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Reading Fluency Viewed as Neglected Skill

In fact, fluency instruction is much more than an attempt to hit fast forward on a student's reading rate. "What we're seeing is those of us who are skilled readers, we slow down, we vary our rate, we think about our reading as we're going," said Melanie R. Kuhn, an associate professor of language and literacy education at Boston University. By focusing on rate, "we're teaching kids to be quick readers but not to comprehend."

Fluency problems can stem from a number of factors. Some students lack fluency because they're still struggling with decoding words. Proficient readers "hardly ever have to stop to sound out a word," said Mr. Rasinski. But readers who are still in the sounding-out phase "use up cognitive energy doing that, and they don't have much left for reading automaticity."

Read the full article here.

My Favorite Teachers Use Social Media: A Student Perspective

If teachers want to better understand how social media can affect a student's desire to learn, they must first look inside the mind of a student.

Read the full article here.

Public Boarding School - the Way to Solve Educational Ills?

Buffalo's chronically struggling school system is considering an idea gaining momentum in other cities: public boarding schools that put round-the-clock attention on students and away from such daunting problems as poverty, troubled homes and truancy.

Supporters say such a dramatic step is necessary to get some students into an atmosphere that promotes learning, and worth the costs, estimated at $20,000 to $25,000 per student per year.

"We have teachers and union leaders telling us, 'The problem is with the homes; these kids are in dysfunctional homes,'" said Buffalo school board member Carl Paladino.

Read the full article here.

The Paradox of Deeper Learning: The Unlearning Curve

Knowing and understanding are different. On the road to deeper learning, you sometimes find that you've gained knowledge while losing understanding. The nature of unlearning reshapes the "learning curve" and our expectations of how knowledge and understanding grow over time.

My own "Aha!" moment about the nature of knowing and understanding came in one of my most enduring experiences in ten years as a physics teacher. Before performing a momentum demonstration with two small carts on a collision track, I asked my students to predict what they thought would happen when the two carts collided, and to justify their predictions. Having done so, one young woman was so surprised by what actually happened when the carts collided that she proclaimed aloud, "I don't believe it!" as if to say, "That thing I just saw with my own eyes is so far outside of what I expected that I completely reject it!" Or "I know what I saw, but I don't understand it."

Read the full article here.

ACT to Expand Computer-Based Testing

ACT test takers take note: the No. 2 pencil is losing its cachet. Greater numbers of test takers of the college entrance exam will be able to take the test on a computer next year.

The ACT was to announce Friday that computer-based testing of the ACT would be available next year in the 18 states and additional districts that require students — typically juniors — to take the ACT during the school day. About 1 million students could be affected.

But don't throw away those pencils yet.

Read the full article here.

Let Students With ADHD Fidget, Says Study

Toe-tapping, squirming, and finger-drumming could actually be a helpful part of the learning process for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, says a new study from the University of Central Florida and published last month in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Read the full article here.

New Autism Research Outlines Gender Differences in Social Interactions

Boys and girls with autism spectrum disorder may share difficulties in communicating, but how those problems manifest themselves differs between the sexes—an important element for educators to remember, according to new research examining children with autism and their peer interactions.

For example, because boys tend to play more structured games, it's easier to spot when a boy with autism is being excluded. Socialization among girls tends to be more fluid, so a girl with autism may appear to be fitting in with her peer group—but a closer look might reveal less-obvious rejection.

Read the full article here.

Elementary School Dumps Homework and Tells Kids to Play Instead

Elementary school is abolishing traditional homework assignments and telling kids to play instead — outraging parents who say they may pull their kids out of the school.

Teachers at  P.S. 116 on East 33rd Street have stopped assigning take-home math worksheets and essays, and are instead encouraging students to read books and spend time with their family, according to a letter the school’s principal, Jane Hsu, sent to parents last month.

Read the full article here.

Personalization: When Square Pegs Meet Round Holes

Tailors are busy people.  It's personal thing.  We all want our clothes to fit.

Once upon a time, when we ordered a cup of coffee, our options included cream, sugar, both, or black.  Now, we expect our favorite roast to blend with a mélange of specific flavors that match our particular taste.  A lot of us like to have it served in a place that has a certain style.  That in itself is worth an extra buck or two.  Sure, there are tons of people who never touch the stuff, but even many of them like the aroma, and, let's face it, the coffee shop is a good place to take care of email.

Read the full article here.

