Mind, Body and Education: Cognitive Approach

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Mind, Body and Education: Cognitive Approach






Mind, Body and Education: Cognitive Approach


Before the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster that changed many lives in America, the performance in the education sector in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans, was not satisfactory. Between the year 2000 and 2005, 25% of the schools in the district were identified as academically unacceptable. The performance in the schools continued to deteriorate by moving from bad to worse. The schools identified as poor performers in the year 2000 were 47%. The number rose to 63% in the year 2005. With 1,833 people dead, 1.2 million people without shelter and $81 billion worth of damages, the situation in the performance of the academics was not improving. With the needed research, the cognitive behavioral approach makes a positive impact on the post Katrina school system in New Orleans.


Current Situations

One major advantage of Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans is that it washed away the prevailing education systems. When the Orleans Parish school system failed due to the destruction of buildings, the disbandment of the teachers union due to termination of teachers’ contracts and the destruction of the city in general, the local education leaders found a new opportunity to start the education system afresh. They were not willing to rebuild from the old but rather to build from a clean slate. As a result, a new system based on charter schools was brought into existence. Since charter schools are funded by the federal government but are freed from many regulations governing the public schools, the system was set for new changes.

The schools in New Orleans are run by Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), Recovery School District (RSD), Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). All these institutions were willing to change the state of the education in New Orleans. The cognitive approach of learning was used and continued being used in order to ensure that the boards reach the desired target and goals of the performance in education.

In this approach, the goals are more concerned more than the needs. This means that the parties involved in the learning systems focus on achieving particular goals rather than fulfilling particular needs. The benefit of this approach is that the needs can be structured into goals so that the parties fulfill the goals and the needs at a go. The students were already frustrated by the results of their performance before the added stress of starting a life all over again emerged. Due to such incidences, the concerned boards had to make sure that the students were not overwhelmed by all the changes. The new system had to incorporate ways of tackling the student’s behavioral changes in order to make the system a success.

It is significant to identify that the cognitive management approach focuses on making the target a socially competent being. Many of the students that would attend this new system were facing the physical and the emotional devastation of the disaster. Unfortunately, this challenge was not on the students alone, but it was also on the parents and other parties that the students depend on. As earlier mentioned, chartering a school allows it to run as though it is private although it is federally funded. This was one of the major steps that would make the students view at the new learning systems from a new angle, thus starting school with a new attitude.

It is evident that students feel better about themselves when they are in private than public run schools. Socially, they feel as though they are of a higher social status than the ones in the public schools. This is one of the reasons why 75% of the students in New Orleans are in chartered school, the highest population going to chartered schools in the nation. Chartered schools are run like private schools although they have a few advantages found in the public schools. By attending the chartered schools the students feel as though they were at a “higher” level than the ones attending the public schools thus changing their attitude towards the education offered.

One of the major goals in the New Orleans new education system is to boost the performance in schools and the education level. The approach of chartering the schools as a way of changing the attitude in the students has worked as statistics show that the number of deemed schools have dropped from 63% in the year 2005 to 42% this year. When one comes from a devastating situation with the hope that they are going into something better, they create a new attitude so that the transition period is made easier in their minds than it already is in the real situation. It is contrary if they were to go back to the old system even if it was build afresh. This is what took place in the minds of the students thus it was easier to achieve the drastic change.

The new school system included new technology, new teachers and more children having the free lunch program acceptance not to mention the new buildings. All these changes have an impact on the activities of the mind. In normal situation, there are children who are weak, others average and there are the strong ones. These types of children have different reactions to change. There are those who are unwilling to accept it while others look forward to it. It was therefore necessary to incorporate ways of help the students tackle these changes in order to catch up with the rest of the nation as fast as they could.

Counseling sessions and therapies held by experts in order to aide the children in coping with the changes that had occurred in the city and in the school systems were very helpful. The inclusion of experts in the mind, brain and education field would also play a major role in helping the team designing the school system structure come up with a structure that has made such an immense impact.

In areas where effort is needed, motivation acts as a catalyst that speeds up the results to be achieved. In the new system, students are no longer restricted to attending schools in their area like it was before. Students can attend any schools of their wish under free admission. Such a change acts as a motivator in the psychological part of the being. The students feel free to not only attend a school of their choice, but also attend a chattered (privately ran) school. Psychologically, the student feels free. He/she feels that they can attend the school they choose to and that they are of a higher class than they were before. The positive impact about this feeling is that it also impacts the parents. In most cases, children who have a positive attitude towards a situation tend to put the parents at ease.

Another advantage about the cognitive approach is that it does not underestimate an individual. It recognizes that an individual is part of a system. In order to make the system work and individual must be willing to work. Individuals in a school system include the student, the parent, the teachers, and the government, just to mention but a few. These individuals must be satisfied psychologically in order to bring forth positive results. The education leadership in the city had to fire all the teachers and employ new teachers. This also included the changing of some school board officials like its president Ellenese Brooks Simms. New people come with new ideas and the corruption chain that had developed was cut.

