardinali: As ESSA Frees Up Federal Funds, Districts Should Invest in America’s ‘Graduation Dividend’

Visit Source

May 31, 2016

Over the next few weeks, America should reach an important new milestone. Thanks to a lot of hard work by educators everywhere, high school graduation rates have inched up 1 percentage point every...

Bob Wise & John Gomperts: Six Ways for State Governors to Help Raise the Nation’s High School Graduation Rate

Visit Source

April 7, 2016

Spurred on by increased federal oversight and hard work by teachers, parents and students, the number of U.S. high school dropouts has decreased – falling to 750,000 in 2012 from 1 million in 2008....

See All Op-Eds

Alliance in the News

Education Week August 13, 2019

Most Recent News Story:

States Have a Chance to Align Career-Technical Education Plans With ESSA

It’s easy to remember the federal education proposals that fizzled out or failed to get off the starting line during the last two-plus years. But President Donald Trump did sign a reauthorization of the federal law for career and technical education into law last summer, more than two years after President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Categories: Career & Technical Education, Career and Technical Education, Every Student Succeeds Act
Education Week August 13, 2019

More News Stories:

XQ America’s Give Me Five Newsletter

XQ America's Give Me Five Newsletter

July 14, 2019

From the science of adolescent learning to becoming an ally for youth voice, this issue of Give Me Five has a little something for all teachers who work with students during this important time of development.

Democratic Candidates Step Up Courtship of Teachers

Wall Street Journal

May 29, 2019

But after the teacher protests that engulfed six red-leaning states last year, popularizing images of shabby school supplies and stories of meager teacher pay, Democratic presidential candidates are realizing the potency of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers as a political constituency.

Most Students of Color Have White Teachers. Here’s Pete Buttigieg’s Plan to Change That

Education Week

July 15, 2019

While a majority of U.S. public school students are children of color, most teachers are white women, data show. Would new federal requirements for accountability and transparency about educator hiring practices help change that?

Education Department Finalizes ‘Supplement Not Supplant’ Rules That Advocates Fear Could Harm Low-Income Students

The 74

June 21, 2019

The Education Department on Thursday finalized rules that advocates have warned undermines a key law meant to ensure equitable education spending for low-income children.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.