Why Viewing Classroom Management as a Mystery Can Be a Good Thing

As experienced teachers know, you can never have too many different classroom-management strategies in your back pocket.

Why’s that? I’d say it’s because classroom management is a constantly evolving "mystery"—not a straightforward "puzzle."

Read the full article here.

10 Tips for Successful Student Projects

Excellent student work that demonstrates mastery is a lot harder to come by than it may seem or maybe not.

Too often, we work hard to develop projects that allow students to show creativity while showing a particular skill or set of skills to apply content knowledge and fail in the construction of what that looks like.

Sometimes it's too easy or doesn't actually require too much thought.

Sometimes it's too hard and students are lost.

Finding the "just-right" project for students to really shine is the ultimate goal.

Although there may be no one magic bullet for generating this assignment for all students, here are some tips for developing great projects that will both foster student engagement and interest and help them to show what they know.

Read the full article here.

Addressing Disconnect Between Student Skills and Employer Needs

What students are learning in school and what employers need on the job often are two different sets of skills. That much was largely agreed upon by the educators, business leaders, and technology experts gathered here this morning at a SXSWedu session. When it came to whom to blame and how to solve the disconnect—fingers were pointed in all directions and the ideas were endless.

To frame the discussion on the skills gap, speakers highlighted the high percentage of college graduates who are unemployed or underemployed(over half by some accounts) at the same time businesses have millions of jobs they can't fill with qualified workers.

Read the full article here.

At $43K Private School, Tech Opens Doors to Different World

Joshua Glenn wants his two sons to leave high school ready to flourish in the high-tech world that awaits them.

That’s a big reason why he’s paying $43,360 a year for each boy to attend the prestigious Beaver Country Day School here.

“I like the fact that Beaver uses technology as a tool for research. I like the fact that they use technology as a platform for self-expression and collaborative work. It’s extraordinary how they build computer coding right into the classes,” said Mr. Glenn, a marketing consultant from nearby Boston.

“It feels like Sam and Max will be able to move seamlessly from Beaver into real life,” he said.

Founded in 1920, Beaver Country Day, which enrolls 468 students in grades 6-12, offers what is arguably the best approach for using K-12 educational technology that money can buy.

Unlike many elite private schools, Beaver hasn’t shied away from the digital revolution.

And unlike many public schools, Beaver hasn’t positioned its students as passive consumers of others’ digital content.

Instead, Beaver has invested in efforts like NuVu, a standalone “innovation school” with no classes, no homework, and no tests. Each trimester, about 20 Beaver students forego the school’s main campus in favor of a pink-walled, 4,000-square foot room in Cambridge, strategically located near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Read the full article here.

Preparing Students For Learning, Not Lectures, In College

“If your high school wants to prepare students for college-level instruction, that no longer means preparing students to sit in lecture halls. “

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Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD

French children don't need medications to control their behavior.

In the United States, at least 9 percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5 percent. How has the epidemic of ADHD—firmly established in the U.S.—almost completely passed over children in France?

Read the full article here.

Newborn horses give clues to autism

Just a few hours after its birth, the long-legged brown foal stands in its stall, appearing on first glance to be sound, sturdy and healthy. But something is very wrong with this newborn horse.

The foal seems detached, stumbles towards people and doesn’t seem to recognize its mother or have any interest in nursing. It even tries to climb into the corner feeder.

The bizarre symptoms are characteristic of a syndrome that has puzzled horse owners and veterinarians for a century. But recently, UC Davis researchers have discovered a surprising clue to the syndrome and intriguing similarities to childhood autism in humans.

Read the full article here.

Harper Lee to Publish Sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, But Why?

After Romeo & Juliet, Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird may be the most common staple of high school English class. The book has sold over 30 million copies since being published in 1960, but Lee has never released any other work. Until now.

In a statement, the publisher Harper (an imprint of HarperCollins, not related to Harper Lee)announced today that another Lee book, Go Set a Watchman, will be released July 14. Also: It's a sequel to Mockingbird, featuring a twentysomething Scout Finch as a young woman returning home from New York. Or more appropriately, Mockingbird is actually a prequel, because as the Associated Press reports, Lee wrote Watchman first, before being convinced to instead write about Scout as a young girl. The book is being published without revisions, according to HarperCollins.

Read the full article here.

 Response: Differentiation Lets Us Reach Our Students 'Where They Are'

 (This is the last post in a two-part series. You can see Part One here.)