The school board was formed afresh, rules and regulations were reviewed, the necessary corrections made and the school system put to test. Since the students would be the most affected, there were arrangements made so that the student would be comfortable as individuals. The counseling, the change in behavior and perception boosted by the change in technology and the review of some regulations, contributed to the average rate of graduation rising from 79% in the year 2005 to 90% in the year 2010. All this happened in the midst of the evacuation and resettlement program taking lace for the affected people and families. Majority of the people are also still economically unstable due to loss of property.


Since the cognitive behavioral approach can be divided into sections to be completed, it is necessary for the goals set to be in line with the progress of the system. As earlier identified, the rate of graduation has improved by 11%. This is a good progress. However, the individuals in the systems should not be pushed too far even though the system school board officials are far from reaching their goals. It has been identified that the brain has a capacity of trying a maximum of three to four times at a go. Exceeding this count pushes the individual to give up faster that the ones trying these many times at any given period. The officials must identify the targets to be achieved at a particular given period.

The board has received a few criticisms from other institutions and from the public as it is feared that there are more students under the free/reduced lunch program now than there were before. Although this has mainly been due to the financial crisis experienced by many families as a result of loss of property, it is feared that the funds are being exhausted in a way that can be prevented.  The board is trying to get help from outside sources in order to fund the deficits and to keep the system achieving. This also keeps the students, the parents and the teachers psychologically at ease.


As explained, individuals are important in a system when it comes to the cognitive behavioral management. This means that the individual needs must be attended to before the system’s needs are accomplished. Since the approach focuses on the goals rather than the needs, it would be easier if the needs were made into goals. The concerned board made sure that the student’s psychological health was taken care of so that accomplishing goals would be easier. However, the parents, who are a very big part of this system, were not given the needed care. Much of the concentration was given to the students. Students spend time with their parents when they are away from school. This makes them a very major influential force in their lives. If they cannot be able to cope with the changes taking place, then it will affect the students in one way or another as the students as they will do some things that make a negative impact of the students. For example, if the parents fail to carefully explain to the children why they have to enroll for the free/reduced lunch program when they were used to carrying their own food during the pre-Katrina school system, this change may affect the child’s general performance.

As a result, the schools’ board should have spent more resources on counseling and guiding the parents. This would have played a major role in making the transition process easier. It would have also made the parents understand some challenges that would be encountered. For example, guiding the parents on how to handle themselves and the children during this transition period would have been important. It would have also been important to explain to the parents and the public in general about the financial challenges encountered in the year 2010 since a lot had been done, a lot needed to be done but the funds were not enough.

Teachers are another part of the system. In order to make the new system work, many teachers had to be fired in order to make room for new ones. Most of the teachers to be fired had an average of twenty years of experience in the teaching field. Those who were to be hired in the charter schools had almost no experience and were from programs such as TechNOLA or Teach for America. All these changes were of impact to the behavioral response of the teachers to the system. Although the necessary guiding and psychological care was taken, it was not enough. The teachers had to be properly oriented since the changes were not only affecting the students but they were also affecting them as part of the system. These same teachers were the main “components” of making the system a success. More care was needed.


The parents are the teachers to the students when they are far away from school. This means that more psychological care should be given to them than it already is. This can be done by holding parents-only meetings, Teacher-Parent meetings or Parents-Students’ meetings frequently or at least once in a while. This may give the parents counseling or therapy, which they may not afford on their own. It also gives the parents an opportunity to know the school’s progress from the dimension of the teachers and the school officials.

The psychological/behavioral attention given to the students should not cease even when life stabilizes. The goals targeted have not been reached and so more attention needs to be given to these students and all the other components of the system. Even after the goals and targets have been achieved, the cognitive approach should not cease. It is a continuous process that is constantly used and perfected until the desired results are achieved. The approach should be used on all the “components” of the school systems so that the new system can achieve the maximum results.


The cognitive behavioral approach would immensely help the board achieve its goal bearing more positive results more than technically approaching the challenge. The psychologically reaction of a student and the other individuals of the system, their behavioral changes and their attitudes may quicken or slow down the system that has started in such a positive note. The necessary adjustments should be made to make the approach effective.



Boston Consulting Group. (2007). the State of Public Education in New Orleans. The New Orleans City Council Education Committee, Cowen Institute & Tulane University: 1-66.

Cowen Institute of Public Education Initiatives. (2010). The State of Public Education in New Orleans: Five Years after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans, LA: Tulane University

O’Keefe, E & Anderson N. (2010). Arne Duncan: Hurricane Katrina benefited New Orleans education System. The Washington Post 29 January. Retrieved from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/01/arne_duncan_hurricane_katrina.html

O’Neill, P.T & Thukral, R.K. (2010). The Unique System Of Charter Schoold in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina: Distinctive Structure Familiar Challenges. Thukral Final :316-340.

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