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February 1, 2012
Vol. 69
No. 5

Double Take

Research Alert

Start Early to Excel

If you had to choose where to invest your education dollars—in full-day kindergarten alone or in a combination of preK and half-day kindergarten—which would you pick?
A recent report from the Center for Public Education—Starting Out Right—looks at several preK and kindergarten combinations and their effect on students' 3rd grade reading skills, a key predictor of future academic success. Although the report points out that preK programs coupled with full-day kindergarten are the most beneficial, the next best option is a combination of preK and half-day kindergarten.

Numbers of Note

In the 40 U.S. states studied,
85 percent saw a reduction of the gap between Latino and white students' scores on state achievement tests in both math and language arts between 2002 and 2009.
67 percent saw a reduction of the gap between black and white students' scores on state achievement tests in language arts during the same period.
63 percent saw a reduction of the gap between black and white students' scores on state achievement tests in math during the same period.
Source: Center on Education Policy. (2011). State test score trends through 2008–09, Part 5. Washington, DC: Author. The years covered varied among states, but every state had at least three years of comparable test data ending in 2009.

World Spin

Blue Is for Energize

In New Zealand, a school is testing the effects of different types of lighting on students' moods, energy levels, and ability to concentrate. The classroom lighting system enables teachers to choose from among four different settings. "Normal" is for everyday activities. "Energy" gives a blue tint to the light, which gets students going when they need that extra push, such as at the start of the day and just after lunch. "Focus," a whiter light, helps students concentrate on challenging tasks. "Calm," a warmer light, promotes relaxation and, according to a yearlong study of the lighting system in Hamburg, Germany, substantially reduces hyperactivity.

Only Online

A Peek into Practice

Did you ever wonder how teachers in other countries present lessons that maximize each student's learning? Now you can look inside those classrooms to find out.
Fifty-three videos are available free of charge at the Trends in International Math and Science Study Video website. The videos show typical middle school teaching methods in science in five countries—the United States, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic—as well as math lessons in those same five countries, plus Hong Kong and Switzerland.
The videos are a gold mine for exploring how teachers in different societies plan and deliver lessons, engage kids in hands-on projects, and accommodate students who are disengaged or lost. Each lesson is accompanied by an English transcript.
Each video features a running written commentary by researchers who describe what teachers and students are doing, point out instructional features, and note how common these features are in various countries—for instance, "Goal statements occurred in 58 percent of Japanese lessons, more than in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and the United States."
Want to discuss the videos with other teachers? Just go to the online forum.

Relevant Reads

Bright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD, and Autism by Diane M. Kennedy and Rebecca S. Banks with Temple Grandin (Jossey-Bass, 2011)
Twice-exceptional students have extraordinary gifts (such as creativity, high intelligence, or physical skills) combined with learning or developmental disabilities (such as attention deficit disorder or an autism spectrum disorder). Kennedy and Banks, both parents of twice-exceptional children, and Grandin, a highly successful adult with autism, point out that many of the most creative and divergent thinkers in history undoubtedly fell into the twice-exceptional category: Albert Einstein, Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Sir Isaac Newton, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, among others. The authors advocate that parents and educators adopt a strengths-based approach to identifying and supporting the talents of these children.
"Lost in the complicated interplay between the diagnostic and education systems, too many of our twice-exceptional students' talents remain unrecognized and undeveloped. These students are likely to be labeled as behaviorally disordered, oppositional and defiant, emotionally disordered, developmentally delayed, learning disabled, or some combination of these, rather than as gifted."(p. 183)

Page Turner

"Americans see schooling as the pathway to the 'good' life, but no unanimity exists on what it means to live a 'good' life."
—Larry Cuban, p. 10

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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