This week's question comes from an educator who wishes to remain anonymous:

Differentiating for students, as I understand it, entails meeting students at their levels, but the end goal is to ensure that they meet the standards for the grade level.

What happens when, for whatever reason, you have one or more students who are reading several grade levels below and even the lowest level expectation for that child/ren will still not enable the student/s to meet the standard for the grade level?

Read the full article here.

 5 Ways to Make Your Classroom Student-Centered

What interests you? Sports? Historical novels? Cars? Finding crafty ideas on Pinterest? For adults, making choices is the norm. We're motivated by stimuli that we value, by our passions. If ideas hold no personal interest for us, we often quit, unless a relationship or reward is involved.

Our students aren't so different. Expert teachers know how to give students choice and voice, finding ways to design learning experiences that tap into what students value. This isn't always easy, especially if our preparation experiences didn't frame learning this way. Here are five questions that can help us develop and refine the teacher strengths needed for creating a student-centered classroom. Use them to start the new year off right!

Read the full article here.

Is Leadership Style Born ... or Made?

 “Is leadership style "born" or is it "made"? This is a question that has always challenged me: first, as a classroom teacher, and today, as school leader.”

Read the full article here.

5 Questions Educators Must Ask Themselves Daily

Every educator teaches for different reasons, although there is surely overlap.

Perhaps they want to change the world or help young people grow into good citizens, but at the heart of it, each educator remains in the teaching profession for a variety of reasons that usually has something to do with being a positive change agent.

Read the full article here.

U.S. Millennials Come Up Short in Global Skills Study

Shortfalls affect all segments of American society

America's wealthiest and best-educated young adults still lag behind their peers in other countries in the literacy, numeracy, and computer-age problem-solving skills needed to compete in the global labor market.

That, coupled with yawning racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps and even grimmer skills levels for students with less than a college degree, could lead to long-term difficulty for the country, according to a new study by the Education Testing Service Center for Research on Human Capital and Education in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Read the full article here.

How Eliminating Grades Changed Everything in My Classroom

One year after I considered leaving education because I felt like I was failing my students, everything had changed. On the last day of school, we chatted about the impact of a no-grades classroom on learning, and I was happy to know that the students loved it. This was the last question from a student that remarkable year: "Mr. Barnes, why don't all teachers throw out grades and give us feedback about our learning?" I wasn't sure how to answer, but I knew the question meant that change was inevitable.

Read the full article here.

The No. 1 Health-Booster in 2015

The hottest well-being trend right now isn’t a hardcore workout or a fad diet. It’s a gentle, ancient practice that millions say is the antidote to the 21st-century stress that affects everything from job performance and sleep to your weight.

In the business world, Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington meditates daily, calling it the “third metric” in success, after money and power. And meditation programs are used to help at-risk schoolchildren thrive in the classroom, and prison inmates cope with the stress of incarceration.

Read the full article here.

Is the Teaching of Noncognitive Skills Just a Distraction?

The New York Times ran an interesting column this weekend titled "Should Schools Teach Personality?" In it, writer Anna North highlights a new study finding that students' levels of conscientiousness and curiosity are better predictors of academic success than raw intelligence.

According to the lead researcher in the study, Australian psychology professor Arthur E. Poropat, both conscientiousness and curiosity (or "openness," to use the more scientific term) can be developed in students—triggering the question of whether schools should be doing more to teach such noncognitive traits.

Read the full article here.

7 Ways to Help Quiet Students Find Their Voices in Class

When it comes to talking in class, each student has a unique personality. There’s the chatty conversationalists, happy to contribute on any topic; more reserved students who can be coaxed into the conversation with some effort; and the quiet ones who shudder at the thought of speaking to a large group.

Unfortunately, the Talkative Teds and Gabby Gabrielas in class tend to dominate the conversation. But the students doing the talking are often the ones doing the most learning—so teachers need to find thoughtful ways to encourage reluctant talkers to take part in classroom conversations.

Here are seven strategies to get quiet kids talking:

Read the full article and strategies here.

Even the Best Teachers Have Bad Days

We are all human and teaching is an extremely challenging job.

No one would dispute that.

That isn't to say, those of us who are passionate about what we do don't love the thrill of challenge, but even with that love comes frustration.

When teachers are dealing with so many personalities all the time, as well as trying to manage their lives outside of work, bad days can happen.

