Monday, July 9, 2012

Teen Dating Violence Behaviors and Risk Factors Common Among 7th-Grade Students



Experts Believe Prevention in Middle School Matters

A new study of 1,430 7th-grade students released today reveals that many 7th-graders are dating and experiencing physical, psychological and electronic dating violence. More than one in three (37%) students surveyed report being a victim of psychological dating violence and nearly one in six (15%) report being a victim of physical dating violence. The study also found that while some attitudes and behaviors associated with increased risk for teen dating violence are pervasive, nearly three-quarters of students surveyed report talking to their parents about dating and teen dating violence. Parent-child communication is considered a protective factor that reduces the risk for teen dating violence.

The study was conducted by RTI International (RTI) on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Blue Shield of California Foundation as part of an independent evaluation of their Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships (Start Strong) initiative. The data released today is the baseline for this larger evaluation to assess the overall impact of the program. Start Strong is one of the largest initiatives ever funded that targets 11- to 14-year-olds to promote healthy relationships in order to prevent teen dating violence and abuse.

The Start Strong evaluation is one of the few studies, and one of the largest, to look in-depth at the dating relationships of middle school students. Although it is not nationally representative, the study sample included 1,430 7th-grade students from diverse geographical locations. The study collected data on teen dating violence behaviors, as well as risk and protective factors linked to dating violence, such as gender stereotypes, sexual harassment, the acceptance of teen dating violence and parent-child communication.

“There is limited information on 7th-graders and these data provide important insights into teen dating violence behaviors and risk factors among middle school students,” said Shari Miller, Ph.D., lead researcher from RTI. “From this study, we are learning that many 7th-graders are already dating and teen dating violence is not happening behind closed doors with so many students in this study witnessing dating violence among their peers. While we need to do much more to understand this young age group, our data point to the need for teen dating violence prevention programs in middle school.”

Among the key findings:

- 75% of students surveyed report ever having a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- More than 1 in 3 (37%) students surveyed report being a victim of psychological dating violence in the last 6 months.
- Nearly 1 in 6 (15%) students surveyed report being a victim of physical dating violence in the last 6 months.
- Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) students surveyed report being a victim of electronic dating aggression in the last 6 months.
- More than 1 in 3 (37%) of students surveyed report having witnessed boys or girls being physically violent to persons they were dating in the last 6 months.
- Nearly 2 out of 3 students surveyed (63%) strongly agree with a harmful gender stereotype, such as “girls are always trying to get boys to do what they want them to do,” or “with boyfriends and girlfriends, the boy should be smarter than the girl.”
- Nearly half of students surveyed (49%) report having been a victim of sexual harassment in the past 6 months, such as being “touched, grabbed, or pinched in a sexual way,” or that someone ”made sexual jokes” about them.
- Nearly three-quarters of 7th-grade students surveyed report that, in the last 6 months, they “sometimes or often” talk with their parents about dating topics such as, “how to tell if someone might like you as a boyfriend or girlfriend.”

Prevention in Middle School Matters

“Dating violence is a pressing public health challenge and these new data are important and powerful. We know that middle school provides this critical window of opportunity to teach young adolescents about healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence,” said James Marks, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group. “Through Start Strong, we are identifying and spreading effective ways for parents, teachers and communities to help young people develop healthy relationships throughout their life.”

The Start Strong program utilizes a multi-faceted approach to rally entire communities to promote healthy relationship behaviors among middle school students. The Start Strong model utilizes innovative program components to: i) educate and engage youth in schools and out of school settings; ii) educate and engage teen influencers, such as parents, older teens, teachers and other mentors; iii) change policy and environmental factors in schools and communities; and iv) implement effective communications/ social marketing strategies to change social norms. “By combining the findings of this new study with the lessons learned in Start Strong communities, we are developing the essential tools needed to promote healthier relationships for young people,” said Peter Long, Ph.D., president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation.

Parent engagement is a key component of Start Strong. As the study shows, many 7th-graders are talking to their parents about dating topics, including teen dating violence. This highlights the important role parents can play in prevention efforts. Start Strong educates parents of middle school students about these issues so they can help their children navigate new relationships (both online and offline), including teaching parents the warning signs of abuse and how to start conversations about healthy relationships at an early age.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

US Students Need New Way of Learning Science


American students need a dramatically new approach to improve how they learn science, says a noted group of scientists and educators led by Michigan State University professor William Schmidt.

After six years of work, the group has proposed a solution. The 8+1 Science concept calls for a radical overhaul in K-12 schools that moves away from memorizing scientific facts and focuses on helping students understand eight fundamental science concepts. The "plus one" is the importance of inquiry, the practice of asking why things happen around us -- and a fundamental part of science.

"Now is the time to rethink how we teach science," said Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor of statistics and education. "What we are proposing through 8+1 Science is a new way of thinking about and teaching science, not a new set of science standards. It supports basic concepts included in most sets of state standards currently in use and complements standards-based education reform efforts."

The group of scientists has met with Schmidt in an effort to rethink how science should be taught since 2006, when it was originally part of the PROM/SE research project (Promoting Rigorous Outcomes in Mathematics and Science Education) funded by the National Science Foundation.

The 8+1 concepts were derived from two basic questions: What are things made of and how do systems interact and change? The eight concepts are: atoms, cells, radiation, systems change, forces, energy, conservation of mass and energy, and variation.

Traditionally, science in the United States has been taught in isolated disciplines such as chemistry, biology and physics without clear connections being made between the subjects. The 8+1 effort encourages K-12 teachers to use the eight science concepts to build understanding within and between their courses as students advance through the grades.

"The natural world seems to operate through these laws and concepts, but when it comes to schooling we don't teach children these laws and then show how these apply in different situations," Schmidt said.

Simon Billinge, an 8+1 committee member and professor of applied physics and mathematics at Columbia University, said the aim is for students to see, for example, the physics within biology and the chemistry within physics, so they can gain an understanding of science that transcends disciplinary lines.

Today's frontiers in science often occur at these disciplinary edges. Aided by the explosion in technology and scientific discoveries, new fields are arising that were hardly imagined a generation ago such as synthetic biology, digital organisms and genomics.

Most states are participating in a process to develop new K-12 science standards that are more relevant, coherent and based on international benchmarks.

Stephen Pruitt, vice president of Achieve, a nonprofit organization managing the state-led effort, said 8+1 Science can work hand-in-hand with his organization's effort -- called Next Generation Science Standards -- "to change the way we think about science education."

"The emphasis is about helping students learn key concepts in science, rather than just facts," Pruitt said.

Results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress show only 34 percent of fourth-graders and 21 percent of 12th-graders were proficient in their science knowledge. Internationally, U.S. students ranked a mediocre 23rd in their science knowledge among countries studied by the Program for International Student Assessment.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cyberbullying and bullying are not the same


University of British Columbia research comparing traditional bullying with cyberbullying finds that the dynamics of online bullying are different, suggesting that anti-bullying programs need specific interventions to target online aggression.

"There are currently many programs aimed at reducing bullying in schools and I think there is an assumption that these programs deal with cyberbullying as well," says Jennifer Shapka, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at UBC who is presenting this research at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Vancouver.

"What we're seeing is that kids don't equate cyberbullying with traditional forms of schoolyard bullying. As such, we shouldn't assume that existing interventions will be relevant to aggression that is happening online."

Shapka is presenting a study that involved 17,000 Vancouver, B.C. students in Grades 8 to 12 and a follow-up study involving 733 Vancouver, B.C. youth aged 10-18.

Results of the studies show that about 25-30 per cent of youth report that they have experienced or taken part in cyberbullying, compared to 12 per cent of youth who say they've experienced or taken part in schoolyard bullying. However, "Youth say that 95 per cent of what happens online was intended as a joke and only 5 per cent was intended to harm," says Shapka. "It is clear that youth are underestimating the level of harm associated with cyberbullying."

According to Shapka, the findings suggest that in cyberbullying adolescents play multiple roles - as bullies, victims, and witnesses - and "downplay the impact of it, which means that existing education and prevention programs are not going to get through to them."

"Students need to be educated that this 'just joking' behaviour has serious implications."

Being victimized online can have consequences for a person's mental health, developmental wellbeing, and academic achievement, according to Shapka. In extreme cases, there have been reports of suicide.

Traditional bullying, or schoolyard bullying, is often associated with three main characteristics: a power differential between bully and victim, a proactive targeting of a victim, and ongoing aggression.

Shapka says, research is beginning to show that cyberbullying does not necessarily involve these three characteristics. Traditional power differentials - size and popularity - do not necessarily apply online. There also seems to be more fluid delineation between the roles youth play; it is not unusual for an individual to act in all capacities - bullies, victims, and witnesses - online.

