Friday, December 4, 2009

The Importance of Early Educational Programs: A call for action

Research by Christina and Nicholson-Goodman (2005) indicates that high-quality early education programs can produce substantial long-term benefits for children, families, and society. Armed with this knowledge, many states began mounting ambitious efforts to implement high-quality pre-kindergarten programs at universal scale. A Rand Research Brief describes some of the progress states have made and identifies significant policy and practice issues.
The first few years of life are critical for a child's cognitive development and learning. Barnett's (1998) evaluations of well-run prekindergarten programs found that children exposed to high-quality early education were less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, or need special education, compared with similar children who did not have such exposure. Despite good research linking effective pre-K programs with later academic success, Shore (2002) still found early care and education in the United States was essentially a nonsystem consisting of a "patchwork of programs". After publication of the Rand Education Report (2005) most states began to embrace the value of high-quality early education programs. By 2007, as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States, Barack Obama was expressing his plans to make universal Pre-K programs a national priority. Then came a global recession and a national depression...
Recently, after our country's traditional day of giving thanks, New York's Governor Paterson told reporters: "Twenty-six states shut down their early childhood education and prekindergarten programs, and that's what we're going to have to do..."
Although the economy is now rebounding, states throughout the country will be experiencing tremendous budgetary woes due to the lingering impact of the recent economic depression. New York State, like all states, needs to be fiscally responsible to balance its budget. Yet, cutting early educational programs should not be seen as a first-line solution, especially since such measures would have an adverse ripple-effect! You are encouraged to send a message to the NYS Governor Paterson that these cuts are not the answer!

If you believe this is a crucial issue, I encourage you to review, edit, and send the sample letter below to your state governor and its elected representatives:

Although many states are deciding to cut funding for Pre-K and other early care and learning programs, I encourage you to avoid similar considerations. Cutting educational services to young children should not be one of the earliest options when governments are faced with budget deficits. Pre-K and other early intervening programs have significant short and long-term benefits that will help children succeed in school and in life. Taking that opportunity away from four-year-old children clearly should not be seen as an effective way to balance any budget. For more than a decade, individual state's have been building effective Pre-K programs that yield better, more prepared students. To cut funding now would be a three-fold disservice to the state by:
1. adversely impacting the beginning education of its children;
2. negating years of hard work to build a quality Pre-K system; and
3. leaving scores of tax-paying pre-K teachers unemployed across the state.
Especially during this time of fiscal crisis we must strengthen the educational foundation for our children, so that they don't fall behind. Please review the Christina and Nicholson-Goodman (2005) research on the value of early education and then continue supporting pre-K and other early care and learning programs.
Thank you.

Too often our elected officials make short-term decisions that don't result in long-term solutions. As educators, we need to be advocates for the currently unheard voices of our youngest students. Absence of action to advocate on behalf of your future students may easily result in millions of these students twenty years from now hopelessly asking, "why didn't you do something to help?" I encourage you to be proactive so that day may not come.
Be well!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Strategies and Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism is very likely neurological in origin – not emotional. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a medical diagnosis based on the behavioral criteria set forth in The Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth Edition, Text Revision
(DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Prevalence figures vary but current data suggests 1:150 and is four times more prevalent in boys. There are no known racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. There is no relation to family income, or lifestyle. Autism impacts normal development of the brain in areas of social interaction and communication skills, which results in difficulty communicating with others and relating to the outside world. Occasionally, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present.

Autism is one of the 5 Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) identified below. All have commonalities in communication and social deficits but differ in terms of severity.
1. Autistic Disorder- is characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication, and imaginative play. It is usually apparent before age 3 and includes stereotyped behaviors, interests, and activities.
2. Asperger Syndrome- is characterized by impairments in social interactions, and presence of restricted interests and activities. There is no clinically significant general delay in language and the chold exhibits average to above average intelligence.
3. Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)- is often referred to as "atypical autism." It is used when a child does not meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis, but there is severe and pervasive impairment in specified behaviors.
4. Rett’s Disorder- is a progressive disorder which, to date, has only occurred in girls. There is a period of normal development and then the loss of previously acquired skills. These include a loss of purposeful use of hands, which is replaced by repetitive hand movements. Onset usually begins between ages 1-4 years.
5. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder- is characterized by normal development for at least the first 2 years then significant loss of previously acquired skills.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means symptoms and characteristics can present themselves in wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Autistic individuals are very different from each other. “Autism” is still commonly used to refer to any of the 5 PDDs noted above.

ASD occurs in children of all levels of intelligence, from those who are gifted to those who have mental retardation. In general however, the majority of individuals with autism are also identified as having mental retardation whereby 75% exhibit cognitive assessment scores below 70 along with low adaptive behaviors or functional skills. Verbal and reasoning skills are usually the most problematic academic areas.

Individualization and early intervention are the keys for optimal academic and functional success. These interventions may include life skills, functional academics, vocational preparation, positive behavior support, social stories (music therapy?), and Lovaas model -Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).