Read the full article here.

Response: Positive Classroom Management Strategies - Part One

At various times, I would imagine that classroom management is a challenge to many of us who teach -- it certainly is to me! New years, new classes, new students (who all come from different backgrounds and previous school experiences) all can contribute to an occasional or often challenging environment. 

How can we respond in effective and positive - not punitive - ways?

Read the full article here.

Study indicates arts work for challenged schools

Injecting more arts into the school day has resulted in better attendance and behavior, and slightly better math and reading scores for eight struggling schools around the country, including Roosevelt.

So says an independent study, released Thursday, on a national experiment led by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Read the full article here.

Early Grades Crucial in Path to Reading Proficiency

Children who are not reading proficiently by 3rd grade are widely seen as being in academic crisis. Educators are increasingly looking for actions they can take in the younger grades—even as early as preschool—to head off failure later in a child's school career.

The stakes are clear: Studies have shown that absent effective intervention, children who read significantly below grade level by 3rd grade continue to struggle in school and eventually face a much higher likelihood of dropping out altogether.

Read the full article here.

Make K-12 Skills Relevant to Students

To increase student engagement, academic skills should be viewed as the foundation for gainful employment, while students learn to take advantage of those skills in the classroom. Collaboration between education and business leaders can help accomplish this and transform abstract schooling experiences into something more personal—something that can ignite student curiosity, creativity, motivation, and imagination.

Read the full article here.

Talking With Students' Parents Can Be Uncomfortable. Do It Anyway.

We have all experienced, at some point in our careers, "that parent." They take many forms: the helicopter, the over-reactor, the under-reactor, the mama bear, the "my child is perfect, it must be you" parent. As a special educator and advisor, I have had numerous interactions with parents, some bad, some good, but what they share in common is that all are parents advocating for their learner.

As I reflect on these interactions, it occurs to me that I have learned something from each interaction. It is these interactions that have helped me to build learning partnerships with many parents.

Read the full article here.

Wisdom from David Bowie: Technology and Change

The other night, David Bowie's epic tune Changes, came blasting over the radio. As I was singing along to the lyrics, the phrase "I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream," really struck a chord with me. It made me think about how often we attempt to change our schools but in actual reality, we rarely do. Our instruction and classrooms don't look much different then they did decades ago. Our ripples rarely leave the stream indeed. This especially rings true when it comes to technology implementation.

Read the full article here.

Why Bilingual Education Should Be Mandatory

This generation of K-12 students is growing up in a society that is increasingly bilingual. While foreign language requirements have long been a core requirement for high school graduation -- second language classes at an earlier age would improve overall fluency for most students. It's time to introduce second-language concepts to the youngest of K-12 students, and here are just a few of the reasons why:

Read the full article here.

Introduce Word Problems to Students Sooner, Studies Say

Fort Worth, Texas

If Ms. Smith’s 8th grade algebra class works through 10 word problems in an hour, and Ms. Jones’ class works through 10 equation problems during the same time, which class is likely to learn more math concepts by the end of class?

Please show your work.

Word problems are often considered one of the most challenging tasks in a beginning algebra class, with students likely to stumble over the move from the clean, basic formula to applying it in a real context.

Now, however, evidence from an ongoing series of experiments with students from middle school through college suggests that word problems might be easier and more beneficial for students when presented at the beginning, not the end, of a mathematics lesson.

Read the full article here.

This Man Invented a Font to Help People With Dyslexia Read

A new typeface is making life easier for people everywhere who live with dyslexia.

Christian Boer, 33, is a Dutch graphic designer who created the font that makes reading easier for people, like himself, who have dyslexia, according to his website. Now, he’s offing it to people for free.

Read the full article here.

What Every School Can Learn From Preschools

Listening. Sharing. Following directions. Making friends. Managing big emotions. Planning for the future.

A high-quality preschool program helps children develop in all these ways. But, a new report argues, such matters of the heart shouldn't be left behind just as students are learning to tie their shoes.

Melissa Tooley and Laura Bornfreund of the New America Foundation write that schools should focus on these same skills, habits, attitudes, and mindsets with older kids. They say research shows they're just as important as academics.

Read the full article here.

Is It Time to Get Rid of Grades?

In the past few years since teachers and their principals have been reduced to numbers on a their yearly evaluations there have been many discussions revolving around the idea that educators are more than numbers. It doesn't feel good to get one number that is supposed to represent all of our hard work throughout a year. It feels disingenuous and arbitrary.