Previous work by Shapka and her colleagues has shown that in contrast to traditional bullying, cyberbullying is rarely associated with planned targeting of a victim.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Measuring Risk Intelligence

Tests exist for evaluating personality, intelligence and memory. However, up to now, it was not easily possible to find out how good someone is at making decisions in risky situations. "Yet this is an important skill that has an enormous influence on many of our decisions," says psychologist Edward Cokely, who came up with the idea of developing a quick test for this skill at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in 2007. In the intervening five years, he has carried out 21 sub-studies in 15 countries with colleagues from Max Planck Director Gerd Gigerenzer's group at the Institute in Berlin and the Michigan Technological University.

One of the results of the studies is the first quick test for establishing an individual's risk intelligence.

The "Berlin Numeracy Test" is available at the www.riskliteracy.org website.

The test works twice as well as previous methods and only takes three minutes. Traditional tests, which tend to determine general cognitive capacities, like intelligence or attention control, provide little information about a person's risk competency. A high level of intelligence does not necessarily mean that the person is equally skilled in all areas. "My doctor may be very intelligent, but that does not mean that she can repair my car particularly well or can fill out my tax return," explains Cokely.

To develop their tests, the psychologist and his colleagues carried out experiments with several thousand subjects in North America, Europe and Asia. The test participants had to complete tasks from different areas. For example, 300 participants in a sub-study in Berlin were faced with psychological tasks that were intended to establish, among other things, their personal emotional stability, general life-satisfaction and exam anxiety. They also had to interpret information about risks. "We wanted to find out how well they understand weather forecasts, for example," says Cokely.

It emerged from these tests that highly-educated individuals often also have difficulty interpreting information on risk probabilities. "However, if we want to have educated citizens who make decisions based on information, we need people who understand information about risks," explains the scientist. Seen in this way, risk intelligence is just as important a skill as reading and writing. "Fortunately," he adds, "it can also be learned." In fact, as the researchers discovered over the five years of testing various tasks, risk intelligence is closely linked with mathematical skills. They designed their test accordingly: all three tasks are based on the field of percentage calculation.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heart healthy lessons plus better food offerings lower heart disease risk factors in sixth-graders

Portable program could help middle schools across the country keep kids heart healthy

Sixth-graders taking part in a 10-week program that included interactive lessons to get heart smart coupled with healthier food and beverage options in the cafeteria and vending machines had marked reductions across all cardiovascular risk factors, according to research presented today at the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session. The Scientific Session, the premier cardiovascular medical meeting, brings cardiovascular professionals together to further advances in the field.

"To see this kind of an impact in such a short period of time is pretty encouraging, and something that distinguishes it from other childhood obesity programs," said Taylor Eagle, pre-medical student, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Mich., and the study's lead investigator. "Teaching these kids heart-healthy lessons clearly makes a real difference, and it could affect their lives forever. It's also important for controlling health care costs down the road because children who are obese in childhood are much more likely to be obese in their adulthood."

In addition to favorable physiologic changes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL or "bad" cholesterol, triglycerides and random glucose (p≤0.001), pre-/post- analyses showed the program also supported better dietary and exercise habits. Students reportedly consumed more fruits and vegetables and became more physically active, spent less time in front of the TV and/or computer and more time playing intramural sports.

The messages and activities promoted throughout the 10-week intervention centered around five goals: eat more fruits and vegetables; make better beverage choices; perform at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week; eat less fats and fatty food, and spend less mindless time in front of the TV and computer. Volunteers and program staff were trained to implement the program consistently in the 20-plus participating schools. The intervention included 10 interactive lessons that reinforced the five goals, related to changes to nutritional offerings and other activities to promote healthy eating and exercise.

"We are not just teaching lessons to the students, but we are also altering the environments to make it easier to make healthier food choices," Eagle said.

Researchers used standardized questionnaires to collect information about health behaviors from 2,048 sixth-graders in middle schools in four Southeast Michigan communities participating in Project Healthy Schools (PHS). Baseline physiological markers were also assessed; these and health behaviors were compared before and after students were exposed to the program. Participating schools also have the freedom to adopt other activities to boost healthy behaviors; for example, walking programs after school, buses to YMCAs to exercise in a safe environment, and starting farms to be grow their own vegetables.

"We are not going to solve childhood obesity epidemic without raising awareness and engaging communities," said Elizabeth Jackson, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Michigan Systems, Ann Arbor, Mich. "This program could be implemented in any middle school in the U.S. – at the very least it gives every child basic skills which can be used to make improvements in key health behaviors, and may result in long-term healthier lifestyles."

Researchers say further studies are needed to understand which aspects of middle-school based interventions are most successful in improving students' health. PHS is supported by a broad community partnership.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

'Coaching Boys into Men' an effective tool for stopping teen dating violence


Male high school athletes' ability to recognize and intervene to stop dating violence -- the physical, sexual and emotional aggression prevalent in adolescent romantic relationships -- is improved with the intervention of some of the most important role models in young men's lives: their coaches.

A new study conducted in Sacramento, Calif., led by UC Davis researchers has found that a structured program delivered by coaches, called "Coaching Boys into Men," is effective for discouraging adolescent dating violence. The research is published online today in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"The high school male athletes whose coaches delivered this easy-to-implement program reported more positive bystander behaviors, meaning that these boys were more likely to say or do something to stop disrespectful and harmful behaviors towards girls which they witnessed among their male peers," said Elizabeth Miller, a member of the faculty of the UC Davis School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

"Previous violence-prevention efforts have not generally included coaches as partners, yet coaches can be such important role models for their athletes," said Miller, who is now chief of the division of adolesent medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. "With the right training and support, coaches can encourage their athletes to be positive leaders in their communities and to be part of the solution."

In the United States, one in three adolescent girls experiences physical, emotional or verbal abuse by a dating partner. Promoting non-violent attitudes among teen boys toward girls is recognized as a critical step to reduce the incidence of violence in these relationships.

"Coaching Boys into Men" (CBIM) is a high school athletics-based program that seeks to reduce dating violence by engaging athletic coaches as positive role models to deliver violence-prevention messages to young male athletes. It is a national program created by Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, in 2000. For the program, the coaches are trained in the use of the "Coaches Kit," a series of training cards that offers strategies for opening conversations about dating violence and appropriate attitudes toward women with young athletes.

The study was conducted among over 2,000 young male athletes in 16 high schools in four urban school districts in Sacramento County, Calif., between winter 2009 and fall 2010. Eight of the schools were randomly selected to receive the program, while the other eight schools served as comparisons. Of the coaches approached, 87 percent agreed to participate in the study. The ninth- through twelfth-grade student athletes who agreed to participate were administered a 15-minute baseline survey at the beginning of their sports season, which assessed their attitudes about dating violence and behaviors toward adolescent girls. A similar survey was administered at the end of the sports season (the study included fall, winter and spring sports).

For example, questions sought to assess teens' perceptions of abusive behaviors such as "telling girls which friends they can or cannot see or talk to" and "telling them they're ugly or stupid." Responses were assessed using a five-point scale that ranked answers from "not abusive" to "extremely abusive." Additional survey items assessed the athletes' level of agreement with statements such as "If a girl is raped it is often because she did not say no clearly enough" or "A boy/man will lose respect if he talks about his problems." Youth were also asked about how likely they would be to intervene when witnessing various abusive behaviors, such as hearing a peer make derogatory comments about a girl's appearance.

The surveys also asked whether the athletes had witnessed any abusive behavior and actually intervened. The young men who had ever dated were asked whether they themselves had participated in any of 10 abusive behaviors including physical, sexual and emotional abuse toward a female partner in the past three months. Eighteen percent of the male athletes who had ever dated reported perpetrating any abusive behavior toward a female partner in the past three months, with verbal and emotional abuse being most common.

The study found that the young males who were exposed to the Coaching Boys into Men program said that they were more likely to intervene when observing abusive behavior toward a peer when compared with the control group of teens, while the likelihood that control athletes would intervene diminished overall during the course of the sports season. And the youth who were exposed to Coaching Boys into Men were significantly more likely to report actually doing something to stop disrespectful and harmful behaviors among their male peers, when compared with controls.

"There are too few dating violence prevention programs that have demonstrated effectiveness using a rigorous research design. This study offers important evidence on the violence-reducing potential of a practical program that can be integrated into school and community-based dating violence prevention efforts," said Daniel Tancredi, assistant professor in pediatrics at UC Davis and co-investigator for the study.

"This study reminds us that in order to prevent violence before it happens, we need to take advantage of the positive influence that coaches have in shaping young athletes' attitudes towards women and girls." said Esta Soler, president of Futures Without Violence. "We hope these findings will spotlight the importance of dating violence and sexual assault prevention and encourage other schools to implement similar programs."

