Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The best discussion of these issues that we have seen can be found on the website Great Schools. Keep in mind that although some of the language in that article refers to serious learning disabilities, families of children with all kinds of learning difficulties may be eligible for tax benefits, so long as their child's school program is designed to remediate the specific learning difficulty. The key is to be aware of the issues and to raise them with your tax advisor (or keep them in mind as you use your tax preparation software). We all know raising kids is expensive. Being aware of tax benefits can help!
Monday, March 29, 2010
Some things we're reading on this rainy Monday.
Ten Things I Want My Graduating Special Ed Students to Know (Successful Teaching Blog)
Math Worksheets World (LD Resources)
Working Memory of Mice Can Be Improved (Science Daily)
Take a Break or Nap to Boost Memory and Learning (Eide Neurolearning Blog)
Parents Say Special-Ed Kids Victims in Battle for Space (New York Daily News)
Ed. Dept. Eyes 'What Works' With Learning Disabilities (Education Week - On Special Education)
Friday, March 26, 2010
BOCES programs are designed to allow public school districts to offer an array of courses that are too specialized or too expensive to be offered by individual schools, and which students can begin in high school, ofen while attending their home school part of the time. For example, Barry Tech in Nassau County on Long Island offers over 40 courses for high school students, including culinary arts, automotive technology, and horse science and management. New York City offers career and technical education programs in areas ranging from fashion to construction trades in a variety of different settings.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Questions? Contact Lori Pietrafesa (516-827-7692) or Cathy Ardito (516-938-5210).
Friday, March 19, 2010
One task that should be on the list for most families is something we like to call "a check up from the neck up". As the school year is moving into its last few months, it's a good time to review what has gone well and what has been difficult this past year. If your child has an IEP, an Individual Educational Program under the IDEA, this is traditionally the time of year that your school district will be calling you in for an Annual Review. We will be featuring an extensive discussion of how to prepare for the Annual Review in our upcoming Yellin Center Newsletter. But the idea of a spring check up really should extend to all students.
The first part of such a check up is a conversation with your child about what he thinks has gone well or not so well this year. Was there a particular subject that he really enjoyed? This can be anything from reading to athletics, to music, to science. Are there ways you can build upon that interest during the summer months -- in a camp, or school program, or with family outings? Was there something that she found particularly difficult or just didn't enjoy? Maybe you can work over the summer to engage her in this subject or to at least build her skills.
So, as you air out your closets and think ahead about summer, take some time to clear the air about your child's school performance this year and to think about ways to address any concerns as you plan your summer activities.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Special Education Law Blog is written by Charles P. Fox, a Chicago, Illinois attorney who is also a parent of child with special needs. Fox, and his occasional guest writers, focus on legal and legislative news and deal with the broad spectrum of disabilities, not just learning issues.
The Wrightslaw Way blog from the team at the Wrightslaw website continues the mission of providing information on legal and practical issues dealing with K-12 special education laws. This blog is particularly helpful because of its question and answer format; it allows parents to raise specific questions regarding practices and procedures and get answers that help them navigate the system.
The Inside Schools Bloggers include parents, educators, and students. Each blogger has his or her blogs listed on the home page of the blog and readers can follow the day's post or the work of a particular writer. All of the blogs relate to the work of Inside Schools, which is to inform New York City parents about city schools and how they operate.
The New York Times Choice Blog, written by Jacques Steinberg, New York Times education writer and author of The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, looks at all aspects of the college admissions process and financing a college education.
We'll keep updating our list of blogs and hope you will let us know of blogs you recommend. We'll be pleased to check them out and share them with our readers.
Monday, March 15, 2010
We aren't talking about ways to protect the students. This has fortunately been a huge priority for many years and schools have drills for everything from fire to intruders in the building. But beyond the immediacy of the emergency, education still needs to continue and where there is a widespread disaster the stability of continuing in school can be helpful to students in ways that extend beyond the basics of education. Does your school have a plan for continuing operations if the school building is not available? Are records of all kinds available even if the building and the computers located inside it are not? Has your administration identified other locations (other schools -- public and private, local colleges, large office buildings, etc) that could be pressed into use for classroom space if necessary? Does your school or district have multiple ways of contacting families with the most up to date information -- email, local television stations, radio, and cell phones?
Of course, there are lots of things that schools and school districts have to deal with and as the sun comes up, power is restored, and the water dries up, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day business of education. Still, parents might want to remind their schools that planning for the proverbial rainy day isn't just good advice when talking about financial matters, but can be an important part of education as well.
Photo courtesy Dachalan
Friday, March 12, 2010
A fascinating study by Thomas Keller and Marcel Adam Just of Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging that appears in the December 10, 2009 issue of the journal Neuron takes this kind of neuroimaging a step further, using the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) process to look not just at discrete areas of the brain but at the crucial connections between such areas. This "white area" of the brain contains the pathways that make higher order thinking possible. As the authors note, "Although the basic computing power of the brain surely lies in individual neurons, it is only in their collective action, made possible by white matter connectivity, that enables the multi-centered large-scale brain networks that characterize thought."