The Autism Internet Modules project is developing a series of 60 modules on diverse topics including: assessment and identification, characteristics, evidence-based practices and interventions, transition to adulthood, and employment. Module authors include experts on ASD from across the nation. The AIM platform is being designed for consistency with research on how adults learn. Information is presented at a universal reading level with activities providing support to those with introductory or advanced knowledge on ASD. These modules are available at no cost to any computer or digital telephone user. These modules have the potential to positively impact the educational, family, vocational, and medical communities - on a local and worldwide basis - and may alter the ways in which ASD training occurs.

The Autism Society and Autism Speaks are two of the nation’s leading autism organizations. Their missions are to improve the lives of all affected by autism. This is evidenced by efforts for increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. What Kind of World do You Want is a video community designed to "give back" by recognizing we are all connected to one another through our actions and therefore each person has the ability to make a difference. This is a core message of the Five For Fighting video "World."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reauthorizing NCLB: Time for educators to speak up for an effective Elementary and Secondary Education Act

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the previous administration's nickname for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, deserves credit for exposing achievement gaps and focusing on education outcomes. Surely these remain admirable goals. However the implementation of NCLB was always problematic. NCLB remains underfunded and doesn't hold schools to high standards. In the process the United States' dropout rate has increased.
Approved by Congress in 2001 and signed by President Bush in 2002, NCLB pushed public schools to improve basic instruction for low-income, minority and disabled students, among others. Congress overwhelmingly approved the law but it has since lost most of its supporters. United States Secretary of Education Duncan notes that many teachers "complain bitterly about NCLB's emphasis on testing" while many parents "just view it as a toxic brand that isn't helping children learn." (October, 2009)
This is the time for educators to respond to the Secretary's call for action. Minimally, educators should be contacting their elected officials--asking them to refocus Congress on the need to reauthorize the ESEA with a mission to "end the culture of blame, self-interest, and disrespect that has demeaned the field of education" and "build a transformative education law" that promotes a well-rounded education "worthy of a great nation." Educators should be proactive in building "...a law that respects the honored, noble status of educators — who should be valued as skilled professionals rather than mere practitioners and compensated accordingly," (Duncan, 2009)

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The Center of Social and Emotional Education identifies research whereby bullying can be reduced up to 50 percent when there's a schoolwide commitment to ending it. Why should a school be committed to reducing bullying? Well, considering Maslow's hiearchy of needs, it becomes easy to understand a student who is physically or emotionally intimidated will not be having basic safety needs nor love and belonging needs satisfied. Therefore his or her education WILL be adversely affected. Any teacher, class, or school truly commited to building a sense of community MUST recognize bullying is an act that should inspire moral outrage.
Stand Up to Bullying! If you are feeling apathetic about this need, don't worry! Your apathy and lack of empathy is the very reason why bullying needs to be addressed directly and systematically. Given my AAA model required for system change (Awareness... Acceptance...then Action), minimally allow yourself the opportunity to become more aware of bullying and the problems it causes. Bully Prevention Awareness Week begins this Sunday, October 4, and the whole child partner: The Center for Social and Emotional Education is providing a variety of resources, including powerpoints, to help engage students and adults to both prevent bullying and encourage "upstander" behavior.
To find out more, visit:
The Keith Valley Middle School in Horsham, PA is implimenting a Bullying Prevention Program called KV K'NEX . As part of this program, during the first week of school a guest speaker was invited to speak with the entire school. John Halligan and his wife lost their 13 year old son, Ryan, to suicide in 2003 because of bullying at school.
Take a few moments for professional development and explore the wealth of available resources to help raise awareness.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Some Tips for Student Teachers and First-Year Teachers

Student teaching is both a rewarding and challenging time. A teacher's first year is a time of professional growth beyond imagination! The following links should provide valuable resources during this initial foray toward pedagogical growth:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stay Informed About H1N1 Flu Virus.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) has developed a H1N1 Web page , designed to be your definitive source for the latest H1N1 virus developments and resources. The website's mission is to help minimize the flu's effect on student learning by utilizing a variety of resources and information from ASCD, the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and others. The web-page will be continually updated as more resources and information become available.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Links to Content-Specific Resources

The internet provides a wealth of resources for in-service and pre-service teachers. Becoming wise consumers of information and learning to identify effective websites compared to those primarily seeking to sell a service is an important skill in itself. The goal of this post with embedded links is to provide resources that will make an educator's work more efficient and effective.


The New York State Education Department's (NYSED) Curriculum, Instruction & Instructional Technology (CI&IT) E-Blast home page is available and provides links to content-specific resources, E-Blast archives and employment opportunities. Interested parties can receive email notifications of the monthly CI&IT E-Blast news and updates by sending an email request by clicking on the link below. Please submit all relevant contact information in your request. Sign up for E-Blast email notifications

S.C.O.R.E. - Schools of California Online Resources for Educators provides a lot of links in math, science, social studies, and language arts, including full lesson plans with embedded links for resources.