The Coaching Boys into Men program is available for free download through Futures Without Violence. In Sacramento, WEAVE (a partner in this research study) is continuing to provide training and support to coaches in area high schools. The study was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Getting in rhythm helps children grasp fractions


Tapping out a beat may help children learn difficult fraction concepts, according to new findings due to be published in the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics. An innovative curriculum uses rhythm to teach fractions at a California school where students in a music-based program scored significantly higher on math tests than their peers who received regular instruction.

"Academic Music" is a hands-on curriculum that uses music notation, clapping, drumming and chanting to introduce third-grade students to fractions. The program, co-designed by San Francisco State University researchers, addresses one of the most difficult -- and important -- topics in the elementary mathematics curriculum.

"If students don't understand fractjavascript:void(0)ions early on, they often struggle with algebra and mathematical reasoning later in their schooling," said Susan Courey, assistant professor of special education at San Francisco State University. "We have designed a method that uses gestures and symbols to help children understand parts of a whole and learn the academic language of math."

The program has shown tangible results at Hoover Elementary School in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Courey's study included 67 students. Half the group participated in a six-week Academic Music curriculum and the rest received the school's regular math instruction.

Students in the music-based program scored 50 percent higher on a fraction test, taken at the end of the study, compared to students in the regular math class.

Significant gains were made by students who struggle with academics. The researchers compared the test scores of lower-performing students in both groups and found that those who were taught the experimental music curriculum scored 40 percent higher on the final fractions test compared to their lower performing peers in the regular math class.

"Students who started out with less fraction knowledge achieved final test scores similar to their higher-achieving peers," Courey said. "Lower-performing students might find it hard to grasp the idea of fractions from a diagram or textbook, but when you add music and multiple ways of learning, fractions become second nature to them."

Courey devised Academic Music with music teacher Endre Balogh. They borrowed aspects from the Kodaly method, a Hungarian approach to music education that incudes movement, songs and nicknames for musical notes, such as "ta-ah" for a half note.

The curriculum helps children connect the value of musical notes, such as half notes and eighth notes, to their equivalent fraction size. By clapping and drumming rhythms and chanting each note's Kodaly names, students learn the time value of musical notes. Students learn to add and subtract fractions by completing work sheets, in which they draw musical notes on sheet music, ensuring the notes add up to four beats in each bar or measure.

The program has also proven itself at Allen Elementary School, a San Bruno public school -- not included in the study -- that has been using the Academic Music program since 2007.

"Academic Music brings music into the classroom and gets children to learn math in a different way that's symbolic and not dependent on language," said Kit Cosgriff, principal at Allen Elementary School, who introduced the program to help the schools' diverse student body learn math in ways that are not language-based. The school serves many students from low-income families, and 60 percent of students don't speak English as their first language.

"In every lesson I've observed, the children have been excited and enthusiastic about learning fractions," Cosgriff said. "It's a picture of what you would like every class to look like."

Cosgriff believes the school's recent jump in standardized test scores reflects the impact of Academic Music. Since implementing the program for all third-grade math classes, the percentage of third-graders who scored proficient or above on the California Standards Test for math increased from 63 percent in 2006 to 70 percent in 2007 and 75 percent in 2008. On the California Achievement Test (CAT/6) for mathematics, the percentage of third graders who scored at or above the national average increased from 51 percent in 2006 to 72 percent in 2007 and 75 percent in 2008.

Academic Music is a 12-lesson program that is designed to be taught by regular classroom teachers without the help of a music teacher. Courey's next step is to publish curriculum materials for teachers.

"We're suggesting that teachers put music in their arsenal of tools for teaching math." Courey said.

"It's fun, it doesn't cost a lot, and it keeps music in the classroom."

"Academic Music: Music Instruction to Engage Third Grade Students in Learning Basic Fraction Concepts" has been accepted for press in the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics and will be published online next week

Monday, July 2, 2012

States face challenges to improve writing standards


Far too many K-12 students have inadequate writing skills, and the current efforts to improve instruction in the United States may be more challenging than anticipated, research from Michigan State University shows.

According to an initial sample of seven states, the existing standards for teaching writing vary widely in comparison to a new set of common standards that are in the process of being implemented by most states.

Study co-director Gary Troia of MSU, along with Natalie Olinghouse at the University of Connecticut, said educators and policymakers in many parts of the country will have to make significant changes to bring existing curriculum, materials and teacher training in line with the Common Core State Standards for writing and language.

The new K-12 standards are intended to improve instruction in mathematics and English language arts, including writing, nationwide.

“Everyone needs to know how to write well, and we are not doing a good enough job to prepare students,” said Troia, associate professor of education. “What we are finding is that states are going to be faced with a misalignment between the content standards and curriculum materials they are using and what the Common Core requires them to cover.”

The research team has a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study writing standards, assessments and student performance in all states except Maryland, Texas and the District of Columbia, which elected not to participate. Their first findings, presented at the American Educational Research Association meeting April 17, reflect an analysis of states representing a range of demographics and writing test results: California, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Florida, New York and Massachusetts.

The researchers also evaluated the scope and quality of the Common Core writing standards, expected to be implemented in 46 states by 2014. They found the common standards are easy to interpret, succinct and balanced in terms of covering content across grades and topic areas. However, some important aspects of writing, such as student motivation, peer and teacher feedback, and mastery of an expanded range of writing purposes, are not included in the Common Core.

“Things that do matter at an early age like spelling and handwriting are not addressed very well,” said Troia. “States have to think about whether they want to add anything to the common standards as opposed to implementing them as is.”

Policy research has shown that content standards affect what is taught and how students perform. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, up to two-thirds of U.S. students are not considered proficient in writing.

“That presents a pretty bleak picture, and yet the expectations for writing in college and the workplace are being ramped up,” Troia said. “The Common Core can provide consistency and a lot of opportunities to enhance instruction, but there are gaps as well and we don’t want those to be ignored.”

The four-year study also is exploring how states’ writing standards and assessments reflect research knowledge about best practices as well as the types of writing skills students are expected to demonstrate after graduation.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Preschoolers' reading skills benefit from 1 modest change by teachers


A small change in how teachers and parents read aloud to preschoolers may provide a big boost to their reading skills later on, a new study found.

That small change involves making specific references to print in books while reading to childen – such as pointing out letters and words on the pages, showing capital letters, and showing how you read from left to right and top to bottom on the page.

Preschool children whose teachers used print references during storybook reading showed more advanced reading skills one and even two years later when compared to children whose teachers did not use such references. This is the first study to show causal links between referencing print and later literacy achievement.

"Using print references during reading was just a slight tweak to what teachers were already doing in the classroom, but it led to a sizeable improvement in reading for kids," said Shayne Piasta, co-author of the study and assistant professor of teaching and learning at Ohio State University.

"This would be a very manageable change for most preschool teachers, who already are doing storybook reading in class."

Piasta conducted the study with lead investigator Laura Justice, professor of teaching and learning at Ohio State, as well as co-investigators Anita McGinty of the University of Virginia and Joan Kaderavek of the University of Toledo. Their results appear in the April 2012 issue of the journal Child Development.

The study is part of Project STAR (Sit Together And Read), a randomized clinical trial based at Ohio State to test the short- and long-term impacts associated with reading regularly to preschool children in the classroom.

The study involved more than 300 children in 85 classrooms who participated in a 30-week shared reading program. As a group, the children came from low-income homes, started with below-average language skills and were at substantial risk for later reading difficulties.

The children were separated into three groups: high-dose STAR (four reading sessions per week), low-dose STAR (two reading sessions per week) and a third comparison group who also had four reading sessions per week. All teachers in the three groups read the same 30 books to their students.

Teachers in the two STAR groups were trained to make specific print references while reading the books. Teachers in the comparison group were told to read as they normally would, and were not prompted to make print references.

Results showed that both one and even two years later, preschoolers in the high-dose STAR classrooms had higher word reading, spelling and comprehension skills than did children in the comparison group. The benefits were not as clear for those in the low-dose STAR classrooms, although they did seem to have slightly better skills than those children in the comparison classrooms.

Piasta said it was particularly notable that students in the high-dose STAR classrooms scored higher on tests of reading comprehension.

"If you're getting kids to pay attention to letters and words, it makes sense that they will do better at word recognition and spelling," she said.

"But the fact that they also did better at understanding the passages they read is really exciting. That suggests this intervention may help them become better readers."

How do print references help preschoolers become better readers? Piasta said research suggests it helps children learn the code of letters and how they relate to words and to meaning.

"By showing them what a letter is and what a letter means, and what a word is and what a word means, we're helping them to crack the code of language and understand how to read," she said.

While this study shows the value of using print references with preschoolers, research suggests very few teachers and parents do this systematically, according to Piasta.