The study involved three groups of eight to ten year olds. 35 poor readers received reading interventions. 12 poor readers did not receive any reading instruction beyond regular classroom lessons. And 25 good readers also received no specific interventions. The study demonstrated clear increases in connective matter only in the students receiving the interventions. The study authors raised the question of whether the increase in brain connections or the improvement in phonological decoding ability came first -- but suggest that it is also possible that such changes develop interactively, "as one might expect in a dynamic system such as the brain".
This is one more in a series of exciting scientific windows into the complexities of learning and the brain. By keeping abreast of the latest imaging techniques and what they can tell us about learning, we can better focus remediations and strategies to help all kinds of learners expand their skills.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
- To oversee the implementation of federal and State laws and policy for students with disabilities;
- To provide general supervision and monitoring of all public and private schools serving New York State preschool and school-age students with disabilities;
- To establish a broad network of technical assistance centers and providers to work directly with parents and school districts to provide current information and high quality professional development and technical assistance to improve results for students with disabilities;
- To ensure a system of due process, including special education mediation and impartial hearings; and
- To meet with stakeholders through the Commissioner's Advisory Panel for Special Education Services.
There has been discontent in some circles with how VESID performs this part of its role, which has also been impacted by budget and related staffing issues that have impacted its ability to do its job. We have learned that there is now a proposal before the New York State Regents (who supervise all educational matters in the State) that "would include combining all P-12 education issues, including special education, under a new Regents P-12 Committee"which would replace VESID.
Adoption of this proposal can have a real impact in the way the special education services are overseen in New York. We will continue to follow this matter to let parents know of any changes to the special education system.
Monday, March 8, 2010
A new study, done as a randomized trial, the "gold standard" in research, appears in the journal Psychological Science (not available for free online) and summarized in an article by Ed Yong, which appears in a newsblast from the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society. The researchers, Robert Weis and colleagues from Denison University, recruited 64 boys, ages 6-9, who did not already own a video game system. They gave half the boys a Playstation 2 and three "all ages" games. The other boys did not get a game system. Parents were told the game systems were an incentive for participating in a study of development, not that it was gaming itself that was being studied.
Clearly, there are more questions to be answered. But by moving beyond earlier studies which looked only at the correlation between academics and gaming, and using the more rigorous format of a randomized trial, this new research can help parents make better informed decisions about whether and how to allow their children access to video games.
Photo Credit: Sean Dreilinger/Flickr
Friday, March 5, 2010
- Observational skills are built by reviewing what ingredients are in the pantry or fridge.
- Children learn to plan step-by-step as they review recipes and decide what they need to prepare a particular meal.
- Language skills are built by reading labels and recipes.
- Measuring helps build competence with fractions and arithmetic skills. What if we doubled a recipe? or made only half a box of pasta?
- Motor skills are improved by cutting (with proper supervision) and adding and stirring foods.
- Important safety skills are modeled by parents and utilized by children: how to use a stove (with careful, age appropriate supervision), how to deal with sharp utensils, and how to handle hot items.
- Social interactions include cooperating in a crowded kitchen, taking turns, dealing with mistakes, and dining together with others when the dinner is ready to eat.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Think about it. First, there is the need to understand the question. That requires remembering the material you have learned on the subject. Next, you need to order that material in your mind to begin formulating a response. You need to be concerned with the mechanics of writing: spelling, grammar, sentence structure. You have to be competent at keyboarding or letter formation, and these skills need to be sufficiently automatic so you don't use so much mental energy getting the words onto the paper that you have no more space on your mental desktop to consider how you will be answering the question.
And so, on a day when blogging is not going well, yet our faithful readers are eagerly awaiting our lastest word on schools, education, and helping their child, we beg your indulgence and remind you something that we have realized once again today -- that writing isn't easy.
Monday, March 1, 2010
The personal learning plans that the Times article discusses are primarily designed to help students focus on career goals. An IEP under the IDEA is far broader, focusing on academic skills and strategies that are designed to help each particular student learn more effectively. Of course, good teachers always individualize instruction, but it is generally done informally. What if our schools had the resources to individually evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each student, to determine what approach to the materials would make them most accessible to that student, and to modify the curriculum to meet each student's special need?
Harvard Graduate School of Education, Matt Yellin, as he prepared a series of lessons on the Second World War that he would be teaching to his high school history classes at a Boston area school. We were fascinated by lessons that included links to photos, maps, and videos that each student could use in different ways. Some could map the progress of the battles across the Pacific, using online maps with embedded images and text. Others could focus on different issues, also following their interest and level of understanding with a choice of materials. Gone are the days where everyone has a single text, which is too hard for some students and too easy for others. There is a way to go before every student has fully personalized lessons, but new technologies bring that day closer.