History and Social Studies:

ProjectExplorer provides students with access to peoples and places theymay never have seen or knew existed. ProjectExplorer’s online film series, photos, travel blogs, and encyclopedia-style research are provided free-of-charge. ProjectExplorer’s programs cover multiple subject areas that foster cross-cultural understanding. This site features blogs, movies, cultural info, and more about countries and regions around the world. Currently developed for middle, elementary and higher (lower elementary under development) in Jordan,South Africa and Shakespeare's England, the development continues. The principals are all young adults, and the orientation is fresh andinquisitive.

World History for Us All is a powerful, innovative model curriculum for teaching world history in middle and high schools. World History for Us All is a national collaboration of K-12 teachers, collegiate instructors, and educational technology specialists. It is a project of San Diego State University in cooperation with the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA. World History for Us All is a continuing project. Elements under development will appear on the site in the coming months.

The goal of the Just Choices program is to assist teachers in encouraging grade 6-12 students to explore new ideas and reevaluate old ones while developing a strong understanding and appreciation of historical and contemporary social justice movements. Through this program, students will learn how their everyday choices affect others in society and will be inspired to take on issues with passionate civic engagement. Teachers can order a free teacher's guide, worksheets, poster, and video.


Google Earth is a wonderful educational resource. Glenn A. Richard of Stony Brook University created a website that provides great strategies, including ready-to-use classroom activities, when using Google Earth for teaching geoscience

With its website, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute offers curious students the opportunity to explore biology...on screen, off screen, and in between. The Institute also offers free curriculum materials (including video tapes and/or DVDs!) on science topics for older students.

Physics may have been easy for Dr Einstein but the rest of use could benefit from having a great set of online games that demostrate physics concepts.

English Language and Linguistics:
Language in Use advances the philosophy of "hear it, see it, understand it, use it." The website aims to help students learn about - and teachers teach - the English language. There are tasks to help work through the material, expert advice and strategies for identifying unknown texts.


Grammar Monster is a great reference site that also acts as a tutorial

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Education Needs to Be an Essential Element of Pollution Reduction Policy

Generally speaking "Cap and Trade" (C+T) is an environmental policy designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is created by fossil fuels (oil, coal). Naturally, lobbyists for those industries are going to be critical of such a policy. C+T is also called "allowance trading", which seems to emphasize the economics and flexibility elements of the policy over the goal of pollution reduction. Any good idea for reducing greenhouse gases and controlling pollution is accountable to intelligent implementation. This includes C+T policy. Implementation shouldn't just focus upon economic incentives for achieving reductions in emissions. Education can be the greatest influence on behavior.
Sadly though, economics is what usually drives implementation of C+T policy, which will thereby make it either effective or doomed for failure. Currently C+T policy is at the macro level (big companies) but what if it was brought down to the level of individual responsibility (micro level)? Would it be beneficial for a single guy (no family or business requiring such a vehicle) to be "responsible" for his Hummer's comparative excessive carbon emissions? If another guy purchased a pollution free liquid hydrogen vehicle (initially at higher cost), should Mr "Pollution Free Vehicle" be encouraged to trade/sell his carbon credits to Mr "11 MPG Hummer"? Would such a micro level plan be more effective for further reducing total carbon dioxide emissions? Likewise, would charging for those plastic grocery bags add an incentive to consumers to bring reusable bags to their grocery stores?
Currently, the macro level C+T policy, in place since 1990, has been effective for reducing targeted areas of emission pollution so better implementation, emphasizing the cap on emissions rather than the trade of credits, should prove effective. Unfortunately, discussions on the effective implementation bring in politics influenced by the aforementioned lobbyists and partisanship desiring power rather than a universal desire to promote the important goal of pollution reduction.
Education must become an essential element of any policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When education on the importance of reducing polluting emissions is undertaken then the subsequent discussions on effective practices will become wiser and less partisan. It is essential for effective educators to be consumers and purveyors of knowledge related to global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, alternative energy, and government policy related to each.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What is the Whole Child Initiative?

The Whole Child Initiative proposes a broader definition of achievement and accountability that promotes the development of children who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action, recommends a new compact with our young people. The Compact asks local, state, and national policymakers to ensure conditions that support comprehensive approaches to learning—for engaging the whole child.
It asks that communities look at the whole picture and make sure that:
Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
Each student learns in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
Each graduate is challenged by a well-balanced curriculum and is prepared for success in college or further study and for employment in a global environment.
Download ASCD's whole child podcast on the first Thursday of every month and listen to archived episodes.
ASCD's Whole Child home page is found at:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

What is the Task Force on Quality Inclusive Schools?

New York Higher Education Support Center (HESC) for Systems Change is an initiative of the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) within the State Education Department. The HESC was established at Syracuse University in 2001 as an outgrowth of the NY Partnership for Statewide Systems Change.
The HESC is committed to two goals:
1) To develop and to sustain high quality inclusive teacher preparation programs.
2) To engage in and to support the professional development efforts of selected schools in the seven regions of New York State.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Praise, Advice and Reminders of the Sour Economy for Graduates

Recently the New York Times ran an article on this year's commencement speeches entitled Praise, Advice and Reminders of the Sour Economy for Graduates.

The College of Mount Saint Viincent was presented with a wonderfully humorous but poignant speech by John Patrick Shanley: