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High-stakes tests lead to stress, not learning

The following article is a 5th grader’s essay ... Eventhough it is written about the education system in the US, it certainly applies to the Canadian education system as well. The intro is written by Valerie Strauss.  Valerie is a journalist for the Washington Post. Click on the link to follow her.

One voice given short shrift in the loud (and unfortunately increasingly shrill) education debate is that of kids. You know, the people who actually have to take all the standardized tests that are (again, unfortunately) at the center of modern school reform.

With the blogosphere screaming with claims by adults that standardized test-based reform is improving student achievement, here is the work of a child who tells a different story. It’s important to listen.

This was written by Julia Skinner-Grant, 11, a fifth grader at Chevy Chase Elementary School in Montgomery County. Julia, a special education student in the highly gifted center, wrote this persuasive essay for a school assignment.

She’s far more persuasive than a lot of adults on the subject.


Summer Reading by Valerie Strauss

Summer is unofficially here and that means it's time (at least for some of us) to consider what we want to read over the next few months.

To help with some suggestions, Scholastic, a global children's publishing, education and media company, is conducting an ongoing on-line survey on its www.YouAreWhatYouRead.com Web site. With some 15,000 responses to date, it has assembled lists of the most influential books, as reported by adults and kids.

Participants were asked this question: Which five books shaped your life??


Making Kids Smarter

We live in a knowledge based economy and literacy skills are our basic currency.  That fact alone should make parents sit up and take notice.  We live in times where job availability is based on what you know, how fast you can learn new skills and the knowledge train is picking up speed. 

What are the fundamental skills parents should focus on before, during and after their children enter school?


The Challenge of Time

Everyone has the same 1440 minutes in a day to get things accomplished.  So why is it that some individuals seem to get much more done in a day than others?  The answer is really quite simple:  Some individuals are more disciplined in their approach to time thus allowing them to be far more effective and efficient.


Is a Reading Difficulty Hauling Your Kid Away in Handcuffs? 

“Only the educated are free.”
Epictetus 55 AD – 135 AD

Did you know that there are Justice Departments in North America that predict the future need of prison space based on grade three reading scores?


Parental Peace of Mind

The advent of the Internet, in some respects, made the job of parenting a little harder.  We want our children to experience the vast wealth of knowledge available on the Internet and communicate with their friends online.  Besides, it frees up the telephone.  You remember the telephone, don’t you?  The thing that rings right around dinner time with those annoying telemarketers, even though you are listed on the “do-not-call” list ...!


Exploring the Diamond Minds

"Within every book is a diamond" ~ Lani R Donaldson

Summer Reading

School is almost out, the kids will have their summer break soon and you want to ensure that those skills that have been taught in school and practiced daily for the past 196 school days do not go on vacation as well. 


Facing the Tyranny of Time

From K to three you learn to read, from grade four and for the rest of your life you read to learn. What if you miss the window?


Dressed to Kill But Can’t Read the Label?

How many of us have to really think about what some of the washing instructions symbols mean?  I know the hand wash only and the hang to dry but after that I get a little rusty.  Perhaps I have spent too much time in hot water and then left myself  “hang to dry”.


If Children Were Elephants, They'd All Learn to Read

A while ago I was watching an educational documentary on elephants.  The expert being interviewed was talking about the old adage, "An elephant never forgets."  Did you know that is actually true?  And here I thought that that was just one of my mom's ways of reminding me that I needed to work a little harder on my memory.  As I watched the show it suddenly dawned on me .....



What is it about teaching reading that arouses such passions in both parents and teachers?  Reading effectively is no less a vital skill than crossing the road safely, but we have more children who can cross the road than can read effectively.  Reading is difficult, it is a hard skill to master – if it was easy, everyone could do it.  The problem is, with every passing day a child struggles with reading, self-esteem may be dropping.   Reading difficulties combined with low self – esteem can cause a variety of other classroom issues including behaviour problems.


Not Smart Like the Other Kids

“Mom, I’m just not smart like the other kids.” Hearing this statement, as a parent could be your worst nightmare. Perhaps your nightmare is your child coming home from school with an increased level of frustration, as homework time takes forever the list of assignments and unfinished lessons continues to accumulate while your child’s self-esteem appears to be dropping like a stone.  Your concern is mounting and you ask yourself “What is a parent to do? “


Land of the Free, Home of the Beaver Part 2

The Economics of Literacy

To be perfectly honest it is hard to find a problem in today’s society that is not linked to literacy levels.
We live in extraordinary times and extraordinary times require extraordinary measures from all citizens of this country.  Currently in Canada we have 46% of our Canadian adult population who struggle, at best, with basic text.  To put that into perspective, 9 million adults woke up this morning without the literacy skills to get them through their day.  (Source: ABC Literacy Canada)



The frustration of children with dyslexia often centers on their inability to meet expectations. Their parents and teachers see a bright, enthusiastic child who is not learning to read and write. Time and again, dyslexics and their parents hear, “He’s such a bright child; if only he would try harder.” Ironically, no one knows exactly how hard the dyslexic is trying. The pain of failing to meet other people’s expectations is surpassed only by dyslexics’ inability to achieve their goals.


The Road to Advocation

In earlier articles, I wrote about the need to advocate for your child should you think there is a problem.  In this article we will explore the “rules of the road” when it comes to advocating for your child once you suspect a difficulty.

We have all heard the horror stories of parents who tried unsuccessfully to advocate for their child and ended up making the entire issue worse.  If you understand the process, and play by the rules, you should avoid needless frustration.


Helping Children Process Information Effectively:
“Wait Time” and “Think Time”

The concept of “Wait Time” as an instructional variable was formerly developed by Mary Budd Rowe back in 1972.  "Wait-time" was the period of silence between a teacher’s question and the students’ responses.  It was found that the period of silence that followed a teacher’s question and students' completed responses, rarely exceeded 1.5 seconds in typical classrooms.  When these periods of silence where extended to at least 3 seconds, many positive things happened to students' and teachers' behaviours and attitudes.  

(Casteel and Stahl, 1973; Rowe 1972; Stahl 1990; Tobin 1987)



What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia may experience difficulties in other language skills such as spelling, writing, and speaking. Dyslexia is a life-long status; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment.


Mom, Dad, I'm just Stupid!

Many parents of children with learning disabilities hear this far too often.  What your child may be trying to communicate with you is that he or she feels different from the other kids, is frustrated with a particular situation and/or rarely feels successful or competent.


My Child Is Not a Dummy

Many parents are devastated when they discover that their child is struggling in school. Reading, the most essential component to learning, is often the stumbling block for many struggling students. After exhausting all of the in-school resources and expertise, parents often are at a loss for what to do or where to go for assistance.


Your Child Facing the Tyranny of Time

From K to three you learn to read, from grade four and for the rest of your life you read to learn. What if you miss the window?


Lessons From a Snowy Driveway

When I was young my family lived in northern British Columbia, Canada and it was normal to have fourteen feet of snow accumulating every winter. In fact, there were times when we could toboggan off the roof. Now as a youngster it was entertaining; to an adult - not so much.


Land of the Free, Home of the Beaver - Literacy Levels in Canada, Why Should We Care?

Logic would tell us that there is something dreadfully wrong when almost half of the nation does not meet the minimum literacy level. However, the problem goes deeper than one might think. We know that being illiterate can effect job prospects, but consider your daily routine and how often you need to read just to get by. To get an idea, try the simple exercise of keeping track of how many times you use your reading skills in a day; it will give you an idea of just what a necessity being literate is and the impact it would have if you could not.