An earlier study by Justice and her colleagues showed that untrained teachers reference print about 8.5 times per reading session – compared to up to 36 times for those who were trained.

Parents are even less likely to make print references while reading to their children. One study suggests that parents use such references only about once during a typical 10-minute reading session.

"One of the best things about the power of print referencing is how easy it would be to implement during shared reading in the classroom," Piasta said.

"Compared to a lot of interventions, this only requires a small adjustment to teachers' typical reading style. But it pays large dividends in reading skills."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Honebein's Constructivist Principles

Honebein (1996) describes seven goals for the design of constructivist learning environments:
1. Provide experience with the knowledge construction process;
2. Provide experience in and appreciation for multiple perspectives;
3. Embed learning in realistic and relevant contexts;
4. Encourage ownership and voice in the learning process;
5. Embed learning in social experience;
6. Encourage the use of multiple modes of representation;
7. Encourage self-awareness in the knowledge construction process (p.11).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lebow's Constructivist Principles

Lebow (1993) has proposed the following "Five Principles Toward a New Mindset," to influence the design of constructivist lesson plans.1- Maintain a buffer between the learner and the potentially damaging effects of instructional practices.2- Provide a context for learning that supports both autonomy and relatedness.3- Incorporate the reasons for learning into the learning activity.4- Support self-regulated learning by promoting attitudes that enable the learner to assume responsibility for learning.5- Strengthen the tendencies of the learner to engage in learning processes, by encouraging exploration of mistakes (Lebow 1993, 5-6).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ernest's Constructivist Principles

Paul Ernest (1995) in his description of the many schools of thought of constructivism suggests the following implications of constructivism which derive from both the radical and social perspectives:
1. sensitivity toward and attentiveness to the learner's previous constructions;
2. diagnostic teaching attempting to remedy learner errors and misconceptions;
3. attention to metacognition and strategic self-regulation by learners;
4. the use of multiple representations of mathematical concepts;
5. awareness of the importance of goals for the learner, and the dichotomy between learner and teacher goals;
6. awareness of the importance of social contexts, such as the difference between folk or street mathematics and school mathematics (and an attempt to exploit the former for the latter) (p.485).

Vygotsky’s Theory of Learning and Constructivism


Vygotsky’s main concern is that social interaction and social context, a world full of other people, who interact with the child from birth onwards, are essential in the cognitive development. He states that "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals." (Vygotsky, 1978:57).
Next, he points out at the idea that the potential for cognitive development is limited to a certain time span, which he names the “zone of proximal development”. (ZPD) In addition, full development during ZDP depends upon full social interaction. The range of skill that can be developed with adult guidance or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone. It is of very fact that other people play important roles in helping children to learn, providing objects and ideas to their attention, talking while playing and sharing while playing, reading stories, asking questions. In a wide range of ways, adults mediate the world for children and make it possible for them to get access to it. The ability to learn through instruction and mediation is characteristic of human intelligence. By the help of adults children can do and understand more than they can on their own. (Cameron, 2002:5-8) Actually, Vygotsky proposed the notion of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) to give a new meaning to ‘intelligence’. Instead of measuring intelligence by what a child can do alone, Vygotsky suggested that intelligence could better be measured by what a child can do with skilled help.
Vygotsky attempted to shed light on consciousness which develops as a result of socialization. While learning a language the first utterances have a communicational purpose, but once internalized they become “inner speech”. Young children can often be observed talking to themselves and act as if they carry out tasks or play, in what is called private speech. As children get older they gradually speak less and less loud, and differentiate between social speech for others and ‘inner speech’, which continues to play an important role in regulating and controlling behavior. Wertsch (1985) emphasizes that internalization for Vygotsky was not just transfer but also a transformation; being able to think about something is qualitatively different from being able to do it. In the internalizing process, the interpersonal, joint talk and joint activity, later becomes intrapersonal, mental action by one individual. Development can be seen as internalizing from social interaction. Language can grow as the child takes over control of language used initially with other children and adults.
Although Vygotsky’s theory is currently most noted for his central focus on the social, and modern developments are labeled ‘sociocultural theory’, he did not neglect the individual or individual cognitive development.(Cameron, 2002) In Vygotskian terms, language provides the child with a new tool, opens up new opportunities for doing things and for organizing information through the use of words as symbols. The infant begins with using single words, but these words convey whole messages. As the child’s language develops, the whole undivided thought message can be broken down into smaller units and expressed by putting together words that are now units of talk. The word is a recognizable linguistic unit for children in their first language and so they will notice words in the new language. The new language is first used meaningfully by teacher and pupils, and later it is transformed and internalized to become part of the individual child’s language skills or knowledge. Children’s foreign language learning depends on what they experience. Within the ZPD, the broader and richer the language experience that is provided for children, the more they are likely to learn. The activities that happen in classroom create a kind of environment for teaching, and as such, offer different kinds of opportunities for language learning. Part of teaching skill is to identify the particular opportunities of task or activity, and then to develop them into learning experiences for the children. (Cameron, 2002:5-20)
The Social Development Theory of Vygotsky has got many implications in many theories like Social Cognitive Theory, Situated Learning Theory and Constructivism. The key components explained in Vygotsky’s theory have been broadened later by many researchers.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bruner’s Views on Learning and Constructivism


A major theme in the theoretical framework of Bruner is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current and past knowledge. The learner chooses and permutes the knowledge, constructs hypotheses, makes decisions, and while performing these he relies on his cognitive structuring. His cognitive structure caters for grasping the meaning and organization of the experiences, and enables him to “go beyond the given information”
When the instruction is considered, the instructor should try and encourage the student to discover the principles themselves. This should be achieved through engagement of learners and teacher in an active conversation. Teachers should be able to transform the materials to be learned in such a way that it suits the learners’ cognitive level. The way of presenting the materials should be spiral not linear so that it allows both learners to contemplate and construct gradually upon what they have learned.
Bruner (1966) states that a theory of instruction should address four major aspects: (1) predisposition towards learning, (2) the ways in which a body of knowledge can be structured so that it can be most readily grasped by the learner, (3) the most effective sequences in which to present material, and (4) the nature and pacing of rewards and punishments. Good methods for structuring knowledge should result in simplifying, generating new propositions, and increasing the manipulation of information. In his more recent work, Bruner (1986, 1990, 1996) has expanded his theoretical framework to encompass the social and cultural aspects of learning as well as the practice of law.
Bruner notes that “language is the most important tool for cognitive growth”. He investigated how adults use language to mediate the world for children and help them to solve problems. Talk that supports a child in carrying out an activity, as a kind of verbal version of fine tuned help has been labeled as “scaffolding”. Children need space for language growth. Routines and scaffolding are to types of language-using strategies that seem to be especially helpful in making space for children. Mothers who used scaffolded talk made the children interested in the task, simplified the task by breaking it into smaller steps, kept the child on track onwards completing the task by reminding the child what the goal was, pointed out what was important to do or showed the child other ways of doing the parts of the tasks, controlled the child’s frustration during the tasks, demonstrated an idealized version of the task. Moreover, good scaffolding was tuned to the needs of the child and adjusted as the child became more competent. (Cameron, 2002:8-10)
For the classroom settings ,Wood (1998) suggested that teachers can scaffold children’s learning in various ways: to attend what is relevant, adopt useful strategies, remember the whole task and goals teachers can suggest, praise the significant, provide focusing activities, encourage rehearsal, be explicit about organization, remind, model, provide part-whole activities. Also classroom language and routines occurring everyday can provide opportunities for language development. They would allow the child to actively make sense of new language from experience and provide space for language growth. Routines will open up many possibilities for developing language skills.(Cameron, 2002:8-11)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Learning Principles in Constructivism


