Category Archives: Classroom

Scientists Find Learning Is Not ‘Hard-Wired’

Article in Education Week, June 6, 2012

by Sarah D Sparks

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Neuroscience exploded into the education conversation more than 20 years ago, in step with the evolution of personal computers and the rise of the Internet, and policymakers hoped medical discoveries could likewise help doctors and teachers understand the “hard wiring” of the brain. . . .

That conception of how the brain works, exacerbated by the difficulty in translating research from lab to classroom, spawned a generation of neuro-myths and snake-oil pitches—from programs to improve cross-hemisphere brain communication to teaching practices aimed at “auditory” or “visual” learners.

“What we find is people really do change their brain functions in response to experience,” said Kurt W. Fischer, the director of Harvard University’s Mind, Brain, and Education Program. “It’s just amazing how flexible the brain is. That plasticity has been a huge surprise to a whole lot of people.”

In contrast to the popular conception of the brain as a computer hard-wired with programs that run different types of tasks, said Dr. Jay N. Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, brain activity has turned out to operate more like a languageRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

In 1997, the cognitive scientist and philosopher John T. Bruer of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, in St. Louis, declared in a landmark essayRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader in the American Educational Research Association’s journalEducational Researcher that directly connecting neuroscience to classroom instruction was “a bridge too far.” He urged collaboration among cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and educators.

‘What Works’ Guide Gives RTI Thumbs Up on Reading’

Article in Education Week about the use or Response to Intervention to identify children needing extra help with reading.

“The Federal Institute of Education Sciences has released a practice guide on reading instruction and “response to intervention,” lending its stamp of approval to a process that has already been widely adopted by schools and districts.”

“A strong response-to-intervention, or RTI, program for early-childhood reading should include screening of all pupils, small-group instruction three to five a times a week for children who are struggling, and monitoring of those struggling students at least once a month to see how they are responding to the intensive lessons, according to the guide. It was published on the ies Web site on Feb. 18 through the What Works Clearinghouse.”

“At the same time, said Mr. Gersten, “this multi-tiered system has the advantage of being efficient” in providing instruction to students who need extra help. And overall, the guide offers practical advice for schools and could serve to advance the RTI process, he added.”

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Is it OK to Use Restraints?

Discussion in www.teachermagazine.org forums on restraints.

According to a recent government report, the use of violent restraining and secluding techniques by teachers with children with special needs has led to hundreds of deaths and injuries of school children over the last twenty years. In one particular case, a foster child, who had been abused by his biological family, was suffocated by his teacher after he disobeyed her request for him to sit down.”

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2009 National Teacher of the Year – Special Education Teacher

Email Newsletter from Teacher Magazine, June 11, 2009 [teachermagazine.org]
At the end of April, the White House announced that Anthony Mullen, a special education teacher in Greenwich, Conn., had been selected as the 59th National Teacher of the Year. A plain-spoken, unvarnished man of 50, Mullen worked as a New York City police officer for 21 years before leaving the department in 2000 to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher of students with special needs.

“I paraphrased in one of my speeches an observation that Tolstoy made about the nature of unhappiness. He said that all happy people are happy in the same way, but that all unhappy people are unhappy in their own way. I always remember that idea because it reflects my students. They suffer from depression and bi-polar disorder, anxiety, and a myriad of mental health problems.”

“Children who have behavioral emotional disorders have been yelled at their whole lives. They come from an environment where yelling and screaming is the norm. If they go into a classroom and there’s yelling and screaming going on or you’re too rigid, it’s not going to work. What they want is order because they come from a chaotic life. They have a feel for passion. They can sense it. And as soon as they sense that you really care, not only about them, but about their future, they open up to you. And you have very few behavioral problems in the classroom.”

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What Does RTI Mean for the Classroom?

We discovered this chat too late to give you advanced warning.  However, please download the transcript for further information.


When: Thursday, November 13, 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern time
Where: http://www.edweek-chat.org


Join us for a lively chat with leading experts on implementing response to intervention in your classroom and school.


Response to intervention is the process of identifying and addressing student learning needs with a tiered approach to early intervention. RTI has been used most frequently with reading instruction, but it has also been stretched to include additional subjects in middle and high school classrooms. Despite its growing use, however, there is no clear answer for how best to implement RTI.


What should a successful RTI model look like? What are the roles of the general education teacher, the special education teacher, and the school psychologist in the RTI process? What are the challenges? What must an administrator know to encourage staff buy-in? Where does current research stand on the effectiveness of RTI? Our guests will answer your questions about RTI and how it plays out in the classroom.


About the guests:

Judy Elliott is the Chief Academic Officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Elliott has trained thousands of staff, teachers, and administrators in inclusive schooling and assists districts, national organizations, state and federal departments of education in their efforts to update and realign curriculum, instruction, and assessment for all students. Elliott was a lead author on the Response to Intervention Blueprint: District Level Edition (NASDSE, 2008).


Douglas Fuchs holds the Nicholas Hobbs Endowed Chair in Special Education and Human Development at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, where he is also the co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic. Identified as one of 250 most highly cited researchers in the social sciences, Fuchs’ most recent book is Response to Intervention: A Framework for Reading Educators (IRA, 2008).


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