Unfortunately, for many years before accountability and mandates, students were reduced to numbers and we did not do a lot about it. That is most likely due to the fact that we were reduced to numbers when we were students in school. Numbers have been a part of schooling for many decades.

Read the full article here.

When to Say When With Homework

My son is in 4th grade.  Currently he received about 45 minutes of homework a night including 20 minutes of required nightly reading that must be logged and signed by me.

Last year he routinely received 1 hour or more of homework a night. Although he didn't seem to mind doing it, I resented the fact that he was sent home with worksheet after worksheet, robbed of precious playtime that was also robbed from his school day.

Read the full article here.

Should Kids With ADHD Avoid Eating Sugar?

When I tell people that my son was diagnosed recently with ADHD, many of them respond in the same way—by telling me he should avoid eating sugar. All my friends and relatives seem to be blaming sugar for my son’s hyperactivity. His doctor said sugar doesn’t cause ADHD. But could it make my son’s symptoms worse?

Read the full article here.

When Anxiety Hits at School

As the number of teens who suffer from anxiety disorders continues to grow, mental-health care is increasingly part of school nurses' job descriptions.

Salli-Ann Holloway could not breathe. Sitting in her Advanced Placement English class, she could not stop shaking. Her neck twitched relentlessly. She gasped for air. Her body went numb.

Holloway, 17, rushed to the school nurse’s office as she had many times before. Panic attacks had become commonplace for her as the stress of junior year took hold. The nurse soothed her as they waited for her mother to arrive. This would not be the last time Holloway’s illness interrupted her life.

Holloway is not alone. About 8 percent of today’s U.S. teens suffer from some type of diagnosed anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And anxiety has been on the rise among children and young adults since at least the 1950s. School counselors and nurses alike have cited increased amounts of stress, pressure, social media, and divorce as causes for this surge in anxiety that has not only affected the teens who suffer but school administrators trying to help their students.

Read full article here.

Why Girls Tend to Get Better Grades Than Boys Do

New research shows that girls are ahead in every subject, including math and science. Do today's grading methods skew in their favor?

Read full article here.

Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children's Executive Functioning

When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behavior, according to a new study.  Instead, kids might learn more when they have the responsibility to decide for themselves what they're going to do with their time. Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.

Read full article here.

How Fear is Processed in the Brain

An estimated 8% of Americans will suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point during their lifetime. Brought on by an overwhelming or stressful event or events, PTSD is the result of altered chemistry and physiology of the brain. Understanding how threat is processed in a normal brain versus one altered by PTSD is essential to developing effective interventions. New research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas published illustrates how fear arises in the brain when individuals are exposed to threatening images.

Read the full article here.

Exercise Before School Can Ward Off ADHD Symptoms, Study Finds

Want to help improve the focus of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Try some jumping jacks before class. That's the main finding of researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Vermont who examined 200 kindergarten, 1st and 2nd-graders, about half of whom were deemed to be at risk of developing ADHD. Students were randomly placed in two groups: one group participated in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise before the school day, while the other group engaged in more sedentary activities.

Read the full article here.

The Homework Squabbles

Homework has a branding problem. Or, to be a little less pointy-headed about it, everybody hates homework.  Scan through the parenting shelves, and the frustration is palpable: “The Case Against Homework,” “The Homework Trap,” “The End of Homework.” Glance through glossy magazines, and the enmity is ubiquitous: “The Homework Wars” (The Atlantic), “The Myth About Homework” (Time), “Do Kids Have Too Much Homework?” (Smithsonian).  Heck, just drop the word into any conversation with families and watch the temperature rise. Some of this is cyclical, of course. Homework goes back to the onset of formal schooling in America and was popular in an era when the brain was viewed as a muscle to be strengthened.

Read the full article here.

Survey: Death of High Schoolers' Reading Habits Greatly Exaggerated

Concerns about the devastating impact of technology on young literary habits may be overblown: According to a recent report from Pew Research Center, high school students are reading and using public libraries as much as or more than older Americans are.  The report, released last week, is based on a phone survey of more than 6,000 Americans and focuses on three groups in particular: high school students (ages 16 and 17), college-aged adults (18 to 24), and older millennials (25 to 29). For comparison, Americans over the age of 30 were also included in the survey, though their results were not broken down into smaller age groups.

Read the full article here.

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