What are some guiding principles of constructivist thinking that we must keep in mind when we consider our role as educators? I will outline a few ideas, all predicated on the belief that learning consists of individuals' constructed meanings.
Learning is an active process in which the learner uses sensory input and constructs meaning out of it. The more traditional formulation of this idea involves the terminology of the active learner (Dewey's term) stressing that the learner needs to do something; that learning is not the passive acceptance of knowledge which exists "out there" but that learning involves the learner s engaging with the world.People learn to learn as they learn: learning consists both of constructing meaning and constructing systems of meaning. For example, if we learn the chronology of dates of a series of historical events, we are simultaneously learning the meaning of a chronology. Each meaning we construct makes us better able to give meaning to other sensations which can fit a similar pattern.The crucial action of constructing meaning is mental: it happens in the mind. Physical actions, hands-on experience may be necessary for learning, especially for children, but it is not sufficient; we need to provide activities which engage the mind as well as the hands (Dewey called this reflective activity.)Learning involves language: the language we use influences learning. On the empirical level. Researchers have noted that people talk to themselves as they learn. On a more general level. There is a collection of arguments, presented most forcefully by Vigotsky, that language and learning are inextricably intertwined. This point was clearly emphasized in Elaine Gurain's reference to the need to honor native language in developing North American exhibits. The desire to have material and programs in their own language was an important request by many members of various Native American communities.Learning is a social activity: our learning is intimately associated with our connection with other human beings, our teachers, our peers, our family as well as casual acquaintances, including the people before us or next to us at the exhibit. We are more likely to be successful in our efforts to educate if we recognize this principle rather than try to avoid it. Much of traditional education, as Dewey pointed out, is directed towards isolating the learner from all social interaction, and towards seeing education as a one-on-one relationship between the learner and the objective material to be learned. In contrast, progressive education (to continue to use Dewey's formulation) recognizes the social aspect of learning and uses conversation, interaction with others, and the application of knowledge as an integral aspect of learning.Learning is contextual: we do not learn isolated facts and theories in some abstract ethereal land of the mind separate from the rest of our lives: we learn in relationship to what else we know, what we believe, our prejudices and our fears. On reflection, it becomes clear that this point is actually a corollary of the idea that learning is active and social. We cannot divorce our learning from our lives.One needs knowledge to learn: it is not possible to assimilate new knowledge without having some structure developed from previous knowledge to build on. The more we know, the more we can learn. Therefore any effort to teach must be connected to the state of the learner must provide a path into the subject for the learner based on that learner's previous knowledge.
It takes time to learn: learning is not instantaneous. For significant learning we need to revisit ideas, ponder them try them out, play with them and use them. If you reflect on anything you have learned, you soon realize that it is the product of repeated exposure and thought. Even, or especially, moments of profound insight, can be traced back to longer periods of preparation. Motivation is a key component in learning. Not only is it the case that motivation helps learning, it is essential for learning. This idea of motivation as described here is broadly conceived to include an understanding of ways in which the knowledge can be used. Unless we know "the reasons why", we may not be very involved in using the knowledge that may be instilled in us. Even by the most severe and direct teaching.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What is Constructivism?

The latest most fashionable word in education is "constructivism," applied both to learning theory and to epistemology---both to how people learn, and to the nature of knowledge. We need to think about our work in relation to theories of learning and knowledge. So, what is constructivism, what does it have to tell us that is new and relevant, and how do we apply it to our work?
As a philosophy of learning, constructivism can be traced at least to the eighteenth century and the work of the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico, who held that humans can only clearly understand what they have themselves constructed. Many others worked with these ideas, but the first major contemporaries to develop a clear idea of constructivism as applied to classrooms and childhood development were Jean Piaget and John Dewey.
For Dewey education depended on action. Knowledge and ideas emerged only from a situation in which learners had to draw them out of experiences that had meaning and importance to them (see Democracy and Education, 1916). These situations had to occur in a social context, such as a classroom, where students joined in manipulating materials and, thus, created a community of learners who built their knowledge together.
Piaget's constructivism is based on his view of the psychological development of children. In a short summation of his educational thoughts (To Understand is to Invent, 1973), Piaget called for teaches to understand the steps in the development of the child's mind. The fundamental basis of learning, he believed, was discovery: "To understand is to discover, or reconstruct by rediscovery, and such conditions must be complied with if in the future individuals are to be formed who are capable of production and creativity and not simply repetition." To reach an understanding of basic phenomena, according to Piaget, children have to go through stages in which they accept ideas they may later see as not truthful. In autonomous activity, children must discover relationships and ideas in classroom situations that involve activities of interest to them. Understanding is built up step by step through active involvement.
The Russian Lev. S Vygotsky is also important to constructivism, although his ideas have not always been clear to the English-reading public both because of political constraints and because of mistranslations. Some commentators believe that Vygotsky is not a constructivist because of his emphasis on the social context in learning, but others see his stress on children creating their own concepts as constructivist to the core. Mind in the Society (English translation, 1978) is a popularization of some of his ideas for an American audience; also available is a collection of shorter works, The Vygotsky Reader (ed. Rene van der Veer and Jaan Valsiner, 1994). Vygotsky believed that children learn scientific concepts out of a "tension" between their everyday notions and adult concepts. Presented with a preformed concept from the adult world, the child will only memorize what the adult says about the idea. To make it her property the child must use the concept and link that use to the idea as a first presented to her. But the relation between everyday notions and scientific concepts was not a straight development to Vygotsky. Instead the prior conceptions and the introduced scientific concepts are interwoven and influence each other as the child works out her own ideas from the generalizations that she had already and that have been introduced to her.
Constructivism is a theory of knowledge with roots in philosophy, psychology and cybernetics. Such is the definition provided by constructivist's leading theorist, E. von Glasersfeld (1989). As von Glasersfeld (1995) comments:
“Constructivism does not claim to have made earth-shaking inventions in the area of education; it merely claims to provide a solid conceptual basis for some of the things that, until now, inspired teachers had to do without theoretical foundation.”
Von Glasersfeld's musings remind us that theory and practice exhibit a curious interplay which is sometimes unpredictable and, sometimes, unexplainable. His comments remind us as well that constructivism is more than a theory of learning. It is a way of looking at the world that is broad enough to allow for multiple interpretations and yet, defined sufficiently to allow for a perspective that can explain complex and abstract phenomenon and which can guide our actions. We tend to take for granted and accept unquestioningly the use of terms such as 'true', 'real', 'worlds'. Consideration of the complexities behind these everyday words seems far removed from the daily practice of the classroom and more like the fodder of philosophers such as Socrates.
Constructivism reminds us that these are not only important philosophical notions. On the contrary, they can significantly affect how we see the world and, more importantly, how we behave in it. Perhaps an important challenge for educational reform is to begin to question and come to a greater understanding of the philosophy, theory and epistemology that presently informs educational practice. Understanding what our behaviors and practices mean can of times be both revealing, and, hopefully, useful.
Von Glasersfeld (1995) indicates in relation to the concept of reality: "It is made up of the network of things and relationships that we rely on in our living, and on which, we believe, others rely on, too" (p.7). The knower interprets and constructs a reality based on his experiences and interactions with his environment. Rather than thinking of truth in terms of a match to reality, von Glasersfeld focuses instead on the notion of viability: "To the constructivist, concepts, models, theories, and so on are viable if they prove adequate in the contexts in which they were created" (p.7).
If we accept constructivist theory (which means we are willing to follow in the path of Dewey, Piaget and Vigotsky among others), then we have to give up Platonic and all subsequent realistic views of epistemology. We have to recognize that there is no such thing as knowledge "out there" independent of the knower, but only knowledge we construct for ourselves as we learn. Learning is not understanding the "true" nature of things, nor is it (as Plato suggested) remembering dimly perceived perfect ideas, but rather a personal and social construction of meaning out of the bewildering array of sensations which have no order or structure besides the explanations which we fabricate for them.
In general, constructivism tends to be more holistic and less mechanistic than traditional information-processing theories (Cunningham, 1991). People make sense out of their world by taking in information from the environment and assimilating it into their pre-existing schemas and understandings (Bransford & Vye, 1989). Learners undergo conceptual change by directly confronting misconceptions (Wilson & Cole, 1991a). Some constructivists have aligned themselves with the situated cognition movement (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989), asserting that because cognition depends on our experience base, cognitive apprenticeships and other authentic teaching methods are preferable (Clancey, 1992). The roots of many constructivist beliefs are traceable to postmodern philosophies which depart from the rationalist, objectivist, and technocratic tendencies of modern society.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Prissification of Law Profs: Leiter, the Scam-man, and Commentators

I am feeling ashamed of being a law professor right now. First you have the author of the law scam blog who was too prissy to identify himself. Go figure, you're a fucking law professor. What is another law professor going to do to you? Snub you at one of those meetings at which everyone one is looking over everyone elses' shoulders in case there is someone else in the room whose ass it would be better to kiss.

And there was the prissiness of the discussion about what should be made of his effort to be anonymous and other matters already discussed a zillion times. Just replay tape 54. Really is this high school? And then it is followed by even more.

But Brian Leiter takes the cake in this prissing contest. Evidently he is deeply offended and, thus, has launched an extended ad hominen attack on poor timid Mr. Scam-man. Oh, my goodness! For example, according to Mr. Leiter, Mr Scam-man is "notorious in the legal academy." Ouch, now that is big. It's about as important in the scheme of things as being notorious in a Denny's kitchen. And he notes of Mr. Scam-man's accusations, which admittedly are exaggerated, " "None of this warrants the absurdly offensive description of American legal education as a "'scam.'" When was Mr. Leiter appointed the protector of the virtue of American Legal Education. Where was he when Hester needed him? And then, we find that Mr. Scam-man is a "failed academic." I have never actually followed the logic that a "failed academic," even if that is true, cannot observe and report on what he sees. But, if Mr. Scam-man is a failed academic and his record is the standard, he joins 95% of the other law professors who few people know and even fewer people give a rat's ass about what they write or say.



