Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Executive Function and how can you help your kids develop it?

Ready for School? Executive Function = Success
Huffington Post: 8.30.2011 by Susan Kaiser Greenland

The term "Executive Function" may sound more relevant to business school than elementary school, yet it's crucial to your child's social and emotional development. Executive Function is a family of attention-related processes involved in planning and carrying out goal directed behavior. It predicts school readiness better than IQ scores and is a reliable forecaster of math and reading aptitudes. Because the regions of the brain associated with Executive Function are involved in the regulation of emotions and behavior, it's no surprise that there's good science that links Executive Function to empathy, pro-social behavior, emotional regulation, delayed gratification, and peer relationships. There's even a recent research finding that links preschool-aged children's capacities to delay gratification with higher SAT scores in high-school.

So what is Executive Function and how can you help your kids develop it? In brief, core skills associated with Executive Function are skills that children use all the time at play, at home, and in school. They require monitoring and shifting their attention, remembering information, and self-regulating. A good example of three of these skills is found in "Simon Says," a classic children's game that is fun to play and develops Executive Function. In "Simon Says," children remember the rules of the game (follow a command only when they hear the phrase 'Simon Says'); self-regulate by not automatically responding to the command (analyze it before responding); shift attention (between the command and the rules of the game to figure out how to respond); and self-regulate again (by responding only if the command included the phrase 'Simon Says').

"Simon Says" isn't the only common childhood game that develops Executive Function. Early research shows that a number of activities that most children already participate in develop Executive Function including: aerobic exercise; martial arts; dramatic play; social and emotional learning curricula; and mindfulness practice. READ MORE !

The secret of play: how to raise smart, healthy, caring kids from birth to age 12
Ann Pleshette Murphy
FAO Schwarz, 2008

Friday, August 19, 2011

Talking & Listening The Key To Literacy

Talking and listening the key to literacy
SMH: 8.19.2011 by Andrew Stevenson

WANT to learn to read and write? Perhaps you need to meet literacy's ugly sisters, talking and listening.

Too little attention is paid to the oral language skills of students, says John Munro, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne's graduate school of education. He says improving the ability of teachers to recognise kindergarten students with poor oral language skills and targeted intervention to improve them can produce stunning improvements in literacy and learning.

''Millions of dollars have gone into improving literacy but without putting in place the oral base, then it's almost wasted,'' Professor Munro said. ''For some reason speaking and listening has been seen as the ugly sister of reading and writing. But it's actually the foundation.'' READ MORE !

Listen to an interview with Dr Munro on ABC-Australia

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book
Annie E. Casey Foundation

The 22nd annual KIDS COUNT Data Book profiles the status of children on a national and state-by-state basis and ranks states on 10 measures of well-being.

Over the last decade there has been a significant decline in economic well-being for low income children and families. The official child poverty rate, which is a conservative measure of economic hardship, increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009, essentially returning to the same level as the early 1990s. This increase means that 2.4 million more children are living below the federal poverty line. Data also reveals the impact of the job and foreclosure crisis on children. In 2010, 11 percent of children had at least one unemployed parent and 4 percent have been affected by foreclosure since 2007.

“In 2009, 42 percent of our nation’s children, or 31 million, lived in families with incomes below twice the federal poverty line or $43,512/year for a family of four, a minimum needed for most families to make ends meet,” said Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Data at the Casey Foundation. “The recent recession has wiped out many of the economic gains for children that occurred in the late 1990s.

Nearly 8 million children lived with at least one parent who was actively seeking employment but was unemployed in 2010. This is double the number in 2007, just three years earlier. The news about the number of children who were affected by foreclosure in the United States is also very troubling because these economic challenges greatly hinder the well-being of families and the nation.” READ MORE !

Monday, August 15, 2011

Poverty Troubles Even the Best Readers

Double Jeopardy:
How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation
Annie E. Casey Foundation: April 2011

Students who don’t read proficiently by 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers, according to a study over time of nearly 4,000 students nationally.

Poverty compounds the problem: Students who have lived in poverty are 3 times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate on time than their more affluent peers; if they read poorly, too, the rate is 6 times greater than that for all proficient readers, the study found. For black and Latino students, the combined effect of poverty and poor 3rd grade reading skills makes the rate 8 times greater.

Poverty troubles even the best readers: Proficient 3rd graders who have lived in poverty graduate at about the same rate as subpar readers who have never been poor.

The findings include:
- 1 in 6 children who are not reading proficiently in 3rd grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate 4 times greater than that for proficient readers.
- The rates are highest for the low, below-basic readers: 23% of these children drop out or fail to finish high school on time, compared to 9% of children with basic reading skills and 4% of proficient readers.
- Overall, 22% of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school, compared to 6% of those who have never been poor. This rises to 32% for students spending more than half of their childhood in poverty.
- For children who were poor for at least a year and were not reading proficiently in
3rd grade, the proportion that don’t finish school rose to 26%. That’s more than 6 times the rate for all proficient readers.
- The rate was highest for poor Black and Hispanic students, at 31 and 33% respectively—or about 8 times the rate for all proficient readers.
- Even among poor children who were proficient readers in 3rd grade, 11% still didn’t finish high school. That compares to 9% of subpar 3rd grade readers who have never been poor.
- Among children who never lived in poverty, all but 2% of the best 3rd grade readers graduated from high school on time.
- Graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students who were not proficient readers in 3rd grade lagged far behind those for White students with the same reading skills.

Kids Count
A national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the United States

Friday, August 12, 2011

Classroom is Obsolete

The Classroom Is Obsolete: It's Time for Something New
EdWeek: 7.29.2011 by Prakash Nair

The overwhelming majority of the nearly 76 million students in America’s schools and colleges spend most of the academic day in classrooms. That’s a problem because the classroom has been obsolete for several decades. That’s not just my opinion. It’s established science.