And now a personal note. I really want a comment on this post. And this comment must say this: "Jeff, you've been duped. This was all Performance Art." I really want to believe this because if it is not true, Mr. Scam-man has only scratched the surface and everyone in on this kerfuffle, including me, needs to be spanked just enough to get the priss out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Law School Scam and Prissiness

I am sure most readers have seen the law school scam blog or read references to it. I agree with much of Mr. Mystery's observations (yes this is way too hush-hush not to be anonymous) except I don't believe law profs are as work averse as he or she suggests. Don't get me wrong; it is a world of little accountability but some do have a conscience.

One of my friends predicts this will become the new bandwagon for law professors resulting in much hand wringing about "what we have done to the students." Maybe my friend is right but, if so, it goes down as just another well ....bandwagon. By that I mean no one was on board on the basis of principle but only became interested when they were sure the wind was blowing the right way. What can I say? Just another example of individual gutlessness.
There are lots of others. I could count on one hand the number of law professors who have raised the issue of exploitation and its racial bias when it comes to college athletes. I guess that bandwagon is stalled.
Another one is the deep concern about diversity. Yes, faculty will argue and spends gallons of stomach acid on how much diversity counts and who to hire for a full time tenure track position. On the other hand, literally thousands of adjuncts, lecturers, and other teachers are hired without even a nod to publicizing the position in order to attract diverse candidates. That bandwagon is also stuck in a rut. The same goes for the salaries of staff people.
As I have written many times before, the best argument against tenure for law professors is that they waste it. Of all the groups I have observed, law profs, men and women, must have the highest level of average prissiness per person.(APPP).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Economics negative 101

Over on facebook, I ran across this comment on a post about the economics of legal education:

"Legal education in the U.S. could be tweaked, sure. But the biggest problems I see are the absurd increases in number of law schools, class size, and tuition."
The writer is not a "friend" and I do not otherwise know him. I am not picking on him but I think his thoughts may be similar to that of others. That worries me because it seems so off course.
As I understand it the current pressing issue is that law school grads cannot find jobs. So, they invest thousands and end up with a great deal of debt and little or no return on that investment.
The question is whether the problem is more law schools, larger classes, and higher tuition. Unless the law schools are actively misleading investors, what is the connection between any of these and really bad decision making? In my town, there must be 50 people who have invested in selling pizza. If one of them folds, will the reason be that pizza making equipment was too expensive, or readily available? Makes no sense.
I cannot help but wonder if the recent "blaming" trend is the result of finally graduating an age group composed in large part of people who were always over affirmed, could never make mistakes and, thus, cannot handle the criticism the market is offering about their decision making.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who Pays for Nancy Grace

Went to my gym last night and got on the boring stair machine. It has a TV so I turned it on hoping for a distraction. The person before me was evidently watching Nancy Grace. I did not stay long on that channel but noticed that there is a clock on the screen counting down until the so-called Tot Mom is released. (It seems like that is supposed to be pegorative but I do not get it.)

I had a number of thoughts. Nancy Grace continues to wave a red flag in front of people already upset about the Casey Anthony verdict and she is making a bundle for herself and the network doing it. She may just push it hard enough that she gets someone killed. I am certain that she has already pushed it enough that there will be funds spent to keeping Casey safe. In short, Nancy is exploiting listeners for her own gain and you and I will pay the bill for the consequences. If you think about it, Nancy is asking me and you to subsidize her money-making efforts.

Why isn't Nancy like a polluting factory that is required to clean up or pay for the area it has polluted. I am all for Nancy speaking her mind and as long as she makes money doing it I am sure her shameless sponsors will be for it too. I'd just like Nancy to be around to clean up the mess when the dust settles.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Public Documents: What Does it Mean

Some of the characteristics I have identified of elites is a desire to maintain denyability, the tell half truths, and to volunteer but not ask. This is all below in one of my posts. Clearly though, the desire not create a written record is hardly a characteristics of elitists. It is actually a characteristic of most administrators whose positions are political -- whether an actual politician or just someone trying to please as many people as possible.

This article about a Florida official raises an issue. I understand that documents, other than some exceptions, must be public. On the other hand, is it also required that a document be made in the first place. To me purposely not making a document for fear it will become public defeats the purpose of the law. On the other hand, lawyers and administrators seem not really to worry much about the spirit of the law as long as they can find a way around it.
In one recent experience, I was asked to make an evaluation. So I did and submitted a very long written report. The person to whom is was sent apologized for not letting me know that the written document could be a public record. My response, "I hope so, that is why I wrote it." Several others were asked to make a similar evaluation. This was, by the way, an evaluation including several variables. To my knowledge none of them wrote anything down.
I assume they acted within the law as a technical matter but perhaps not in spirit. But, I do not know.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Impact of the Early College High School Model


Early college high schools are a new and rapidly spreading model that merges the high school and college experiences and that is designed to increase the number of students who graduate from high school and enroll and succeed in postsecondary education.

This article presents results from a federally funded experimental study of the impact of the early college model on Grade 9 outcomes. Results show that, as compared to control group students, a statistically significant and substantively higher proportion of treatment group students are taking core college preparatory courses and succeeding in them. Students in the treatment group also have statistically significantly higher attendance and lower suspension rates than students in the control group.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Effects of the Elements of Reading® Vocabulary Program on Word Knowledge and Passage Comprehension

A cluster randomized trial estimated the effects of a supplemental vocabulary program, Elements of Reading®: vocabulary on student vocabulary and passage comprehension in moderate- to high-poverty elementary schools. Forty-four schools participated over a period spanning 2 consecutive school years. At baseline, 1,057 teachers and 16,471 students from kindergarten, first, third, and fourth grade participated. The schools were randomly assigned to either the primary or intermediate grade treatment group.

In each group, the nontreatment classrooms provided the control condition. Treatment classrooms used the intervention to supplement their core reading program, whereas control classrooms taught vocabulary business-as-usual. The intervention includes structured, weekly lesson plans for 6 to 8 literary words and aural/oral and written language activities providing multiple exposures and opportunity for use.

Hierarchical linear modeling was used to estimate both proximal (Year 1) and distal (Year 2) effects on vocabulary and passage comprehension. The intervention had positive and statistically significant proximal effects but no statistically significant distal effects. The results indicate that the intervention can improve targeted vocabulary and local passage comprehension, but expecting global effects may be overly optimistic.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Is Administration Leaner in Charter Schools?

There is widespread concern that administration consumes too much of the educational dollar in traditional public schools, diverting needed resources from classroom instruction and hampering efforts to improve student outcomes. By contrast, charter schools are predicted to have leaner administration and allocate resources more intensively to instruction.

This study analyzes resource allocation in charter and district schools in Michigan, where charter and tradition public schools receive approximately the same operational funding.

Holding constant other determinants of school resource allocation, the authors find that compared to traditional public schools, charter schools on average spend nearly $800 more per pupil per year on administration and $1100 less on instruction.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vouchers, Responses and the Test Taking Population: Evidence from Florida

This study analyzes the Florida voucher program that embedded vouchers in an accountability regime. Specifically, it investigates whether threat of vouchers and stigma associated with the Florida voucher program induced schools to strategically manipulate their test-taking population. Under Florida rules, scores of students in several special education and limited English proficient categories were not included in the computation of school grades. Did this induce the threatened schools to reclassify some of their weaker students into these “excluded” categories so as to remove them from the effective test taking pool?

The author finds evidence in favor of strategic reclassification into the excluded LEP category in high stakes grade 4 and entry grade 3; but no evidence that the program led to such reclassification into excluded ESE categories. This is consistent with substantial costs associated with classification into ESE categories during this period.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Homework Distractions

A new regional study by a senior learning researcher and Mississippi State faculty member is the first to link homework distraction to a wide range of variables.
The multi-level analysis by Jianzhong Xu, a professor in the university’s College of Education, examined a range of variables affecting homework distraction, at both the student level and the class level. He hypothesized that homework distraction is affected by such variables as gender, academic achievement and student attitudes toward the work.

A member of the college’s leadership and foundations department, Xu also included numerous types of distractions in his analysis.

“The distractions I considered ranged from the conventional, such as watching television or daydreaming, to the high-tech, such as text messaging and playing video games,” he said.

Xu surveyed 1,800 eighth- and 11th-grade students from nearly 100 classes across the Southeastern United States. Students were asked about the frequency of family help with homework, extracurricular activities and parents’ education levels, among other variables.

Xu, a Columbia University doctoral graduate, said the study found those less likely to be distracted while doing homework scored higher in affective attitude, academic achievement, learning-oriented reasons, homework interest, and adult-oriented reasons.

Most of the variance in homework distraction occurred at the student level, not at the class level, he added.

While it may be a common assumption that many students tend to think of homework as boring, Xu’s investigation indicated affective attitude toward homework, like the favorability of homework as compared with other after-school activities, affect homework distraction the most.

The study also yielded two surprising results:
—Girls were more likely to be distracted than boys; and
—11th graders were more likely to be distracted than younger students while doing homework.

Xu said the study’s results have both research and practical implications.

“This line of research needs to be continued,” Xu said. “Other school levels, how different genders handle distractions and how certain attitudes toward homework play a role in coping with distraction need to be examined.”

Even though the findings show family homework help is not directly related to homework distraction, parents may still play an important role in helping children cope with distraction through influencing their attitudes toward homework. And students can take responsibility toward decreasing distraction while doing their homework by arranging a conducive homework environment and prioritizing and structuring other activities.Justify Full

Monday, June 4, 2012

CDC estimates 1 in 88 children (11.3 per 1,000) has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)


This marks a 23% increase since the last report in 2009 and a 78% increase since CDC's first report in 2007. Some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their local communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors in unknown.

The number of children identified with ASDs varied widely across the 14 Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network sites, from 1 in 47 (21.2 per 1,000) to 1 in 210 (4.8 per 1,000).

ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).

The largest increases over time were among Hispanic children (110%) and black children (91%). Some of this increase is probably due to greater awareness and better identification among these groups. However, this finding explains only part of the increase over time, as more children are being identified in all groups.

There were increases over time among children without intellectual disability (those having IQ scores above 70), although there were also increases in the estimated prevalence of ASDs at all levels of intellectual ability.

More children are being diagnosed at earlier ages—a growing number of them by age 3. Still, most children are not diagnosed until after they reach age 4, even though early identification and intervention can help a child access services and learn new skills.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Postsecondary Enrollment, Graduation Rates, and Student Financial Aid

For those attending public 4-year institutions, average price before aid was approximately $16,900 and net price was about $10,200; for those attending nonprofit 4-year institutions, average price before aid was roughly $32,700 and net price was about $16,700; and for those attending for-profit 4-year institutions, average price before aid was approximately $27,900 and net price was about $23,800, according to new data released by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2010; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2002-2007 presents findings from the spring 2011 data collection of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences.

Other findings include:

• In fall 2010, Title IV institutions enrolled 19 million undergraduate and 3 million graduate students. Of the 19 million undergraduates, 56 percent were enrolled in 4-year institutions, 42 percent in 2-year institutions, and 2 percent in less-than-2-year institutions.

• Approximately 58 percent of full-time, first-time students attending 4-year institutions in 2004 who were seeking a bachelor’s or equivalent degree completed a bachelor’s or equivalent degree within 6 years at the institution where they began their studies.

• Overall, first-time undergraduate student 1-year retention rates were higher for full-time students (72 percent) than for part-time students (44 percent).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

5 Years and 900+ Posts on International Higher Education Consulting Blog

Just over five years ago, on February 4, 2007, I decided to start International Higher Education Consulting Blog (aka IHEC Blog) and put up my first post "Initiatives in 2006 to Increase Diversity in Education Abroad". I didn't know what I was doing (a quick look at the URL <http://ihec-djc.blogspot.com/> I came up with demonstrates that!) but I knew I wanted to create my own international education space on the internet where I could inform, provoke, engage and archive. I hope I have done that...


IHEC Blog pushed me to create related internet properties and I have enjoyed playing in these spaces as well. I've met many great people along the way. Some I have met in person and for some our paths have yet to cross!


IHEC Blog has gone farther than I ever imagined. Today, IHEC Blog is one of five blogs worldwide selected by the New York Times editors to feed into the 'Headlines Around the Web' area of the International Education section of the New York Times online.


I've been doing much thinking about IHEC Blog the last several months and where to take it next. Any significant changes will come after I complete my dissertation which takes a long time to complete when you have a full-time job and three young children so later in 2012 oR early 2013 is now the target. I do hope to have more guest bloggers and perhaps a regular contributor join the fun [more on this development once finally confirmed] and I'm very excited for this to happen!


Thanks to everyone who has come along for the ride and I look forward to more years to come!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fidel Castro, Greece, Spain; how education can fix an economy

A friend of mine went to visit Fidel Castro a few years back. (He is not your typical guy and I have no idea how this was arranged.) They got into a conversation about education. My friend mentioned me and Castro asked whether I might want to be the Minister of Education of Cuba. When my friend told me about this, he asked what I would do if I had that job. I replied that I would ask Castro what Cuba wanted to be.My friend found that an odd response. Some days later, Castro shot some people and the U.S. prevented my friend from visiting Castro again so that was the end of that.I was reminded of this incident because, as I write this, I am on a Greek island and, not surprisingly, talk centers on what to do about the economy. Having recently been in Italy and Spain as well, it is obvious to me that the problems these countries are having stem from issues in education.When I say that, the response is usually less than enthusiastic, because it seems an odd idea, so let me explain.When I mentioned what I would want to ask Castro, this is what I had in mind. Education is meant to achieve something, although this is usually forgotten in education reform conversations. The people who designed the U.S. education system around 1900 knew this well. The country needed factory workers, so keeping students “in dark, airless places” doing mindless repetitive work, seemed like a good strategy.Today we have the factory worker strategy still in place, reinforced by a push for standards and multiple choice tests everywhere. The fact that there are no more factories seems to have skipped people’s attention. Also we have a big push for making sure everyone goes to college, despite the fact that college produces students who study what the professors happen to teach which means English, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Sociology, and any number of subjects that will not make students in any way employable.In the U.S. we have gotten away with this attitude for many years because we simultaneously had a big push by the Defense Department for new technology and thus were able to create Silicon Valley and enable an atmosphere of technological innovation. So while we have no factories, we do lead the world in software. It is almost as if someone in the Defense Department in the 60s and 70s were planning this. (I was there. They were.)Now think about Spain. Its number one industry is tourism. You would think therefore, that in Spain the schools would be pushing hospitality or cooking or hotel design. But they are not. They have their enormous share of useless language and history majors as well and the University establishment works hard to keep things as they have always been.Or think about Greece. Their number one industries are tourism and shipping. I have been an advisor to a Greek shipowner for over a decade now, and I can tell you it isn’t all that easy to learn about shipping in a Greek university. Nor is it easy to learn about tourism, because Greek universities, like those everywhere, are run by people who are worried about insisting that things stay the same so that their professorships are still relevant.What Greece and Spain need to do, what Cuba needed to do, what any country that is not big enough to do everything needs to do, is pick its spots.Universities offering a classical education are fine when only the wealthy elite are being educated. But mass education requires that schools be run people who are trying to educate for the future. This does not mean educating for “21st century skills” whatever that might mean. What is does mean is that schools need to do two things.First, they need to teach general thinking skills, not math, but planning, not literature but judgement, not science but diagnosis.Second, countries need to decide what they want to be when they grow up. Cuba, had I been running the educational show there, would have had to decide what the wanted to be the best at. Biotech or Agriculture or the Technology of cigar making. And they would have had to offer something less than everything under the sun to their students.To fix an economy in the long run requires planning. The planning has to start at the beginning by creating citizens who can both think and find useful employment in the sectors of the economy that the country already has or wants to have. Education is where everything starts. Countries can simply decide to be good at something and make themselves good at it. The U.S. decided exactly that about computer science 40 years ago. But it doesn't require the wealth of the U.S. to do that. Modern educational techniques, especially high quality experiential on line education, can make any country a specialist in any industry that it can realistically dream about.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Law School Titanic


Almost 100 years ago the Titanic went down in about three hours. If you cut through the details it was about hubris, greed, disorganization, carelessness and uncertainty. The Titanic "administrators" consistently ignored warnings of icebergs and sped at nearly top speed through the ice fields of the North Atlantic. No doubt that decision was made by those in charge in part because there was tremendous emphasis on being on time. The externalities of hubris and a focus on a singular goal was the lives of hundreds.