The debate over education reform has been going on for longer than anyone can remember. Relegated previously to arguments between policy wonks, questions about how we should reform our nation’s schools have now entered the public consciousness in a very real way. The global financial crisis and our economic woes have collided with increased mainstream coverage of our failing educational system. The Obama administration has joined the chorus of critics and rolled out numerous reform measures.

Lost in all this hand-wringing is the most visible symbol of a failed system: the classroom. Almost without exception, the reform efforts under way will preserve the classroom as our children’s primary place of learning deep into the 21st century. This is profoundly disturbing because staying with classroom-based schools could permanently sink our chances of rebuilding our economy and restoring our shrinking middle class to its glory days.

The classroom is a relic, left over from the Industrial Revolution, which required a large workforce with very basic skills. Classroom-based education lags far behind when measured against its ability to deliver the creative and agile workforce that the 21st century demands. This is already evidenced by our nation’s shortage of high-tech and other skilled workers—a trend that is projected to grow in coming years.


Those who are intrigued or skeptical about the notion of education beyond classrooms may want to start their own research with some of the thought leaders in this arena. The School of Environmental Science in Apple Valley, Minn.; the Minnesota New Country School in Henderson, Minn.; the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, Minn.; Forest Park Elementary School in Middletown, R.I.; Duke School in Durham, N.C.; Learning Gate Community School in Lutz, Fla.; Hellerup School in Copenhagen, Denmark; Wooranna Park Primary School in Victoria, Australia; Australian Science and Mathematics School in Adelaide, Australia; and Discovery 1 School in Christchurch, New Zealand, are just a few great non-classroom-based examples of schools. (In the interests of full disclosure, I need to note that my firm—and I personally—worked on several of these school-design projects.) READ MORE !

. . . in related news

Sir Ken Robinson

Internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. Keynote Speaker - California Library Association Conference: Nov 12

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms: April 13, 2011

Schools Kill Creativity: TED 2006

Bring on the Revolution: TED 2010

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Secret He Tried To Hide: Can't Read

Vero Beach man, 52, learns to read after being illiterate throughout life
After working at Parent Construction for three decades, his boss tutors him after discovering his secret
TCPalm: 8.09.2011 by Janet Begley

Sam Bristol has a good life — a high school diploma, good career in construction and nice family with a wife, children and grandchildren.

But like one in five Indian River County residents, Bristol, 52, had a secret he desperately tried to hide throughout most of his life: Bristol can't read.

Hard to imagine? Think about the disadvantages of a life without literacy. Writing down directions, reading a medicine bottle and filing income taxes are impossible without being able to read. But for Bristol, whose own mother was a substitute teacher in Georgia, the embarrassment he felt was something he carried throughout his adult life.

"When I was at Vero Beach High School, they put me in special education classes," said Bristol. "I was making A's and B's in special education, but that's only about the third grade. I could read little stuff but I couldn't break down big words into syllables, so I really never learned to read."

But sports proved to be Bristol's saving grace, even though he left home at age 16.


After Bristol graduated, he was hired by local general contractor, Parent Construction, where he's worked for 33 years, doing mostly carpentry and general construction work.


Merry Parent, who co-owns Parent Construction with her husband Paul, is Bristol's boss, and a formidable woman who doesn't take no for an answer. When Parent discovered Bristol's reading problem, she was determined to help him. For the past year, the pair has been reading together twice a week, using materials from Literacy Services of Indian River County.


The National Adult Literacy Survey shows Bristol is not alone when it comes to lacking basic reading skills. About 30 million adults, or 14 percent of Americans, can only perform simplistic activities such as signing a form. An additional 63 million, or 29 percent, have only basic literacy skills, which would be necessary to read a television guide to find a specific program. READ MORE !

Monday, August 1, 2011

State of Learning Disabilities 2011

The State of Learning Disabilities 2011
Facts, Trends and Indicators
A biennial publication of the National Center for Learning Disabilities NCLD

2.5 million public school students—or about 5% of all students in public schools—were identified as having learning disabilities in 2009 and were eligible to receive educational assistance under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

■ The number of school-age children with learning disabilities who receive these Federally-authorized special education services escalated rapidly during the late 1980s and 1990s. However, during the last decade (2000-2009) the number of children identified as LD in public schools has declined by 14%.

■ Males comprise almost 2/3s of school age students with LD who receive special education services.

■ The cost of educating a student with LD is 1.6 times the expenditure for a general education student. This is dramatically less than the average cost for all students with disabilities, which runs 1.9 times the cost for a general education student.

■ In 2008, 62% of students with LD spent 80% or more of their in-school time in general education classrooms. In 2000, that figure was just 40%.

Students with LD are retained in grade much more often than those without disabilities. In addition, they are involved in school disciplinary actions at a muchhigher rate than their nondisabled peers.

■ Only a small percentage—estimated at between 25% and 35%—of students with LD are being provided with assistive technology to support their instruction and learning.

■ The high school dropout rate among students with LD was 22% in 2008, down from 40% in 1999.

■ More students with LD are graduating with a regular high school diploma—64% in 2008—up from 52% a decade earlier.

■ Students with LD go on to postsecondary education at a much lower rate than their nondisabled peers, and of those who do, few seek supports in college and few earn undergraduate or advanced degrees.

■ In 2005, 55% of adults with LD (ages 18-64) were employed compared to 76% of those without LD, 6% were unemployed vs. 3%, and 39% were not in the labor force vs. 21%.

■ Few adults with LD access workplace accommodations or understand their rights under disability anti-discrimination laws.