Are there signs you are aboard the law school Titanic? Of course. Here are a few:
1. On an ordinary school day you are called by an administrator calls and asks if you are holding class that day. You ask why and the answer is "Because so many other have canceled class."
2. Your dean sends out regular emails congratulating people for their accomplishments. Accomplishments include include being contacted by a newspaper but not being cited by a court or another scholar.
3. You have an externship program under which you charge students for credit hours but do not teach them and, as far as you know, no one else does either.
4. You approve a battery of courses about "Feelings." Not the song, that would be better.
5. Every peer evaluation of the teaching of every untenured faculty is extremely positive.
6. You fudge, lie or massage employment data.
7. Being a "good father" or a "good mother" or a friend or a spouse become relevant in tenuring and hiring decisions.
8. Procedure is created to achieve the desired ends of a few.
9. Warnings of trouble go unheeded until they become incidents worthy of investigation.
10. When things get nasty, the captain makes sure there is a life boat for one available.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Overweight Boys and Girls Benefit from Being Fit


Improving or maintaining physical fitness appears to help obese and overweight children reach a healthy weight, reports a new study from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Researchers analyzed four years of data from in-school fitness tests and body mass index (BMI) measurements of students in grades 1–7 in the city of Cambridge, Mass.

In the study published online March 15 by the journal Obesity, Sacheck and colleagues examined the association between weight status and fitness levels by assessing student performance on five fitness tests. Regardless of their weight, students were classified as “fit” if they passed all five tests and “underfit” if they failed one or more tests.

The assessments taken between 2004 and 2007 coincided with a city-wide weight and fitness intervention that prompted improvements to gymnasiums, promotion of physical activities outside of school, professional development for physical education teachers and issuing “Health and Fitness report cards” to parents. The 2,793 students in the study participated in bi-weekly school gym classes plus a daily recess, and annual assessments of their BMI and physical fitness.

“Of the 1,069 students who were initially obese or overweight, 17% achieved a healthy weight within the one to four year study period compared with 6.3% of students who began the study at a healthy weight and became obese or overweight,” said Jennifer M. Sacheck, Ph.D., senior author and an assistant professor at the Friedman School. “It is encouraging to see any kind of reversal in unhealthy weight patterns, considering Centers for Disease Control statistics indicate child and adolescent obesity rates rose approximately 13% between 1980 and 2008.”

Within the four-year study period, 27% of the 1,882 students who were underfit at baseline became fit.

“Obese and overweight girls who achieved fitness were almost five times as likely, and obese and overweight boys were two and a half times as likely, to reach a healthy weight than those who stayed underfit,” said first author Adela Hruby, a Ph.D. candidate at the Friedman School. “It turns out that maintaining fitness is beneficial, too. We observed that obese and overweight girls and boys who both started and ended the study being fit were more likely to have a healthy weight by the end of the study.”

Staying fit also benefitted healthy weight boys and girls; they were more likely to maintain their weight than those students who declined from fit to underfit over the course of the study.

Maintaining or achieving a healthy weight appeared to be most closely associated with cardiorespiratory fitness, which was assessed by th students’ performance in a 20-yard shuttle run (a 6-minute, back-and-forth run between two markers). Incremental improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with achieving a healthy weight in children who were obese or overweight at baseline and with weight maintenance in healthy weight students who were fit at baseline.

Sacheck noted additional research is needed to explain the current results. “Because ours is an observational study using just annual measures, it is unclear whether students who became fit did so before they lost weight or whether they lost weight before they became fit,” she said. “Long-term intervention trials that assess both fitness and nutrition could provide more data to determine the role of improved fitness in weight loss.”

A range of options exist for increasing child fitness. “Federal guidelines call for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day and most of that should fall into the category of cardiorespiratory fitness that builds the capacity of the heart and lungs, such as soccer or dancing,” Sacheck said. “In addition to organized sports, school recesses or walking to school counts toward that one-hour goal. Parents can help by being active with their kids and limiting time spent watching TV or playing video games.”

The authors propose schools as leading advocates for physical activity programming and policies, such as in-school fitness testing. “Although data on childhood fitness and health outcomes is still evolving, there is a body of research showing relationships between the two in adults, such as reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If studies continue to show the same for children, there is an even stronger case for fitness testing in schools where large groups of children can have access to such an evaluation.”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Another Curriculum w/Professional Development: No Impact


The study Impact on Student English Language Proficiency of Classroom Materials in Combination with Teacher Professional Development examines the impact on student English language proficiency of the On Our Way to English (OWE) curriculum, offered in combination with the Responsive Instruction for Success in English (RISE) teacher professional development.

On Our Way to English was developed to provide ELL students access to English oral language development, comprehensive literacy instruction, and standards-based content area information in science and social studies. Responsive Instruction for Success in English (RISE) complements the OWE classroom program with professional development to understand the content of OWE, the rationale for its structure, and practical strategies for its use.

The study found that the combination of OWE and RISE did not have a statistically significant effect on students’ acquisition of English, teacher-reported student engagement, instructional practices, or assessment practices.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tackling dyslexia before kids learn to read


For children with dyslexia, the trouble begins even before they start reading and for reasons that don't necessarily reflect other language skills. That's according to a report published online on April 5 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that for the first time reveals a causal connection between early problems with visual attention and a later diagnosis of dyslexia.

"Visual attention deficits are surprisingly way more predictive of future reading disorders than are language abilities at the prereading stage," said Andrea Facoetti of the University of Padua in Italy.

The researchers argue that the discovery not only closes a long-lasting debate on the causes of dyslexia but also opens the way to a new approach for early identification and interventions for the 10 percent of children for whom reading is extremely difficult.

The researchers studied Italian-speaking children for a period of three years, from the time they were prereading kindergarteners until they entered second grade. Facoetti's team, including Sandro Franceschini, Simone Gori, Milena Ruffino, and Katia Pedrolli, assessed prereaders for visual spatial attention—the ability to filter relevant versus irrelevant information—through tests that asked them to pick out specific symbols amid distractions. The children also took tests on syllable identification, verbal short-term memory, and rapid color naming, followed over the next two years by measures of reading.

Those test results showed that kids who initially had trouble with visual attention were also the ones to later struggle in reading.

"This is a radical change to the theoretical framework explaining dyslexia," Facoetti said. "It forces us to rewrite what is known about the disorder and to change rehabilitation treatments in order to reduce its impact."

He says that simple visual-attention tasks should improve the early identification of children at risk for dyslexia. "Because recent studies show that specific prereading programs can improve reading abilities, children at risk for dyslexia could be treated with preventive remediation programs of visual spatial attention before they learn to read."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yoga Vs Medical System.


In any medical systems the primary reliance is on medicine. It is assumed that a particular medicine will cure a particular diseases . The medical doctor does the diagnosis, identifies the disease and prescribes a suitable medicine . The patient in this system has to do very little or nothing at all. The task of correcting the diseases and disorder and restoring the health is assigned to the medicine.



Seen in this context , there is a contrast between the medical system and yogic system of treatment . Where as in the medical system an external agent medicine does the corrective work, in the yogic system this external agent is not needed at all. As said earlier, it is the patient himself whose personal understanding , practice and care cures his disease in the yogic system.

Patients suffering from various chronic disease, who had lost their faith in the medical system because in spite of years of treatment they had not achieved the permanent and satisfactory cure. In certain cases, the medicine provided them immediate relief, but not a lasting cure. On the other hand , a great number of such patients achieved the permanent cure through therapeutic yoga. This has specially been so in a cases of diabetes , arthritis and various other cases.



This limitation of the medical system should not mean that it is inferior to the yoga system; rather it is only a matter of the limitation and scope of a given system . There are areas where only the medical science and not yoga can come to the rescue of the patient. Similarly , there are certain diseases ,which , though regarded incurable through medicinal system, are definitely cured through yoga.This shows that every stem of treatment has certain unique points as well as limitations.



Further , the medical treatment has now become so expensive that millions of people all over the world can not afford it. It is, therefore, not surprising that our hospitals now fail to provide medicines to the patients although they used to do so liberally in the past . Yoga on the other hand does not involve any expenses .



Therefore , it would be prudent on the part of the medical men to adopt and use this tested ancient system of yoga, for treating those diseases and ailments whose medicinal cure is not certain. Since the system of therapeutic yoga is now scientifically established , it can be used as a "self-cure" method by people suffering from various disorders in any part of the world.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Using Incentives to Move a District’s Highest-Performing Teachers to its Lowest-Achieving Schools


“Moving Teachers: Implementation of Transfer Incentives in Seven Districts” describes the implementation and intermediate impacts of an intervention designed to provide incentives to induce a school district’s highest-performing teachers to work in its lowest-achieving schools. The intervention, called the Talent Transfer Initiative or TTI, was carried out in 7 districts and includes an incentive of $20,000 over 2 years to a district’s highest-performing teachers who agreed to move to teach in the district’s targeted lower performing schools.

The report uses random assignment within each district to form two equivalent groups of classrooms at the same grade level ("teacher teams"), a treatment group that had the chance to participate in the intervention and a control group that did not. Analyses include 90 vacancy pairs and 86 schools in the 7 study districts.

Data for this report were collected on program implementation and teacher- and principal-reported behaviors and perceptions.